The Selfishness Gene

Skepticism and freethinking are usually regarded as signs of liberal and atheistic attitudes. After all, atheists are so unconvinced by the total lack of evidence for the existence of a supernatural deity that they are unwilling to believe simply because they have been instructed to have faith.

Since skepticism is indeed logically compatible with atheism, how is it that so many theists are convinced to accept claims for a deity for which there is no good evidence? Why is it that theists are more likely than atheists to be political and social conservatives? Why is it that theists are more likely than atheists to be denialists of science in general and of global warming in particular?

The answer, I think, is not merely that theists are statistically more likely than atheists to score lower on IQ tests or to lack a good education in science. The answer, it seems to me, is that conservative theists are more likely than liberal atheists to have inherited the equivalent of a 'selfishness gene' that makes them prone to favor emotionally appealing, though unsupported and illogical, arguments.


patrick said...

Here's a site I think you'll find a required read in tackling some of the ideas raised in this post:


Arcanum said...

Thanks for the url, Patrick.

Strongly worded material, but much what I meant to say. I shall have to give it a more thorough read some other time.

I scored 26 on the questionnaire, which merely proves what I already knew -- I'm not particularly authoritarian.

One of the early studies (Ainsworth et al) on parenting styles differentiated broadly between authoritarian (rule-enforcers), authoritative (rule-explainers), and permissive (no rules - indulgent or uninvolved) parenting styles. No great surprise that the children raised by authoritative parents fared best.

I strongly suspect that many right-wing parents employ authoritarian techniques.