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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