Smarty Pants

Just in time for Christmas – yet another heart-warming piece describing how stupid religion and religious people are.  Pity I didn’t have time to get to it before Christmas.

There is nothing new here.  The same broad, unsupported assertions.  Lots of smart people don’t believe in God.  Not many smart people do.  Gee, what an amazing metric.  Hope you didn’t bruise yourself too much compiling all those details.  And based on what criteria?  Richard Dawkins is smart because he comes up with a theory that we are controlled by our genes, rather than by a God?  Substantiation?  Proof?  Evidence?  Oh wait, that’s right.  It’s a theory.  A theory which people must believe in.  Oops.

A few things that caught my eye.

I find it funny how people who take this approach to attack religion never recognize that their allegations work equally well against their own point of view.  If our points of view are genetically controlled, how is it that science remains a bastion of unquestioned truth?  If our genes can convince us to believe in a God, couldn’t they just as easily influence us to believe in genes?  Or anything else?  Ultimately, if our minds are solely the product of evolutionary forces aimed at maximizing reproduction, how can we trust anything that we think?  On what basis should we be able to say that this, this is truth and not simply something I am conditioned to think is true?

Curiously enough, if our genes are solely committed to ensuring the survival of our own personal genetic code, isn’t it ironic that birth rates are lowest among the highly intelligent who believe that they are solely a product of genetic manipulation aimed at getting them to have more kids?

On the issue of where to live as a factor of religiosity, it is true that many of the nations on the list are very secular.  What is also true is that the vast majority of them have not always been so.  In other words, many of the underlying presuppositions for the way they do things today were laid down during periods where religion was indeed very important in their culture.  It strikes me as far more likely these secular states are merely enjoying the benefits of their religious past, as opposed to having created a genuinely new, different, cultural nirvana, as it were.

If it is true that there are fewer religious people in the higher echelons of the hard sciences, it should be remembered that this is not a neutral state of affairs.  There is a great deal of selection and weeding out that goes on the further one progresses in the hard sciences, and I suspect that in a race between two equally qualified candidates, the avowed religious believer will find it much harder to get into the best schools and programs and financial assistance than the avowed non-religious person.  I have colleagues in academia who have confirmed that this is true (that’s no less evidence than the plethora of facts littered in the original article, so I don’t feel too bad about it).  Such a situation is hardly an objective measure of anything except internal bias.

And I love how religion is automatically factored out of the mix of what could really be true.  It can’t be that a religion might actually be true.  That’s disqualified by default.  Genes are what is in control, nothing else.  Which religion is dominant in a certain area may be obvious, but it’s hardly obvious that religion doesn’t exist in certain areas.  The secularism of Western Europe is a *very* recent event, and otherwise, Japan is the closest I can come to thinking of an area that is natively non-religious.  And of course, it isn’t that Japan isn’t non-religious either.  Religion is everywhere.  Quite literally universal in that nearly every people group in every place in every time has believed in some sort of religion.  Though, I suppose all those billions of people were just stupid.

Finally, I love the effort to justify the scientific dismissal of God as a no-brainer because science has produced some neat things.  GPS and flu shots work, therefore God doesn’t exist.  Hilarious.  Maybe we should do a quiz to find out how many people get the flu shot and still end up with the flu?  And I certainly don’t know ANYBODY who has found GPS to be error-prone at one time or another.  It’s a fascinating argument, all the same.  Made by people who have apparently outwitted millions of years of evolutionary fine-tuning in order to seize control of their bodies, liberate their minds, and subvert all those generations of biological imperatives.  How truly brilliant!

Hopefully your Christmas was just as wonderful without this essay.  Now go back about your moronic little daily routine.

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