Readers of this blog might have noticed that my main focus of research (and those of colleagues such as Eric Kaufmann) has been the reproductive potential of religiosity. Lots of data and studies have conclusively demonstrated that the religious tend to have - on average - more children than the secular.(More)
Sometimes people ask me why I am using Twitter (as @BlumeEvolution). Prejudices go as "There are only people babbling around." - "There's nothing relevant you could say in 140 letters." - "It's only used by celebrities promoting their worthless musics." etc.
Well, I disagree. As I started to use Twitter, I started to play around by searching for scientific information. And I found people such as Karla Segura @CRKarla who (re-)tweeted links to science-related news: More than 70.000 up to now, and counting! And I could easily follow her, instead of, say, Lady Gaga. Now, I was able to learn from Karla's researches into the world wide web and to retweet those findings that would be of interest to my followers, too. She could do the same - building a tiny scientific connection in an expanding network.
Then, there are other active scientists such as Fabrice Leclerc @leclercfl, who is not only (re-)tweeting science-related findings, but also publishing a regular "online-paper" with evolution-related topics based on Tweets: The evolution daily.
For me, these aggregations are not only interesting - they are valuable. Think about it: Evolutionary studies are extremely interdisciplinary, ranging from diverse studies on animals and humans, to genetics, mathematics, cultural studies and metaphysics (such as philosophies and theologies). And the same is true with my field of research, evolutionary studies on religion (ERS). Twitter helped me not only to find Jonathan Haidt's great TED-talk but also an essay he wrote on CNN about his atheist appraisal of religion. And I found a way not only to retweet those findings of special interest to ERS, but also to aggregate these for other readers. As religion-editor of "Evolution This View Of Life", I am tweeting special recommendations to Haddasah Head @Haddie who might put them on the ETVOL-religion shelf for free access to everyone!
So, yes, Twitter can be mindless chatter, and it can be "just for fun". But it can be a good and enjoyable way to find and share scientific informations from various fields, being a part of the global stream of scientific communication. That's why I am happily using and recommending it! I even added a mission to my profile: Twitter needs more science tweets!
As David Sloan Wilson approached me with the plan for an online- and inter-faculty-magazine about evolutionary studies, I was ready to join it on the spot. And a starting version of ETVOL is online, while the team is working on improvements and we all are hoping to get the necessary funds... Besides contributing time as an editor, I pledged some dollars as a backer with Kickstarters. The project line has come into reach, so I ask you, dear reader, to support us, too!
Some time ago, I presented the awesome Khan Academy at my German blog "Natur des Glaubens". Founded by former hedgefund-manager Salman Khan, the online-academy is offering thousands of teaching videos via YouTube, thereby reaching out to people and especially learning teenagers around the world looking for better education. Personally, I think it is one of the very best online-ideas. You might want to take a look at the Khan Academy page or Salman Khan's talk at TED 2011.
The evolution of evolutionary studies of religion reached a new stage these days: Routledge issued the first volume of "Religion, Brain & Behavior" (RBB), the first scientific and peer-reviewed journal specialized on the topic!
The journal is issued together with the Institute for the Biocultural Study of Religion (IBCSR, to which I am a member) and it's interdisciplinary approach is reflected by its editors: Patrick McNamara (Neurology, Boston), Richard Sosis (Anthropology, Connecticut), Wesley Wildman (Theology, Boston) and James Haag (Philosophy, Suffolk). The Editorial Advisory Board is a who-is-who of prominent scientists in the field!
The scientific blogosphere is growing - and so are the chances to interact and network. I have been invited by Labspaces.net to do a guest post about those Evolutionary Studies in Religiosity and Religions. It appeared today and you might check it out just by clicking here.
For a long time, evolutionary studies about religiosity and religions have struggled with a psychological problem: Many atheists and antitheists found it hard to accept that religiosity turned out to be evolutionary adaptive, rather than a mere by-product or even a parasite. Only a few found the strength mustered e.g. by Susan Blackmore to accept the findings concerning the cooperative and reproductive potentials of religion. Among these strong few is Jesse Bering. Openly atheistic and comfortable gay, he nevertheless went along with true curiosity, evolutionary logic and clever experiments, adding serious science, colorful humor and a kind of existential wisdom to studies, conferences and debates exploring the evolution of religion. Although I sure went down in his estimation by "coming out" as a happy theist, I enjoyed valuable chances to exchange ideas, data and jokes with him. Thus, I couldn't wait for his book "The God Instinct. The Psychology of Souls, Destiny and the Meaning of Life" (which will be published as "The Belief Instinct" in the United States in February 2011.) And to put my review in a nutshell, let me assure you: Jesse sure did a great and readable piece of sound science, deep thoughts and delightful humor!
"Judaism in Biological Perspective - Biblical Lore and Judaic Practices" is a very special book that I count as a treasure in my bookcase. It is combining sound empirical studies on the evolution of Judaic mythologies and rituals with other chapters debating evolutionary studies of religion from Jewish perspectives. For example, the editor Rick Goldberg is comparing the old Rabbinic concept of Yetzer to modern perspectives of evolutionary psychology. And Michael Satlow is demonstrating how Judaism retained its more monist perspective on reality, making it more open to biological discourses than for example more dualist Christian traditions.
A new study conducted by Swiss scientists found that religious affiliation is lowering suicide rates. Based on data from the Swiss Census 2000, the researchers found that the suicid rate among 100.000 people aged 34 to 95 without religious affiliation amounted to 39. Among protestants, the number decreased to 29 and among Catholics to 20.
The study thus confirmed a classic observation by Emile Durkheim (1858-1917), who assumed that religiosity might offer reproductive and survival advantages and conducted the famous study "Suicide" (1897).
Adrian Spoerri, Marcel Zwahlen, Matthias Bopp, Felix Gutzwiller, Matthias Egger: Religion and assisted and non-assisted suicide in Switzerland: National Cohort Study. International Journal of Epidemiology, 2010, doi:10.1093/ije/dyq141
There are many high-fertile religious communities out there - as, for example, the Old Order Amish. Other religious groups, as the Shakers, who didn't manage (or chose) to have enough children, succumbed to (bio-)cultural evolution. In contrast, we still don't know about a single, non-religious population, movement or group that was able to retain more than two births per woman (the so-called replacement level) throughout subsequent generations. This is relevant from a sociocultural perspective: Secularization is taking place (especially among wealthy and secure populations) - but running into demographic dead ends, followed by religious-demographic revivals (through births and immigration). And it is relevant from the perspective of evolutionary studies: Intergenerational reproductive success is "the" benchmark of evolutionary fitness, promoting biocultural traits as speech, musicality - or religiosity. (More)