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Sue Blackmore no longer believes religion is a virus of the mind

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Readers may recall Blackmore from “A hundred people walked out of Darwin/evo psych indoctrination lecture at Oxford”? (It was her lecture.)

This time, the material she cites from a conference on religion is demonstrable, researchable, and well-established fact. Here:

Another striking comparison came from Eric Kaufmann’s book Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?, to which responses differ on whether secularists should be terrified of an impending world dominated by religion or not. When European Jews were classified as orthodox, nonreligious and atheist, the atheists averaged around 1.5 children per woman and the religious Jews nearly three, with the Haredim in Israel averaging six to eight children per woman over many generations.

All this suggests that religious memes are adaptive rather than viral from the point of view of human genes, but could they still be viral from our individual or societal point of view? Apparently not, given data suggesting that religious people are happier and possibly even healthier than secularists. And at the conference, Ryan McKay presented experimental data showing that religious people can be more generous, cheat less and co-operate more in games such as the prisoner’s dilemma, and that priming with religious concepts and belief in a “supernatural watcher” increase the effects.

So it seems I was wrong and the idea of religions as “viruses of the mind” may have had its day. …

It was a silly idea to begin with. It is the sort of pop science playground where someone puts together two concepts, “virus” and “mind” (which sounds cool, and that’s the main thing) and then concocts a theory to support the invention.

The data she has just now noticed has been there for decades. Indeed, it’s worse than she says. Orthodox religious people are less likely to credit stuff about space aliens, astrology, etc.

And anyway, having lots of kids and better health have been advertised benefits of religion for millennia. The Psalms in the Bible, for example, contain a number of such passages, for example:

Unless the Lord Builds

Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; They will not be ashamed When they speak with their enemies in the gate.

The thing is, if it was completely untrue, someone would have noticed by now As noted above, this is at least a claim that can be tested.

Note: I’ll be addressing this sort of thing in my upcoming series on the mind at Evolution News & Views

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16 Replies to “Sue Blackmore no longer believes religion is a virus of the mind

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    If any religion is to be considered a ‘virus’, as in being a epidemic plague on man, then surely atheism would rank very highly as such, challenging any other pandemic for title as worst:

    What happens when a whole culture gets infected with the ‘virus’ of atheism?

    How Darwin’s Theory Changed the World
    Rejection of Judeo-Christian values
    Excerpt: Weikart explains how accepting Darwinist dogma shifted society’s thinking on human life: “Before Darwinism burst onto the scene in the mid-nineteenth century, the idea of the sanctity of human life was dominant in European thought and law (though, as with all ethical principles, not always followed in practice). Judeo-Christian ethics proscribed the killing of innocent human life, and the Christian churches explicitly forbade murder, infanticide, abortion, and even suicide.
    “The sanctity of human life became enshrined in classical liberal human rights ideology as ‘the right to life,’ which according to John Locke and the United States Declaration of Independence, was one of the supreme rights of every individual” (p. 75).
    Only in the late nineteenth and especially the early twentieth century did significant debate erupt over issues relating to the sanctity of human life, especially infanticide, euthanasia, abortion, and suicide. It was no mere coincidence that these contentious issues emerged at the same time that Darwinism was gaining in influence. Darwinism played an important role in this debate, for it altered many people’s conceptions of the importance and value of human life, as well as the significance of death” (ibid.).
    http://www.gnmagazine.org/issu.....-world.htm

    The Irrational Atheist: Dissecting the Unholy Trinity of Dawkins, Harris, And Hitchens – pg. 240
    Excerpt: “The total body count for the ninety years between 1917 and 2007 is approximately 148 million dead at the bloody hands of fifty-two atheists…..The historical record of collective atheism is thus 182,716 times worse on an annual basis than Christianity’s worst and most infamous misdeed, the Spanish Inquisition.”
    http://books.google.com/books?.....38;f=false

    Chairman MAO: Genocide Master
    “…Many scholars and commentators have referenced my total of 174,000,000 for the democide (genocide and mass murder) of the last century. I’m now trying to get word out that I’ve had to make a major revision in my total due to two books. I’m now convinced that that Stalin exceeded Hitler in monstrous evil, and Mao beat out Stalin….”
    http://wadias.in/site/arzan/bl.....de-master/

    And the benefits for belief are well attested:

    Is Christianity Evil? (Numerous Mental Benefits of Christianity Listed – Meta-analysis, 8:24 minute mark) – 2014 video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=dgESPmh-TxY#t=504

    Are Religious People Happier Than Atheists? – 2000
    Excerpt: there does indeed appear to be a link between religion and happiness. Several studies have been done, but to give an example, one study found that the more frequently people attended religious events, the happier they were; 47% of people who attended several types a week reported that they were ‘very happy’, as opposed to 28% who attended less than monthly.
    In practical terms, religious people have the upper hand on atheists in several other areas. They drink and smoke less, are less likely to abuse drugs, and they stay married longer. After a stressful event like bereavement, unemployment, or illness, those who worship don’t take it as hard and recover faster. All of the above are likely to be beneficial to a person’s happiness. Additionally, religious people, as a result of their beliefs, have a greater sense of meaning, purpose and hope in their lives.
    http://generallythinking.com/a.....-atheists/

    Of snakebites and suicide – February 18, 2014
    RESULTS: Religiously unaffiliated subjects had significantly more lifetime suicide attempts and more first-degree relatives who committed suicide than subjects who endorsed a religious affiliation.
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....d-suicide/

    Atheism and health
    A meta-analysis of all studies, both published and unpublished, relating to religious involvement and longevity was carried out in 2000. Forty-two studies were included, involving some 126,000 subjects. Active religious involvement increased the chance of living longer by some 29%, and participation in public religious practices, such as church attendance, increased the chance of living longer by 43%.[4][5]
    per conservapedia

    Why all the negative effects for the non-religious? Could it be because Atheists have beliefs that are irrational, i.e. just plain silly, to begin with?

    The Heretic – Who is Thomas Nagel and why are so many of his fellow academics condemning him? – March 25, 2013
    Excerpt:,,,Fortunately, materialism is never translated into life as it’s lived. As colleagues and friends, husbands and mothers, wives and fathers, sons and daughters, materialists never put their money where their mouth is. Nobody thinks his daughter is just molecules in motion and nothing but; nobody thinks the Holocaust was evil, but only in a relative, provisional sense. A materialist who lived his life according to his professed convictions—understanding himself to have no moral agency at all, seeing his friends and enemies and family as genetically determined robots—wouldn’t just be a materialist: He’d be a psychopath.
    http://www.weeklystandard.com/.....tml?page=3

    Moreover, this psychopathic characteristic inherent to the atheistic philosophy is born out empirically, in that people who do not believe in a soul tend to be more psychopathic than the majority of normal people in America who do believe in a soul. You can pick that psychopathic study of atheists around the 14:30 minute mark of this following video:

    Anthony Jack, Why Don’t Psychopaths Believe in Dualism? – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?l.....zOk#t=862s

    Atheism is simply the complete opposite of the truth of a living God who is not only very real indeed, but is also the source for all reality.

    From Atheism to Theism In Reverse
    http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=9C2E1MNU

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    Of somewhat related interest, China, after years and years, of brutal repression of Christianity and other religions, is poised to become the nation with the most Christians in it in fairly short order:

    China on course to become ‘world’s most Christian nation’ within 15 years – 2014
    Excerpt: China’s Protestant community, which had just one million members in 1949, has already overtaken those of countries more commonly associated with an evangelical boom. In 2010 there were more than 58 million Protestants in China compared to 40 million in Brazil and 36 million in South Africa, according to the Pew Research Centre’s Forum on Religion and Public Life.

    Prof Yang, a leading expert on religion in China, believes that number will swell to around 160 million by 2025. That would likely put China ahead even of the United States, which had around 159 million Protestants in 2010 but whose congregations are in decline.

    By 2030, China’s total Christian population, including Catholics, would exceed 247 million, placing it above Mexico, Brazil and the United States as the largest Christian congregation in the world, he predicted.

    “Mao thought he could eliminate religion. He thought he had accomplished this,” Prof Yang said. “It’s ironic – they didn’t. They actually failed completely.”
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/new.....years.html

  3. 3
    Acartia_bogart says:

    There have been many arguments that religion may be adaptive, from an evolutionary perspective. But that doesn’t mean that the religion in question is correct. Nobody would argue that the cargo cults are correct, but they certainly qualify as a religion.

    Humans, for whatever reason, are inquisitive. This, naturally, will lead them to ask questions about everything they see, and ask how they became to be. Thus, origin stories, which is what religions basically are. Every religion believes that their explanation is the correct one. They can’t all be right.

    There is only one explanation that is based on evidence, experimentation and observations from numerous fields of science. This started well before Darwin. Darwin was the first to draw several of these lines of evidence together to produce a cogent theory. This theory has been dramaticay modified over time, and will probably continue to be as new evidence arises.

    Creationists look at every piece of evidence that doesn’t perfectly fit the modern theory of evolution as proof of creationism. If they want to be taken seriously as a science, the creationists will have to find another approach. Here’s a suggestion. Develop a hypothesis, test it experimentally, make predictions, modify the hypothesis if necessary. Repeat this until you have a theory that is scientifically sound. It’s amazing how well that works for theories that are, more or less, correct.

  4. 4
    bornagain77 says:

    AB, Theism Compared To Atheistic Materialism, which one should be rejected as a valid scientific hypothesis?

    1. Naturalism/Materialism predicted time-space energy-matter always existed. Whereas Theism predicted time-space energy-matter were created. Big Bang cosmology now strongly indicates that time-space energy-matter had a sudden creation event approximately 14 billion years ago.

    2. Naturalism/Materialism predicted that the universe is a self sustaining system that is not dependent on anything else for its continued existence. Theism predicted that God upholds this universe in its continued existence. Breakthroughs in quantum mechanics reveal that this universe is dependent on a ‘non-local’, beyond space and time, cause for its continued existence.

    3. Naturalism/Materialism predicted that consciousness is a ‘emergent property’ of material reality and thus should have no particularly special position within material reality. Theism predicts consciousness precedes material reality and therefore, on that presupposition, consciousness should have a ‘special’ position within material reality. Quantum Mechanics reveals that consciousness has a special, even a central, position within material reality. –

    4. Naturalism/Materialism predicted the rate at which time passed was constant everywhere in the universe. Theism predicted God is eternal and is outside of time. – Special Relativity has shown that time, as we understand it, is relative and comes to a complete stop at the speed of light. (Psalm 90:4 – 2 Timothy 1:9) –

    5. Naturalism/Materialism predicted the universe did not have life in mind and that life was ultimately an accident of time and chance. Theism predicted this universe was purposely created by God with man in mind. Scientists find the universe is exquisitely fine-tuned for carbon-based life to exist in this universe. Moreover it is found, when scrutinizing the details of chemistry, that not only is the universe fine-tuned for carbon based life, but is specifically fine-tuned for life like human life (M. Denton).-

    6. Naturalism/Materialism predicted complex life in this universe should be fairly common. Theism predicted the earth is extremely unique in this universe. Statistical analysis of the hundreds of required parameters which enable complex organic life to be possible on earth gives strong indication the earth is extremely unique in this universe (Gonzalez). –

    7. Naturalism/Materialism predicted it took a very long time for life to develop on earth. Theism predicted life to appear abruptly on earth after water appeared on earth (Genesis 1:10-11). Geo-chemical evidence from the oldest sedimentary rocks ever found on earth indicates that complex photo-synthetic life has existed on earth as long as water has been on the face of earth. –

    8. Naturalism/Materialism predicted the first life to be relatively simple. Theism predicted that God is the source for all life on earth. The simplest life ever found on Earth is far more complex than any machine man has made through concerted effort. (Michael Denton PhD) –

    9. Naturalism/Materialism predicted the gradual unfolding of life would (someday) be self-evident in the fossil record. Theism predicted complex and diverse animal life to appear abruptly in the seas in God’s fifth day of creation. The Cambrian Explosion shows a sudden appearance of many different and completely unique fossils within a very short “geologic resolution time” in the Cambrian seas. –

    10. Naturalism/Materialism predicted there should be numerous transitional fossils found in the fossil record, Theism predicted sudden appearance and rapid diversity within different kinds found in the fossil record. Fossils are consistently characterized by sudden appearance of a group/kind in the fossil record(disparity), then rapid diversity within that group/kind, and then long term stability and even deterioration of variety within the overall group/kind, and within the specific species of the kind, over long periods of time. Of the few dozen or so fossils claimed as transitional, not one is uncontested as a true example of transition between major animal forms out of millions of collected fossils. –

    11. Naturalism/Materialism predicted animal speciation should happen on a somewhat constant basis on earth. Theism predicted man was the last species created on earth – Man (our genus ‘modern homo’ as distinct from the highly controversial ‘early homo’) is the last generally accepted major fossil form to have suddenly appeared in the fossil record. (Tattersall; Luskin)–

    12. Naturalism/Materialism predicted much of the DNA code was junk. Theism predicted we are fearfully and wonderfully made – ENCODE research into the DNA has revealed a “biological jungle deeper, denser, and more difficult to penetrate than anyone imagined.”. –

    13. Naturalism/Materialism predicted a extremely beneficial and flexible mutation rate for DNA which was ultimately responsible for all the diversity and complexity of life we see on earth. Theism predicted only God created life on earth – The mutation rate to DNA is overwhelmingly detrimental. Detrimental to such a point that it is seriously questioned whether there are any truly beneficial, information building, mutations whatsoever. (M. Behe; JC Sanford) –

    14. Naturalism/Materialism predicted morality is subjective and illusory. Theism predicted morality is objective and real. Morality is found to be deeply embedded in the genetic responses of humans. As well, morality is found to be deeply embedded in the structure of the universe. Embedded to the point of eliciting physiological responses in humans before humans become aware of the morally troubling situation and even prior to the event even happening.

    15. Naturalism/Materialism predicted that we are merely our material bodies with no transcendent component to our being, and that we die when our material bodies die. Theism predicted that we have minds/souls that are transcendent of our bodies that live past the death of our material bodies. Transcendent, and ‘conserved’, (cannot be created or destroyed), ‘non-local’, (beyond space-time matter-energy), quantum entanglement/information, which is not reducible to matter-energy space-time, is now found in our material bodies on a massive scale.

    As you can see when we remove the artificial imposition of the materialistic philosophy, from the scientific method, and look carefully at the predictions of both the materialistic philosophy and the Theistic philosophy, side by side, we find the scientific method is very good at pointing us in the direction of Theism as the true explanation. – In fact it is even very good at pointing us to Christianity:

    General Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, Entropy & The Shroud Of Turin – (video)
    http://vimeo.com/34084462

  5. 5

    AB:

    If, according to materialists, thoughts, reason and logic are caused by biology, isn’t it futile to try and change the mind of others by using thoughts, reason and logic? You’re addressing an effect, not the cause of the effect. Perhaps you should try and get them to change their diet?

    If mind is an effect and not a cause, all argument is futile.

  6. 6
    ppolish says:

    “Symbiont of the Mind does not have the same ring to it”. That is the important thing for Sue. The ring. Not the accuracy, but the ring. She is a Memeoligist.

    This article linked is 4 years old. The
    “walkout” is recent. Why would Sue be surprised by the walkout? Bright youngsters know “memes” are just a passing fad. Why insult their intelligence. Ceiling Cat? Please stop.

  7. 7
    bornagain77 says:

    “Perhaps you should try and get them to change their diet?”

    🙂

    Touche
    http://images.rapgenius.com/8m.....x315x1.jpg

  8. 8
    DavidD says:

    ppolish
    “Bright youngsters know “memes” are just a passing fad.”

    Or more likely the figment of a cantankerous old religious ideologue who fabled the lame term in the first place

  9. 9
    Eric Anderson says:

    This all flows, of course, from Dawkin’s meme idea — a virus of the mind that can “infect” a new host and get passed on.

    Yes, ideas can emerge and then get shared and passed around. The utterly stupid thing is trying to treat this as though it is some kind of biological-related phenomenon, that it is somehow relevant to evolutionary theory, that describing the process in terms of evolution or viruses or natural selection is substantively meaningful.

  10. 10
    DavidD says:

    Eric Anderson
    “This all flows, of course, from Dawkin’s meme idea — a virus of the mind that can “infect” a new host and get passed on.”

    Well then, the first ever recorded “Meme” is found in Genesis chapter 3.

    Eric Anderson
    “Yes, ideas can emerge and then get shared and passed around. The utterly stupid thing is trying to treat this as though it is some kind of biological-related phenomenon, that it is somehow relevant to evolutionary theory, that describing the process in terms of evolution or viruses or natural selection is substantively meaningful.”

    Yes of course, it gets worse, look at the horrible turn of “Meme” events in the middle 1800s when Darwin further mangled or mutated the original “Meme” of Genesis 3.

    Romans 5:12 Amplified Bible

    12 “Therefore, as “memes” came into the world through one man, and death as the result of “memes”, so death spread to all men, [no one being able to stop it or to escape its power] because all men “memed”.

  11. 11
    ppolish says:

    Eric, I’m of the opinion that Religious Experiences can somehow/somewhat be inherited from parents and grandparents too. Epigenetics studies seem to suggest the possibility. I’m also of the opinion that religiousness/spirituality/soulness is “hardwired” into sapien. It’s part of us. We are all born religious.

  12. 12
    News says:

    Eric Anderson at 9, yes. What Blackmore is doing is not even Darwinism, which one could argue about as a driver of evolution; it is Darwinbabble.

  13. 13
    humbled says:

    Another mind warped and twisted by the insane worldview that is materialism.

  14. 14
    wallstreeter43 says:

    Sue Blackmore is hilarious, She was constantly debunked on her theories that NDE’s were a product of a delusional dying brain when the evidence for veridical nde’s were shown to her.

    Here she was destroyed by skeptiko’s alex Tsakiris who is an agnostic and a very honest seeker of truth. He totally exposed her as being biased against NDE’s even though she admitted she hasn’t read up on the research in the last 15 years lol

    http://www.skeptiko.com/near-d.....o-critics/

  15. 15
    Axel says:

    ppolish, this might interest you:

    http://www.theguardian.com/com.....f-comments

  16. 16
    ppolish says:

    Thanks Axel.

    “Creation delivers us to God’s doorstep and bids us only knock at his door.”

    The door of matter opened to life. Door of life opened to consciousness. Door of consciousness opens too. To think otherwise is to deny a whole lot of Science let alone Religion.

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