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-   -   Polygraphs say God doesn't exist (http://message.snopes.com/showthread.php?t=49145)

snopes 06 August 2009 07:43 PM

Polygraphs say God doesn't exist
 
Comment: Polygraphs & athiests, part 1:

Since I'm not at home, I lack all my resources so in the next few days
I'll be sending more.

On two occasions that I know of, a local man has had printed by the
Oakland Press (Pontiac, MI) letters with this: "In one study men were
connected to polygraph machines and asked, 'Does God exist?' In each case
the polygraph said the man was lying."

As one who deeply resents intellectual littering of this nature, I reached
the author, Mr. Robert Bickmeyer, Troy, MI and politely asked for his
source. He said he had one but could not locate it. This was about two
years ago. A few weeks ago he had the same line published once more in a
"Guest Opinion" piece in the Oakland Press, Again I called. Again, he
could not locate a source. He added that he does not use a computer. OK,
fine then, I suppose.

Googling, I foun the trail at a John Ankerberg's website, johanankerberg
dot com. Put "polygraph" in his search box and you will see Ankerberg was
"unable to confirm" the study but went ahead and published anyway a
retelling of the unlikely story.


I located and contacted the President of the American Polygraph
Association (name escapes, will be provided later) who, in so many words,
assured me the story was a phony.

Chloe 06 August 2009 08:10 PM

That seems like a pointless exercise, since it doesn't indicate whether they said yes or no, and they couldn't know for sure anyway.

It might be useful to ask people if they really believe in God. Especially politicians.

rlobinske 06 August 2009 08:51 PM

Considering that polygraphs are unreliable pieces of early Twentieth Century pseudoscience (http://www.psychologymatters.org/polygraphs.html)...so what if the story is true that the polygraph indicated that people were lying about the existence of God, the result is meaningless.

Darth Credence 06 August 2009 08:55 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Chloe (Post 1017107)
That seems like a pointless exercise, since it doesn't indicate whether they said yes or no, and they couldn't know for sure anyway.

It might be useful to ask people if they really believe in God. Especially politicians.

Well, it might be useful if a polygraph was in any way useful for determining if someone is lying, sure. Here is the American Psychological Associations take.

ETA: Wow, spanked with the same link!

geminilee 06 August 2009 09:16 PM

Even if the polygraph were perfectly accurate, it would only prove that they believed in a God, not that one existed. It is not like the polygraph has knowledge we don't.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Chloe (Post 1017107)
It might be useful to ask people if they really believe in God. Especially politicians.

Only if it really matters to you whether someone believes in a God, and even then it would not be particularly useful.

Chloe 06 August 2009 09:20 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by geminilee (Post 1017174)
Only if it really matters to you whether someone believes in a God, and even then it would not be particularly useful.

I would be interested from the perspective of a) is this politician telling the truth, or pandering, and b) do people really believe in God deep down. I imagine plenty of people do, though. I did. Or I think I did.

It might be more interesting still to ask anti-abortion folks if abortion is really the same as murder* **

* I know. Can of worms.
**I know! They don't really work. I'm just sayin'.

Hero_Mike 06 August 2009 09:30 PM

Fantasy role-playing games (like Dungeons and Dragons) have magical spells which can detect lies. There are notes for the game administrator which specifically say that if a person believes something untrue (like an urban legend), it will not be detected as a lie.

Bonnie 07 August 2009 02:51 AM

Actually, Ankerberg relates the anecdote this way,

Quote:

And, perhaps even more suggestive, according to Senior Pastor Jess Moody of the First Baptist Church of Van Nuys, California, "Lie detector tests were administered to more than 25,000 people. One of the questions was, ‘Do you believe in God?’ In every case, when a person answered no, the lie detector said he was lying." <SUP>8</SUP>

[...]

<SUP>8</SUP> Cited in Los Angeles Times, June 28, 1986. We could not confirm this research. Convinced philosophical atheists clearly could pass lie detector tests since these measure conviction of belief. But such results, if valid, clearly show that the more garden-variety practical, as opposed to philosophical atheists really aren’t so sure of their views.
This telling, which exposes atheists' true convictions about God, makes a little more sense, at least from the perspective of an Ankerberg follower.

Anyway, this just goes to show that it's always the atheist who falls for the colander/photocopier trick.

Bonnie "Jesus Sieves" Taylor

snopes 07 August 2009 02:54 AM

Comment: athiests and polygraphs, part 2:

This is from john ankerberg's site:

...according to Senior Pastor Jess Moody of the First Baptist Church of
Van Nuys, California, "Lie detector tests were administered to more than
25,000 people. One of the questions was, 'Do you believe in God?' In every
case, when a person answered no, the lie detector said he was lying."


This is sourced in footnote #31, which I show below:

Cited in Los Angeles Times, June 28, 1986. We could not confirm this
research. Convinced philosophical atheists clearly could pass lie detector
tests since these measure conviction of belief. But such results, if
valid, clearly show that the more garden-variety practical, as opposed to
philosophical, atheists really aren't so sure of their views.


I reached George Baranowski, President of the National Polygraph
Association, 219 873 9134. As I expected, he said a study of 25,000 exams
would cost many, many millions of dollars adding that only the government
would have such resources. Being in the polygraph business for thirty
years, he assured me if indeed such a study did exist, it would be common
knowledge throughout his industry and he, the president of the trade
association, has heard of no such study, anytime, anywhere.

Ankerberg is a memeber of the Christian right, and if there is anyting I
have learned about that crowd it that poor sholarship permeates nearly its
every cell. They don't fact-check, the have no couriosity. I am stunned
that he would write "we could not confirm it" and wrote about it anyway.
If the "study" existed surely it would be easy to find.

Cyrano 07 August 2009 07:55 AM

I'm not so sure about the polygraph's efficiency, but if you ask for a definitive answer to a question that has none (Is there a God?, or Is there no God?), I'm not surprised at the results, just because believe, disbelieve or know are totally different matters.

... which just proves that deep down inside, most people are agnostics.

Singing in the Drizzle 07 August 2009 05:19 PM

When ask general yes/no question about ones morals or beliefs. I would guess that most people like me become hesitant and nervous. Since a polygraph is overly complicated sweaty palm detector, it tend to show such reactions as lies.

Silas Sparkhammer 07 August 2009 08:16 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Singing in the Drizzle (Post 1017769)
When ask general yes/no question about ones morals or beliefs. I would guess that most people like me become hesitant and nervous. Since a polygraph is overly complicated sweaty palm detector, it tend to show such reactions as lies.

Also, since atheism is socially unacceptable in many places, an atheist might be uncomfortable if directed to declare his or her beliefs, and that, too, might trigger a false reading. You might get the same effect by asking, "Do you eat snails?" "Well, yes...{buzzzzzz}"

Silas

Photo Bob 07 August 2009 08:18 PM

What Singing in the Drizzle said.

The polygraph could simply be showing a response to the controversy surrounding the question. It all depends on how the test was administered. A competent polygrapher would go through all the questions before using the machine (usually leaving enough time for the testee to think about them). This way the questions do not cause a "shock" reaction.

For instance if you are taking a polygraph for a job interview and the questions are run of the mill "have you ever stolen from an employer, told a significant lie, committed fraud, etc", but the next question was "did you know your spouse is cheating on you?" the shock of the question might draw a reaction no matter your response. Naturally a competant polygrapher would not do that.

This is one reason that polygraphs are not admissable in court. Another is that pathological liars can breeze through an exam as they have no remorse at telling a lie.

Photo "I ain't never lied during a polygraph and I never will again" Bob

Rhysdux 11 September 2009 02:37 AM

Also, a lot of ultra-religious people tend to conflate agnosticism with atheism. This would complicate matters enormously.

If an agnostic is asked, "Do you believe in God?" his or her most truthful answer would be, "I'm not sure." (Though I've known agnostics to have days of pure faith and days of pure disbelief.) But since an agnostic would have to answer yes or no on a polygraph test, either answer would be likely to result in a physical reaction, thus stimulating the polygraph machine--because both complete belief and complete disbelief would be untrue.

Silas Sparkhammer 11 September 2009 03:01 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Rhysdux (Post 1045279)
. . . But since an agnostic would have to answer yes or no on a polygraph test, either answer would be likely to result in a physical reaction, thus stimulating the polygraph machine--because both complete belief and complete disbelief would be untrue.

Do polygraph tests require only yes/no answers? Seems to be a very dangerous limitation, as there are a great many questions that cannot honestly be answered with a simple "yes" or "no."

I don't just mean trick questions, or complex questions, but questions involving connotations. "Have you ever stolen anything from your workplace?" Unless I'm able to explain my answer -- "A sheet of paper, once, to write down a message" -- a simple "yes" is true, but not really meaningful. There are a lot of "yes/no" questions I would refuse to answer. Context is too important to the truth.

Silas

geminilee 11 September 2009 03:06 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Silas Sparkhammer (Post 1045295)
I don't just mean trick questions, or complex questions, but questions involving connotations. "Have you ever stolen anything from your workplace?" Unless I'm able to explain my answer -- "A sheet of paper, once, to write down a message" -- a simple "yes" is true, but not really meaningful. There are a lot of "yes/no" questions I would refuse to answer. Context is too important to the truth.

My sister flunked a polygraph test once, over this exact thing.
They asked her if she had ever stolen anything. She said yes, she had stolen money from mom's wallet when she was a kid. They said that didn't count, and she was to answer no. She answered no, and the machine buzzed her as lying, because no matter what anyone said that was stealing to her.

Steve Eisenberg 11 September 2009 03:19 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Photo Bob (Post 1017944)
For instance if you are taking a polygraph for a job interview and the questions are run of the mill "have you ever stolen from an employer, told a significant lie, committed fraud, etc", but the next question was "did you know your spouse is cheating on you?" the shock of the question might draw a reaction no matter your response. Naturally a competant polygrapher would not do that.

A competent polygrapher would know that the machine cannot tell if you lied. He is she is using the machine as an interrogation tool (e.g. to obtain confessions). If the polygraph examiner actually believed polygraph propaganda, that would, I think, show incompetence.

diddy 11 September 2009 05:07 AM

The best that a polygraph could do if they were accurate (and as it has been said before, their accuracy is highly suspect) would be to determine a person’s belief in God. Of course belief in God != proof that God exists. In other words its useless on two levels.

Of course this polygraph test is the best example of one that works!

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Spud Sabre 25 August 2011 05:54 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Rhysdux (Post 1045279)
If an agnostic is asked, "Do you believe in God?" his or her most truthful answer would be, "I'm not sure." (Though I've known agnostics to have days of pure faith and days of pure disbelief.) But since an agnostic would have to answer yes or no on a polygraph test, either answer would be likely to result in a physical reaction, thus stimulating the polygraph machine--because both complete belief and complete disbelief would be untrue.

[hijack]
Complete (dis)belief isn't required for either theism or atheism, and with regard to any notion of a god put forth, everyone is either one or the other. Agnosticism is separate from theism/atheism, not some sort of middle ground between them.
[/hijack]

What I was going to say when I saw the OP seems to have already been said by everyone here. This "test" doesn't work.

JoeBentley 25 August 2011 06:15 AM

I'll let Morbo handle this. Morbo?

Morbo: Polygraphs do not work that way!

Thank you Morbo.


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