Maintaining Religious and Scientific Beliefs through Cognitive Complexity

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Meeks, Joseph Thadeus
ETD; Science; Religion; Knowledge acquisition; Contradictory belief systems; Cognitive complexity; Psychiatry and Psychology; Psychology; Legacy ETDs
thesis / dissertation description
Science and religion are two common ways of acquiring knowledge. Despite their prevalence, these two belief systems are often in conflict. The current study sought to explain how people of normal intelligence are able to maintain contradictory belief systems. It is argued that certain types of religious individuals are able to maintain these two belief systems because they possess higher levels of cognitive complexity compared to other types of religious believers. The present study used Tripodi and Bieri's (1966) modified REP test of cognitive complexity (Kelly, 1955) to assess whether different types of religious believers differ in their levels of cognitive complexity. Because less rigid religious believers (non-orthodox, symbolic interpretations), by definition, possess contradictory belief systems (religion and science), it was hypothesized that they possess higher levels of cognitive complexity than more rigid religious believers (orthodox, literal interpreters). Results, however, did not support this idea. Possible implications are explored.