For our research project, we will look at Christianity and its effect on human nature. We chose Christianity because it is the most practiced and influential religion in the modern Western world. We will first examine background information on the beliefs and practices of Christians. People, along with many other species, are inherently altruistic. However, what is the real return for a life of Christian practice? How does a belief in afterlife effect our behavior in terrestrial life? If the human species is constantly evolving, perhaps Christianity is a stepping stone that will advance us further; a new paradigm so to speak. However, it could also be a set of made-up beliefs that inhibit our reproductive and evolutionary success.
We hope to learn the real effects Christian behavior restrictions more carefully through student-based research. Some questions we hope to answer include:
1. How prominent is Christian philosophy in modern society (i.e., how many people consider themselves Christian)?
2. How successful are Christian restrictions on behavior (i.e., how many people who consider themselves Christian actually adhere to their restrictions)?
3. What, if any, is the influence of Christian philosophy/beliefs on non-Christians?
4. Who benefits from these behavior restrictions?
5. What are the possible effects of this belief system on our evolutionary progress (i.e., does it influence people to go against their evolutionary instincts)?
Our hypothesis is that Christian beliefs are strongly rooted in everyday society. The Golden Rule, monogamy, and others are practiced everywhere you go. We believe that these religious restrictions effect human behavior quite drastically, and not for the better. We think the set of beliefs followed by Christians goes against Darwin’s ideas of what make us evolutionally successful. Proving that one set of beliefs is more correct that the other is obviously not the intent of this project. We just hope to prove that Christianity is prominent, its restrictions widely effect behavior, and they force people to act against “instincts” that evolutionary psychologists believe would further our success as a species.
This research topic is relevant because it is interesting to examine the paradigms that determine “moral” behavior. Also, the debate between evolution and Christianity has long been an issue in society. The research applies to our coursework because we are looking at the effects of a universal moral code on the progress of a species. Has our ability to rationalize caused us to adopt a harmful set of ideals?
Much work has been done both on Christianity and monogamy (which we will focus on as the major rule enforced). Also, there is a lot of evolutionary psychology work on the effects of “moral” behavior on evolution. Some of our coursework will be very relevant to our topic. Through a Window will give us some insight on how a primitive model of human society functions without a standard set of moral rules. The Moral Animal will be particularly useful in examining the possible effects of monogamy on evolution. Ten Theories of Human Nature will give us insight into how human society functions while believing in a higher power (i.e., how is humanity affected by such a belief?). We will also do outside research to learn the exact beliefs and practices of Christians, and how these beliefs became so rooted in society.
It is extremely evident how this research relates to the big picture, as it is examines a very serious and debated question. In Darwin’s opinion, along with other evolutionary psychologists, there is no greater price to pay than compromising your reproductive success. So it is important to examine what makes us act how we do, and whether this behavior actually does compromise our success as a species.
Because our research objectives relate to a larger, theoretical question, much of our project will be analyzing and extrapolating on data acquired. Our research method is student surveys. We have attached an example survey at the end of this post. We hope to find out how widespread Christian beliefs are in society. First we will establish the age and sex of the subject. We can take this information to report the average age of people surveyed. Also, we can prove that monogamy is universally accepted as important, and is not primarily associated with either sex. Then, we will establish whether or not the subject considers himself/herself Christian. This way, we are able to not only record the percentage of those surveyed that are Christian, but we can also examine the behavior patterns of non-Christians. We will then ask them how important various rules and regulations are to them. This way, we can examine the effectiveness of Christian moral policy. This survey will give us the information necessary to analyze the real prominence of moral behavior regulations. The rest of the project will consist of analyzing the effects of specific behavior regulations on evolutionary success. We can then look at the effects of a universal moral code on society in general.
The class will be included through responses, discussions, and surveys. We will distribute two hundred surveys in uptown Oxford. This number will give us enough responses to make generalizations about the results. We will have people fill out the survey and collect them immediately: to avoid lost or unfinished surveys, we will not set up a stand or physically distribute the surveys. We will go uptown during the daytime (to avoid responses swayed by intoxication), and have anyone we come across fill out the survey, including adults and children. Because we are arguing that Christianity is a widespread moral code, we cannot and will not limit the surveys to students. The results will then be tallied and recorded.
March 10th---Master survey is made, and 200 copies printed.
March 17th---Survey distribution starts uptown
March 31st---Survey distribution ends—results are tallied
April 7th------Results are all stored in database, and graphically represented for analysis
April 17th to due date----Conclusions and interpretations are drawn, and report is put together
1. Sex: Male Female
3. Do you consider yourself a follower of the Christian faith?
4. Do you believe in Darwin’s Theory of Evolution?
5. Which do you believe has a more prominent effect on our society?
6. Do you think promiscuous sex and other natural instincts are necessary to the survival of our species ?
7. Do you believe that others should be treated as you would want to be treated?
8. Do you think people who treat others with kindness are doing so out of instinct and nature or out of reward?
**A paragraph briefly explaining both views may be presented before the survey for the subject to read in order to better explain both in order to get more honest answers.
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