Atheism, a genetic defect?

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Atheism, a genetic defect?

#1  Postby NineOneFour » Apr 19, 2010 12:13 pm

Crazy notion, if you ask me, but this guy seems to think so:

http://thebroadside.freedomblogging.com ... ic-defect/

Is atheism a genetic defect?
March 5th, 2009, 3:01 pm · 14 Comments · posted by Seth Richardson
Science is closing in on the genetic basis for religious belief

By Seth Richardson

Atheists have long been unable to resolve the conundrum of why religion is so ubiquitous and so persistent in human society. They are befuddled by what they see as rank illogic and unreasoning belief in what they call “woo”, which they loosely define as “ludicrous beliefs” or “extraordinary beliefs for which it is felt there is insufficient extraordinary evidence, and people who hold those beliefs.”

It’s a pejorative term that atheists use when dismissing the supernatural claims of religion. Atheists are true believers in the sanctity of science, accepting nothing on faith, and demanding critically robust and falsifiable evidence for just about everything, particularly theistic claims. They are rigorously logical thinkers who have great difficulty comprehending how anyone could possibly believe in, much less worship, an invisible “sky fairy” called God. If you doubt the persistence of their befuddlement, just go to this well-known atheist forum and review any of the many threads in which atheists and religionists tear each other’s hair out, with atheists insisting (more or less politely) that religionists are deluded boobs or mentally defective, and religionists insisting that atheists “just don’t get it.”

And just it may be that atheists don’t get it because they are physically incapable of doing so. In fact, it’s beginning to look like it may be the atheists who are defective, not the religionists.

It’s an undisputed fact that some 85 percent of the population of the planet holds some sort of religious belief. Nobody really understands why, but science is beginning to examine why this social behavior exists and persists over millennia. One cannot see such ubiquitous behavior without asking why people continue to believe in God.

In a November, 2001 edition of the Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience, Dr. Michael Persinger published a study called “The Neuropsychiatry of Paranormal Experiences” in which he revealed that by manipulating magnetic fields around the brain, a “’sensed presence’ or sentient being” was experienced by many test subjects. “[W]e found that when we applied specific complex magnetic fields over the right hemisphere, most normal people who were not aware of the purpose of the experiment experienced a “sensed presence” or sentient being. Many individuals felt the presence interact with their thinking and “move in space” as they “focused their thoughts” on it.” Persinger writes. Persinger goes on to point out that paranormal experiences have been shown to be correlated to geomagnetic events, and that the magnetic fluxes involved are very subtle.

CONTINUED


Read the whole thing.
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Re: Atheism, a genetic defect?

#2  Postby tnjrp » Apr 19, 2010 12:17 pm

Isn't that our very own Seth writing?

Oh, and
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Re: Atheism, a genetic defect?

#3  Postby NineOneFour » Apr 19, 2010 12:18 pm

Please be aware that the writer of the blog in the OP is a member here and therefore is protected by the FUA. No matter that he insults atheists in his column, we must not insult him on here. Everyone cool with that?
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Re: Atheism, a genetic defect?

#4  Postby Crocodile Gandhi » Apr 19, 2010 12:20 pm

That's an amazing sample size used to analyse the effect on atheists. If only all scientific conclusions could be made on the results of a single person doing a single test.
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Re: Atheism, a genetic defect?

#5  Postby Matt_B » Apr 19, 2010 12:24 pm

If there is such a thing as a gene for atheism, who is to say that it's a defective one?
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Re: Atheism, a genetic defect?

#6  Postby babel » Apr 19, 2010 12:27 pm

A genetic defect? Is that another way of saying atheists are the next evolutionary step of mankind?
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Re: Atheism, a genetic defect?

#7  Postby Scot Dutchy » Apr 19, 2010 12:41 pm

The blog is very typical of the writer and his thoughts.
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Re: Atheism, a genetic defect?

#8  Postby Spearthrower » Apr 19, 2010 1:03 pm

Scot Dutchy wrote:The blog is very typical of the writer and his thoughts.


It's also indicative that he's learned nothing in his time here except that which he already believed; the article is a prime example of cognitive bias.

It's also becoming glaringly obvious that Tolerism doesn't embrace all, and is actually simply another vehicle for demanding respect for religions.
Last edited by Spearthrower on Apr 19, 2010 1:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Atheism, a genetic defect?

#9  Postby Lazar » Apr 19, 2010 1:04 pm

Its odd that Seth uses the Neural Markers of religious Conviction paper. The paper in question argues that religiosity is associated with lower anxiety (a well supported finding in a lot of research) is due to a frame of reference which focuses cognition away from uncertainty. Seth's conclusion that people who do not have this have a defect is interesting as it suggests a value judgement. Namely that it is better to be less anxious than to apply cognitive energy to identifying uncertainty. I think this is open to debate, my answer being it depends on the outcome you are interested in and the situation you are referring to.

Also the findings do not suggest this effect is genetic as much as neurological with the direction of causality yet to be determined:
Our findings are an important step toward understanding the
appeal of religious conviction, but the direction of causality
remains to be determined: Does religious conviction buffer ACC
responsivity to error and uncertainty? Or, alternatively, does
lower ACC activity (and its associated cognitive style) incline
people toward religious belief?


In other words the research does not speak to whether atheism is or is not a genetic defect at all.

Seth's blog is well written though. I subscribe to it as I like to get well written points of view from people I disagree with.

EDIT: You can download the full paper (PDF) from either the blog in the OP or from my psychology resources thread on this forum where you can find a few other relevant (PDF) papers on the genetic basis of religion.
Last edited by Lazar on Apr 19, 2010 1:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Atheism, a genetic defect?

#10  Postby Spearthrower » Apr 19, 2010 1:09 pm

Lazar wrote:
Seth's blog is well written though. I subscribe to it as I like to get well written points of view from people I disagree with.


I also like to make sure my rubbish bin is neat and well tended.
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Re: Atheism, a genetic defect?

#11  Postby Lazar » Apr 19, 2010 1:12 pm

Spearthrower wrote:
Lazar wrote:
Seth's blog is well written though. I subscribe to it as I like to get well written points of view from people I disagree with.


I also like to make sure my rubbish bin is neat and well tended.


I also have a creationism blog section on google reader. Some of them, Todd's blog in particular, are well written and interesting. I disagree with what they write strongly as I do with Seth's blog but I like to know what others think and why they think it.
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Re: Atheism, a genetic defect?

#12  Postby blackarmada » Apr 19, 2010 1:13 pm

I would think that the ability to question perceptions would be a desired genetic trait than a defect really...
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Re: Atheism, a genetic defect?

#13  Postby CookieJon » Apr 19, 2010 1:15 pm

Whether or not God exists, it’s apparent that belief in God is good for humankind.


Is it? I'd have thought that was at least debatable.

We may be genetically programmed for religious belief because religion offers significant species-wide survival benefits, like reduced stress and reduced decision-making errors


So believing in something "whether or not" it exists isn't an "error"? :what:
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Re: Atheism, a genetic defect?

#14  Postby cursuswalker » Apr 19, 2010 1:17 pm

The premise that atheists are missing something that most people have is bullshit. I am a theist by nature. Anytime I want to I can feel what I previously interpreted as being the "presense of deity", only I used rational skepticism to conclude that it was nothing of the sort.

Why are most people religious? I go with Dawkin's by-product explanation myself. Simply put, a mind that is capable of visualising a bridge over a river, where there is no crossing, is also capable of visualising other things that do not exist.

If their exestence is desirable or explanatory then the belief that they are real is easy to explain.

Rational skepticism is a form of mind training that helps to counteract this tendency and can be adopted by ANYONE.
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Re: Atheism, a genetic defect?

#15  Postby Scot Dutchy » Apr 19, 2010 1:19 pm

CookieJon wrote:
Whether or not God exists, it’s apparent that belief in God is good for humankind.


Is it? I'd have thought that was at least debatable.

We may be genetically programmed for religious belief because religion offers significant species-wide survival benefits, like reduced stress and reduced decision-making errors


So believing in something "whether or not" it exists isn't an "error"? :what:


Dont start :doh: You are falling into Seth's arguments. It is not worth going there because you will end with a thread of over 100 pages and no conclusion. :shock:
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Re: Atheism, a genetic defect?

#16  Postby Lazar » Apr 19, 2010 1:25 pm

blackarmada wrote:I would think that the ability to question perceptions would be a desired genetic trait than a defect really...


Yes and no. It depends what outcome you are interested in. People with depression are often better at judging 'reality' than non-depressed people. Sometimes it is an advantage to your well-being not to see the world for how it is. Then again if you don't put much stock in well-being as the ultimate goal of humanity then being happier at the cost of not seeing the world for what it is is questionable.
A great video on this tension can be found at TED talks here.
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Re: Atheism, a genetic defect?

#17  Postby Sityl » Apr 19, 2010 1:26 pm

Seth wrote:Atheists have long been unable to resolve the conundrum of why religion is so ubiquitous and so persistent in human society.


:rofl:

Just like doctors have long been unable to resolve the conundrum of why the cold virus is so ubiquitous and so persistent in the human populace, amirite?

Just because it's common, doesn't mean it's beneficial.
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Re: Atheism, a genetic defect?

#18  Postby CookieJon » Apr 19, 2010 1:34 pm

Scot Dutchy wrote:
CookieJon wrote:
Whether or not God exists, it’s apparent that belief in God is good for humankind.


Is it? I'd have thought that was at least debatable.

We may be genetically programmed for religious belief because religion offers significant species-wide survival benefits, like reduced stress and reduced decision-making errors


So believing in something "whether or not" it exists isn't an "error"? :what:


Dont start :doh: You are falling into Seth's arguments. It is not worth going there because you will end with a thread of over 100 pages and no conclusion. :shock:


Hehe... I've learned with Seth it's best just to lob occasional pot-shots from the sidelines. Besides, he's not in this thread!

And as for threads with no conclusions - are you suggesting the mods shut the whole forum down or what? :whistle:
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Re: Atheism, a genetic defect?

#19  Postby CookieJon » Apr 19, 2010 1:37 pm

num1cubfn wrote:
Seth wrote:Atheists have long been unable to resolve the conundrum of why religion is so ubiquitous and so persistent in human society.


:rofl:

Just like doctors have long been unable to resolve the conundrum of why the cold virus is so ubiquitous and so persistent in the human populace, amirite?

Just because it's common, doesn't mean it's beneficial.


Indeed. 98% of population with an IQ of less than 130? Ignorance is bliss, as everyone knows, so it's obvious the smarty pants amongst us are genetically defective.
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Re: Atheism, a genetic defect?

#20  Postby Scot Dutchy » Apr 19, 2010 1:41 pm

Hehe... I've learned with Seth it's best just to lob occasional pot-shots from the sidelines. Besides, he's not in this thread!

And as for threads with no conclusions - are you suggesting the mods shut the whole forum down or what?


Of course not but in a normal regular discussion one does tend to learn something new or experience a new opening in the discussion. Some of these non conclusive threads tend to be like a loop of tape on an old fashioned tape recorder that just keeps going round and round and round .............. :eh:
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