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.

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Why you don’t want the government running religion ...

Because some people really need a dose of: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; ... but won’t get it, in any sense of the word.

Blasphemy in Pakistan: Moderation is now a capital offense.
Jan 24, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 18

by Nina Shea and Paul Marshall

While most of those accused of blasphemy in Pakistan are Muslims, non-Muslim religious minorities suffer disproportionately: Though 5 percent of the population, they are half of those accused, and the testimony of one Muslim is sufficient to convict a non-Muslim. They also suffer increasing attacks by extremists. On August 1, 2009, after a Christian was accused of burning a Koran, a mob connected to the Taliban-linked Sipah-e-Sahaba attacked Christians in Korian and Gojra: They indiscriminately killed seven Christians, six of whom (including two children) were burned alive. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reported that police knew of the intended attack but did nothing to prevent it. And while the government has so far not executed those convicted of blasphemy, dozens of accused people have been assassinated by fanatics, even when their cases ended in acquittal.
Two of the five blasphemy laws are specifically aimed at the 3-million-member Ahmadi community, founded in 1889 by Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad in Qadian, now in India. Most Muslims reject Ghulam Ahmad’s teachings and believe that, contrary to Islam, he claimed to be a prophet. Although Ahmadis consider themselves Muslims, they may be imprisoned for three years if they call themselves Muslims or their meeting places mosques. They are singled out for special vilification in Pakistan’s constitution and, to receive a Pakistani passport, a Muslim must declare “I consider Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Quadiani to be an imposter Nabi [prophet] and also consider his followers whether belonging to the Lahori or Quadiani group, to be NON-MUSLIMS.” On May 28, 2010, gunmen attacked two Ahmadi houses of worship and killed 93 people attending Friday prayers.

The atmosphere stoked by the laws also contributes to violence between Sunni and Shia, as extremists castigate the others as blasphemers.
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