Canadian Atheists Are Stable

An article in the Calgary Herald (Canada) states:

Despite the popularity of religion-bashing books like Christopher Hitchens’ God is Not Great and Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, the ranks of self-proclaimed Canadian atheists has remained steady during the last 30 years.

This is according to a new paper called “Nevers, Nones and Nots” (DOC) written by University of Lethbridge sociologist Reg Bibby.

Bibby, who has been studying Canadian religious and societal trends for three decades, says seven per cent of respondents to his latest national survey, taken in 2005, identified themselves as atheists, virtually unchanged from a comparable 1975 study.

That’s surprising. This also stood out:

Bibby says his data analysis, drawn from a sampling of about 1,600, including more than 600 Albertans, shows it’s difficult to stereotype the typical Canadian non-believer.

“They tend to come equally from across the economic spectrum. They are no more likely to be university graduates than to have limited levels of education,” Bibby notes.

Atheists in Canada are not more likely to be university graduates.

Both those results show a huge difference from America, where studies have shown that the more formal education (PDF, page 5) someone gets, the less religious the person tends to be. Also, American atheists, as a percentage of the total population, seem to be on the rise.

The Herald article ends with this mention of atheists who aren’t rocking the boat:

Bibby says 46 per cent of atheist respondents agreed with the statement that, “religious groups still have a role to play in Canadian lives” while 19 per cent say they’d be open to greater involvement in religious groups. “If they could find it worthwhile for themselves or their families.” He thinks that’s a reflection of Canada’s legendary collective tolerance.

“You may be a non-believer but that doesn’t mean you’re going to trash your grandma’s long-held beliefs when you get together for a family reunion,” Bibby says.

I can’t speak for the 19%, but the statement that 46% of Canadian atheists agree with seems very vague. For all we know, those atheist regard religious groups as having a negative role to play in Canadian lives. It sounds more like a fact — you accept the statement or you don’t — instead of an opinion that you could agree or disagree with.


[tags]atheist, atheism, Calgary Herald, Christopher Hitchens, God is Not Great, Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, Nevers Nones and Nots, University of Lethbridge, Reg Bibby, Canada[/tags]

  • miller

    The poll questions seem a little silly. I would have to answer “yes” to the second question, since I would indeed be open if I thought it worthwhile, even though I don’t think it will ever be worthwhile.

    Anyways, I wouldn’t be surprised if atheism has a different character outside of the US.

  • http://www.skepchick.org writerdd

    I think Alberta is the most conservative and religious province in Canada. Would the large number of Albertans in the sample skew the results?

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    I wouldn’t get too down due to polls. They are notoriously unreliable and often slanted. For example, the often touted great hope of atheism bragged about, Britain has polls that show more than 70% of people there consider themselves Christians.

    There will always be atheists, at least I hope there will be since I’m toying with a satire that depends on that assumption. But there isn’t any evidence that the percentage of them is likely to be anywhere near an effective majority ever. The great hope of winning converts to the fundamentalist form so much in fashion now isn’t likely to come true, it’s pie on the ground, you might say. As things fall apart I’d expect the percentage of atheists will fall dramatically, those left would do better under liberalism than the alternative fundamentalism. Though I expect Dawkins and the rest who have made loads of money by offending lots of people for no good reason won’t suffer in any case.

  • http://themousesnest.blogspot.com Mouse

    I was going to make the same comment as writerdd. Alberta is the most conservative area of Canada; it also doesn’t have 1/3 of Canada’s population–the actual proportion is closer to 1/10.

  • PrimateIR

    As things fall apart I’d expect the percentage of atheists will fall dramatically, those left would do better under liberalism than the alternative fundamentalism.

    I would expect that as well. Every civilization in the world has religion and chimpanzees have burial rituals.

    Our evolutionary “trick” of extreme pattern recognition and has a quirky misfire that makes us crave meaning and create it even when none exits. As Rome falls so to will the level of education and with it, reason. But the craving will remain.

    It’s in our genes to seek his noodley appendage. It will never go away.

  • http://terahertz.wordpress.com THz

    I am from Calgary, and am currently studying in Edmonton (both in Alberta). I can say we are the first province to have a permanent Creation Science museum, and that we have a growing evangelical movement. Our province however is the second least religious, after BC (from StatsCan). I can tell there’s a growing organization of Canadian atheists at least among my demographic. I am leading a new student group for Atheists and Agnostics here at the UofA and know another one is starting at the U of Calgary in the fall. So this might be a bit of a misleading article.

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    It’s in our genes to seek his noodley appendage. It will never go away.

    Yes. I’ve heard that before. Where is this genetic tendency located? Which gene and, if you are going where I expect, where is or are the modules that govern the expression of this or these superstition genes? And, tell us the story from the Pleistocene as to why this is an advantageous adaptation. Dawkins said it was due to good little cave children listening to their parents, based on, as few realize, absolutely nothing but his need to have a story to tell. For all he knows, the most successful cave children were disobedient hellions.

    I’ve been doing some research into how Dawkins and the other eps have brought us from science based on physical evidence back to “science” based on story telling out of purely self-serving necessity. You know, the kind of stuff medieval science was based on. And this is counted as progress by those with a superficial view of science.

    Don’t get me started on the pseudo-science of evolutionary psychology.

    Oh, and as to the idea that a genetic basis for “religion”, which I doubt exists. It would be used by the most fundamentalist of religionists to “prove” that there was a God who so wanted to be known to us that a biological mechanism for belief is encoded in our very molecules. Somehow Dawkins and Dennett and just about anyone I’ve heard confidently asserting the existence of these “genes” seem to miss that a God who created and controls the whole shebang would be able to do some piddling little arranging of DNA to make such a mechanism. It would be a pretty effective argument for religionists to use among those as unthinking as the biological determinists. Irony abounds.

  • Richard Wade

    Don’t get me started on the pseudo-science of evolutionary psychology.

    You don’t need anyone to get you started on your disapproval rants. You’re completely a self-starter. You can get going about your favorite villains from topics where no one else can make the connection:

    Olvie at a restaurant:

    Waiter: “Sir, have you decided on your order?”
    Olvie: “Yes, I’ll have a steak as big as Richard Dawkins’ ego.”
    Waiter: “Sir?”
    Olvie: “Yes, the big steak, cooked as rare as Christopher Hitchens’ humility.”
    Waiter: “Uh, just as you say, sir. I’ll bring your salad.”
    Olvie: “Good. And pile on enough Bleu Cheese to cover up James Randi’s phony pseudoskepticism.”
    Waiter: “I’m sorry sir, I really don’t know what you’re talking about.”
    Olvie: “You don’t? Well, here, have a free copy of my book, The Encyclopedia of Everything I Disapprove of.”
    Waiter: “Wow, this is a really big, thick book. How do you pronounce that name…Ohl…vuhlz…Olive Oil?”
    Olvie: “Never mind, never mind. Just bring my salad. And a chilled fork, like the tongues of blog atheists.”
    Waiter: “Uh, okay, whatever you say sir, and thanks for the really big, thick book, I think.”

    Olvie at the auto mechanic’s:

    Mechanic: Ya got a puncture in yer right front tire.”
    Olvie: Yes, I hit a pothole as big as Richard Dawkins’ ego…”

    olvlzl, I always read your comments because wedged in between the Johnny-One-Note tape recorded disapproval droning about D,D,H,H,R,& CSICOP you often have very interesting and insightful things to say. I’m no devoted fan of Dawkins, Harris et al. Some of what they say is crap. But even a broken clock gets to be right twice every day, and often you portray them as the Lords of Lies. I also agree that atheists should be as skeptical and demanding of their own ranks as they are of theists, and some of them slip into being true believers of disbelief. They should be discriminating in their arguments, and not casually use a broad brush to discredit and discount those with whom they disagree. But you sometimes make the same kind of disdainful, blanket dismissals of them that you object to when they do it to others.

    The repetition and the contempt in your tone weaken your persuasiveness.

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    Richard Wade, the superstition that we are the mere expressions of our genes is sufficiently implanted in the pop culture of the United States, wonderful what an education can do for you in a corporate state, that ill informed expressions of it are constant. It’s one of the more interesting things I’ve noticed about the blogs that the concept of the “meme”, invented out of thin air to try to patch up ep and rejected by many if not most scientists, is accepted as gospel truth. Dawkins the materialist fundamentalist, the prophet of scientism, is certainly the one who has done the most to popularize this “science” which has no physical evidence attached to it and the irony of that is certainly not something that should go unmentioned. Dennett, Dawkins’ shizu, is one of the few still holding a torch for it.

    Why isn’t it considered fair to bring up the scientific lapses of these guys, one a former scientist (when is the last time he published original work?) another his foremost propagandist?

    While you will probably disagree, looking over the long history of biological determinism, the horrors that that “science” has produced and yet the latest reintroduction of it, complete with the merest suggestion by Dawkins that we might reconsider eugenics identifies it as in important thing to discuss whenever anyone asserts the junk science.

  • Siamang

    Richard,

    Since you mentioned Christopher Hitchens, I must let you know that it’s Olvie’s policy whenever Hitch is mentioned to point out that he once spoke kindly of a neo-nazi, or something like that, regarding some convoluted book deal where he was arguing something about freedom of speech or something….

    Anyway, since it’s completely off-topic and character-assasinationy and really not germane to the arguments for or against atheism, Olvie merely brings it up as a matter of personal policy.

    Because it’s important to have personal policies.

  • Siamang

    It’s one of the more interesting things I’ve noticed about the blogs that the concept of the “meme”, invented out of thin air to try to patch up ep and rejected by many if not most scientists, is accepted as gospel truth.

    As you’ve said, dozens of times, even when nobody but you brings up the word “meme.” As you’ve done in this thread.

  • miller

    I disagree with you on many points, olvlzl, but I happen to agree with you on the concept of “memes.” It is not useful to analogize ideas to evolution, since unlike life, ideas can very well be created from nothing, and can be extensively hybridized. And not everything in life is genetic or memetic.

  • Richard Wade

    olvlzl, I wasn’t saying that what you say isn’t fair, I was saying that the way you say things works against your persuasiveness. Your response is yet another example: Pet peeves brought up out of thin air that we’ve heard you repeat many times before, delivered with a superior, contemptuous tone. Yeah, yeah there’s a lot of junk science, a lot of pop nonsense, and it should be challenged when it’s actually on topic. But the Dirty D’s and the Hateful H’s aren’t the sole perpetrators, and they aren’t evil incarnate.

    I give up. I may have to start scrolling past your comments as well as other’s responses to you. There’s too much oyster to search through for the pearls of wisdom.

  • http://steelmansmusings.blogspot.com Steelman

    Olvie at a restaurant:

    LOL!
    Pretty good, Richard. However, I did feel slightly shortchanged since there was no reference to his “looking into” or “researching” Paul Kurtz’s nefarious (guilt by) association with Corliss Lamont. Perhaps you were so busy mentally denying the Mars Effect that it slipped your mind? :)

    I agree with you that olvlzl sometimes says things of value; things I agree with. Unfortunately, even when I’ve acknowledged this in a reply, his ultra-contrarian nature prompts him to find a way to shift the conversation toward disagreement. It’s olvlzl against the world.

  • monkeymind

    Much as I often regret olvzl’s hectoring tone and his tendency to make repeated assertions without specific examples, I agree with him about memes and about most of what passes itself off as evolutionary psychology.
    Memes were never anything more than a very very bad metaphor for how cultural transmission occurs. It’s an example of how even supposedly smart rational people can reify their metaphors, while smugly criticizing religious people for doing the same thing. For a solid scientific critique of meme theory (with actual data!!) google “scott atran trouble with memes”

    I also agree with olvzl that most of what you encounter dressed up as science under the name “evolutionary psychology” is utter bosh with an ideological agenda. Maybe there is some actual research going on in the field, but most of what gets into the press are mindless generalizations about sex differences with the non-subtle message to women “quit yer bitchin’ about equality.” Read this deconstruction by a real scientist of some tripe Psychology Today published by 2 evolutionary psychologists:

  • Richard Wade

    I didn’t want to start a gang-up on olvlzl, and I’m glad that people are for the most part acknowledging his often adroit and pertinent remarks. My comment was intended as a respectful poke in the ribs. He says things that I find valuable even when I don’t agree. It’s just when the soapbox comes out I sigh and walk away. Let’s get off his back now.

  • PrimateIR

    Hi monkeymind,

    Great link.

    Still I don’t see how it is a stretch to notice that humans exhibit a behavior in every culture and conclude that there isn’t something hardwired. If in every culture a smile denotes happiness, is it not reasonable to assume that it is instinctive to smile?

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    Siamang, about Hitchens, it wasn’t just once. He was a virtual David Irving groupie for a while. And, as it is always necessary to point out to Hitchens’ fan club, it was David Irving who was trying to suppress Deborah Lipstadt’s book by bringing the lawsuit he lost so ignominiously. Did you miss the trial? It was all over the papers and magazines. And as for Hitch, I didn’t even mention his support for the French Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson.

    Steelman, Kurtz has quite enough guilt without the Lamont association, which I’d just love to know more about. Since Corliss was independently wealthy – and quite able to survive the McCarthy years, unlike many others who stood up to him, – it invites curiosity. And I am not a contrarian, just someone who is fed up with hearing the idiotic idea that “genes” are responsible for everything. Dennett, if you read Darwin’s Dangerous Idea seemed to think that they were responsible for literally everything in the universe. I did have a rather involved go round on biological determinism a couple of days ago so the topic was something on my mind.

    I never claimed that Dawkins, Dennett and Hitchens were responsible for all the evil in the universe, just enough to make conversation over. What have I said about any of them that wasn’t true?

  • http://journals.aol.ca/plittle/AuroraWalkingVacation/ Paul

    I don’t think that atheism is on the rise in America. I think it more likely that the number of people willing to admit to being an atheist is on the rise. Here in Canada, there has never been a religious right with the political and social power to frighten people into hiding their true colours. Instead of a Bible Belt, we have a Bible Necktie, and it is very conservative (fashionability speaking) and nobody really pays it much attention. So atheists in Canada have never felt uncomfortable in speaking out about their beliefs (or lack thereof).

  • Karen

    Richard Wade,

    I am rolling on the floor LMAO right now!

    Can I put you on retainer? ;-)

  • Logos

    here is my impression of olvlzl
    BITCHBITCHBITCHBITCHBITCHBITCHBITCHBITCHBITCHBITCHBITCHBITCHBITCH

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    Well, I’m glad I made some impression on you, Logos. I can’t really say you have on me.

    Care to refute my many errors?

    And, Richard, I’ve got big shoulders. It doesn’t bother me one bit.

  • Logos

    Sorry olvlzl, I don’t talk to Donkey Dicks!

  • monkeymind

    Still I don’t see how it is a stretch to notice that humans exhibit a behavior in every culture and conclude that there isn’t something hardwired. If in every culture a smile denotes happiness, is it not reasonable to assume that it is instinctive to smile?

    That does seem reasonable. There are some basics of human behavior that could be legitimately called universal. The problem comes in assuming that behaviors are universals without research, and assume that all universals have adaptive value. Certain behavioral tendencies could just be the equivalent of male nipples.
    Smiling as a sign of happiness does seem to be universal. But smiles can mean different things across cultures and within cultures. Men can sometimes assume that a woman’s friendly smile is a sexual invitation. When I worked in refugee resettlement, Europeans complained that Asians smiled and laughed inappropriately in tense or awkward situations. Ethiopians complained that both Europeans and Asians laughed and joked too much in ESL class – learning was serious business.

  • Woodwose

    The article is a good example of the “Figures don’t lie, but liars can figure” school. The low values reported in the story do not agree with Stats Canada’s studies based on much wider responses from census data. In the report entitled “Major religious denominations, Alberta, 1991 and 2001″ both the absolute numbers of “No religion” and percentage repondents increased by more than 20%.

    More significantly the increase from the early (pre-1971) values of

  • Woodwose

    Hmm… my note got truncated.

    I had gone on to say that the Stats Canada data put “No Religion” responders at 3rd place at 23% just behind Protestants (38%), almost tied with Roman Catholics (26%). The 1971 data put NRs at

  • Richard Wade

    Don’t give up, Woodwose. This is interesting.

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    Still I don’t see how it is a stretch to notice that humans exhibit a behavior in every culture and conclude that there isn’t something hardwired.

    How complex a behavior? Is it a behavior that has a wide variability in expression or something that is basic to our shared biological structure? It’s when something is identified as a “behavior” and assumed to be the result of hardwiring that the problems begin. “Religion” was the “behavior” that got this going in the first place. Well, we use one word to describe an enormously varied set of behaviors, between different religions and, furthermore, within those religions. This “behavior” is remarkable for its variety in even the most basic practices and teachings. I don’t think there is any one thing that is “religion” and there is no reason to assume that there is an actual piece of genetic code in our cells that finds its expression as “religious belief”.

    The idea that science can exist with no physical evidence, with made up stories about behaviors in people who have left absolutely no trace of their behavior and to invent an entirely non-physical entity, “memes” to try to make up the huge gaps in the attempt is not only bad for science, it’s dangerous. And Dawkins did propose the idea of reconsidering eugenics. With his proven ignorance of political reality and his tenuous grasp and dismissal of history his idea that modern eugenics wouldn’t be used for exactly what it was in the past should disqualify him as a responsible public figure. Do you really think it would be a good idea to give the conservative American states the ability to coerce or, maybe, even force sterilizations on people. And don’t think you could hold the line against that. Once people became comfortable with the idea that would follow.

    The tendency with biological determinists is to see people as objects. History, with its real record of the past in place of ep’s Just So Stories, shows what happens when people are considered objects. It’s the short period of the last two hundred years that the idea of people as objects has subsided iin some places. I don’t think it’s responsible to risk repeating that history.

  • PrimateIR

    Smiling as a sign of happiness does seem to be universal. But smiles can mean different things across cultures and within cultures.

    Yes, humor is culture specific, but they are still denoting joy. And I am not saying that the religions that appear are the same, but it is still humans embracing magic.

    I do not think it is a out of line to say that a desire for to escape negative events is innate in animals. And I think you would be hard pressed to find a species that was better at elaborate pattern recognition than a primate. So for primates the ability to predict the logical course of events is extended far into the future – we understand that we will die a long time before it happens (and apparently so do chimpanzees).

    Stress at the prospect of death>>>Abate the pain by embracing magic>>>Ancestor worship>>Spirits>>>Gods>>>>God.

    And there you have it – religion in every culture on earth.

    Otherwise I am at a loss to explain persistent reassurance of religion among humans and other primates….but certainly open to suggestion.

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    PrimateIR, your proposed geneology of religion isn’t exactly science, is it. The fact that you are at a loss to explain the persistence of religion among humans might be something that troubles you but your explaination isn’t any better than a bar stool conversation. Unfortunately, that’s about the levell of most of the “science” in this area. Someone else might say that maybe atheists are genetically deficient and lack the “belief gene” that is so popularly believed in among atheists. Maybe the Calvinists would say that is proof that you aren’t among the elect and that it is all part of the predestination that John Calvin taught. Maybe this or that or the other idea entirely unsupported by any actual physical evidence. Most people believe in some religion. Maybe atheists just lack the ability to percieve things that the vast majority of people who are religious can see … Why not? There isn’t any lack of assertion that religious believers are deficient in some way among pop atheists.

    None of these ideas are remotely science and, as I said before, I don’t believe any of them. The desire for an explaination doesn’t make up for the assertion that the explainatory myth isn’t based in anything but guesswork on the basis of your previous desires being confirmed. You might be able to see that but a very large number of other people can’t.

  • PrimateIR

    The fact that you are at a loss to explain the persistence of religion among humans might be something that troubles you but your explanation isn’t any better than a bar stool conversation.

    LOL! olvlzl that’s all any of this is …. but, whether we conduct a bar stool conversation or heavy scientific discourse – insults are nothing more than a sign that you are frustrated and without a good rebuttal.

  • Logos

    PrimateIR,olvlzl is nothing but a pig’s rectum just ignore her!

  • monkeymind

    your explanation isn’t any better than a bar stool conversation.

    LOL! olvlzl that’s all any of this is

    Please may I have a triple Margarita:?

    Logos, you’re not exactly living up to your handle.

  • Logos

    monkeymind, please let us focus on our common enemy-olvlzl

  • PrimateIR

    Check it out you guys. We are all wrong. According to the Times we are a computer simulation.

    Until I talked to Nick Bostrom, a philosopher at Oxford University, it never occurred to me that our universe might be somebody else’s hobby. I hadn’t imagined that the omniscient, omnipotent creator of the heavens and earth could be an advanced version of a guy who spends his weekends building model railroads or overseeing video-game worlds like the Sims.

    But now it seems quite possible. In fact, if you accept a pretty reasonable assumption of Dr. Bostrom’s, it is almost a mathematical certainty that we are living in someone else’s computer simulation.

    I hope we’re not running on the DS.

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    Please may I have a triple Margarita:?

    Alas, monkeymind, I’m on allergy meds and can’t drink. I don’t mind if you do, though.

    PrimateIR, since I don’t pretend that you can answer questions such as the persistence of religious belief by science I feel no frustration at the lack of evidence. I presented three alternative explanations to your speculation which too no time at all to think up and could come up with more.

    I’m beginning to get the feeling that a lot of the alleged devotion to science here doesn’t extend to having the first idea of what science does do and can’t do.

    Logos, as eloquent as always.

  • Richard Wade

    monkeymind, please let us focus on our common enemy-olvlzl

    Logos, our common enemy is ignorance. By “our” I mean everyone, including olvlzl. Your devolving into the use of vulgar, junior high school name-calling degrades everyone’s efforts to work ignorance out of the dialogue. It is not worthy of you. In the past you have made useful observations and expressed them with dignity. Please go to your room and calm down, or sober up, or have a good cry, or talk to a friend, or whatever it takes to get your hostile vitriol out of your system, and then come back and contribute positively to the conversation as we have all seen you do.

  • monkeymind

    Hear, hear Richard. Let’s stick to constructive criticism.

  • Richard Wade

    olvlzl, forgive me if I have missed it, but do you have an idea to explain the persistence of religious belief?

  • Woodwose

    My comments went on that the Stats Canada data showed a growth from 1971 (

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    Richard Wade, none that I’d try to pass of as science. I would imagine that there is not one answer. I don’t have great faith in the idea that people are monolithic. In many it is a response to a personal experience of some kind that is meaningful to them, which is accessible to them alone and which others try to characterize at the risk of presuming too much. People have the right to come to conclusions about their own experience, the experiences are theirs alone. I’ve known very intelligent, deeply religious people who could argue all of us into the ground.

    I’m still trying to account for the persistence of the belief that you can have science without any physical evidence among those who believe themselves to be rigorous devotees of scientific procedures. That’s a much less mysterious area of life but not one I’m any farther along in explaining.

  • Logos

    olvlzl, is like a vicious parasite consuming this site! As this is something to painful for me to witness I will no longer visit here. Let me leave all of you with a video of her consuming something else http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jp0-D2NO1Tc&mode=related&search=

  • Richard Wade

    olvlzl,
    I agree that genuine science must be grounded in empirical evidence, and that conjecture, supposition or speculation should not be portrayed as fully developed science. But at the same time hypotheses that eventually find strong evidence for their support often start out as conjecture, supposition or speculation. For science to grow it must be permitted room for creativity. People who are established in a science have the right to “wonder out loud,” to say “suppose that…” Perhaps they don’t go to enough trouble to qualify what they’re saying as conjecture in every third sentence, and so some readers will accuse them of putting it forth with the same weight of credibility as the science that made them notable. As long as they make a reasonable effort to concede that their half-gelled propositions are not yet supported by much or any evidence, I think it is not fair to expect that everything that comes out of a scientist’s mouth has to be solid, empirically backed science.

    So ideas like memes or evolutionary psychology will be put forth and bounced around by people. Some will embrace them too soon, asserting that they answer all the questions. Others will remain tentative and skeptical, while still others will reject them vociferously because they are reminded of some unfortunate event in history that they say will be repeated, or some other dire implication. The two groups on the opposite ends tend to get a bit emotionally caught up in their own conjectures about the conjectures. The process may take a few years, but in the end if no one comes up with any actual evidence, the ideas wither and die. If some evidence is found, the ideas almost always have to be modified and the search/debate continues. It’s not a tidy process, but creativity seldom is.

  • Richard Wade

    Logos, may your life go well.

  • miller

    Richard Wade, you just said what I was thinking, only much more articulately.

  • Richard Wade

    Yeah, I have an annoying habit of doing that.

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    Richard Wade, I think your picture of the ep, meme situation is rather too idealistic. I’m old enough to remember the time when a similar level of “science” built a huge amount of “evidence” to back up the Freudian and then the Behaviorist fads in psychology. Even with all their “science” I don’t see that the ep fad is any more grounded in science. Someone I read recently pointed out that the sociobiology fad that it superseded
    at least dealt in the here and now and didn’t make up explanatory myths of a period for which absolutely no data is available. Just because the explanations seem to make sense doesn’t mean they are true. The example I gave above, that despite the great chair For the Public Understanding of Science’s assertion that Pleistocene children who listened to their parents had a reproductive advantage, and so passed on his “faith gene(s)” it could well be children who were disobedient and didn’t listen to their parents who had more children. And his assumption is that his story would have been true generally when there isn’t any evidence. Certainly many children today are born of children who don’t listen to their parents.

    The point is that it’s not science no matter how convenient it is for universities to give in to the departments and allows them to call what they do science. While there is real science in psychology, the scientists aren’t the public face or voice of their profession. While their work has the distinct advantage of having some degree of science to back it up, it is insufficiently easy and imaginatively engaging to attract the most attention. The story tellers are the great success of the behavioral and social sciences and the story tellers who don’t practice science are allowed the name of “scientist” with all the honors and assumptions of virtue that come with that word. As others have pointed out, our society gives them a great deal of power. As we discuss this, there are still Freudian “therapists” who are practicing their cult and charging people enormous amounts of money, at times screwing up their lives as badly as any religious cult, with the full backing of the therapeutic-legal establishment. I don’t know if there are still “Behavioral therapists” applying electric shock to gay men, but I remember when that was going on. God knows what ep is going to do but with the number of eps who are wedded to reactionary politics and Dawkins talking about eugenics again I dread to think of what is likely to happen. The discussions I’ve read on atheist blogs on the subject after Dawkins made his pronouncement were generally short on a knowledge of recent history and long on adoring acceptance.

    Logos, dear, olvlzl is an old, gay, grumpy man. He has always identified himself as such for such he is. While I shouldn’t speculate on your identity, I have to tell you that I picture you as a late adolescent male who doesn’t like to read much and who rearranges prejudice in place of reasoning. I hope I’m wrong but until I see evidence I’m stuck with that unfortunate impression.

    It doesn’t bother me what you call me, I’ve been called more creative names. I’d be more concerned with self-regarding, superficial people who enjoy the burgeoning field of hate talk that is the primary flavor of the atheist blogs as parasites. But, considering what they feed on, maybe saprophytes would be a better word for the the pop-atheist hate chorus.


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