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New Newsweek poll data on belief in America
Posted: 02 April 2007 08:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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Before this becomes just a discussion about memetics and genetics (an interesting topic that should have its own thread) I want to see what people think about the new Newsweek Polling data:

Do you think it means that secularism and humanism are making advances?

Does this suggest that there is a market among young people the “movement” so far has been unsuccessful at tapping, or is it a new market? (That more young people say theyre accepting of the atheists they know, and that they know at least one person so self-identified)

Do you think atheists are more accepted today as the data suggests? I wonder how much of that is due to the recent blockbuster books by Dawkins and Dennett. . . .

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Posted: 02 April 2007 08:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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DJ,

Sorry to get off track here. Personally, I’m pretty suspicious of polls. Great example of lying with statistics, very susceptible to how you ask the questions, etc. I live in the uberliberal San Francisco area, and though I don’t encounter much active hostility, there’s no question I’m in a tiny minority (10% would be optimistic) as far as lack of religious belief and secularist/scientific naturalist outlook. I’m in my early 40s, so I have no idea what “young” people are thinking these days. I’ve also lived in South Carolina, Texas, and Pennsylvania, and our “cultural competitors” certainly own the territory there to an even greater extent, in my non-scientific personal experience. And though I’ve heard the notion before that some magic number allows a minority to achieve a qualitatively greater visibility and acceptance, I’m suspicious of it as well.

That said, I think secular/rationalist thinking is alive and well, dominating day-to-day activities for people who think they are religious but really limit theri faith to a pretty small territory in their lives. I think appealing to the common ground with such people, showing them that God et al are less necessary than they think and that they already use the scientific outlook and its products everyday far more than the supernaturalist outlook is a better entre into greater acceptance of atheism than some of the inflammatory “blockbusters” out lately. I’m happy to see atheism get greater visibility, but I’m not convinced the kind of image Dawkins and Harris, in particular, project doesn’t just feed into the fears and stereotypes of atheism and do as much harm as good. Just IMHO.

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Posted: 02 April 2007 02:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
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What he said mostly.

Though since I live in Hong Kong I have a very different picture of what people think. Here it seems to me (no statistics) that Christianity is taking more power, even though supposedly it is the 10% minority. There has been recent executive action, fierce debate and attempts at anti homosexual legislation mostly fueled by a minority of Christians.

My staff (ranging from 18 to 28 ) all say they don’t believe in a god, but it seems more to me like apathy than reason. They still do all sorts of other superstitious things to address supernatural concerns. They are living in what appears to be a mostly messed up world or war, greed, and global warming, where their future is very uncertain, where their fathers and their fathers gods have all failed to inspire.

And I am not a big fan of Dawkins or Harris for outreach. I believe they are choir warmers, and in such can rally the troops, but probably do as much harm as good in public outreach. I think Krause, Tyson, and Shermer are much better at reaching out, but none of them is Sagan, sad to say.

But technology is making advances! And it is hard to sit in front of your 43” plasma display playing Xbox games while smsing your friends in your air conditioned room eating high tech foods, able at any given moment to instantly google any truth claim, and not at some level realize that science, reason and human ingenuity has provided real answers and real comfort and real benefit to us here and now.

The Catholics knew, they forbid people from reading the bible, they knew that technology would undo the power of their dogma.

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Posted: 03 April 2007 08:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
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okay, an indian perspective. i was a sceptic as a child & firm atheist now, but was astounded when in early 90’s i entered college (a medical school no less) & found people so fervently practising their religion that i sometimes scared the hell out of me. daily temple visits (it was a mostly Hindu group, as is the country) fierce fasting & most shocking, the strict adherence of various sects that seemed to be bordering on cults….. after the relatively liberal 80’s with much left leaning, it seemed as if it was a passing trend. but i was wrong.

the current decade has to be the most zealous in independent india. one of the worst riots after partition is just one part of it. the television is dominate by soap operas (highest TRP’s, cosistently for several years) that denegrate women, promote hyper-religiosity & actively promote superstition, not just the religion. imagine an americnl series seriously showing that a horse-shoe nailed to a door falls off & that foretells that something realy bad os going to happen

the most popular non-fiction on tv is a holy man who teaches “yoga”... nothing wrong with that, right? nothing intrinsicaly, except he claims it cures all kinds of maladies including organ failures & cancers, even. & his cult is growing. i have encountered people who have stopped treatment because he has convinced them (thru TV!!!) that yoga will give them better results, & it does not, but they’ll die before they take modern medicine again (here its WESTERN medicine)

just a few examples…. many many more torture me daily….  mind you all these things are done by the educated people, lets not even talk about the villagers, the poor & the tribals

& all this in a country that’s experiencing unprecedented growth due to technology & free markets

what the hell is wrong with the world?

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Posted: 03 April 2007 10:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
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[quote author=“George Benedik”][quote author=“mckenzievmd”]The relationship between genetics and mental ability is very poorly understood, but I will be stunned if it turns out to be anywhere near as simple and straightforward as “smart people have smart kids and dumb people have dumb kids).

Tall people have tall kids and short people have short kids. I don’t see why we should expect anything less when instead of bones we look at the brain. (We agree that “whatever the hell” intelligence is, it is located in our brain, right?)

I think the truth lies somewhere in between.

Every now and then short people have a tall kid, and every now and then dumb people have a smart kid. I do think that these are generally exceptions to the rule.

I also think that class structure doesn’t always equal mental ability, but in America I think the correlation is stronger than in most places, because of the general social mobility that has been present here for generations.

In general, I think that more intelligent people rise to the top here and less intelligent ones sink to the bottom. Of course there will always be exceptions, but in the majority of cases this seems to be true.

I saw a study one time, which I wish I could find again, that mapped IQ and economic birth status to economic status at age 50.

What the study found was that birth social status was the primary indicator of economic status at age 50, not IQ, however, it also found that IQ played a large role in moving up in economic status.

In other words:

People who were born poor but had a high IQ generally moved up significantly in economic status.

People born poor with a low IQ generally stayed the same or went lower.

People born wealthy with a high IQ generally stayed wealthy or got more wealthy.

People born wealthy with a low IQ generally stayed about the same or went down slightly.

People with an average IQ generally stayed at the exact same economic status they were born into.

So, overall, most people died in the same economic status that they were born into, but people with higher IQs tended to move up in economic status, while people with low IQs tended to move down.

This should be no big shocker.

What this means though is that people with low IQs tend to pool at the bottom, and people with high IQs tend to get out of low income status.

It should be no shocker that more poor people have low IQs than wealthy people.

Mental ability comes from both “nurture” and “nature”, but low income people also tend to offer lower quality nurture, especially in America, because low income people in America not to be there due to overwhelming national problems or oppression, as in some places, but simply due to their lack of skills, etc., which tend to be due to low IQ, etc., etc.

So, people born low income families are more likely to be genetically predisposed to be of lower IQ, and more likely to have a less helpful environment as well.

Of course there is always variation, so it’s not like anything is 100%, but when you talk about trends, I think that what George says unfortunately has some merit. Lower income people tend to have more kids. Lower income people tend to be of lower IQ. Lower income people tend to have children of lower IQ. It’s a tendency, its not an iron law that is never contradicted, but it is a tendency.

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Posted: 03 April 2007 11:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
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So, people born low income families are more likely to be genetically predisposed to be of lower IQ, and more likely to have a less helpful environment as well.

Of course there is always variation, so it’s not like anything is 100%, but when you talk about trends, I think that what George says unfortunately has some merit. Lower income people tend to have more kids. Lower income people tend to be of lower IQ. Lower income people tend to have children of lower IQ. It’s a tendency, its not an iron law that is never contradicted, but it is a tendency.
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These are all perfectly reasonable assertions, but I’d like to see data that show they are acually true, not just intuitively reasonable. I am convinced poor people have more children, but I think the areas that need better support are:
1. relationship between genetics and IQ- heritablility figures for IQ are widely variable and it’s hard to control for confounding factors
2. true degree of social mobility and its causes-I suspect (though I have no data on this either) that you overestimate the true upward mobility possible based on ability, and I wonder how you turn a correlation with IQ (which itself has to be proved) into a cause-effect relationship.

Then, finally, what do we do with the outcome. If genetics play a minority role (as I believe), then we know we need to intervene with nurture-related programs to create greater socioeconomic equity. If we decide genetics play a majority role (as rationalrevolution and George seem to feel), then what are the implications for humanism and our positions on issues such as education/social welfare programs, etc? Do we not try as hard sinc eit’s pointless because we are going to naturally assort to our apprpriate social level based on ability (a vaguely social-Darwinist position w/ the flavor of laissez-faire libertarianism), orcan we find some use for the information that genes largely determine ability?

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Posted: 04 April 2007 08:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
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Just to be clear: I have split this topic into the present one and a new one on “Population Control” . That way we can keep both conversations going.

The split may not be perfect but I think captures about 90% of the important stuff ...

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