On studying Religion without binary thinking and overgeneralization

I was extremely frustrated as I read a report about a so-called scientific study indicating that an entity called “Religion” is allegedly incompatible with Science.

Science and religion just don’t co-exist, according to a recent study by economists at Princeton University.

“Places with higher levels of religiosity have lower rates of scientific and technical innovation, as measured by patents per capita,” said Roland Bénabou, the study’s lead author, told Mother Jones.

The researchers used an economic model to explore the relationship between scientific innovation, religious faith, and government power as they formed different “regimes.”

 

They identified a secular, European-style regime where religion had very little policy influence and science enjoyed great support; a repressive, theocratic regime where the state and religion suppress science; and an American-style regime where religion and science generally thrived.

They study, which has not been published in a peer-reviewed journal, found a strong negative relationship when they analyzed data on patents per capita and religiosity, using data from the World Intellectual Property Organization and the World Values Survey, showing that more religious countries had fewer patents.

Other factors – such as wealth and education – can influence the number of patents per capita, but the researchers found the same results even after they controlled for a number of variable, such as population, foreign investment, and intellectual property protections.

Japan and China stood out as highly secular, highly innovative countries, while Portugal, Morocco, and Iran were found at the other extreme.

The authors applied a similar analysis to the 50 United States, using data from the US Patent and Trademark Office and religion questions from a 2008 Pew Survey.

Vermont and Oregon were found to be highly innovative and not very religious, while innovation lags in highly religious states such as Arkansas and Mississippi.

The authors said their findings were the same in religious states outside the Bible Belt.

The researchers said the findings were correlational, and their study didn’t allow for definite causal relationships to be drawn.

They said the causation likely went “both ways” – meaning, religion probably snuffs out innovation as science weakens religion.

****************************************

Here is my answer.

My problem with this study is that Religion (with a capital R) is an extraordinarily DIVERSE phenomenon so that such general statements about “religious” and “non-religious” lands are of really poor scientific value .

Let us consider the following worldview groups:

1) hardcore materialism
2) non-materialist atheism
3) deism
4) complete agnosticism
5) fundamentalist Christianity
6) Progressive Christianity
7) Salafism
8) liberal Islam

and so on and so forth.

What if we have the following finding: on AVERAGE religious people perform much more poorly that non-religious ones, BUT 6) and 8) perform as well as secular folks.

Now how would it sound to go to a progressive Muslim or Christian and tell him or her:

“Your worldview is an impediment to Progress!”
He answered:
“Wait, we score as well as non-religious people.”
“That does NOT count! You’re Religious and Religious people are a danger for Science!”

would that not be incredibly fallacious?

So I truly think that studies grounded on this ridiculous binary way of thinking should be taken with much more than a grain of salt.

I really call for a serious research endeavor based on a sincere willingness to comprehend our multi-faceted and extremely complex world rather than making political and ideological points.

https://i1.wp.com/therevealer.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/science-vs-religion.jpeg

(And I should add that decoupling cultural, historically contingent and purely religious factors might be much harder than the way it was presented here).

 

 

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64 thoughts on “On studying Religion without binary thinking and overgeneralization

  1. Good summary Lothar.
    I agree that it is ridiculous to generalize in this manner.
    The dichotomy is far too specific for the data.
    Most likely there are other factors which have been overlooked.

  2. My problem with this study is that Religion (with a capital R) is an extraordinarily DIVERSE phenomenon so that such general statements about “religious” and “non-religious” lands are of really poor scientific value .

    It depends on what question you are interested in, if you are interested in whether there are some correlates of “religiosity” in general – no matter whether you are a devout Jew or Buddhist or whatever – then you have to use a quantity that is very general / abstract like the answer to a vague question like “how important is religion in your life?”. And even if there are general conclusions to be found, there still could of course be outliers – the correlation between religiosity and income security for example holds almost all over the globe, but it doesn´t hold in India and especially in the regions of India that are overwhelmingly Hindu. But despite such outliers, it is still an interesting result that high religiosity *almost* always correlates with low income security, a result that demands an explanation and that leads to further research. So I wouldn´t agree with your assessment that such studies have “really poor scientific value”.

    Now how would it sound to go to a progressive Muslim or Christian and tell him or her:

    “Your worldview is an impediment to Progress!”

    But such a study could never be interpreted in such a way, even if the methodology of the study would be completely solid – this conclusion would not follow. The causation could be precisely the other way around – high “innovativeness” causing low “religiosity” instead of high religiosity causing low innovativeness. There also could not be any causation at all between the two – the quantities used as proxies for “innovativeness” and “religiosity” could also simply covary with confounding variables that the authors did not think of and between which the actual causation is to be found. Getting good evidence for which way the causation goes (and between which variables it is in the first place!) is next to impossible because you can only observe but not manipulate the data for this research (well, you could manipulate it but that would involve some highly unethical experiments😉 ).

    • “Religiosity”, or what we call “the impulse to religious sentiment” is still too diverse a subject to use like you state in your second segment. Can *you* define “religiosity” closely enough for scientific interpretation yet broadly enough to encompass an adequate portion of the populations’ relationships to religion? It is absurd to assume, for whatever reason, that all religious sentiment is alike enough that it can all be studied together.

  3. Science makes bombs that blow up entire Japanese cities and have the potential to destroy all civilization.

    The sword, assuming their literally stupid definitions, cuts both ways.

  4. So I truly think that studies grounded on this ridiculous binary way of thinking should be taken with much more than a grain of salt.

    I actually laughed out loud at this statement for its irony… having been subjected as an atheist to its ubiquitous public acceptance for decades. All religions are put under one tent when it comes to vilifying all those outside of it – namely, non believers and apostates and other secular villains targeted by those preachers, rabbis, popes, and imams who are threatened by those of us who don’t take their views on everything as merely messengers of the divine’s editorial on whatever the subject happens to be.

    But as soon as negative correlates pile up and emerge from the aggregate using this model, all of a sudden comes the observation that the binary thinking it involves is now a Bad Thing!

    Too funny!

    What’s not funny is just how often the negative correlate between religiosity and human achievement and well-being emerges in all kinds of areas across all kinds of subjects. The correlate from the aggregate actually stands contrary to the assumptions made about supposedly well-known and easily demonstrated positive effects from practicing religiosity.

    Nu uh.

    But as is so typically found in religious communities, the assumptions and presumptions used to justify privileging religious belief in the public domain are based on beliefs untethered to the reality they purport to represent. Studies like this one point out this very discrepancy.

    Yes, Virginia, there really is an incompatibility between science and religion. The religious are just now beginning to glean that the reasons for this statement might actually have some merit beyond the dastardly tone used by those brutish and militant New Atheists.

    • All religions are put under one tent when it comes to vilifying all those outside of it”

      This is an empirically false claim, my friend🙂

      In the progressive ecumenical Church where I go, I don’t know ANYONE who would designate atheists as immoral fools.

      And I know lots of similar Churches where people would be horrified to hear such accusations against unbelievers.
      You probably remember this post of mine, don’t you?
      https://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/2014/07/12/anti-atheist-non-sense/

      It would be more just to say that in any large group of people (based on worldviews, economic, politic, cultures…) you’re going to find both nice people and hateful assholes.

      Let me ask you this personal question: have you been repeatedly hurt by religious folks in the past?

      • I refer specifically to religious leadership that directs people into these two camps – as if the ‘religious’ belong all together under one of them. I also refer to people who claim non believers belong to a single group. For example, the most common use I’ve come across is to refer to the comparative number of non believers to be in the single digit percentile versus believers… as if everyone were talking about the same kind of belief in the same divine agency. This has long been a ludicrous assumption rarely criticized by anyone other than New Atheists.

        We in the West are subjected to this ‘binary’ thinking all the time… especially by those who promote various inter-faith conferences (usually associated with the word ‘dialogue’) who project concern for the ‘common’ enemy of religious domination, namely, secularism. These are the folk – not me – who put all religion under the same tent and pretend they can get along if only secularism, and those who support it, was finally defeated from being such an agency of moral decay. The calls to wage a kind of war against moral decay/secularism has been made repeatedly by popes, rabbis, preachers, and imams as often in my opinion as their calls for more tolerance and privilege for their own religious version.

        I am well aware of many significant differences in various religious orthodoxies. I accept that many are incompatible with each other. Yet these fundamental and incompatible differences are put aside by many religious people as if they were but minor quibbles between family members when facing the criticisms of ‘militant’ non believers… aka, those willing to criticize the beliefs. Non believers in many religious traditions are considered The Other and are specifically target by scriptures to be treated as such. The more fundamental the orthodoxy, the more pronounced is this binary thinking and the greater the chasm of difference assumed to be true between these artificial ingroups and outgroups of people.

        You’ll note that I criticize religious belief because of its broken epistemology in its ability to accurately describe the reality we share. I think granting confidence and trust to the products of this untrustworthy methodology tends to privilege ignorance and bias at the direct cost of respect for a method that does work to produce accurate descriptions about the reality we share, namely, science as demonstrated by applications, therapies, and technologies that seem to work for everyone everywhere all the time. When some claim is found to be contrary between these two methods, I think we should go with the method we know works rather than grant equivalency to the one we know doesn’t. And we can tell the difference by allowing reality to arbitrate the claims made about it rather than rely primarily on our willingness to believe.

        I think when we empower our willingness to believe by disenfranchising and disallowing to some extent reality to arbitrate claims made about it, we engage in causing harm (at the very least to how we can come to know if the claim is accurate). I have long said that the same method used to empower religious belief is the same method used to empower belief in all kinds of crazy (usually referred to as ‘woo’) – from alternative medicine to ghost hunting, from dowsing to tarot card and tea leaf readings, from energy healing to exorcism. It is the same method that drives all kinds of scientific denialism, from anti-vaccination to anti-climate change, from anti-fluoridation to anti-wifi, from anti-evolution to anti-medical faith healing. The common method used to empower belief by imposing it on reality rather than adducing beliefs from it is a human trait all of us can far too easily succumb to if we fail to exercise reasonable doubt, fail to demand reasonable evidence, fail to insist on reasonable testing. Succumbing to the allure of our willingness to believe by taking these methodological shortcuts doesn’t make any of us villains or heroes, assholes or saints; it reveals that we’ve made a correctable methodological mistake. For those who refuse to consider why making the same mistake time and again might be a reliable source of net harm demonstrates the level of disconnect between the supporters of this method and the reality we share.

        When you ask me if I have been harmed by religious folk in my past, I can only answer that I see and am affected by this ongoing harm daily. I see preventable tragedies unfold as regularly as day becomes night by people using this broken method and hoping for different results this time and thinking well of themselves for the attempt. If each person were alone in making themselves a victim, I would fine with it. But when I see this harm foisted on dependent children and targeted groups people like women and LGBT in the name of piety and serving a misogynistic god, I grow angry and vocal. It is the failed method that is in need of exposure and correction if taken past the private domain.

        • We in the West are subjected to this ‘binary’ thinking all the time… especially by those who promote various inter-faith conferences (usually associated with the word ‘dialogue’) who project concern for the ‘common’ enemy of religious domination, namely, secularism. These are the folk – not me – who put all religion under the same tent and pretend they can get along if only secularism, and those who support it, was finally defeated from being such an agency of moral decay. The calls to wage a kind of war against moral decay/secularism has been made repeatedly by popes, rabbis, preachers, and imams as often in my opinion as their calls for more tolerance and privilege for their own religious version.

          It’s like you don’t know that Marc regularly criticizes religious fundamentalists. @tildeb, you seem to have a persecution complex. You find that you are badly affected by some religion, and engage in the wonderful ‘some’ ⇒ ‘all’ fallacy. This does make life simpler, because you don’t actually have to discern.

          You’ll note that I criticize religious belief because of its broken epistemology in its ability to accurately describe the reality we share.

          That reality we share, hmmmm. Let’s look at some evidence:

          No one expects that anything called “reason” will dispel such pluralism by leading people to converge on a unified truth—certainly not about ultimate or cosmic matters such as “the nature of the universe” or “the end and the object of life.” Indeed, unity on such matters could be achieved only by state coercion: Rawls calls this the “fact of oppression.”[36] So a central function of “public reason” today is precisely to keep such matters out of public deliberation (subject to various qualifications and exceptions that Rawls conceded as his thinking developed). And citizens practice Rawlsian public reason when they refrain from invoking or acting on their “comprehensive doctrines”—that is, their deepest convictions about what is really true—and consent to work only with a scaled-down set of beliefs or methods that claim the support of an ostensible “overlapping consensus“.[Political Liberalism, 133-172, 223-227] (The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse, 14–15)

          Oh, so there actually isn’t as much shared as you intimate. Actually, people’s conceptions of ‘the good’ (a component of one’s “comprehensive doctrine”) aren’t shared. Actually, capital-R Reason hasn’t created that wonderful unity which was predicted by Enlightenment thinkers. Excellent critiques of this monumental failure show up in the highly respected work of Alasdair MacIntyre; see After Virtue and Whose Justice? Which Rationality?, for example.

          Yeah, we certainly share empirical reality. But all the rest? Yeah, not so much! And how important is that “rest”? Very! Wars are fought over it. Wars are not fought over the mass of the Higgs Boson. But you cannot build civilization on the mass of the Higgs Boson. No, instead, as you believe, there is a reality completely created by minds, at least somewhat independent of empirical reality (that is, empirical reality does not 100% determine that which is created by minds). It couldn’t be that religion has to do with this project, this project of creating, which is ultimately responsible for culture. No, no way. Here’s what we must do:

          tildeb: Well, put these ‘answers’ to the test and see if they accurately, consistently, and reliably fit the data.

          What happens when “the data” exist through minds and can be changed? So far, mum’s the word from you. Nevermind that the stuff that minds create tends to be the most important part about living.

        • Hey Tildeb, thanks for your answer and sorry for the delay in my own.

          I’ll leave aside the question of the truth of parnormal and religious beliefs.

          Let me say that if secularism is defined as the State’s neutrality towards worldviews, I’m a staunch secularist myself.

          I keep telling to Conservative Christians that atheist are neither immoral fools nor their enemies and that we should all try to build harmonious relationships.
          Yet you take absolutely no notice of my sincere endeavor and striving.

          “When you ask me if I have been harmed by religious folk in my past, I can only answer that I see and am affected by this ongoing harm daily. I see preventable tragedies unfold as regularly as day becomes night by people using this broken method and hoping for different results this time and thinking well of themselves for the attempt. If each person were alone in making themselves a victim, I would fine with it. But when I see this harm foisted on dependent children and targeted groups people like women and LGBT in the name of piety and serving a misogynistic god, I grow angry and vocal. It is the failed method that is in need of exposure and correction if taken past the private domain”

          I completely share your sentiment. And you know what? If there is a morally perfect God, He’s certainly feeling the same way.

          • Let me say that if secularism is defined as the State’s neutrality towards worldviews, I’m a staunch secularist myself.

            Marc, whether or not a particular organism with homo sapiens DNA is considered a person with full rights is part of your worldview, is it not? Either be happy with some people thinking Negroes are humans and others thinking they aren’t, or understand that you don’t get to conveniently ignore the question of when an homo sapiens organism becomes a person with full rights. Either the State’s “neutrality towards worldviews” excludes both these positions, or it includes both. No inconsistency, please. Either you want to the State to take a stand on slavery and abortion, or you want the state to take a stand on neither. Which is it? And how can a stance on abortion ignore worldviews?

            I keep telling to Conservative Christians that atheist are neither immoral fools nor their enemies and that we should all try to build harmonious relationships.
            Yet you take no notice of my sincere endeavor and striving.

            This makes me think of a new definition of ‘fundamentalist’: someone blind to evidence contrary to his/her mythology.

          • Lotharson, you say “Let me say that if secularism is defined as the State’s neutrality towards worldviews, I’m a staunch secularist myself.”

            Why conflate the term ‘worldviews’ with religion?

            If you want to support freedom of religion, then you have to be a supporter of secularism. Religious people who want to break down the necessary wall of separation for this freedom to be exercised are the ones in need of better understanding why the two are directly related and why undermining one directly undermines the other.

            But when you conflate ‘worldviews’ to be the subject, now we’ve entered a different arena altogether.

          • Why conflate the term ‘worldviews’ with religion?

            Why choose the term ‘worldview’ instead of ‘religion’? Because ‘worldview’ may be more of a natural kind than ‘religion’, where natural kinds allow for a great number of generalizations to be made. For example, non-religion can have characteristics often associated with religion. Famous sociologist Peter L. Berger has this to say in Facing Up to Modernity:

            Even if it were true that socialism is the only rational conclusion, this would not explain its dissemination among specific social groups. Modern science, for example, may also be described as the only rational conclusion for certain questions about nature—and yet it took millennia before it came to be established in specific groups in a specific corner of the world. Ideas neither triumph nor fail in history because of their intrinsic truth or falsity. Furthermore, the affinity between intellectuals and socialism is clearly more than a matter of rational arguments. It is suffused with values, with moral passion, in many cases with profoundly religious hope—in sum, with precisely those characteristics which permit speaking of a socialist myth (in a descriptive, nonpejorative sense.) (58)

            The socialist myth promises the fulfillment of both the rational dreams of the Enlightenment and the manifold aspirations of those to whom the Enlightenment has been an alienating experience. Such a promise inevitably grates against its imperfect realization in empirical reality, frustrating and often enraging its believers. This is nothing new in the long history of eschatologies, which is inevitably a history of the psychology of disappointment.
            […]
            It was Lenin who, in 1920, characterized Communism as “Soviet power plus electrification”; over fifty years later, Russian reality could be described as “Middle Ages plus intercontinental missiles” (62–63)

            The term ‘worldview’ describes the above quite well. This begs the question: is the above really religious behavior, or is it merely worldview-ish behavior? This begs the question of who is doing the conflating: you, or Marc. I’m putting my bets on you.

            Peter Berger is about the best you’re going to get to a scientist when it comes to the ultra-complex world of society and how groups of people act and interact; feel free to dismiss him, but if you do so without counter-evidence, you’re making a mockery of your respect for science. You would be worshiping your idol when it pleases you, and disloyal when it does not. Let’s see your true colors, shall we?

      • I completely share your sentiment. And you know what? If there is a morally perfect God, He’s certainly feeling the same way.

        I once said, progressive Christians are only upset at the Cult of Gnu not because they dislike the attitude of said Cult, but because they had previously enjoyed a favored position with even the more outspoken atheists: deliveries of bile, dreams of the return of state-sponsored suppression, was purely a thing directed at ‘conservative Christians’, while progressive Christians were given a nice pat on the head, regarded as intellectually irrelevant, and thus excepted from the condemnation.

        The Gnus markedly changed that approach, and lumped the liberal and conservative Christians in together. That is, for progressives, the real sin of the New Atheists.

        Not their attitude. Not their militancy. Not their mockery. Not their angling for having the state consider religious belief a mental illness in need of “containment” and “curing” by intervention. Nothing, ultimately, but that one singular sin: failing to exempt “progressive” Christians from such things, in word and deed.

        And sadly, after doing my damndest to extend the benefit of the doubt over and over, I see shadows of that on display above – only the most recent ones.

        Raise your child to believe sodomy, or even (at this point) that sex before marriage, is immoral? How DARE you.

        Fail to kowtow to the progressive ideals about sex and gender and otherwise? How DARE you.

        Fail to support this or that political or social policy of keen “progressive” support? How DARE you.

        And so on, and so on.

        Let’s find common ground in our condemnation of those conservatives, those religions – even That God. For we can certainly be confident that no God who exists, or who is worth believing in, could ever even possibly regard as sinful that which is, right now, our “progressive” sacrament. Indeed, God could never so much as /fail to support/ our preferred social and political policies. What kind of God could fail to give a divine blessing to HB-3200?

        Only a demon, clearly.

        Such is the constant intellectual trajectory of the “progressive Christian” – it’s the former half of that label that does all the heavy lifting when it comes to intellectual and moral content, not the latter. In any case of incompatibility, the latter loses. Decisively.

        Anyway, this ends yet another experiment in long-term conversation with a “progressive”. As usual, I expected dialogue – ‘This is why I support universal health care / this is why I don’t / here are the problems I have with this / here are the disagreements I have with that.’ Just as usual, what I received was condemnation, anger, fury, caricatures, at best followed by temporary and thin apologies before repeating the whole damn thing again.

        Parting words of advice, Lothar:

        * Learn to shut up about your thoughts about race, gender, and otherwise. Quickly. I think you’re already learning this lesson – to do anything but tow the line on these issues will lead to your becoming a pariah among progressives, which you cannot abide. Indeed, try your best to shed your beliefs on those fronts; they are a flaw.

        * Start praising Dawkins, Myers, etc. Blame any apparent vitriol or hate in their words on conservatives – it is ‘their’ fault that they say the things they do, that they have the attitude they do, and that this is all quite deserved, in fact. If anything, suggest that the Gnus have shown remarkable restraint when it comes to the Wicked.

        * Reverse yourself on John Shore, in a tactful manner. Be sure to emphasize that while you disagreed with him once, you think he’s correct in the main, including about his attitude, and that his is a righteous fury. Really, those Calvinists (indeed, any conservative Christian) really DOES want to beat gays to death with their bare hands. It’s a result of their worshiping a demon, after all.

        * Be sure to repeatedly emphasize that neither Christianity nor belief in God has anything whatsoever to offer progressive atheists. Indeed, imply that they are better, more morally pure people, who clearly don’t need the ‘crutch’ that Christ offers to believe The Right Things about the most important issues facing our world (like gay marriage). Christ is for lesser people, in a way. (Ignore the possibility of being wrong here, especially the actual statistics.)

        * Most of all, live by this mantra: “God either agrees with me about abortion, gay marriage, sexual practice, social welfare policies, or he is a demon and he doesn’t exist. There are no other possibilities worth speaking of.”

        • Don’t go! Just compare:

          Marc: I completely share your sentiment. And you know what? If there is a morally perfect God, He’s certainly feeling the same way.

          To Creating God in one’s own image:

          For many religious people, the popular question “What would Jesus do?” is essentially the same as “What would I do?” That’s the message from an intriguing and controversial new study by Nicholas Epley from the University of Chicago. Through a combination of surveys, psychological manipulation and brain-scanning, he has found that when religious Americans try to infer the will of God, they mainly draw on their own personal beliefs.

          What’s hilarious is that the scientists think they’re discovering anything the authors of the Bible didn’t know already, but hey, we believe that all truth is God’s truth, so if it takes science to convince some, let them play catch-up. They’ll probably even correct some misconceptions, on the way!

          P.S. Given our inability to understand God perfectly, the most interesting study would be to see how people think their personal beliefs differ from God’s. However, that would probably get too dangerously close to the idea of Christians obeying civil laws but stretching toward the Kingdom of Heaven as best they can, and if anything is a threat to the State, it is this. Cognitive biases, blah, blah, will prevent them from acknowledging this. Some might call this ‘sin’, but hey, that’s such an outmoded concept, right?

          • Can’t we know at least CERTAIN things a perfect being would or would not do by using our reason?

            Roger Olson and C.S. Lewis completely agree with me on that one.

            A perfect being can only hate evil (such as crimes committed out of ignorance or selfish greed) and sooner or later he’s going to annihilate it. This was what I told to Tildeb.

          • Can’t we know at least CERTAIN things a perfect being would or would not do by using our reason?

            See this comment (reply link). It doesn’t fully answer your question, but it’s a start and you’re welcome to ask for articulation.

            Roger Olson and C.S. Lewis completely agree with me on that one.

            Please be specific. I’m aware of Olson thinking, for example, that God would never order the deaths of young children. I am actually mixed on this; while I would like to hold that position, it presents problems if you have a very stubborn and disobedient group of people (the Israelites) who are supposed to deal with an extremely evil group of people (the Canaanites). To expect the Israelites to 100% humanely treat the Canaanites might simply be too much. There are even examples in the OT of children of persecuted peoples rising up in revenge and causing Israel a lot of grief; I could try to find them, if you’d like. What I’m really wary of is whitewashing the state of human nature in OT times. So perhaps I’m at odds with Olson. As to C.S. Lewis, to what are you referring?

            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2010/12/a-much-neglected-basic-choice-in-theology/

            What, precisely does nominalism have to do with this? Not only have I read that article, but I’ve read Richard M. Weaver’s Ideas Have Consequences (traces lots of alleged problems of nominalism), I’m reading Louis Dupré’s Passage to Modernity: An Essay in the Hermeneutics of Nature and Culture (deals extensively with the switch to nominalism, attributing much to it), D.M Armstrong’s Universals: An Opinionated Introduction is sitting on my desk, and I might have missed some others. I’m not an expert with nominalism, but I’m not a noob, either. I still don’t know what you’re getting at.

        • “The Gnus markedly changed that approach, and lumped the liberal and conservative Christians in together. That is, for progressives, the real sin of the New Atheists.

          Not their attitude. Not their militancy. Not their mockery. ”

          There are unfortunately Progressives who are like that. But I’m clearly not one of them.

          I completely oppose the bullying of nice and respectful Conservative Catholics who believe that “sodomy is wrong”. If I see a “Progressive” doing this, I’ll surely take him or her to task.

          I’ll certainly write more posts exposing the self-righteousness of the most extreme activists such as John Shore.

          Yes, I definitely affirm that Progressives can be as bad as militant Conservatives or anti-theists.

        • Frankly speaking, you should first be really sure that the Progressive you’re talking too is a bully before getting aggressive yourself.

          Making assumptions about people whose ideas one dislikes is a pervasive cognitive mistake I also fall prey to.
          So I am often tempted to react harshly to people (including many conservatives) I strongly disagree with.

          But I then try to keep myself in check and to also say (sincerely felt) positive things and to build up friendly relationships, our disagreements notwithstanding.

          Believe me or not this works most of the time🙂

          Don’t you think the world would be a FAR better place if everyone had this healthy humility?

      • labreuer, you are exceptionally sharp, and you call on resources again and again that I find interesting. With luck I’ll keep running into – you, sir, should have a blog. Even a guarded one.

        • Thanks for the compliment! I must attribute that sharpness to reading folks like you, which is a selfish reason I don’t want you to leave. I’ve been around the block a few times on the internet (been arguing on it for over 15 years now, and have spent over 10,000 hours doing so), so I know the pattern of snark, meanness, butthurtness, metadiscussion, etc. The best technique seems to be able to dial the snark up and down virtually instantaneously, to draw attention to important points when they would otherwise be ignored. Some day I will take a rhetoric class…

          As to creating a blog, I have one with two posts, but I’m really waiting to build my own blog software until:

          LB: If and when I build a commenting system vastly better than Disqus, which is designed to greatly aid truth-seeking. I want to make it easy to click a quotation to jump to where it was said, see a “heat map” of a comment (or blog post) to see which parts are being discussed and where, etc. I’ve actually done some of this already. I want to make it super-easy to cite facts, studies, books, papers, etc. in an orderly way, so it is easy to ask, “Who said stuff about that study and where?”

          Ideally, and I know this would be hard, I want to attract top-tier scholars and researches for the occasional post/comment, both to promote their work to a larger audience and to simply raise the level of discourse in the world. Instead of moderating away bad comments, I intend to build a system where the best ones get promoted by one or more “schools of thought”, which are allowed to organically assemble and grow. Unlike, say Slashdot with its global karma score, this will be based on a trust network which models how humans actually interact: by trusting word-of-mouth, with some people being more reliable than others, even depending on the particular subject area.

          One feature I’m really looking forward to is making it easy to highlight sections of a comment—or blog post—with an “Evidence?” request. That would make it easy to skim over text walls with such requests that have gone unanswered for a sufficient amount of time. The same can go for “Which scholars agree with you?”, and stuff like that. A recent example of this with you was how to ground natural rights—IIRC, the folks simply ignored that. Well, that would become a kind of “tag”, to make it easy to skip over the people who couldn’t/wouldn’t rise to that challenge. Of course there are going to be disagreements about sufficient evidence, whether the scholar actually agrees, etc. But even making it to that point would be a major step forward!

          Ahh, my dreams. I even plan on being able to embed data (e.g. unemployment data) in comments and posts, in a way that you can then ask, “Who else has embedded/talked about this? Did they talk about a subset/superset of the time period used here?” After all, [I claim] it’s all about this two-layered dynamic, of “facts and interpretations”, which actually nests/recurses (facts themselves are interpreted), but not indefinitely: things ultimately terminate in an unarticulated background, and there are tests whereby two people can show to each other than their unarticulated backgrounds match sufficiently well for some purpose. When that happens, they “agree on the facts”. Conflict helps us “draw things out” of the unarticulated background; I take MacIntyre to claim as much in After Virtue and Whose Justice? Which Rationality? via ‘tradition’ and ‘conflict’, although not with the term “unarticulated background”.

          As you can perhaps see, I’ve been thinking about the above for a while. As best I can see, it is the only option to actually dive deeply into issues and make real progress, without becoming a full-time scholar or at least zoom in really narrowly on some small topic as a hobby. I don’t want to be so narrow: I think many of the problems in our world is due to the fragmentation of expertise and understanding. It is easy to manipulate such fragmentation.

      • P.S. Given our inability to understand God perfectly, the most interesting study would be to see how people think their personal beliefs differ from God’s.

        ? Are you sure that asking a theist a question along the line of “what claims are there that you consider to be true but for which you also believe that the all-knowing deity you believe in considers them to be false?”, would lead to “interesting” results? Wouldn´t that be kind of like asking an atheist “what things do you consider to be true but also consider to be disproven by mountains of scientific evidence”?

        • Are you sure that asking a theist a question along the line of “what claims are there that you consider to be true but for which you also believe that the all-knowing deity you believe in considers them to be false?”, would lead to “interesting” results? Wouldn´t that be kind of like asking an atheist “what things do you consider to be true but also consider to be disproven by mountains of scientific evidence”?

          You just saw Marc claim that “a morally perfect God” would “certainly [be] feeling the same way.” This is creating a facet of God in precisely one’s own image. I don’t recall that I have ever spoken like Marc has on this; if I have, I don’t see how it wasn’t in deep error. God is perfect and I am not; this means his views are always going to be more intricate than mine at the very least, and that’s on my best days: on other days, I’m just flat out wrong. For a scientific example, if I’m at F = ma, God’s not at GR, God’s at the thing-in-itself.

          One way this looks like is me wavering in certain ways. For example, take homosexuality. I don’t know if all forms of it are wrong. I am confident that some forms are: for example I am confident that the distinction-destroying kind is (I could talk about performativity), and the kind that [de facto if not de jure] says you are either a [mental or physical] penis or vagina, and that’s it—or maybe even if that’s primarily it. Beyond that, who knows. I’m not going to enclose myself in a system of thought I claim is complete, and I’m not even going to say a facet of such a system of thought is complete.

          Another way to look at this matter is to say that I have action-beliefs, those beliefs which are required to model how I act, and professed-beliefs, which are beliefs things I would like to motivate my actions. I allow there to be divergence between these: maybe how I want to model myself acting isn’t the true model. Here there is a place for a tension, to draw my action-beliefs toward my professed-beliefs. In Christianese, this is the spirit conquering the flesh.

          Technically, I call this humility: knowing how confident you ought to be in your various beliefs. Think of when you’re troubleshooting an experiment (I help my wife with this; I am an expert at troubleshooting software and embedded hardware systems): you have to know what to question first, what to question second, what to question if this happens, if that happens, etc. You have this idea in your head about how things work, and then there’s reality where things are actually working, and there will be mismatches. How does one deal properly with the mismatches? The possible difference between action-belief and professed-belief receives some nice theoretical support from Eric Schwitzgebel’s The Unreliability of Naive Introspection; I’m sure I could find other support, too.

          Does this make more sense? I recall us not totally connecting on the action-beliefs vs. professed-beliefs (more details here), but I do not recall the specifics of your objections. Need that search engine…

      • Marc,

        * Learn to shut up about your thoughts about race, gender, and otherwise. Quickly. I think you’re already learning this lesson – to do anything but tow the line on these issues will lead to your becoming a pariah among progressives, which you cannot abide. Indeed, try your best to shed your beliefs on those fronts; they are a flaw.

        * Start praising Dawkins, Myers, etc. Blame any apparent vitriol or hate in their words on conservatives – it is ‘their’ fault that they say the things they do, that they have the attitude they do, and that this is all quite deserved, in fact. If anything, suggest that the Gnus have shown remarkable restraint when it comes to the Wicked.

        * Reverse yourself on John Shore, in a tactful manner. Be sure to emphasize that while you disagreed with him once, you think he’s correct in the main, including about his attitude, and that his is a righteous fury. Really, those Calvinists (indeed, any conservative Christian) really DOES want to beat gays to death with their bare hands. It’s a result of their worshiping a demon, after all.

        that is already some mighty fine advice right there but allow me to give you some mere as a neophyte in the cult of Gnu:
        – be blunt about how much you hate all conservatives but don´t overdo it, else you might spoil our plan to round them all up and throw them in Vernichtungslager.
        – it is good but not sufficient that you support gay marriage, you are hereby also ordered to celebrate buttsecks as often as you can, link to some gay porn and talk about how seeing the ineffable beauty of buttsecks fills you with sorrow because you were cursed with heterosexuality.
        – you must start gratuitously provoking the people you hate, one good way of doing that is to stop calling the things you hate by their actual name and use creative epithets instead. Example: instead of talking about the “Catholic Church”, call it the “kiddie fucker cult” or “pedophile defense league”.

        More orders will follow soon, we expect your pledge of allegiance to the cult of Gnu tomorrow. And if you dare betray us, remember – we do not forgive and we do not forget.

      • Ach, das isch doch voll ekeldisch😦

        Einfach fuaschtba. Ich geh sehr schlecht scholfe waehrend d’r Nat.

        I´m not entirely sure about what that means but it sounds like you intend to think for yourself and disobey direct orders from your progressive cult of Gnu superiors, how *dare* you?!

        • I expressed my profound disagreement by using the most exquisite dialect existing under the sun:
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lorraine_Franconian

          Someone from Saarland would use similar words.

          It’s utterly off-topic but I’m mourning the fact that the demise of Germanic dialects in Alsace-Lorraine has been made certain by very recent political decisions of French supremacists governing us.

          Apparently my restless ADHD brain is hopelessly going in all directions🙂

          But since this thread is already utterly fucked up and chaotic I surmise this does not realy matter, does it?😉

          Well some uncharitable visitors might think they have landed into a lunatic asylum.

          Among all participants in the discussion, I’m most likely the one who takes himself the less seriously.

          • I expressed my profound disagreement by using the most exquisite dialect existing under the sun

            Yup, I know, and usually I understand it (not all words but I can make educated guesses based on the context) – this is the first time that I cannot parse your dialect😉

      • You just saw Marc claim that “a morally perfect God” would “certainly [be] feeling the same way.” This is creating a facet of God in precisely one’s own image. I don’t recall that I have ever spoken like Marc has on this; if I have, I don’t see how it wasn’t in deep error. God is perfect and I am not; this means his views are always going to be more intricate than mine at the very least, and that’s on my best days: on other days, I’m just flat out wrong.

        That was kind of my point, for people who believe that there is a God who has beliefs and who is necessarily right about those beliefs – asking them “how [they] think their personal beliefs differ from God’s” doesn´t seem to make any sense. But it seems to me that what you actually had in mind is more about whether people consider their beliefs to be fallible or not.

        • But it seems to me that what you actually had in mind is more about whether people consider their beliefs to be fallible or not.

          I perhaps did not speak the most precisely:

          labreuer: P.S. Given our inability to understand God perfectly, the most interesting study would be to see how people think their personal beliefs differ from God’s.

          That being said, to talk about precisely how my beliefs are fallible is necessarily to talk about how my beliefs might differ from God’s. Therefore, I don’t think my original statement is as wrong as you make it out to be. Indeed, it’s a one-word addition (“beliefs might differ”) which I bet you some people would have added automatically in their brains, to get what I said to be more clear. I certainly sometimes do this with others, and doing so can often grease conversation quite nicely, allowing people to not be philosophically rigorously correct at every step of the way.

          Also, and I´m not sure if I want to know, but I´m asking anyway, you say:
          […]
          The latter positively looks like word salad.

          I’m sorry, but I’m not interested in investing the time and effort it would require for you and me to reach a common understanding on this issue. I am envisioning a massive conversation with me having to establish quite a few common beliefs that you probably don’t share (e.g. about words creating reality, distinctions that don’t require power differences, what constitutes personhood). Our conversation about English-relationships vs. Christianese-relationships provides a good estimate of the required time-investment.

      • @labreuer:
        Also, and I´m not sure if I want to know, but I´m asking anyway, you say:

        I am confident that some forms are: for example I am confident that the distinction-destroying kind is (I could talk about performativity), and the kind that [de facto if not de jure] says you are either a [mental or physical] penis or vagina…

        What exactly is “distinction-destroying homosexuality” and what exactly is homosexuality that “[de facto if not de jure] says you are either a [mental or physical] penis or vagina”? The latter positively looks like word salad.

      • That being said, to talk about precisely how my beliefs are fallible is necessarily to talk about how my beliefs might differ from God’s. Therefore, I don’t think my original statement is as wrong as you make it out to be. Indeed, it’s a one-word addition (“beliefs might differ”) which I bet you some people would have added automatically in their brains, to get what I said to be more clear. I certainly sometimes do this with others, and doing so can often grease conversation quite nicely, allowing people to not be philosophically rigorously correct at every step of the way.

        I didn´t make out anything to be wrong, I simply misunderstood you apparently, and I´m still not sure that I do understand what you mean – not I guess you mean that you want to ask people which beliefs they are 100% certain about / consider to be infallibly true, and which beliefs they consider to be at least in principle questionable.

        I’m sorry, but I’m not interested in investing the time and effort it would require for you and me to reach a common understanding on this issue. I am envisioning a massive conversation with me having to establish quite a few common beliefs that you probably don’t share (e.g. about words creating reality, distinctions that don’t require power differences, what constitutes personhood).

        Cool. Could you at least point me to someone who self-identifies as being homosexual in a way that de facto if not de jure turns you into a physical or mental penis or vagina, or to someone who makes such claims about others?

        • I didn´t make out anything to be wrong, I simply misunderstood you apparently, and I´m still not sure that I do understand what you mean – not I guess you mean that you want to ask people which beliefs they are 100% certain about / consider to be infallibly true, and which beliefs they consider to be at least in principle questionable.

          My apologies; I saw your question as a reductio ad stupidum, but perhaps I should stop doing this. It’s hard to believe that you’d ask a question that way if you didn’t think I was stupid, because of the demonstrated ill intentions of many who’ve asked in that way in the past. But you are not they, and not all people are alike.

          As to the actual topic, will you acknowledge a difference between action-beliefs and professed-beliefs? As far as I can tell, they kinda need to be tokens of the same type, if one can resemble the other to arbitrary accuracy. And yet, it seems that they definitely can diverge. I took the thrust of Creating God in one’s own image to be that people’s beliefs were not being pulled towards God’s, contrary to how e.g. a scientist’s beliefs are pulled towards reality. Do you see the contrast I’m illustrating, here?

          Cool. Could you at least point me to someone who self-identifies as being homosexual in a way that de facto if not de jure turns you into a physical or mental penis or vagina, or to someone who makes such claims about others?

          No, I’m sorry, but (a) I’m not sure I can point just one example and have it be meaningful; (b) even if I could, further questioning of that example would lead down a long and twisty road. What I’ve said already is still largely in the intuition stage, and I’ve learned that attempting to talk about ideas in that stage with you tends to be too difficult for my current preferences.

          • ” It’s hard to believe that you’d ask a question that way if you didn’t think I was stupid, because of the demonstrated ill intentions of many who’ve asked in that way in the past. But you are not they, and not all people are alike.”

            I’m not Andy but I thank you for these wise words🙂

          • Inferring motives is tricky! It’s often done poorly online and to great detriment, but fail to do it and someone will gleefully take you on a ride for his/her amusement, which is both hurtful, and also a waste of time.

    • All religions are put under one tent when it comes to vilifying all those outside of it

      You’ve been vilified by Quakers? Anabaptists? Really? Also, it’s pretty hilarious how you just vilified all religions. One more for the bunch, Harry!

      What’s not funny is just how often the negative correlate between religiosity and human achievement and well-being emerges in all kinds of areas across all kinds of subjects. The correlate from the aggregate actually stands contrary to the assumptions made about supposedly well-known and easily demonstrated positive effects from practicing religiosity.

      Your research, please. Here’s some of my own, recommended by atheist James Lindsay:

          Serious defects that often stemmed from antireligious perspectives exist in many early studies of relationships between religion and psychopathology. The more modern view is that religion functions largely as a means of countering rather than contributing to psychopathology, though severe forms of unhealthy religion will probably have serious psychological and perhaps even physical consequences. In most instances, faith buttresses people’s sense of control and self-esteem, offers meanings that oppose anxiety, provides hope, sanctions socially facilitating behavior, enhances personal well-being, and promotes social integration. Probably the most hopeful sign is the increasing recognition by both clinicians and religionists of the potential benefits each group has to contribute. Awareness of the need for a spiritual perspective has opened new and more constructive possibilities for working with mentally disturbed individuals and resolving adaptive issues.
          A central theme throughout this book is that religion “works” because it offers people meaning and control, and brings them together with like-thinking others who provide social support. This theme is probably nowhere better represented than in the section of this chapter on how people use religious and spiritual resources to cope. Religious beliefs, experiences, and practices appear to constitute a system of meanings that can be applied to virtually every situation a person may encounter. People are loath to rely on chance. Fate and luck are poor referents for understanding, but religion in all its possible manifestations can fill the void of meaninglessness admirably. There is always a place for one’s God—simply watching, guiding, supporting, or actively solving a problem. In other words, when people need to gain a greater measure of control over life events, the deity is there to provide the help they require. (The Psychology of Religion, Fourth Edition: An Empirical Approach, 476)

      • Up to your usual tricks, I see. Your ‘research’ is nothing more than apologetics in action under the veneer of academic rigor. It doesn’t address the multiple criticisms head on and refute them. This is but the latest example:

        Rather than address the criticism that there really are many strong negative correlates between religiosity and human well-being IN THE AGGREGATE – a fact you simply wave away – you spend your time and effort searching for cherry picked quotable material to support whatever apologetic position you feel best vilifies the the motives of whoever points this fact out. You don’t even try to address why the number of patents should be lower as religiosity increasing… because I don’t think you care. Not for a moment. Your apologetic tactic job as you see it is to vilify and excuse. Modus operandi.

        For example, the latest source you use – Lindsay – appears to be criticizing this study. Of course, in reality it does no such thing. But you don’t care. That’s not the reason why you use him. He assures the gullible that ‘serious defects stemmed from antireligious perspectives‘ arise in studies about religion and psychopathology. That’s a smear against ANY study used to demonstrate negative correlates. That’s why you use it. Again and again. It’s cherry picked smear material under the veneer of academic rigor. Obviously, we’re not talking about psychopathology in this aggregate study – DUH! – and it’s defined to be ‘antireligious’ only because it establishes a strong negative correlate between religiosity and patents!

        But you don’t care why this may be the case. You don’t want to find out, either, because you will not consider for even a moment that your apologetic beliefs in the fairyland of religious piety may be entirely misplaced. You exercise this malicious use of serpentine apologetics to vilify whosoever raises the criticism and thwart any meaningful dialogue about the real world problems and the significant and responsible real world roles religion plays in producing and promoting them (why should religious belief negatively correlate with fewer patents? THAT’S the question here that you simply ignore and not the sniveling excuses you introduce as if you’ve actually ‘researched’ germane information that addresses such a stream of studies that shows the correlate is nothing but a lie. Your tactic is to switch the topic to be about how the mind of the ‘anti-theist, the ‘anti-relgiionist’, the ‘militant’ New Atheist, pollutes data by bias. It’s tedious.).

        Your responses are not an academic undertaking dealing with the criticisms raised but a means to avoid addressing them academically. For example, do religious leaders vilify secularism by equating it with moral decay? Rather than deal straight up with this brute fact that they do – and often – you wave it away with long-winded quotations that neither addresses the points raised in its support nor counters it academically; instead, and reliably, you introduce some other apologetic rabbit hole you want to go down. Is secularism vilified by many people in roles of religious leadership? Yes or no. It’s not about the ‘psychopathology of anti-religionists’ for crying out loud. It’s not a hard question to answer definitively either, but you make it sound as if such a point requires substantive academic research to back it up. If I produce quotes from the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury, different rabbis and imams considered authorities, various megachurch pastors and televangelists, will you only then consider that the vilification might be true? Be real. You couldn’t care less. You just want to divert.

        This is the tactic you use: divert, divert, divert. You don’t care about the criticism itself – the one that correlates religiosity with lower numbers of patents – and its validity; you care only about excusing it. And you use the same tactic over and over again, responding to critical comments with apologetic diversions that direct the criticizer to follow you down some other metaphysical rabbit hole where only in darkness and dismissal of the real world can your kind of apologetcis thrive.

        Not going there.

        • Rather than address the criticism that there really are many strong negative correlates between religiosity and human well-being IN THE AGGREGATE

          I don’t think you understand what that word means (“aggregate”). This was a single study, not peer-reviewed, which means I was disinclined to pay much of any attention to it. If the study were actually anything close to what you desperately want it to be, the author would have published it in a peer-reviewed journal and thus receive incredible accolades. You appear to think that # of patents produced (hopefully per capita!) is a stand-in for:

          tildeb: What’s not funny is just how often the negative correlate between religiosity and human achievement and well-being emerges in all kinds of areas across all kinds of subjects. The correlate from the aggregate actually stands contrary to the assumptions made about supposedly well-known and easily demonstrated positive effects from practicing religiosity.

          It was the bolded section that made me think you had something more than a single non-peer reviewed ‘research’ paper as support for your claim. The lack of peer review is simply a red flag, which decreases the expectation that the contents of the paper are trustworthy. I’m sure you’d be the first one saying this, if the paper didn’t support what you desperately want to believe. Now, as it turns out I randomly came across That Innovation Is Negatively Correlated With Religion Study, a brief analysis of this ‘research’ which I posted in this thread. Take a look at the money plot (also available at the Mother Jones article), with points scattered everywhere, and see why I’m now even more skeptical that there’s any actual trend going on, or whether we have yet another instance of “There are Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics”.

          The idea that you think the textbook I quoted, The Psychology of Religion, Fourth Edition: An Empirical Approach (not written by James Lindsay—I see your reading comprehension suffers when the other guy disagrees with you), disagrees with this ‘research’ paper, reveals further failure in your ability to comprehend when dealing with someone who disagrees with you. The bit I quoted is indeed the result of a tremendous amount of empirical evidence, and it militates against the part I bolded in your claim, above. I doubt the textbook talks about patents, being a textbook on the psychology of religion.

          Oh, let’s actually look a bit at the study, Forbidden Fruits: The Political Economy of Science, Religion, and Growth:

          Nicolaus Copernicus’ On the Revolution of Celestial Spheres (1543) was important not only in its own sake, but also because it provided one of the pillars for the forthcoming Scientific Revolution of the 17th century. While Copernicus (prudently) presented his heliocentric model of the universe as a pure mathematical hypothesis, for which he “could provide no empirical support”, it stood in sharp contrast with the Aristotelian-Ptolemaic cosmological model endorsed by the Church as a cornerstone of its own world view. Due to its mathematical simplicity and power, Copernicanism quickly attracted the attention of many astronomers, among them Galileo Galilei (1564-1642).

          This is simply false. I just happened to come across The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown, which provides an extremely detailed history, and shows that Copernicus, contrary to what these authors so desperately needed to believe, didn’t produce a system more simple than Ptolemy’s. Copernicus used twice as many epicycles as the currently accepted version of Ptolemy. The sun was not at the center; all planets orbited the center of earth’s orbit, and earth did not—did not!—have the sun at the center of its orbit. Furthermore, Copernicus got little to no heat from the Roman Catholic Church; instead, he feared heat from fellow scientists, and for very good reasons: he didn’t actually produce a better model! If you keep reading through that blog series, you’ll find out when and how Ptolemy was actually overthrown from his millennia-long astronomical hegemony.

          Now, maybe these guys just got their history wrong. But what this indicates is that they care more about their metanarrative of reality, than examining the actual facts. You and they appear to really want to believe that all—and I mean all—religion is the enemy, even though you simply do not have the evidence to show it. Instead, you engage in the tired ‘some’ ⇒ ‘all’ fallacy. An example of the kind of binary thinking which Marc rightly criticizes in his article.

          You exercise this malicious use of serpentine apologetics to vilify whosoever raises the criticism and thwart any meaningful dialogue about the real world problems and the significant and responsible real world roles religion plays in producing and promoting them […]

          Asking for evidence for audacious claims and presenting evidence against audacious claims is a “malicious use of serpentine apologetics”? It’s not like it would have been hard for you to say either that Forbidden Fruits: The Political Economy of Science, Religion, and Growth was the only research supporting your point. And if it isn’t, it wouldn’t be hard for you to produce a list of research. You obviously care enough about this issue to have the time to do this. It seems though, that you would prefer sophist rhetoric to evidence-based reasoning. If this being true constitutes “vilifying” you, then I do exactly that. You are, it seems a Sophisticated Atheist™.

          For example, do religious leaders vilify secularism by equating it with moral decay?

          Some do, yes. That has nothing to do with this blog post, but I’m happy to acknowledge that some religious leaders are horrible specimens of humanity and do things much worse than vilify secularism. Some religious leaders molest children—as do some atheists. To get past vagueries, of course, one needs strong empirical evidence. But since you like to argue at this level, I highly suggest Jacques Ellul’s The Subversion of Christianity: he mounts a much better criticism of ‘Christianity’ than you probably ever could.

  5. Here we have “one study” coming to some sort of conclusion. Who knows how well this one study was carried out? Unfortunately some or many people will think that because an “expert” has done something it is “true”. Now I don’t know how accurate the study is but I am pretty sure that the “scientific” method can be used to produce complete b******s as well as quite important and insightful information.

    Conclusions reached from good research can themselves be complete b******s. The obviously flawed part of the above is that there is any significance in the filing of patents. These days, the filing of patents is much more to do with fiscal purposes than anything to do with wisdom or human benefit.

    By taking “as read” that the filing of patents is a “beneficial” thing the authors of the research are showing fairly limited insight. So we can probably discount the report as anything worthy quite quickly. However this may depend on how well the research itself has been reported.

    If it is correct that the study has not been peer reviewed then we can say that the research itself is not worth much at all anyway, at least whilst awaiting any form of checking.

    Additionally, bearing in mind that most of the important “scientists” themselves historically speaking were “believers” and “religious” also shows some form of current bias.

    It may well be true that “religious” people file fewer patents than non religious. Maybe this just proves that “religious” people have more important things to do than file patents.

    Yet again this is just a piece of “non news” becoming “news”. I wouldn’t worry about it Lotharson. Generally speaking most of what we read is a complete heap of the proverbial.

  6. I lack the context to understand about half of what’s being said in the comments on this post. The sarcasm makes it yet more cryptic.

    I hope those of you arguing will take a moment to consider whether you wish to be understood by more than just each other.

  7. The study is somewhat unbiased in its scientific methods in that it includes all facet of ‘R’ at a multicontinental coverage in thirdworld considering the fact that some maybe multi religious. To conclude a countrys ability to progress innovation based of religious status is one thing. Knowing the status of an innovator is another thing, appreciating a government’s willingness to encourage science and technology is another thing. The geography, and population-land ratios maybe another factor as well as level education density etc. Therefore in my opinion the unbiased study may be researched again to justify its claim

    • Yeah, but what anti-theistic activists wants is to show that ALL religious groups are an impediment to science.

      But as I explained, religion is incredibly diverse.
      So demonstrating this correlation ON AVERAGE is perfectly consistent with the existence of 10% of religious groups being as science-friendly as atheists.

      Therefore this study fails to prove what it is hoped to prove.

      Cheers.

      • Cart before the horse, Marc, when you claim the results of such studies are motivated by rather than concluded from what you call ‘anti-theistic activists’. The ‘anti-theist’ label is real only in your mind and not from the quality of the data from which the negative correlate conclusions are reached. The brute fact of the matter is that there really are many negative correlates with religiosity.

        For example, it’s not ‘anti-theist activists’ that establish these negative correlates. They simply point it out to people like you who presume otherwise. It is a brute fact that “In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion in the prosperous democracies. (snip) No democracy is known to have combined strong religiosity and popular denial of evolution with high rates of societal health. Higher rates of non-theism and acceptance of human evolution usually correlate with lower rates of dysfunction, and the least theistic nations are usually the least dysfunctional.” (Source)

        These negative social correlates would lead one to predict that the same negative correlates should exist even within an otherwise homogenous country, which can be tested in the US on a state by state comparison (Source). Lo and behold, we find “There is evidence that within the U.S. strong disparities in religious belief versus acceptance of evolution are correlated with similarly varying rates of societal dysfunction, the strongly theistic, anti-evolution south and mid-west having markedly worse homicide, mortality, STD, youth pregnancy, marital and related problems than the northeast where societal conditions, secularization, and acceptance of evolution approach European norms.”

        There are other important negative correlates with religiosity, too, such as intelligence (Source) but the point being raised here is that there IS a negative correlate regardless of any ‘anti-theistic’ motivations you may assign to the collectors of this data. It is the brute fact of the existence of these negative correlates that stand contrary to the assertion that religiosity is a net positive influence. This assertion is factually wrong in the face of compelling evidence of many negative correlates.

        When it comes to elite scientists, the brute fact is that fewer than 5% believe in god, likewise fewer than 7% of members of the National Academy of Science. This is a HUGE disparity from the percentages found in the populations from which these folk come. Why the disparity? Are you seriously trying to argue that 95% of elite scientists and 93% of Academy scientists are motivated to be so because they are all ‘anti-theistic activists’?

        Come on, Marc. Face facts: there really must be something about religion and science compatibility that brings these negative correlates into existence (even in the general scientific population – working scientists – in the US, only about a third believe in god which is still a huge disparity from the general population – about 85%). So it makes no sense to assign blame to ‘anti-theistic activists’ for creating, say, the increased rate of teen birth rates correlated to conservative religious beliefs in the US (Source). These negative correlates really do exist. And maybe, just maybe, there is a problem between religion and science that has the latter rejecting the former for reasons other than what you presume.

        • “Face facts: there really must be something about religion and science compatibility that brings these negative correlates into existence”

          Translation: “There must something COMMON TO ALL RELIGIONS that brings these negative correlates into existence.”

          Marc: “The study falls far short of proving this. Given the fact that progressive religious groups and Conservatives fostering the intellect (such as William Lane Craig) are a small minority (both worldwide and in America) in the religious landscape, its results are entirely consistent with these groups being as science-friendly as the godless population”.

          Let us push the reasoning of the authors a bit further. Deists represent perhaps 0.5% of supernaturalists in America. According to the same argumentation, one could carry out the same studies and conclude that supernaturalists IN GENERAL are an impediment for science.

          But would it not be utterly ludicrous to go to a deist and tell him or her: “you’re enemy of Reason because you belong to a very large group whose members are on average an impediment to science?

          I want a study examining the ATTITUDE towards science of different religious communities.

          Anyway this comment of yours shows you’re not able to criticize ideas you dislike without resorting to an aggressive rhetoric. And that despite all my sincere attempts at peace making.

          • Of course these studies fall short of ‘proving’ incompatibility; that’s why they are correlates. But they are important signposts that indicate there is something going on here between religion and science that is indeed negative in many regards. I think it’s a methodology problem and I think it’s far wider than simply religious belief. I think people are quite capable of believing in demons while, at the same time, lining up for an Ebola vaccine… just as much people can believe in human rights while, at the same time, rationalizing that the actions of ISIL are independent of religious motivation. Although how each of the two paired notions are arrived at with incompatible methods, both pairs can be held in the same mind. It takes discipline of mind to stop empowering the method that doesn’t work to model reality reliably (but still appeals to the ease of imagination and wishful thinking that informs comforting ‘answers’ in place of what’s discomforting).

            I’m sorry you feel as if this style of writing I do in what I think of as important and meaningful criticism is ‘aggressive rhetoric’ contrary to ‘peace making’. I think I offer a deeper understanding of what motivates New Atheists to criticize pernicious religious beliefs: to improve the human condition. And one way to do this is to get more people to think about their own beliefs and how they justify them. This usually entails criticism, which can always be viewed as ‘hostile’ but being hostile is neither my goal nor intention.

          • Folks, you’re fooling yourselves if you think @tildeb impartially respects the evidence. He has yet to rationally and evidentially respond to the following quotations by a sociologist, who is the most scientific of people when it comes to the kinds of claims that @tildeb relies on in his comments. All three of these are from famed sociologist Peter Berger, co-author of The Social Construction of Reality, which is considered “the fifth most important sociological book of the 20th century” by the International Sociological Association.

            Facing Up to Modernity:

            Even if it were true that socialism is the only rational conclusion, this would not explain its dissemination among specific social groups. Modern science, for example, may also be described as the only rational conclusion for certain questions about nature—and yet it took millennia before it came to be established in specific groups in a specific corner of the world. Ideas neither triumph nor fail in history because of their intrinsic truth or falsity. Furthermore, the affinity between intellectuals and socialism is clearly more than a matter of rational arguments. It is suffused with values, with moral passion, in many cases with profoundly religious hope—in sum, with precisely those characteristics which permit speaking of a socialist myth (in a descriptive, nonpejorative sense.)” (58)

            The socialist myth promises the fulfillment of both the rational dreams of the Enlightenment and the manifold aspirations of those to whom the Enlightenment has been an alienating experience. Such a promise inevitably grates against its imperfect realization in empirical reality, frustrating and often enraging its believers. This is nothing new in the long history of eschatologies, which is inevitably a history of the psychology of disappointment. (62–63)

            A Far Glory:

                Another exaggeration may have been the conventional view of the reach of scientific rationality. One does not have to look at religion only in order to find this thought plausible. It is amazing what people educated to the highest levels of scientific rationality are prepared to believe by way of irrational prejudices; one only has to look at the political and social beliefs of the most educated classes of Western societies to gain an appreciation of this. Just one case: What Western intellectuals over the last decades have managed to believe about the character of Communist societies is alone sufficient to cast serious doubt on the proposition that rationality is enhanced as a result of scientifically sophisticated education or of living in a modern technological society. (30)

            We have seen, time and again, that @tildeb loves to describe the behavior above as ‘religious’. You have people believing irrationally, believing in myths, having eschatologies, pursuing utopias and justifying bloodshed as a result. These things are supposed to be unique to religion, or at least have increased incidence among religion! Well, to my knowledge, @tildeb hasn’t presented a shred of evidence to support the claim of “increased evidence”. You know he isn’t when he explicitly denies the relevance/truth of the above (maybe through claiming sociologists aren’t to be trusted?), which I’m pretty sure he has done.

            Marc has identified fallacious reasoning, whereby you can poison statistics by taking people who would otherwise be statistically indistinguishable from their counterparts, and lump them in with folks who are distinguishable. This you will find in atheistic reasoning time and time and time and time again. What would stop this nonsense is for atheists to find causation and not just correlation. While @tildeb admits that correlation ⇏ causation, he undermines that admission by saying “they are important signposts that indicate there is something going on here”: in other words, that religion is causing bad stuff to happen, and he implies religion simpliciter, even though he’s never gotten close to both (a) defining ‘religion’; (b) showing causation which come directly from that definition. Instead, his argument is of the form: “Sharp knives can be used badly, so let’s ban sharp knives.” Of course, he doesn’t admit the “can”; he says/implies “are always”.

            I leave you, the reader, to judge. What @tildeb, I, or Marc think is irrelevant; we are just three people. What matters instead is the truth/validity of what I’ve said and the impact it will have on the world, given the kinds of people who visit these comment sections. While I don’t doubt the possibility that @tildeb will change his mind on anything (I actually did switch from creationist → ID advocate → believer in the science of evolution, due to online debates, so it happens!), I’m not planning on it. I’ve tried quite hard, to no success. I’m open for the principle of induction to fail, but I won’t wager too much on it.

          • Lab, you do a very poor job of representing me. I can do that just fine, thanks all the same. Your gross misrepresentation of me, what I’ve said, what my motives do not serve ‘ the truth/validity’ of anything but your own imaginings. Show me where I’ve advocated banning religion.

            See? You’re so busy just making shit up and smearing me with it that you and Crude are two sides of the same coin. (Marc, of course, won’t hold either of you to the same standard of ‘aggressive rhetoric’ he holds for me because I’m an atheist whereas you two share the same tent, so to speak. You just spend more time trying to appear learned with using quotations that divert from my criticisms. You really should try to incorporate the same level of effort you apply towards finding quotations to serve your purpose in your quest to first comprehend my points rather than on more spiteful comments towards me and let the reader take away whatever value – if any – in these comments. They don’t need your faux-expert interpretive guidance and I think it is rather condescending of you to assume they do.

          • Show me where I’ve advocated banning religion.

            No, you don’t actually want to ban religion, but you want it to trend to zero. So the analogy would be that you don’t want to ban sharp knives or guns, but you want them to slowly disappear into nothingness. This changes very little in my argument, for it still means you are blaming religion/sharp knives/guns qua religion/sharp knives/guns, without showing that it is actually religion simpliciter which is the true causal factor.

            Furthermore, and this was central to my comment, you have not shown that religion simpliciter makes things any worse, ceteris paribus. You appear to desperately want to believe this, but when it comes to actually showing it, all you can do is refer to some bulk study which aggregates many different kinds of ‘religion’ via some measure of ‘devoutness’, and then utter a generalization about religion simpliciter.

            You’re so busy just making shit up and smearing me with it that you and Crude are two sides of the same coin.

            Suppose this is true. Then you can simply disagree with my guesses in this comment and my previous one, and do so very clearly. You can stop being vague and identify, once and perhaps for all (I would certainly save a link to the comment), some bits like:

                (1) Is religion simpliciter truly the causal factor in badness-causing?
                (2) Do people without religion truly act more rationally, on average?

            I predict that the average person, upon reading your comments, would infer a “yes” to both of these. Whether or not you would be able to plausibly deny such “yes”es, I don’t know—I’d have to review your posting history. But instead of that, why not come out in the clear, and give definitive answers to (1) and (2)? Yes, or no?

            more spiteful comments towards me

            Is it your position that none of your comments towards me are particularly spiteful? Yes, or no? I am merely curious as to whether you actually know how not to do “the bad thing” of which you are accusing Crude and me.

            I think it is rather condescending of you

            How many people do you really believe would view your appellation of “The Pig”, to refer to Massimo Pigliucci, as anything other than ‘condescending’?

          • What a strange (but not unexpected) way to admit guilt and apologize for misrepresenting me (right after proclaiming how you can and have changed your mind when faced by compelling evidence but expect no such magnanimity from the likes of me).

            You’re a piece of work, lab.

          • I hope someone, other than you, can come by, take your side, and explain what I’m doing wrong in a way I can understand. So far, I don’t see how I’m actually wrong. That doesn’t mean I am not wrong, it just means you have failed to explain it. Sometimes a different perspective is needed, so perhaps we’ll get one.

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