Post-Christian Europe, part II

My post about Post-Christian Europe attracted several responses. Below I took the data from the chart rank ordering by belief in God. You note that as belief in God decreases, lack of belief in God or a Spirit increases as well, but belief in Spirit increases to a greater extent than lack of any belief at all.

Here is data from the least God-believing nation in the EU, Estonia,

Q: What religion is the dearest, most cherished for you?

* Lutheran 39%
* Orthodox 28%
* Roman Catholic 10%
* Taara Religion 6%
* Estonian Indigenous Religion/Estonian Native Religion 5%
* Baptist 5%
* Buddhism 4%
* Jehovah’s Witnesses 3%
* Pentecostalists 3%
* Old Believers 2%
* Hinduism 1%
* Mormonism 1%
* Islam less than 1%
* Other 4%
* None 19%

Note that 11% of Estonians are now explicit Neo-Pagans.

At Blogs for Bush Mark Noonan states:

Europeans aren’t having children. Without the impetus of belief in a definitive God who rules the universe, having children just becomes an expensive nusiance. Most European countries are suffering net loss in population – save for those countries which continue to allow mass immigration from Arab nations.

This is a common opinion. Secular European societies are dying. But this avoids an interesting point. There isn’t much of a correlation between European societies for birthrate and God belief. I acknowledge that within societies there is probably a positive correlation between religiosity and fecundity (aside from a few exceptions like South Korea, where greater religiosity predicts higher socioeconomic status), but as you note below there is a rather flat trendline, and that is birthrate normalized to the modal value (Ireland). Here are the values for the United States….

“Which of the following statements comes closest to your belief about God: you believe in God; you don’t believe in God, but you believe in some other universal spirit or higher power; or you don’t believe in either?”

God: 82%
Spirit: 9%
Neither: 8%
Unsure: 1%

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Brighter than Isaac Newton?

In his presentation for Beyond Belief 2006 Neil deGrasse Tyson offered Isaac Newton as his candidate for the most brilliant intellectual ever. Because he is trained as a physicist Tyson can be accused of some bias, but the impact on him personally was pretty obvious, he was emotionally moved just comprehending Newton’s genius. Myself, I would tend to agree with Tyson though these things are always subject to the various weights on your parameters. Who would you offer up? Of the ancients I believe that Archimedes is likely to have been a magician in the mold of Newton. Here is what the great polymath J.M. Keynes had to say of Sir Isaac Newton:

He was the last of the magicians, the last of the Babylonians and Sumerians, the last great mind which looked out on the visible and intellectual world with the same eyes as those who began to build our intellectual inheritance rather less than 10,000 years ago.

Snatch culture

Yesterday there was an interview with an author of a book about the rise of “raunch culture” among today’s youth on NPR. By coincidence yesterday was also the day that Britney Spears flashed her beaver to the world. Now, you might think that Spears isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, that she couldn’t anticipate that running around without underwear, wearing a skirt, and mugging for the paparazzi, would inevitably lead to some labial exposure. Oops, she did it again! Cultural weapons of mass destruction indeed. And I laughed when K-Fed asked for custody….

Update: Britney bares anus!

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The Black-White IQ Gap: Is It Closing? Will It Ever Go Away?

Update: video, audio and PDFs available

Charles Murray emailed me a notice for this today, so for those in the D.C. area:

Start: Tuesday, November 28, 2006 10:00 AM
End: Tuesday, November 28, 2006 12:00 PM
Location: Wohlstetter Conference Center, Twelfth Floor, AEI 1150 Seventeenth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036

For decades, the difference in the test scores of blacks and whites on the SAT, National Assessment of Educational Progress test, Armed Forces Qualification Test, and traditional IQ tests has been a vexed issue for American educational policy. Two of the leading scholars of this controversial topic, James R. Flynn of the University of Otago (New Zealand) and Charles Murray of AEI, will debate the causes of the difference, its implications, and recent trends. New studies of the subject by Professor Flynn and by Mr. Murray will be available for distribution at the session.


James R. Flynn, University of Otago
Charles Murray, AEI

Spore: The Video Game That Creationists Will Hate

Will Wright of The Sims and SimCity fame has been developing his new game Spore for over 6 years and the canvas he’s painting on is large indeed for the game begins with the player controlling the evolution of cells within a tidal pool and it progresses up the evolutionary ladder, with intermediate stops at controlling individual creatures which have evolved from the cells, controlling early tribes of creatures, controlling the sociological aspects of creatures living in cities, controlling civilizational issues confronting the creatures, and finally leading the creatures into a space-based expansion where they meet other species that have evolved from different evolutionary niches.

Wikipedia has an extensive write-up on the entire project and notes that Wright is using procedural generation code to allow the player to define their evolutionary features via permutations rather than simply drawing the features from preexisting code.

To illustrate the the power of evolutionary branching that permeates the game consider the following:

The Cell Phase is the starting point of the game. The player guides a simple micro-organism (microbe) around in a 2D environment, eating other, weaker cells. There are at least three other types of cells, two of which can eat the player’s microbe to begin with. Once the microbe has eaten several cells, it lays an egg which, when clicked, opens the creature editor which allows the player to modify the appearance, shape, and abilities of the microbe. This includes adding offensive abilities. For example, in Will Wright’s 2005 demo, he added a small spike which allows the player’s microbe to attack the organisms which would previously eat the player’s microbe. Each time the player’s microbe progresses to the next generation, it grows larger. Once the microbe grows to a certain size, the player leaves the 2D world of the microscopic and enters the creature phase.

Spore seems to be generating quite a bit of buzz and anticipation within the gaming community and I imagine that kids who are playing the game and seeing evolution play out before their eyes will come to understand the evolution vs. creationism debate with a deeper understanding of the process underlying evolution. The upshot here: the more entertaining the lesson the greater its impact.

Schizophrenia and IQ

Low IQ is a risk factor for developing schizophrenia, though the mechanism behind this association is somewhat unclear. A new study sheds a little light on this subject, and suggests the link might be genetic. The gene in questions is neuregulin 1, about which little is known. They find, first, that a regulatory SNP is associated with the development of psychotic symptoms in a particularly at-risk population (see part a above– each bar is the percentage of subjects developing symptoms for a given genotype). They also find lower levels of activity in certain part of the brain in the patients with the TT genotype (see parts b and c above).

Further, here are the means and standard deviations of the IQ distributions of the different genotypes:

CC: 101.9 (8.4)
CT: 100.4 (9.4)
TT: 94.3 (6.9)

So this regulatory polymorphism could explain some of the natural variation in IQ.

Radical Muslims are similar to moderates

Foreign Policy has a interesting selection of charts. They show that “radicals” and “moderates” in the Muslim world are not that different. Below the fold is a chart which offers two facts
1) Radical Muslims are, on average, more educated than non-radical Muslims
2) Radical Muslims are, on average, more affluent than non-radical Muslims
Should this surprise? I don’t think so. Look to the history of the United Kingdom, Protestant radicalism took root in the highly literate environs of East Anglia. Health and wealth are often conducive to religious utopianism and reformation.

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God or tongue?

Over at Michael Brendan Dougherty’s place a debate broke out over the relative importance of language vs. religion in the Irish identity. This could perhaps be abstracted and extrapolated to many peoples and nations. In the comments Daniel Larison offered:

But then I also think that Catholicism in Ireland predates the 19th century and has more to do with Irish culture than a nearly dead Celtic language that was mostly revived by modern nationalists.

Larison is no idiot, a Ph.D. candidate in Byzantine Studies he certainly has the sense and knowledge to take the long view, but this seemed a rather peculiar and flip comment to me (I’m being Christian here).
1) I was to understand Gaelic was the dominant language in Ireland until the 1840s.
2) I was to understand that the relationship of Roman Catholicism and Irish identity as we understand it today was a product of reforms and nationalisms which only crystallized in the 19th century. The seeds of the relationship between the Catholic Church and Irish identity of course lay in the Reformation, when the rest of the British Isles went Protestant but Ireland did not, but from what I recall the most powerful locus of anti-Protestant feeling lay not amongst the Gaelic speaking Irish, but the descendents of the “Old English”/Anglo-Norman settlers. Larison is the Ph.D. candidate in history here, he must know this? Or am I wrong?
My own interest in the topic is derived in part from my own background as a Bengali, an ethnic group united by language, but divided by religion. Though traditionally the Bengali cultural elite was Hindu, based out of Calcutta, today Muslim Bangladesh is the nation where the Bengali language reigns supreme. By some estimates around 40% of Calcutta’s population is now non-Bengali speaking, as immigrants from other parts of India come looking for work. The Bengalis of eastern Bengal, Muslim by faith, but also affiliated with a great many Hindus via their language and its literature, have shifted back and forth in regards to where they place an emphasis in regards to their identity. During the period before 1947, when India and Pakistan were created, the Muslim Bengali populace was a major vote bank for the Muslim League, which forced the partition of the subcontinent. Between 1947 and 1971, when West Pakistani non-Bengali elites dominated East Pakistan, what was East Bengal, there was an emphasis on the Bengali language (i.e., The Language Movement). Since 1971 the dominant Muslim Bengalis of Bangladesh have shifted back and forth in regards to stars which shape their identity, with different individuals come down in different directions. These issues are complex. They deserve more than flip dismissals, the language which brought forth the legends of Cúchulainn must count for something?