scilogs Biology of Religion

The Acceptance of Evolutionary Sciences - How Susan Blackmore impressed me

from Michael Blume, 17. September 2010, 19:11

I vividly remember a scene once described by Richard Dawkins about a scientist listening to a talk, then pondering it and declaring on the spot to the lecturer: "I have been wrong these last years. Your arguments convinced me."

Frankly speaking, I held that one as a legend, as I was sceptical about our psychological abilities to manage such a feat. Most of us human beings tend to interweave their scientific and emotional worldviews as part of our self-concepts, clinging to them even against strong arguments. And this is especially true concerning the evolution of religiosity and religions, where a whole sub-culture of antitheism ignored Charles Darwin for the sake of popular metaphors as e.g. describing religions as "viruses of the mind".

But then, the fable came true, and it happened to me. As I finished my talk at the "Explaining Religion"-conference in Bristol, Susan Blackmore added some tough questions - and then admitted on the spot that the religion-virus-metaphor that she had advocated for years was wrong. And since then, she even wrote a post about the subject at Guardian CIF, see:

Why I no longer believe religion is a virus of the mind
The 'Explaining religion' conference has made me see that the idea of religious belief as a virus has had its day

 

To speak frankly, I am still baffled and absolutely impressed by Sue's integrity and courage. I appreciate her work and included her "Macht der Meme" (the German translation of "The Meme Machine") in my doctorate thesis some years ago. I would never have dreamt that someone as prominent would be ready to accept core scientific arguments in so short a time, without trying to circumvent things or to switch sides in utter silence. And Sue certainly knew that she would be critized by fellow "rationalists" who had integrated the spicy virus-metaphors in their psychological and emotional narratives. You might want to take a look at some of the comments which are fired at her now from very different angles! True "believers" (here: in antitheist memetics) tend to abhor apostates from doctrine...

Nevertheless, I learnt from Susan Blackmore that scientific discourse can be even stronger than I had dared to hope. And therefore, I want to answer her courage with some conceding thoughts of my own.

Not a triumph, but an urge to dialogue!

Maybe some people would expect some triumphalism here. In fact, I don't feel this way. As a scholar of religion and a Protestant Christian married to a Muslim, I know of the riches of religious traditions - and of the dangers. In some corners of this world, our mere family live would be threatened by death penalty in the name of God just because of our different faiths. Actually, bridging the culture gaps means to experience the warmth and treasures as well as the ugly extremisms, prejudices and aggressions that in-groups manage to organize against each other.

Personally, I assumed - as did Charles Darwin - that evolutionary theory was perfectly able to explain religiosity and religions and that the trait would turn out to be somewhat adaptive. I would have been perfectly content with having found a slight reproductive advantage of religious people when compared to their secular neighbours.

In a wonderful study, Newman & Hugo combined empirical data to the influences of religion(s) and education with interviews. You can access it through the Web-Resources on Religion and Reproduction.

But what I found (and keep finding) repeatedly during these last years was not only a strong and actually widening demographic gap - but the complete lack of a single case of a secular population, community or movement that would just manage to retain replacement level for a century. What I found (in some congruence to late thoughts of Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks) is that secularism is followed by (yet) inevitable, demographic decline. And while I laboured on the evolutionary consequences (has religion evolved into a neccessary part of human social live?), exchanges with political scientist Eric Kaufmann opened my eyes to some discomforting consequences:

- If seculars are having too few children to sustainably retain their numbers and traditions.
- And if religious moderates tend to have more children, but to lose many of them to secularism - not the least because they are ready to listen to rational and scientific arguments.
- Then the surviving and expanding populations will be those of religious fundamentalisms, having many children while blocking any serious discourse with non-theists or other believers concerning education, science, worldviews and, finally, human rights.

Religion & Demography, Enste 

Actually, I don't think that this fate is inevitable - although I concede that we are seeing discomforting predecessors of this scenario e.g. in some parts of Israel and the USA. But I do think that all people interested in science and education would be well advised to stop throwing polemics at each other and to start serious, informed dialogue about the ongoing evolution of religiosity and its consequences. Religion will be a part of our future as a species - and we should start to take our respective responsibilities to ensure a framework of peace, human rights and liberties.

With her outstanding courage, Susan Blackmore convinced me that there "is" a chance for seculars and responsible believers to come out of the old trenches and to embark on the shared quest of shaping a scientifically informed, free and more peaceful future. Will we be able to muster the inner strength that Sue demonstrated?



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Biology of Religion: Why Religion is not going to die - The Quiverfull Example of Religious Fertility
Biology of Religion: David Sloan Wilson and the Importance of Religion for Evolutionary Biology
Biology of Religion: Conference Report - Explaining Religion at Bristol University 2010
Natur des Glaubens: Widerruf der Religion-Virus-Hypothese - Wie mich Susan Blackmore beeindruckte

Comments

  1. Andrew Atkinson Subject
    19.09.2010 | 21:13

    I cannot stress just how much I am excited and enthused by all that has taken place this last few weeks since the conference. I have witnessed, just as you have described, real genuine commitment to scientific evidence.

    Even though I am going to have to rewrite a huge part of my own PhD dissertation because of it, I am very much proud to do so. That said, I have to resist as much as possible, but purely out of academic protocol by giving everything objective attention, rather than blind acceptance. That's what it's all about isn't it?

    Things are changing now, and I'm waiting eagerly for anything Richard Dawkins might say here. Has he said anything? I don't know, I stopped following his activities a good while back becoming deeply unsatisfied with his withholding of other areas of research on the subject.

    I am also really very proud to have been, in some way instrumental, along with Finn Spicer and Nathalia Gjersoe, in bringing the two of you (you and Sue, and others) together by conceiving of the event back in October last year. It makes me feel that, even if I cannot complete my PhD due to zero funds, I at least helped make an important ripple in the pond.

    My hat goes off to you both, and I hope for good things to follow!

  2. Michael Blume @Andrew
    20.09.2010 | 11:02

    You sure can be proud about the conference and the subsequent debates which you helped to bring to life! It has been a very enjoyable and successful event, and Susan quite contributed to it tremendously not only with her talk, but also with her readiness to accept empirical findings.

    I haven't heard anything from Richard Dawkins about the matter yet. If he would publish any reaction, I would put it on "Biology of Religion", too, of course.

  3. Dierk Subject
    21.09.2010 | 16:45

    I'd be a bit more careful about those numbers. More precisely their interpretation.

    What I see is a correlation between a certain frame of mind and number of children. People believing in some kind of higher authority, in an afterlife and other typically labelled 'religious' phenomena tend to have more offspring than people following a path usually called 'rational'. The latter do not believe in a non-physical higher authority, often enough [but not always] they do not believe in life after death, hence, they do not believe to be surrounded or observed by their ancestors.

    The rational types differ in another aspect from the religious ones: they want the best out of their life in this life as they don't have the incentive of the next life. In some cases they also do not believe in 'Go forth and multiply; the land ... go up and possess it' - that is the expressly set themselves against the Abrahamic tradition to ravage the world*. The rationalist might not want to have more children on Earth than the planet may sustain.

    Interestingly many religious traditions, particularly those found in the Old Testament of the Bible, make a lot of sense when looked at under the theme of 'power struggle' - more children now means more to protect for the fighting men, it means more fighting men in the future, more land to be conquered and farmed. The Old Testament reads like a mythologised history of conquest [exactly like most other myths]. Religions are a very powerful way to hold people together and define anybody not holding the same views on afterlife and higher authority as an enemy. Anybody not prone to blindly following some group wisdom, that is many [but not all] rationalists, are by definition weaker than anybody easily following group wisdom, for the simple fact that the latter always has many people in arms behind him while the former stands alone.**

    What we and up with it not rationalist vs. religious but in-group vs. out-group.

    *Yes, I know, that line has been interpreted otherwise, but I stand by my close-to-the-text interpretation.
    **Only in Westerns and similar myths does it work for the individual against the lynch mob since the viewer wants to identify with the brave loner even tough he [the viewer] most likely ends up with the mob.

  4. devadatta Attendance vs. faith
    21.09.2010 | 20:09

    Very exciting too see Susan Blackmore change her mind in the face of facts, and it honors her very much indeed.

    I have a question about the second diagram. It measures church attendance and not faith, and I'd like to know if faith has the same pattern. It's not a very important question since behavior is more important than beliefs if they differ.

    Also, I think it would be interesting to read a reaction from Richerson & Boyd, not the least since Blackmore still believes in memes but they don't. Also, I haven't seen DS Wilson respond yet, which is a bit odd.

  5. Michael Blume @Dierk
    21.09.2010 | 23:44

    Thanks for your thoughts, to some of which I would agree. But then, you might be interested in a closer look at case studies of certain religious traditions, e.g. the Old Order Amish:
    http://www.blume-religionswissenschaft.de/...y.pdf

    Concerning the in-group-out-group-hypothesis, I would like to point out that we found several close-knit, secular communities as e.g. socialist kibbutzim in Israel. But even these tended to break apart and failed to retain at least replacement level throughot subsequent generations. Demographically, there is still not a single case of a secular group able to attain more than two children per woman for at least a century.

  6. Michael Blume @devadatta
    21.09.2010 | 23:50

    Thank you very much for your encouraging comment!

    Very exciting too see Susan Blackmore change her mind in the face of facts, and it honors her very much indeed.

    Yes, I agree absolutely.

    I have a question about the second diagram. It measures church attendance and not faith, and I'd like to know if faith has the same pattern. It's not a very important question since behavior is more important than beliefs if they differ.

    We did that comparison e.g. in the analysis of the German ALLBUS Survey 2002, see
    http://www.blume-religionswissenschaft.de/...6.pdf

    And we found that religious practice is a stronger predictor of fertility than the (more fuzzy) religious self-evaluation.

    Also, I think it would be interesting to read a reaction from Richerson & Boyd, not the least since Blackmore still believes in memes but they don't. Also, I haven't seen DS Wilson respond yet, which is a bit odd.

    Yes, I would be glad about that, too. David recommended Sue's text for the ERS-page
    http://evolution.binghamton.edu/religion/

    but, yes, I would be very interested in reading reactions from him, Richerson & Boyd and others, too.

  7. Maciano Heritability of religiosity
    25.09.2010 | 09:35

    Michael,

    I agree with both your own and Kaufman's worries; I've been following these trends and correlations for over a decade now. It seems more people are finally into crossing over demographics to other disciplines. Books are coming out right now I wish would have come out 10 years ago.

    1) Anyway, I'm a bit puzzled by the heritability of religiosity. If religiosity is as heritable as we think and the religious have more children, why aren't we all religious today? The genes that would make religiosity heritable would have such a huge fertility advantage that such genes would have reached fixation by now. Some religions are over 2000 years old -- enough generations for fixation or near fixation. Please elaborate.

    If we can't answer the question: "if religiosity is heritable and creates a fitness advantage, why aren't we all religious today?", nobody will listen.

    It could be that religiosity and religiosity are correlated under some very specific conditions.

    Two big religions -- Islam and Christianity -- stress the need for natalism; is that why they grew big? After all, they were sects once. (Of course, it's also clear that, besides natalism, these religions grew through (violent) conversion and offered the poor a whole range of clues to live a better life back then.)

    2) "Religion will be a part of our future as a species - and we should start to take our respective responsibilities to ensure a framework of peace, human rights and liberties."

    Well, sure, nobody's against that, but, how could this be implemented into people's hearts and minds? I highly suspect that natalist endogamous growth sects feel different. Peace (instead on group conflict), human rights (moral universalism vs. moral particularism) and liberties (instead of autoritarianism) all counter fundamentalism -- fundamentalism is the answer (antidote) to modernism. If a fundamentalist religion becomes softer, it weakens and stops growing; the result will be a tiny minority of ultra-fundamentalist who keep on going. Ultra-orthodox Haredi Judaism and Amish Christian fundamentalism are the best examples I know of. You can win minds, but, ultimately, religion is about emotions; it comes from the inside. Some people are naturally hysterics or good-mooded, to tell them to stop being hysterical or good-mooded won't change that.

    I don't think seculars will be able to do much about these phenomena for quite some time, if ever. The mass public isn't interested in long-term developments -- they don't get it -- and, instead of debate, intellectual elites tend to demonize all kinds of population research. Just think about how long it took, before someone seriously questioned Islam in post-war Europe and how mild these criticisms usually are. It's more likely that fundamentalism will slowly grow and make more demands upon our societies. As Kaufman re-tells the story of the US Christian right, some people will someday ask: where the hell did these people come from?

    The best seculars can do is find ways for themselves not to die out and gain political power, but, unfortunately, seculars seem to feel most liberal about population developments in general and don't get alarmed about themselves being displaced. They don't seem to care.

    3) I think Richard Dawkins' anti-theist crusades do more than good. He's only preaching to the secular choir, people who don't need to be convinced and alienating those who genuinely believe in God. He comes over as a whiny, angry professor who picks on the ignorant instead of a comforting fatherly figure whose evolutionary explanations can help people understand the modern world.

  8. Michael Blume @Maciano
    25.09.2010 | 16:53

    Thank you very much for the thoughtful comment, which I will therefore try to answer in some depth!

    1) Anyway, I'm a bit puzzled by the heritability of religiosity. If religiosity is as heritable as we think and the religious have more children, why aren't we all religious today? The genes that would make religiosity heritable would have such a huge fertility advantage that such genes would have reached fixation by now. Some religions are over 2000 years old -- enough generations for fixation or near fixation. Please elaborate.

    Actually, I agree with Darwin et al. that (almost) all human beings inherited certain religious traits and it is hard to overlook phenomenes as e.g. group-formation (based on specific myths), ritualization and idolization (including "worship" of specific people and dead) in analyzing even the most ardent atheist movements. But although the evolution of religiosity probably has taken place during thousands of generations, I don't think that the reproductive advantage has ever been as big as it is today. The formation of distinct and exclusive religious groups is a historically new phenomenon - and religious liberty allowing for personal choices in the matter are even younger. Therefore, we are certainly witnessing "evolution in progress".

    You might want to take a look at Darwin's respective definitions and observations:
    http://www.scilogs.eu/...eligiosity-and-religion-s

    Two big religions -- Islam and Christianity -- stress the need for natalism; is that why they grew big? After all, they were sects once. (Of course, it's also clear that, besides natalism, these religions grew through (violent) conversion and offered the poor a whole range of clues to live a better life back then.)

    Yes, exactly. In the course of cultural evolution, most religious traditions, branches and groups tend to fail. Being pro-natalist in word and deed is a major (but not the only!) factor for survival in religious competition.

    Peace (instead on group conflict), human rights (moral universalism vs. moral particularism) and liberties (instead of autoritarianism) all counter fundamentalism -- fundamentalism is the answer (antidote) to modernism. If a fundamentalist religion becomes softer, it weakens and stops growing; the result will be a tiny minority of ultra-fundamentalist who keep on going. Ultra-orthodox Haredi Judaism and Amish Christian fundamentalism are the best examples I know of. You can win minds, but, ultimately, religion is about emotions; it comes from the inside. Some people are naturally hysterics or good-mooded, to tell them to stop being hysterical or good-mooded won't change that.

    I certainly agree with most of these observations and thoughts. Personally, I hope that we could broaden our evolutionary narratives (based on empirical sciences), thereby bringing seculars and religious moderates together on factual grounds as well as helping believers to accept sciences as non-threatening and promising endeavours. Together, the ever-present problem of religious and political extremisms may be countered and the demographic gap somewhat bridged.

    I don't think seculars will be able to do much about these phenomena for quite some time, if ever. The mass public isn't interested in long-term developments -- they don't get it -- and, instead of debate, intellectual elites tend to demonize all kinds of population research. Just think about how long it took, before someone seriously questioned Islam in post-war Europe and how mild these criticisms usually are. It's more likely that fundamentalism will slowly grow and make more demands upon our societies. As Kaufman re-tells the story of the US Christian right, some people will someday ask: where the hell did these people come from?

    Actually, I think that it is a problem of some secular worldviews to attack certain religious or ethnic minorities for the sake of their own identity instead of getting a broader picture. My hope is that more people would learn the grand, evolutionary picture of our species, learning that they are a chain in an awesome story - hopefully extending our concerns from prevalent short-term debates.

    The best seculars can do is find ways for themselves not to die out and gain political power, but, unfortunately, seculars seem to feel most liberal about population developments in general and don't get alarmed about themselves being displaced. They don't seem to care.

    I agree with the observation and fear that, in a certain sense, this could be a logical outcome of assuming that existence is without inherent meaning.

    3) I think Richard Dawkins' anti-theist crusades do more than good. He's only preaching to the secular choir, people who don't need to be convinced and alienating those who genuinely believe in God. He comes over as a whiny, angry professor who picks on the ignorant instead of a comforting fatherly figure whose evolutionary explanations can help people understand the modern world.

    Richard Dawkins sure fuelled many debates with his rich metaphors and polemics. But I would have liked to see some empirical works on the topics he wrote about! As David Sloan Wilson put it some years ago in refuting his "memetics": "Bring on the legwork!"
    http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/07-07-04/

  9. Maciano Heritability of religiosity II
    28.09.2010 | 23:38

    Thanks for the response, I appreciate it.

    1) I'm pessimistic about humanity's short term, but always optimistic about the long term. Humans always find some way to cope with new developments. Fundamentalism may very well only be adaptive as long as it is a minority position, or small majority. It could cause scientific stagnation and thereby make societies poorer; this will make it harder for fundamentalists to expand. I think Fundamentalism is the answer to modernity AND piggybacks on the possibilities modernity offers it. If it destroys modernity, it will destroy itself as well. Societies and cultures are extremely complex, it's truly impossible to predict the future.

    2) I'm planning to read Darwin's 'descent of man', because I suspect it will answer most of my questions about human evolution.

    3) Really, we shouldn't praise Dawkins too much. He's too polarizing; when it comes to religion or group selection, it's either his way or no way. Why is that? Of course, I also fear fundamentalist fertility, but I have to say that seculars liberals irritate me more these days. Their rigid doctrinary egalitarianism has corrupted science in many ways (IQ, demographics the best example); I dare say, much more than creationist Christians ever could. Dawkins seems to dislike religious people mainly for their anti-science attitudes, but if it truly was scientific subversion he wanted to fight, he should take a hard look at the liberal creationist -- evolution stopped 60000 ago, blablabla-- respondents of his own forum.

  10. Corneel @ Michael
    29.09.2010 | 09:17

    secular: of or pertaining to worldly things or to things that are not regarded as religious, spiritual, or sacred

    So secular worldviews have nothing to say about religious religious minorities, by definition. Perhaps you meant atheist worldviews?

    But that was not my main point. I wanted to react to this:
    I agree with the observation and fear that, in a certain sense, this could be a logical outcome of assuming that existence is without inherent meaning.

    A secular (atheist?) worldview is without inherent meaning and this is why they don't care about being replaced? Really? I tend to believe that most people give meaning to their life regardless of religious affinity, and deeply care about most human endeavors, because they choose to. Maybe I misunderstood your sentiment?

  11. Corneel @Maciano
    29.09.2010 | 09:28

    ...I have to say that seculars liberals irritate me more these days. Their rigid doctrinary egalitarianism has corrupted science in many ways (IQ, demographics the best example); I dare say, much more than creationist Christians ever could.

    What a strange thing to say. You are free to dislike Richard Dawkins, but his attitude towards science is correct. To say that this has been more corrupting than the bizarre distortions of science that creationists have contrived seems surreal to me.

  12. Maciano Heritability of religiosity II
    29.09.2010 | 20:55

    "What a strange thing to say. You are free to dislike Richard Dawkins, but his attitude towards science is correct. To say that this has been more corrupting than the bizarre distortions of science that creationists have contrived seems surreal to me."

    First I must apologize to Dr. Blume for going a bit OT by answering you.

    I'm not saying that Dawkins is corrupting or distorting science. I'm saying that many of his followerd are secular liberals who borrow from Darwin the things they like -- atheism -- but leave out what they don't like -- human evolution and human differences, such as IQ. Dawkins' forum is overloaded with atheists who will seriously claim that both IQ is a social construct and Christian creationists are -- btw, demonstrably proven -- less intelligent than atheists (i.e. them).

    Do you remember how the discoverer of DNA got crucified a few years back for saying that Africans have lower IQs than Europeans and East Asians? A fact that has been confirmed for over century now. This is pure leftist creationism, those who believe evolution stopped at the neck, because their beliefs say everyone is equal, therefore they must be equal.

    Thus, I'm not defending creationists, but I highly doubt these people have much influence whatsoever. In Europe and much of the US they're laughed, especially among the higher classes or among those who rule the country. Secular liberalism, however, is hugely influental and it has distorted science in this area. If you're truly surprised at me -- 'bizarre', 'surreal' -- I must assume you haven't seriously been thinking about evolution.

    Creationists are at least consistent in their ignorance, they reject all of Darwin.

  13. J. A. Le Fevre Re: need for natalism
    29.09.2010 | 22:24

    If you look at the world where religion developed, the Neolithic and forward, the absolute requirement for large families is clear: Poor health, rampant disease, short lives and high infant mortality took a heavy toll on populations. Life spans of peasant farmers or city dwellers in Europe or Asia did not return to the levels of hunter-gatherers until the nineteenth century. We know very little of the earliest religions, but their most typical fetishes were the pregnant women dolls/figures. Natalism seems a central theme of religion from its beginning, and has only recently become a potential problem modern medicine and all keeping so many more alive.

  14. Corneel @Maciano
    30.09.2010 | 11:01

    I am not familiar with the forum on Dawkin's site, but I doubt that he or any serious scientist will deny that performance in IQ tests will show genetic differences between individuals, or ethnic groups.
    What they might deny is that such differences justify any discrimination against certain ethnic groups, so they might be egalitarian in that respect. But that is NOT a scientific opinion.

    You said:
    I'm not defending creationists, but I highly doubt these people have much influence whatsoever.

    Think again. A few years ago about 40% of US Americans rejected descent of human beings from non-human ancestors. In Europe this is a bit better, but still a sizeable portion rejects evolution theory.
    Creationists like to portray evolutionary theory as an atheistic theory, which is complete nonsense. And your comments show that they are succesful in clouding the thinking of otherwise sensible people. This is why creationist harm the case of science so much more than Dawkins or his followers.

  15. Michael Blume @Corneel
    30.09.2010 | 17:17

    Thanks for your questions.

    So secular worldviews have nothing to say about religious religious minorities, by definition. Perhaps you meant atheist worldviews?

    Yes, I even ponder if the term "antitheist" could be more accurate. After all, an atheist worldview can be ignorant, neutral or even friendly towards religions and religious minorities.

    A secular (atheist?) worldview is without inherent meaning and this is why they don't care about being replaced? Really? I tend to believe that most people give meaning to their life regardless of religious affinity, and deeply care about most human endeavors, because they choose to. Maybe I misunderstood your sentiment?

    Yes, you did. I wrote about the difference in "assuming" an (external) meaning of life. As you rightly observed, people may "give" meaning based on their individual preferences, but religious traditions are offering not only respective narratives, but also a bolstering in superempirical agency (such as e.g. the ancestors or God).

    Thus, I never met a non-theist who would accept the evolutionary process as commanding to form a family and to have children. Rightfully, such notions are deciphered as a natural fallacy.

    In contrast, many religious traditions are emphasizing (superempirical) meanings in having children, such as e.g. allowing ancestors to return to Earth or to just follow the Godly commandment "Be fruitful and multiply." (Genesis 1.28) That's one of the mechanisms at work contributing to the reproductive advantage of religious.

  16. J. A. Le Fevre Dawkins Forum: RIP
    30.09.2010 | 17:21

    Perhaps it was getting too difficult to manage, but the once vibrant and dynamic 'Forum' (at: richarddawkins.net) was shut down early this year to be replaced by a rather staid 'discussion' area. Sad.

  17. Michael Blume @J.A. Le Fevre
    30.09.2010 | 17:52

    CIF Guardian featured a post about the end of the old forum and the subsequent "mutiny" at Dawkins.net:
    http://www.scilogs.eu/...ackmore-impressed-me#1769

  18. Michael Blume Uups, wrong link
    30.09.2010 | 17:54
  19. Maciano Creationist and secular liberals
    30.09.2010 | 21:37

    Corneel,

    I'm not confused by creationist claims.

    Maybe we're not completely understanding each other. I'm not just talking about evolution of the human species, from apes to man. Secular liberals do not dispute that. They dispute modern science which conflicts their belief in the universal equality of all man; they confuse a moral claim -- all equal for the law and deserving of respect -- with a genetic claim -- all humans are equally talented.

    Many of our Western social policies are aimed at the second claim, more or less. This is a huge mistake and it is based on a false assumption, given in by an ideological belief. Many secular liberals reject IQ because they can't except people to be different. Creationists also reject Darwin, because he showed their beliefs to be false.

    I highly doubt if the creationist belief in God or the secular liberal belief in egalitarianism is all that different. These beliefs are both irrational.

    You claim that 40% of creationists are a threat to Darwinism, I agree to a point. But I also think atheists over-estimate the threat of these people, because they haven't got as much political influence as the seculars in general. They may be a threat in the future.

    But today is today. For now, I fear secular liberals more who enthusiastically burn heretics like James Watson -- co-discoverer of DNA and thereby enabler of countless new viewpoints in medicine, biology and technology -- at the stake for publicly doubting their beliefs.

    Just recently a national crisis broke out in Germany, because a national banker dared to suggest that immigration from the Third World in general (and Islamic in particular) was a potential risk. The secular liberals shouted him down the hardest; at least Dawkins can write books without creationists starting a national campaign to have him fired and smeared.

  20. Maciano Creationist and secular liberals
    30.09.2010 | 23:26

    I see I wrote a few mistakes. Of course: "40% of Americans are creationists". Too quick.

  21. Corneel @Michael
    01.10.2010 | 13:05

    I already thought that was an uncharacteristic comment from you. Thanks for the clarification.

  22. Corneel @Maciano
    01.10.2010 | 13:53

    Creationists take a fundamentally different stance on science than secular liberals. Creationists can be outspoken anti-scientific at times. You think this is no big deal, because these people have no political influence.
    That is simply wrong. Especially in the US, many religious right-wing politicians have creationist sympathies (remember Sarah Palin?), and are a threat to science and education. We should be careful not to create a similar problem here in Europe.

    On the other hand, I don't think James Watson and Thilo Sarrazin got in trouble about any scientific claims they made, but rather that their remarks were racist. You can think of the reactions of their opponents what you like, but these reactions are not corrupting science in any way.

  23. Maciano heritability of religiosity
    01.10.2010 | 19:38

    Corneel,

    Look, we can all agree that (religion caused) ignorance creates problems.

    I personally suspect it's impossible to change a truly religious' person's convictions. There are a lot of people who talk about creationism all the time. There's no disagreement here. I'm simply claiming that secular liberals are very intolerant, religious-like, towards people they disagree with on an ideological level. What exactly do you want to do against creationists? You want to force them to send their children to schools where they're taught their parents tell them lies? We can't do that. I believe -- hope -- I can convince smart secular liberals that their ideological beliefs have a blind spot towards human differences.

    Be aware that the average IQ is around 100 in the West -- that means 50% have lower IQs than 100. You must also know that religiosity, Biblical literalism, is negatively correlated to IQ. Creationists believe what they believe because they can't do better, they're not smart enough to see through their fallacies -- to them, creationism makes perfect sense. It's impossible to change this. We must learn to except that a sizable fraction of the population will always believe untrue, even crazy things. We should try to reduce ignorance with education, but we can't do much more than that. As long as they don't harm anybody or teach your kids BS what exactly is the problem anyway?

    In Europe there's no creationist problem. The churches are emptying out, there are hardly any growing Christian populations anywhere in Europe. The only people I've ever met who are indeed largely creationist and growing in numbers are muslims. They're still below 5% in Western Europe -- their fertility and immigration numbers are dropping fast. They won't be a force anytime soon.

    Finally, Sarah Palin shouldn't be rejected, because she's a creationist. She should be rejected as a dim-witted over-rated politician who can't debate or think seriously. She'll never be chosen president by a majority of Americans any time soon.

  24. Corneel @Maciano
    04.10.2010 | 10:55

    As long as they don't harm anybody or teach your kids BS what exactly is the problem anyway?

    That is exactly the problem. In the US they DO want to foist their BS on everybody. There have been several lawsuits against creationists who tried to incorporate their religious views in the science classes of public schools. I don't know about Germany, but here in Holland we had instances where a politician or even scientist (!) was pushing Intelligent Design creationism. I think we should be vigilant, and not underestimate the threat.

    Finally, I thought it was ironic that you claimed that:
    Creationists believe what they believe because they can't do better, they're not smart enough to see through their fallacies
    That is nonsense. Yes, biblical literalism is negatively correlated to IQ, but not perfectly. There are many creationists that will beat both you and me at an IQ test. Social pressure, and indoctrination are more important factors in maintaining creationist ideas. You were complaining about the abuse of IQ measures to back up ideological claims, and yet you try to convince me that science backs up your ideas of biological determinism. Please, realise that you're doing the same thing.

  25. Daniel Knight weird nonense
    10.03.2011 | 03:31

    "Then the surviving and expanding populations will be those of religious fundamentalisms, having many children while blocking any serious discourse with non-theists or other believers concerning education, science, worldviews and, finally, human rights."

    This is a stupid assumption. Where is his evidence that this is true? Why would population have to do with fundamentalisms, whatever the hell that means, and serious discussions of non-theists? Does this guy know that there were few atheists in ancient times, except perhaps for the Buddhists, many of whom were unfriendly? And whuh: why would anyone need to have a serious discussion with non-theists, the hell does that have to do with evolution?! I don't get your title either, did I miss a sentence saying that you accept evolution cuz some atheist took back a malicious attack?

  26. Michael Blume @Daniel Knight
    12.03.2011 | 18:23

    Eric is a political scientist and his perspectives are shaped especially by experiences and examples from the US and Israel. See, for example here:
    http://www.scilogs.eu/...aphy-in-political-studies

    And his book "Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?":
    http://www.scilogs.eu/...new-book-by-eric-kaufmann

    Finally, there is a lecture from him on YouTube:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7vCDeKPRSo

    Thanks for your interest & best wishes!

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