Science and religion are both meaning systems that provide coherence and help make sense of the world. For some, they are viewed as competing meaning systems, whereas, for others, science and religion are compatible or complementary. Because humans are natural meaning-makers, we suspect that the desire for meaning obstructs the objective assessment of alternative viewpoints and further entrenches people in their pre-existing worldviews. The goal of this project is to understand the role meaning plays in motivating social cognitive biases that may inhibit individuals from objectively examining alternative viewpoints, and humbly and non-defensively interacting with individuals holding competing views. We further hope to understand how meaning affirmation may attenuate defensiveness and bias, thus reducing tension between science and religion. We will conduct several empirical studies, and we will disseminate our findings in academic journal articles and presentations at national conferences. We expect that this work will catalyze research on the role of meaning in scientific and religious beliefs, and can address social scientific issues, such as the lack of belief in evolution.
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