The Religiosity Gene

Quick: do you think that the future will be more or less religious?

Robert Rowthorn, an emeritus professor of economics, likened religion as a gene (after all, you are most likely to "inherit" your parents' religion) and came to an interesting conclusion:

Rowthorn’s model shows that, even when the religious defection rate is high, the overall high fertility rate of religious people will cause the religiosity allele to eventually predominate the global society. The model shows that the wide gap in fertility rates could have a significant genetic effect in just a few generations. The 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. Overall, nearly all of the population will have a genetic predisposition toward religion, although some or many of these individuals will lead secular lives, Rowthorn concluded.


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Too silly for comment, but hey I'll comment anyway.

Suppose religiosity is inherited. Ancient civilizations were all very religious. Hence we, their descendants, would also be religious. But many modern countries are very secular. Where did all that secularity come from? Surely it can't be genes. That makes no sense.

More likely the reason modern countries are more secular is that they are more urban. When you live off the land, you are in intimate contact with nature, which is more powerful than you and serves as something onto which you can project your religious instincts. When you live in a city, your world is man-made, and you lose the feeling that something non-human controls your life. There's no place to put your religious instincts.

And let's not forget Nietzsche, who said "God is dead" and also said "we ourselves have killed Him." He meant that Christianity's call to "know the Truth" gave birth to science and scepticism, which in turn undermined Christian faith.

Using materialist explanations (like genetics) for psychological, social and spiritual phenomena is bound to produce absurdities like this one.

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A religious gene? I call BS. Maybe people have been religious through the ages because their lives were hard and miserable through the ages, and they needed to cling to the idea there was some kind of reward afterwards...

I really hope this study is wrong. Religion ruins everything.
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I'm really surprised no one else has mentioned this, but what this guy is talking about at the beginning, that religion is like a gene, is exactly Dawkins' concept of a meme (which he coined in 1976). A gene transmits biological information, memes can be said to transmit idea and belief information.

As for his belief that actual genes are involved in the process of belief, that too is not a new one.

But there is a problem with how he projects that into the future. He says, "studies have shown that, even controlling for income and education, people who are more religious have more children, on average, than people who are secular" which is true, but that doesn't mean religious people will overrun the world. Adherence to religion has been shown to be inversely linked with education.

If education wasn't in the picture then the number of religious adherents might grow, but as access to education increases and the average level of education goes up, the number of religious people will go down.
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