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Model Says Religiosity Gene Will Dominate Society 729

Posted by timothy
from the getchyer-broad-brushes-n'-start-paintin' dept.
Hugh Pickens writes writes "PhysOrg reports on a study by Robert Rowthorn, emeritus professor at Cambridge University, that predicts that the genetic components that predispose a person toward religion are currently "hitchhiking" on the back of the religious cultural practice of high fertility rates and that provided the fertility of religious people remains on average higher than that of secular people, the genes that predispose people towards religion will spread. For example, in the past 20 years, the Amish population in the US has doubled, increasing from 123,000 in 1991 to 249,000 in 2010. The huge growth stems almost entirely from the religious culture's high fertility rate, which is about 6 children per woman, on average. Rowthorn says that while fertility is determined by culture, an individual's predisposition toward religion is likely to be influenced by genetics, in addition to their upbringing. In the model, Rowthorn uses a "religiosity gene" to represent the various genetic factors that combine to genetically predispose a person toward religion, whether remaining religious from youth or converting to religion from a secular upbringing. Rowthorn's model predicts that the religious fraction of the population will eventually stabilize at less than 100%, and there will remain a possibly large percentage of secular individuals. But nearly all of the secular population will still carry the religious allele, since high defection rates will spread the religious allele to secular society when defectors have children with a secular partner."
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Model Says Religiosity Gene Will Dominate Society

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  • Um, (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    For Christ's sake! this can't be true. . .

  • Thats just (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Osgeld (1900440)

    A nice way of saying that the stupid people are breeding too much

    • No no you read wrong, it is not scientists breeding here...
      Dumb people are not reproducing more.

    • Maybe, maybe not. Two groups of people that breed the most are religious and/or those living in poverty. Either way, it's because they have too much idle time on their hands, and in bed.

      • Re:Thats just (Score:4, Insightful)

        by buddyglass (925859) on Sunday January 30, 2011 @12:36AM (#35047096)

        Yeah. Except not. I would wager that highly religious people actually have less free time than their irreligious counterparts. There's all that time spent at church and on church-related activities. Religious people (depending on the religion, but I would guess this is true for most) either value children more. So they have more of them. A few religious folk probably also believe contraception is verboten, and I can't imagine any irreligious person thinking that.

        When it comes to the poor, I'm thinking the key factor there is irresponsibility. Generally speaking that's why many people are poor to begin with. I highly doubt "amount of free time" plays a part in either case.

        • The women have more time. No religion I know of actually encourages women to get an education and enter the workplace, and many disapprove of that to greatly varying extents. Some outright forbid them to work, others merely frown upon the practive.
    • You're preaching to the choir.

  • Religiosity gene? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 29, 2011 @06:58PM (#35045296)

    Religiosity gene. Wow, really? Gee, what's next, the gay gene?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mewsenews (251487)

      Religiosity gene. Wow, really? Gee, what's next, the gay gene?

      We have religious conservatives arguing that homosexuality is a choice, and we have university academics arguing that religious leanings are genetic.

      The funny thing is that I thought academics would lean towards the free will argument, but I guess sometimes they take "there must be an explanation for everything" too far and convince themselves that human behaviour is easily explained with statistical models with ridiculously weak premises.

      • Rush Limbaugh once said that should the "gay gene" ever be found, that group could quickly turn pro-life in the abortion debate. Not sure about the men, but certainly the women homosexual group in a future GATTACA society.

      • Re:Religiosity gene? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Black Parrot (19622) on Saturday January 29, 2011 @07:17PM (#35045424)

        The funny thing is that I thought academics would lean towards the free will argument, but I guess sometimes they take "there must be an explanation for everything" too far and convince themselves that human behaviour is easily explained with statistical models with ridiculously weak premises.

        So... how would you detect free will, if it does exist?

      • by formfeed (703859) on Saturday January 29, 2011 @07:24PM (#35045492)

        We have religious conservatives arguing that homosexuality is a choice, and we have university academics arguing that religious leanings are genetic.

        This study just proves it:
        The believing-that-everything-is-genetic gene is about to dominate science!

        I wish there was a way to prevent this stupidity from recurring. But that wish is probably just something I'm predisposed to. Bummer.

        • by quenda (644621) on Saturday January 29, 2011 @08:06PM (#35045766)

          Nonsense. Nobody is saying that Catholicism is a Mendellian trait.
          Just that there are inheritable personality aspects that make on more likely to stay in a religion if you are born into it, or even to join a religious group in the right circumstances.
          Homosexuality is complex too. It would not be shocking to suggest that effeminate men are more likely to be gay and vice versa. This can be related to hormone levels in the womb during brain development. Which is far more inheritable than a matter of "choice".
          Anyway, what is choice but a product of our genes and environment? "Free will" just means we cannot see the mechanism that produced it.

          • Re:Religiosity gene? (Score:4, Interesting)

            by ShakaUVM (157947) on Sunday January 30, 2011 @04:44AM (#35047776) Homepage Journal

            >>"Free will" just means we cannot see the mechanism that produced it.

            Out of curiosity, why are you so convinced that determinism is true?

            • by cronius (813431)

              >>"Free will" just means we cannot see the mechanism that produced it.

              Out of curiosity, why are you so convinced that determinism is true?

              It basically boils down to: Define free will.

              We're human beings with personalties. Most of us behave in a pretty consistent manner just about all the time, and this behaviour gets defined as personality. If free will is doing something outside your personality, then only people acting "randomly" and inconsistently (crazy people?) have free will.

              Because we behave in fairly consistent manners, it's possible to predict what other peoples opinions, thoughts and even some actions will be. That's something fairly

      • If by "Academics" you mean people of reason then you should expect "Academics" to discard your silly notions of free will. Nothing is the product of free will in a deterministic universe. It's either predictable physics of random chaos. Neither of which is choice.

      • Re:Religiosity gene? (Score:4, Informative)

        by Z8 (1602647) on Saturday January 29, 2011 @11:25PM (#35046798)

        The funny thing is that I thought academics would lean towards the free will argument, but I guess sometimes they take "there must be an explanation for everything" too far and convince themselves that human behaviour is easily explained with statistical models with ridiculously weak premises.

        TFA [royalsocie...ishing.org] itself sites a lot of work done on this. It even mentions specifically one bit of evidence: "twin studies that quantify the genetic and environmental determinants of what they call the ‘traditional moral triad’ of authoritarianism, conservatism and religiousness ... show that 40 to 60 per cent of the observed variation in such personality traits is explained by genotypic variation."

        So yeah, professional scientists actually try to do science and then believe what their science seems to tell them. Those silly academics!

      • There's plenty of physiological evidence that humans, all of us, are predisposed towards religion. We see cause and effect in all things. It's useful in many contexts, but does lead towards superstition and eventually religion. Oh, it's not just that -- religion is an adaptive trait. Not a fringe mutation. We are all wired for it, not just some of us. Those of us who are not religious are proof that free will has at least some role in the matter . . .

    • In all seriousness, with few exceptions, genetic natural selection no longer has much place in western society. With very few exceptions, the main factor in determining how many times over a person passes his DNA to the next generation is how many times said person wants to pass his DNA. There is very little practical reason to have more than 1-2 kids, so those with religious beliefs will those who don't. The question is whether there is such a thing as a 'religiousity gene' or combination of genes. If

    • Re:Religiosity gene? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ElectricTurtle (1171201) on Saturday January 29, 2011 @07:57PM (#35045688)
      Hate to break it to you and apparently everybody else responding, but there is evidence [plosone.org] for a genetic component to homosexual preferences. The fundamental concept is that the gene(s) which when expressed lead to an increased sexual attraction to men work the same way in both genders, so because not all men who carry the gene express it (or do so exclusively), it leads to some female children being born with higher fertility rates, which is why the gene keeps being reproduced. Women with the gene end up having more children than those without it, and their male children are not guaranteed to express the gene, so over human history the net effect has been positive.
      • by c++0xFF (1758032) on Saturday January 29, 2011 @11:40PM (#35046876)

        You just know the religious are going to go insane over this. They'll attack the scientists doing the studies. They'll work something into the laws or education system.

        But in reality, they shouldn't even be thinking about genetics. For example, alcoholism has a very clear genetic factor. Does that mean that an alcoholism is "natural" and should be acceptable behavior? Of course not.

        People, especially the religious, need to have a similar perspective on homosexuals. So what if there's a genetic factor? If you think that homosexuality is a sin, then leave it at that. "Hate the sin, not the sinner." Realize that (at least some) homosexuals didn't "choose" it. That doesn't mean that you have to accept it!

        By the same token, it's also a poor argument to claim that homosexuality is acceptable behavior by claiming it's "genetic." And yet, that's exactly what I hear when people talk about gay rights.

        Stupid people on both sides are using weak, ignorant arguments, if you ask me.

  • Must be one complex and accurate model to figure it will stabilize at less than 100%.
  • by jpmorgan (517966) on Saturday January 29, 2011 @07:00PM (#35045306) Homepage

    Well, that's evolution for you. If all else is equal but there's a genetic factor that predisposes some people to reproduce more than others, then that phenotype will eventually dominate.

    • Re:Evolution (Score:5, Interesting)

      by robot256 (1635039) on Saturday January 29, 2011 @07:03PM (#35045334)
      So there's an evolutionary advantage to not believing in evolution? Whoda thunk it?
      • by xtal (49134)

        God, of course.

    • by presidenteloco (659168) on Saturday January 29, 2011 @07:11PM (#35045384)

      Religiosity is mainly just a predisposition to value things like group solidarity
      and the stability that comes from enforced conformity and hierarchical authority.

      Someone who values these things (or fears the lack of them) more than they
      value some kind of quest for truth or rationality or objectivity, is predisposed
      to religion.

      • by plasticsquirrel (637166) on Saturday January 29, 2011 @08:11PM (#35045796)
        How does that explain the people who were traditionally the most religious people of a society, the contemplative recluses and hermits? I think also if you look into the sramana traditions of India such as Jainism and Buddhism, there is a great deal of radical individualism involved in their practice. The same goes for the Daoist hermits and the Indian Yogis who lived in the mountains in order to practice meditation.
        • Is individualism really the correct word though? I agree that faiths such as Buddhism don't squarely compare with the mass of "God commands" based faiths in circulation, but ultimately, it would seem that buddhists conform in much the same way. I have visited Buddhist monasteries, and the monks living therein never have seemed individualistic. I can say little about those lone gurus in India who do endurance feats to test their faith, but again, aren't they conformist as well?
        • by Requiem18th (742389) on Sunday January 30, 2011 @03:17AM (#35047566)

          Simple, it's individuality and rationalism went wrong. Religion not only breeds conformity, it breeds ignorance, even an individualist person who deflects from the mainstream will run bumbling in the dark because they literally don't know any better.

          That and, I'm sorry to be condescending, but besides group solidarity, religiosity is related to an ability to believe contradictory statements -mental compartmentalization- they call it, and I'm pretty sure being dumb enough to not even find the contradiction helps a lot. So a radically individualist person can still be religious, but I think the ignorance aspect plays the major part. I mean, I've personally known people who don't know a thing about evolution other than it's wrong and requires monkeys giving birth to humans, it really is that awful.

          I wonder how far into science education are those Daoists and Indian Yogis and what their IQs are. I mean seriously it would be an interesting thing to know, I could of course be completely wrong.

          • by Half-pint HAL (718102) on Sunday January 30, 2011 @07:38AM (#35048310)

            Simple, it's individuality and rationalism went wrong. Religion not only breeds conformity, it breeds ignorance, even an individualist person who deflects from the mainstream will run bumbling in the dark because they literally don't know any better.

            Unfortunately the majority of science in history was carried out by religious institutions. Astronomy came out of astrology, the university system was founded by catholic monks, and it was Muslim scholars who introduced the world to Al-gebra.

            That and, I'm sorry to be condescending, but besides group solidarity, religiosity is related to an ability to believe contradictory statements -mental compartmentalization- they call it, and I'm pretty sure being dumb enough to not even find the contradiction helps a lot. So a radically individualist person can still be religious, but I think the ignorance aspect plays the major part. I mean, I've personally known people who don't know a thing about evolution other than it's wrong and requires monkeys giving birth to humans, it really is that awful.

            And on the flip-side I've met people who don't know a thing about evolution other than it's what happens and requires monkeys giving birth to humans. Ignorance is not the sole preserve of religion. And neither is compartmentalisation. Most sciences suffer from compartmentalisation in their practitioners' thinking. Take for example (oh irony of ironies) evolution. The model of divergent evolution became widely accepted quite some time ago... for most animals. But up until a few decades ago, the model of parallel evolution lived on for one particular animal: the human being. The prevaling belief was that Africans evolved from Cro Magnon, and Europeans evolved from Neaderthal. I believe paleontologist were still looking for "the ancestor" of the Chinese. This is why "racism" is called what it is -- because they genuinely believed we were completely different animals.

            HAL.

            I wonder how far into science education are those Daoists and Indian Yogis and what their IQs are. I mean seriously it would be an interesting thing to know, I could of course be completely wrong.

          • by martyros (588782)

            Religion not only breeds conformity, it breeds ignorance, even an individualist person who deflects from the mainstream will run bumbling in the dark because they literally don't know any better.

            I was raised going to church, and there I certainly saw my share of small-minded, ignorant bigotry. However, I've seen exactly the same kind small-minded ignorant bigotry here on Slashdot, at my university, and in my office among non-religious types. You can see it in extreme Marxist publications and in more moder

    • In all seriousness,
      This is competing with the "slutty and stupid" gene set. I known several women and who each had 4+ children due to sloppiness around birth control and gave up most of them for adoption.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 29, 2011 @07:01PM (#35045314)

    Clearly, we should terminate those inferior people before they contaminate us.

    Hitler was right in his war!
    At least now we can prove it, since we've isolated the gene.

  • It seems to me (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    We're getting closer and closer to Idiocracy.

  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Saturday January 29, 2011 @07:02PM (#35045322)

    I've seen kids from very religious households go in all different directions with respect to religions. It seems very unlikely that there's anything like a genetic "predisposition" to religion.

    Now what will happen is that more people will grow up in religious households than not; but that I see as a good thing, as it will decrease the overall fear of religion from people who don't have much direct experience with it. People do stupid things out of fear and fear of religion and those that practice it is no different. In reality although I'm not religious myself, most friends and families I have known that have been very religious have been fine people and I have no desire to see anyones ability to practice the religion they choose impacted.

    • by Pharmboy (216950) on Saturday January 29, 2011 @07:21PM (#35045468) Journal

      I'm assuming the gene doesn't actually make you "religious", it just predisposes you to being suggestible and superstitious, which is pretty much the foundation of any religion. ie: People with that gene are less skeptical in general. Just my take on it.

      • by Z8 (1602647) on Saturday January 29, 2011 @11:46PM (#35046906)

        I'm assuming the gene doesn't actually make you "religious", it just predisposes you to being suggestible and superstitious, which is pretty much the foundation of any religion.

        Actually, according to the article and some related ones [springerlink.com], religiosity is highly correlated with conservatism and authoritarianism. This isn't my field, but I think attitudes like Social Dominance Orientation [wikipedia.org] are also related. The basic idea is that people will normally settle on a worldview that fits their personality, right or wrong. Conservatives and authoritarians will naturally gravitate to a stable, hierarchical system, and organized religions (and governments?) frequently embody those characteristics.

  • by cptdondo (59460) on Saturday January 29, 2011 @07:02PM (#35045324) Journal

    Might prove useful:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regression_toward_the_mean#History [wikipedia.org]

    Anyway, it seems that such a trend is eventually self correcting; we will have a religious war in which all those extra children will exterminate each other.

    Wanna sign up for the next Crusade, anyone?

    • by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning@n ... minus physicist> on Saturday January 29, 2011 @08:22PM (#35045890) Homepage Journal

      While religious motivations have been used as an excuse to start wars, I'd like to see any "proof" that the religion itself has been the root cause of the war and not some megalomaniac who got into a position to convince his co-believers into action.

      Wars are started by people, often for a political motive. The medieval crusades that you are implying here were all started mainly for political reasons (gaining access to trade routes, finding things for 3rd & 4th sons of nobility to do besides assassinating their older brothers, "expanding realms", and other factors) and the religious component was mostly a minor issue. The sacking of Constantinople, the capital of a "Christian nation", was one of the major accomplishments of the ancient crusades too.

      Besides, when was the last "legitimate" crusade? Arguably the "reconquista" of the Iberian peninsula in the late 15th Century was one of the last of them, and even that was not really a "proper" crusade other than it did pit the "Christian" Spanish king against the "Muslim" Moors. So you are complaining about something which ended over 500 years ago as a general tendency of Christianity?

      I'd even say that the current "war on terror" is mostly a bunch of idiots who are trying to use the trappings of religion for political purposes, and it isn't the religion itself that is the motivating factor. If anything, religious tendencies might arguably be a tempering force and usually it is religious leaders who are crying for peace and patience. Yes, exceptions can be found, but for every "religious nut" trying to stir up a hornet's nest of problems to start a war I'm sure I can find a dozen or more others with strong religious tendencies to be actively involved with trying to stop war from happening and even going so far as taking punches or risking their own lives in an attempt to stop the war from happening.

      Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin, both professed atheists, can account for far more death, misery, wars, and famine than almost all religious leaders or even religiously inclined political leaders in the entire history of humanity combined.

      • by HertzaHaeon (1164143) on Sunday January 30, 2011 @05:55AM (#35048014) Homepage

        Wars are started by people, often for a political motive.

        Quite an empty argument. You can say that about all conflicts attributed to one cause or another. It's not oil, it's politics. It's not ethnic strife, it's politics. Homophobia in Uganda? Bad people, not bad religion. Vatican coverup of pedophile priests? Fallability of people, not the religion. Etc, etc.

        Also, since religion and politics have essentially been the same or overlapped to a big degree, political motivations may well be the same as religious. I'd say that it's the case even today to some degree. It certainly seems that way in the US, and is obviously true for many middle eastern nations and groups.

        I'd even say that the current "war on terror" is mostly a bunch of idiots who are trying to use the trappings of religion for political purposes, and it isn't the religion itself that is the motivating factor.

        Obviously there are political motivations, but you don't have to look far on either side to find religious zealotry as a strong force, especially for those who do the fighting. Blaming only religion is simplistic, but so is not blaming religion at all.

        Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin, both professed atheists, can account for far more death, misery, wars, and famine than almost all religious leaders or even religiously inclined political leaders in the entire history of humanity combined.

        Atheism is the lack of belief in gods. It's hard to argue that someone went to war or comitted genocide based on the lack of belief in something. No war I've ever heard of has been fought to spread a lack of belief.

        The anti-religious dogma of communism isn't effectively different than the anti-religion dogma of religion towards other faiths—your beliefs bad, mine good. The lack of a supernatural god seems quite inconsequential seeing how god-like Mao and Stalin were in many respects, and how dogmatic their teachings were. North Korea is a good modern example of how this works. It's not because of atheism that North Koreans risk their lives to save a portrait of Dear Leader, it's because of the very dogmatic, unquestioning system that can make religion fuel wars and oppression.

      • by St.Creed (853824) on Sunday January 30, 2011 @06:35AM (#35048144)

        Religion *is* a political ideology. That people tend to see listening to an orator on sunday and listening to one on the TV every day as different things, is not surprising but still incorrect.

        Especially in times before radio and TV, how would any political idea spread, if not in the form of religion? And why does religion reflect the attitudes of the social class that was the biggest supporter of that religion so much, if it was just Divine inspiration and not a form of political ideology?

        I mean, look at Islam: everything in it reflects the attitude of nomadic traders living in a very inhospitable climate. And look at the protestant version of religion: comes up at the same time as the cities start to grow in importance, with the new bourgeois desiring equal representation in relation to their new worldly power and having an urgent need for free people to work in their workshops (and not being banned from hiring anyone because everyone's a serf). What a surprise that it stresses the value of the new upcoming "burgers" as opposed to those ruling the world at the time. No surprise that it took a few revolutions and a lot of heads to change the system - it *was* a revolution, a political one. Just look at Cromwells New Model Army.

        And the Catholic faith just happens (by Divine will ofcourse) to stress the importance of peons listening to feudal lords, everyone in their place. What a surprise, that the changeover in early Christianity from "kick the rich out of the temple!" to "well, listen to the good King because he knows best and that is the will of the Lord" comes around the time that Kings start to convert into Christians.

        I'm not even going into Confucianism here. That is such a blatant justification for the way the world was ordered under the emperor. And don't say it's not a religion - about a gazillion Chinese will disagree with you.

        And religion wasn't just a "minor component" of this, and of the Crusades: without priests giving absolution, without priests calling for volunteers, without the Church pressing rulers into adventures into strange lands, there would have been no crusades at all. If you think Luther and Calvijn were just political, I'm pretty sure a lot of protestants will disagree. But if you say they were a-political, that's just silly.

        And I'm not even going into the succession wars, the three popes, the fact that the Church at one time controlled more than half the areable land in Europe, or the things Machiavelli wrote about religion (and that book was banned by the church with reason - it's both very well written, a great read even now, and an absolute brilliant expose of the way in which rulers should use religion to control their subjects. Hot stuff for the 16th century)

        Religion has been the main political ideology for thousands of years! Only recently do we get new ideologies, because the facilities have started to exist with the start of mass bookprints. Luther and Calvijn didn't just open the door for their OWN ideology with that, they opened the door for OTHER ideologies as well. The ones we call "political". But all that means is that they don't claim to derive from Divine inspiration. Apart from that, I see no difference.

      • by fritsd (924429)

        I'd even say that the current "war on terror" is mostly a bunch of idiots who are trying to use the trappings of religion for political purposes, and it isn't the religion itself that is the motivating factor.
        If anything, religious tendencies might arguably be a tempering force and usually it is religious leaders who are crying for peace and patience.

        That's interesting, because here in Europe, the only American religious leader who did that and gained any media attention, was Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf [wikipedia.org], and

    • by TarPitt (217247) on Saturday January 29, 2011 @09:12PM (#35046162)

      A better example is the Thirty Years War:

      So great was the devastation brought about by the war that estimates put the reduction of population in the German states at about 15% to 30%. Some regions were affected much more than others. For example, Württemberg lost three-quarters of its population during the war. In the territory of Brandenburg, the losses had amounted to half, while in some areas an estimated two-thirds of the population died. The male population of the German states was reduced by almost half. The population of the Czech lands declined by a third due to war, disease, famine and the expulsion of Protestant Czechs. Much of the destruction of civilian lives and property was caused by the cruelty and greed of mercenary soldiers, many of whom were rich commanders and poor soldiers. Villages were especially easy prey to the marauding armies. Those that survived, like the small village of Drais near Mainz would take almost a hundred years to recover. The Swedish armies alone may have destroyed up to 2,000 castles, 18,000 villages and 1,500 towns in Germany, one-third of all German towns. The war caused serious dislocations to both the economies and populations of central Europe, but may have done no more than seriously exacerbate changes that had begun earlier.

      from : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/30_years_war [wikipedia.org]

      There is a reason behind the rise of secularism in Europe and of the general ideology of the European Enlightenment. The 17th and 18th century knew full well what demons could be unleashed by religious conflict.

      Keep this history in mind when faced with claims that atheism has resulted in more horrors than religion.

  • by masterwit (1800118) * on Saturday January 29, 2011 @07:03PM (#35045326) Journal

    Yes I said it, this should have never made the front page:

    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.
    link to abstract [royalsocie...ishing.org]

    I am all for keeping an open mind but after reading that last sentence, I suspect the paper is quite ridiculous and may actually be a funny read.

    • by loufoque (1400831)

      He defines a model, then performs a simulation to predict what the future will be according to that model.
      It is all perfectly rigorous and scientific.

      How do you think scientists can predict what will happen? Magic?

      • My problem is the foundation of the model. Sure I can show something is statistically accurate, but that does not make my model any more correct if the underlying assumptions are crazy. I mean without proper identification of said "gene", this is very speculative. If this study is taken in the light that there may be a gene or some other underlying cause not yet known, more productive follow-up research could be done. The research itself may be good but the conclusions drawn may need to be revisited. (

      • by retchdog (1319261) on Saturday January 29, 2011 @07:50PM (#35045656) Journal

        The problem is with the term "support." Simulating a model is only useful for developing intuition and exposition. It doesn't count as support for the theory since it IS the theory (or, perhaps, is directly implied by the theory). It is not an empirical or independent verification. Nowadays there's a tendency (esp. among machine learning and ad-hoc statisticians) to call everything that isn't a closed-form equation an "experiment," which is true in a small sense but horribly false overall.

        This is a classic 1950s-style quasi-result. Oversimplify the world into an ordinary differential equation (!); spin a story around it; impress everyone whose math-phobia inhibits their natural skepticism (which is like shooting ducks in a barrel...); profit! Still, technically this is a falsifiable result; we'll just have to wait perhaps centuries for the world to approach the limiting state. (rolls eyes)

  • Well that was a perfectly depressing way to ruin a Saturday night. I'm going to go read about something fun, like the Egyptian riots. :-/

  • rubbish (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mewsenews (251487)

    an individual's predisposition toward religion is likely to be influenced by genetics

    AKA i'm going to deliberately ignore a "nature vs nurture" debate that has raged on for centuries, and go with "nature" in an offhand comment that states a specific behaviour determined by nature is.. likely.

    Oh and this is the lynchpin of my entire preposition. I'm a professor.

    • by Z8 (1602647)

      AKA i'm going to deliberately ignore a "nature vs nurture" debate that has raged on for centuries

      The first six footnotes of TFA [royalsocie...ishing.org] support the point that religiosity is based in genetics. I'm not endorsing his position, but citing eight[1] books all written in the last 5 years is hardly "deliberately ignoring" the debate. I wonder why your post got modded up so highly.

      [1] Footnote 1 seems to be to a three volume series.

    • by f97tosc (578893)

      an individual's predisposition toward religion is likely to be influenced by genetics

      AKA i'm going to deliberately ignore a "nature vs nurture" debate that has raged on for centuries, and go with "nature" in an offhand comment that states a specific behaviour determined by nature is.. likely.

      Oh and this is the lynchpin of my entire preposition. I'm a professor.

      The previous post wrote "influcenced by genetics" which you transformed to "determined by nature" in an attempt to discredit. It seems to me like the previous poster was open to both genetic and environmental explanations ("influenced by"), but that you are uncomfortable with anything less than 100% nurture. And indeed, if religiosity even *in part* (say 10%) is driven by genetics then that could still drive evolutionary patterns as suggested by the original article.

      Fortunately the answers to the "natur

  • I've heard this one too many times in my too long life. They always have the form: This [subset of society] is motivated to rapidly reproduce by [religion, heritage, culture, the-pope, stupidity (Malthusian), their world dominating ways, etc] so given just a small march of years they will overwhelm us [who aren't of that subset]!!

    My favorite reply is: meh, how many leaders does the world need anyway? Then the existentially scared person will assume you are referring to their subset as "leaders" and

  • "Rowthorn says that while fertility is determined by culture, an individual's predisposition toward religion is likely to be influenced by genetics"

    If I had to choose one or the other, I would probably go with the desire to reproduce as more "genetic" rather than a set of abstract belliefs that must be taught. But then again, I don't teach at Cambridge

  • Religiosity? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gmuslera (3436) on Saturday January 29, 2011 @07:07PM (#35045354) Homepage Journal
    Whats behind religiosity is probably something more broad and fundamental, like following leaders, belonging to groups, easy to be suggestionable and things like that. But religions are more culture than genes, they belong to the meme terrotory, and is of the bad ones. In any case, the movie Idiocracy explain it better, and probably the base explanation and causes are the same.
  • by gratuitous_arp (1650741) on Saturday January 29, 2011 @07:18PM (#35045440)

    A celibate clergy is an especially good idea, because it tends to suppress any hereditary propensity toward fanaticism.

    • I'm the son of a protestant clergyman, I've also grown up around many other children of protestant clergymen. These are guys belonging to the evangelical, puritan, fundamentalist school. I mean that as the original definition, opposition to ritual, dogma and entrenchment, rigorously debating and studying what the bible means then following it whether it is popular (or makes sense) or not; I do not mean the whole pro-war, kill gays, send threatening letters, keep your kids out of state schools thing it is of

  • by metrix007 (200091) on Saturday January 29, 2011 @07:19PM (#35045444)
    How would you distinguish a "Religiosity gene" from a gullible gene, or a gene for looking for an easy way for dealing with stress or negative emotions, or a gene for simply fitting in with family and friends without actually believing.... People believe or follow religions for various reasons, to reduce them all to a gene is ridiculous. Even one type of 'follower' being reduced to a gene, even reduced to a predisposition is fucking unlikely, for very simple reasons.
  • by vadim_t (324782) on Saturday January 29, 2011 @07:24PM (#35045490) Homepage

    Religion persists only because people have an use for it. But that's steadily disappearing.

    One of the main things about it is that it's an explanation for the unexplainable. For instance, before we knew what lightning and the Sun were, those were "explained" by religion. Now we know what they are, and that part of religion became obsolete.

    Currently some of the main things people seem to cling to is healing, morality and the afterlife. Healing will go away eventually, as medicine gets to the point where we can heal pretty much anything. Morality will take some effort, but the Catholic church seems to be making a very good demonstration of how their priests aren't especially moral. For the afterlife, we'll probably be able to live eternally if we want to eventually.

    Over time, things like that should result in it fading until it becomes inexistent or barely so, as it has less and less relevance to people's lives. The effect is already seen in Europe, where in many countries a large percentage is not religious, and antiquated religious policies are being beaten back. For instance Spain introduced gay marriage in 2005 and is progressive in other respects like allowing transsexuals to serve in the army.

    • Religion persists only because people have an use for it. But that's steadily disappearing.

      The powerful and would-be powerful will always have a use for it.

      I suspect that Marx's comment about religion, opium, and masses was not so much a comment about religion per se, as it was a comment about how rulers use it to manipulate people.

      Supposedly lots of rulers have said the same thing in different words, e.g. I've seen Napoleon paraphrased as saying "Religion is great stuff for controlling the populace".

      Look at how many cynical politicians in the "enlightened" USA use religion to turn out voters to

  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Saturday January 29, 2011 @07:28PM (#35045522)
    According to TFA, he created a model that assumes the presence of a religiosity gene or genes:

    "In the model, Rowthorn uses a 'religiosity gene' to represent the various genetic factors that combine to genetically predispose a person toward religion..."

    But nowhere is there any further mention of what those genes may be or any evidence for them, or even past research on the subject. (The past research mentioned is only about fertility among religious people... not about any genetic predisposition.)

    There is no evidence I am aware of that such a thing actually exists.

    Frankly, I am dubious. This seems to be a very big assumption. Huge, in fact. Huge and very questionable.

  • by fantomas (94850) on Saturday January 29, 2011 @07:36PM (#35045576)

    ha ha, all this time you Americans have been running around worrying about some bearded dudes in the Middle East, panicking about Muslims, al-Quaeda, Bin Laden and all that crowd... and all the time you've been looking at the WRONG BEARDS!

    Fancy that, turns out those chilled out Amishes have pulled one on you, it's the dudes with the buggies and the barns you got to watch out for, and they've all got US passports to boot.

    Just goes to show, doesn't it. It's the quiet ones who do carpentry you got to watch out for ;-)

  • by brianerst (549609) on Saturday January 29, 2011 @09:13PM (#35046166) Homepage

    I'm actually not completely hostile to the hypothesis - I'm fairly convinced that lots of behavior that we think is largely subject to free will is, in fact, heritable. Even those with a scientific bent tend to gloss over the real implications of evolution - evolution never stops. The selection pressures just change. One reason that modern Western society seems to take better in some places than others has a lot to do with the selective pressures that came from urbanization - over amazingly brief periods of time, the selective pressures of evolution have equipped urbanized cultures with a set of skills and value structures that support modern life, but those alleles are scarce among groups that never urbanized. They thus have trouble adapting to Western civilization - their evolution hasn't selected for those traits. Give them a few generations and those traits will start to appear - either through the higher expression of local alleles that are conducive to urbanization or from the importation of those alleles from visitors or immigrants. Pick up a copy of Nick Wade's Before the Dawn. [google.com]

    That said, I'm very skeptical of this new "the religious will outbreed us" meme. It's fairly uncontroversial that religious folk outbreed secular types, especially in modern Western societies. But these self-same societies were, in the not too distant past, for more religious than they are now. I'm not just talking pre-Enlightenment times (when the religious/secular ratio was probably near a peak), but even since. American culture is prone to Great Awakenings [wikipedia.org], when the religious nature of America reaches local peaks. Soon thereafter, however, a wave of secularism occurs - emerging from the huge cohort of children of those highly religious types had during the previous Awakening.

    So, it seems to me there are multiple factors involved here, both cultural and genetic. My suspicion is that alleles that predispose toward religious impulses have synergistic reactions with those that predispose toward secularism - that the mix of alleles is too complex to push us too far in any one direction.

    But who knows - evolution never stops. If religion (or secularism) is selected strongly enough, only our great grandchildren will know for sure.

  • by shoor (33382) on Saturday January 29, 2011 @09:16PM (#35046192)

    "The Marching Morons" was a science fiction story I read a looong time ago, written by C. M. Kornbluth, whose most famous stories were probably "The Space Merchants" and "The Black Bag". The story didn't talk about religion, but about the more intelligent part of the population having fewer children, and speculated on the consequences. I guess that makes it sound like I'm equating intelligence with lacking in religiousness, which I don't think is quite true. But I do think decisions made for religious reasons are more apt to be wrong than plain old straightforward thinking type decisions. I also don't equate morality with religion. For example, slavery in America was defended on religious grounds and also attacked and criticized on religious grounds. But I think the anti-slavery forces had the moral high ground. They also used persuasive economic arguments that had nothing to do with religion.

  • by PPH (736903) on Saturday January 29, 2011 @10:37PM (#35046600)
    ... the smart people will take a page from L. Ron Hubbard's play book and position themselves to take advantage of the masses.
  • All Models (Score:4, Insightful)

    by crmarvin42 (652893) on Saturday January 29, 2011 @10:43PM (#35046628)
    "All models are wrong, some models are useful (my experimental design professor)", but this is not one of them.

    This is pure, unadulterated BS. Religiosity Gene? This is not really science, it is speculation and bigotry (religion only makes sense if you have a genetically inherited mental disorder).

    The number of Amish is growing because of the social obligation to have as many children as God gives you. It's the same reason that Catholics have a reputation for large families. The "non-religious" have no similar social pressure to avoid contraception, and plenty of other pressures (economic, stress, selfishness, etc.) to keep their families small. There is no need to invent a Gene for which there is no other evidence than the authors desire to explain a culture he does not understand using the wrong tools (biology, instead of sociology).
  • by swell (195815) <jabberwock.poetic@com> on Sunday January 30, 2011 @01:27AM (#35047274)

    Robert K. Graham, founder of the Nobel Sperm Bank, devoted his later life to promoting this simple idea:
    "The more intelligent you are, the more children you should have."
    A simple idea with complex implications, many of which are not politically correct.

  • by fadir (522518) on Sunday January 30, 2011 @04:45AM (#35047778)

    Either way we are fucked. Even if it's not genetic at all (and I tend to believe that it's not). But we are still screwed because even if it's just a "learnt" behavior" it still means that the majority of the children is and will be raised in families with some shade of religious view. So the outcome is the very same: 6 religious children (in average) producing another 6 religious children (in average) while the secular people pretty much die out due to low fertility rates.

    Additionally society will add some pressure on those that have a tendency towards secular thoughts because more and more people will start to preach nonsense like creationism and you only need to look into countries like Iran, Pakistan, Israel and pretty much any other country led and controlled by religious people to see what happens to society when religion is dominating and controlling a country.

One possible reason that things aren't going according to plan is that there never was a plan in the first place.

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