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Monday, January 17, 2011

Latest attempt to explain away religion: Religion gene leads to babies, not thoughts

Robert Rowthorn advises, in “Religion, fertility and genes: a dual inheritance model” (Proc. R. Soc. B published online 12 January 2011),
Religious people nowadays have more children on average than their secular counterparts. This paper uses a simple model to explore the evolutionary implications of this difference. It assumes that fertility is determined entirely by culture, whereas subjective predisposition towards religion is influenced by genetic endowment. People who carry a certain 'religiosity' gene are more likely than average to become or remain religious. The paper considers the effect of religious defections and exogamy on the religious and genetic composition of society. Defections reduce the ultimate share of the population with religious allegiance and slow down the spread of the religiosity gene. However, provided the fertility differential persists, and people with a religious allegiance mate mainly with people like themselves, the religiosity gene will eventually predominate despite a high rate of defection. This is an example of 'cultural hitch-hiking', whereby a gene spreads because it is able to hitch a ride with a high-fitness cultural practice. The theoretical arguments are supported by numerical simulations.
“The theoretical arguments are supported by numerical simulations”? They’d need to be because the rest is bunk.

Just three comments:


1. “People who carry a certain 'religiosity' gene are more likely than average to become or remain religious.” Correction: People who have had experiences that cause them to think that religion can help them understand life are more likely to become or remain religious.

2. “Defections reduce the ultimate share of the population with religious allegiance and slow down the spread of the religiosity gene.” Maybe. Depends on how non-defectors react. John Wesley started a big revival movement in eighteenth century England, for this exact reason, and the effects are felt today.

3. “However, provided the fertility differential persists, and people with a religious allegiance mate mainly with people like themselves, the religiosity gene will eventually predominate despite a high rate of defection.” The underlying materialist assumption here is that the mind is an illusion, that no one actually thinks out their situation, which anyone can observe to be untrue.

Would love to know how many tax dollars are slaughtered for this kind of thing. If a large number, one might well ask why government shouldn’t also fund non-materialist research.

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