Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Do Believers Breed More?

Daurade recently raised an interesting question during a conversation with me via blog comments: Are atheist couples more likely to be childless? Daurade quoted extensively from "Childfree" in Wikipedia.

Not long after reading Daurade's comments, I happened, independently, upon two relevantly related websites. There's an old axiom that anecdotes ain't data, but I'm working hard at being mindful of synchronicity, so ... let's see what can be gleaned from these two offerings.

First, I happened, independently of my conversation with Daurade, upon The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement. These folks don't outright state that they don't believe in God. They also don't outright state that they don't believe in humor. But it's not hard to read between the lines. Here's their fun loving uncle: Nonbreeder.

Second, I happened upon the recent NY Times article "God Said Multiple, and Boy Did She", which tells the tale of the Yitta Schwartz, who:

"[When] she died last month at 93, she left behind 15 children, more than 200 grandchildren and so many great- and great-great-grandchildren that, by her family's count, she could claim perhaps 2,000 living descendants. Mrs. Schwartz was a member of the Satmar Hasidic sect, whose couples have nine children on average."

And as if all this weren't synchronicity enough to recent LoS conversations, the second article went on to note that "Mrs. Schwartz's ... may have generated one of the largest clans of any survivor of the Holocaust -- a thumb in the eye of the Nazi's" (emp. mine).

Well, I don't think that this settles the matter one way or the other, but consider this fact. Humans appear to be hardwired to be religious (cf, here and here). If you're fundamentalist, you might accept this as proof of God having creating humans. If you're non-fundamentalist, religious or not, you might accept this as evidence that evolution has favored Believers--which is in-and-of-itself a suggestion that Believers may breed more.

Consider one more point. There are also prolific breeders who don't couple up. Mostly men. Genghis Khan was said to have fathered over 1,000 children; by some estimates, 8% of all Asian men (and, I would assume Asian women, too) are descended from his line. And rape's not the only way down this road. There are also tales of prolifically breeding sperm donors, and there are plenty of modern day Don Juans like Wilt Chamberlain who claims to have slept with 20,000 women.

So there we have it -- point & counter point. Perhaps in the end, the religious command to be fruitful and multiple is simply a necessary compensation for the religious restriction to breeding monogamously and magnanimously.

So what do you think? Who breeds more and why?


  1. As Spock would say: "Fascinating!" The idea that religiosity is hardwired into our brains is definitely worth investigating.

    Your thesis:

    "If you're non-fundamentalist, religious or not, you might accept this as evidence that evolution has favored Believers--which is in-and-of-itself a suggestion that Believers may breed more."

    Very well put.

  2. Great comment, Daurade. You envocation of Spock hit on this *thing* that was wrestling as I wrote this. Sometimes when I write, my left brain takes over; other times it's the right. I tried to engage the right (non-logic) side this piece by paying attention to synchronicity -- but the truth is that this piece arose from left-brained (logical) thinking.

    The notion of hardwired religiousity is something I've pondering for awhile; it might make for a good future post. 'Preciate the suggestion!

    BTW, itsn't weird how blogspot writes "one comments"? Surely Google's smart enough to code it to say "one comment". Sheesh.

  3. I have noticed that most people I talk with are governed by overriding beliefs, supported by gathered "facts", which I consider to be “mental objects”. Once a belief is formed, then the believer gathers mental objects which correspond with their belief. I call this “belief sets”. So, basically I listen a lot, until I can find the belief of a person, then I understand what is in their belief set. So then believers find like minds and create a (belief structure which can be composed of many of the same mental objects. I think of beliefs as mental objects, since most everything in the material world such as churches, and governments were built because of beliefs. I don't judge the beliefs, most of the time anymore, because I might believe I know more than I do.
    I don't think we are hardwired for religiosity, but enculturated to it. The world that we inhabit was preformed by beliefs, and we either do or don't incorporate them, As children we are conditioned to accept the world and the parameters laid down by the existence of concrete structures, creating tracks. It is rather difficult to imagine another world once that occurs. And it happens of course to all of us.

    But? What if? What if none of it is true? We may only then be our own living laboratories, developing new dendrite paths, so that we may be receptive to the non local aspects of mind. And of course, our own organic gnosis, which incorporates our bodies, and hearts as the field of experience.
    First and foremost we are natural beings born in a world that is not always acting in accordance with natural laws. Perhaps the ultimate divinity then is to be fully human, for in being so, we might find the expressions of life far more mysterious than the symbols and signs left behind by those who found such things as triangles, and crosses more representative of mystery, than
    our presences on this earth, for the time we are here.

    oh my>...sorry, for the long answer. I hope that in breaking the Laws of Silence, writing doesn't count.

    goodnight now.

  4. No laws broken here! I think you're quite right, once again.

    I like this:

    "Once a belief is formed, then the believer gathers mental objects which correspond with their belief."

    I have no qualms about saying many LoS posts start out this way and i'm not sure it could be any other way.

    Acknowledging this is an important part of the process, of course....

    Thanks for a thoughtful post. I hope Gid gets back to you. Oh, Gid?

  5. Song! Welcome!

    We're long-winded around here, and we appreciate a long reply--especially one so thoughtful.

    I like your idea of mental objects. I've tried, somewhat clumsily I suspect, to write a couple pieces for LoS (Laws of Silence) that analogized thoughts and believes with geography (e.g., mental "space", mental "maps")--which is similar to what you're getting at. Anyhow, you put that notion well.

    Regarding humans being hardwired for religiosity ... we are, of course, creating another analogy here, with brain as hardware (i.e., hardwired) and "culture" (or perhaps learned ideas and beliefs) as software.

    Separating the mental software from the hardware is tricky and incredibly contentious. Consider, for example, all the debate over whether being gay is a matter of choice (i.e., learned behavior, which is software) or a matter of biology (i.e., innate behavior/tendency, which is hardware).

    These debates are not easy to prove one way or the other and they become so contentious, I think, because they rub against our very sense of what it means to be human and to have (or not have) free will.

    Turning back to religiosity...I was speaking sort of off the cuff in my posting, but I'd enjoy a chance to elaborate in this comment. One argument for thinking that it is hardwired is that any behavior that seems to cross so many cultures must be something that is hardwired into humanity.

    I personally neither agree nor disagree with this argument. I think that it is too easy to make this type of argument without realizing that your own personal beliefs are clouding your judgment. It seems to me that this kind of argument is not any type of proof at all--it's just a conclusion drawn from a bunch of self-selected anecdotal evidence.

    But instead of asking if religiosity is hardwired, let's ask if spirituality is hardwired. Here I see something that, to me, looks like proof of hardwiring. Check out this link:

    Basically, if this is to be believed, if you poke a couple of specific synapses, people think that they are talking to god. I see that as hardwiring for spirituality, and I would argue that this makes humans tend toward religiosity. This type of tendency starts to break down our brain/mind hardware/software analogy because computers don't prefer this software over that software, but humans do seem to prefer this idea over that idea. To put it in different terms, humans (to some extent) seem to gather ideas whereas computers strictly have software applied to them; computers lack this capacity for self-selecting "software". This discrepancy illustrates the danger of taking analogies too literally.

    But if you ask me tomorrow, I'm liable to have shifted my mental objects about like chessmen on the tessellated plane and clustered them together into a new conclusion...

  6. A new conclusion with the chessmen? Ha! I watch the birds. Thank you for sharing this article. There is much to think about here. I need to read it several times more.

    just a few thoughts I want to share.

    I can't say if we are or are not hardwired for spirituality, and really computers haven't been here that long, so the language, is modern, really, and allows a context for descriptions otherwise unavailable.

    I believe it was Wilder Penfield who began the modern quest to understand mind and brain, and so? I landed on brain-receptor and mind as quantum field, and that is very simple I know. But I did at the time "believe" in quantum potential So that is how I have "programmed" my own living laboratory. Quantum potential is something everyone has, but not necessarily something they use. But that is another conversation, since most physicists don't like to think about it at all--the territory gets fuzzy to them, and perhaps it is because the language is unavailable except in a semiotic form.

    Anyway I play a few instruments. I listened to Concertos, to develop more dendrite patterns in my brain, as well as do ambidexterity exercises to name a few simple activities. Simple activities.

    The interesting part about the computer analogy, is that the computers as you know are built on the binary number system, which is composed of 0's and 1's which are really switch states within the computer, and we can, program switch states, with boolean math, and either-or, as well as other maths, I am sure. But the operator, or that which makes what happens in a computer, happen, is the programmer, first, of course, and the program may not incorporate but a very narrow parameter of sets or conditions, and these sets and conditions can only take into account what the programmer puts in the program. So although a certain proof or event may arise from the actions of the programmer, the function of the machine, that which makes it a computer, is not static because another programer can create another program, and the computer will do that program too. That is what I think you mean about shifting your mental objects on a chessboard and since you are reading Wired, what i have written above is probably somewhat oversimplified.

    So I tended to think more of the fluid/static problems which arise in computers, when I developed software years ago, and that was how to set parameters and conditions which allowed for real-time, fluidity, and parameterized stasis. Like how do you find a teaspoon drop in the ocean of information when there is no way to differentiate the drop of sea water information from the information sea? And at the time the only answer i came up with was a human being had to perform that part of the program, inotherwords, he/she had to be conscious and I couldn't write that into the program, or the hard drive. ..Certain conditions had to be met, so to speak for any results to be obtained and so though the program had parameters it couldn't work without consciousness and the ability of the operator, to understand the necessary steps to achieve the outcome.

    So we may or may not be hardwired for spirituality. it would depend on the boolean condition.

    well, not a great answer, but I really wanted to answer, to thank you and to let you know it is nice to meet you.


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