Secular Right | Reality & Reason

TAG | sociology



We are a social animal

Occasionally we get emails like this:

Up until now I thought I was the rarest of all ducks. A conservative atheist. I read Heather MacDonald’s piece in the Wall Street Journal today and was pleased to find I am not alone. I would love to know more about the organization.

Yours truly,

[name omitted]

One of the reasons that I participate in Secular Right is to simply explicitly demonstrate that Leftism or even libertarianism is not a necessary consequence of irreligiosity. Many people’s views emerge out of socialization and their peer groups, not through a consistent set of inferences from axioms.

When Secular Right first started some emails from individuals active in atheist organizations trickled in, the main question being how to make these organizations more politically inclusive. My main advice was simply not to assume that those who lack religion are uniform in their political views. As a matter of practicality most of the irreligious in Western nations have Leftish politics, and so self-consciously secular organizations or movements will reflect that. That is realistic. A secular conservative is conditioned to being in a minority. There’s no need for special treatment, simply an acknowledgement of existence and validity of the viewpoint. On the one hand we have to deal with religious conservatives who assert that by definition conservatism is connected with religion, while on the other hand there are secular liberals who simply can not understand how those without god might adhere to a conservative position. One might refute our existence through logic, but the empirical realities of the world tend to produce people who lay outside of the clean systems produced by theoreticians. That fact is one of the primary reasons that I am on the Right and not the Left, though I will admit to being troubled by a trend toward a lack of realism in politics in general of late.




Role of genes in personality

Inductivist has a post up on the public perception of the role genes play in personality via the “GENEEXPS” variable. Though he saw a trend for Republicans to lean slightly toward more of a role for genes, I was struck by the minimal difference. I decided to look in more detail at this variable in the GSS, and again, was struck by the relative uniformity in attitude. An exception was with sex: women in this sample most definitely seem to believe that genes have more of a role in personality than men do. Also, the old are more gene-friendly than the young.

I put the 95th confidence intervals below because of the small sample sizes in some classes. The question was asked in 2004. The N was somewhat above 2200.

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A recent featured two philosophers, and was titled “Explaining and Appraising Moral Intuition”. A considerable proportion of the discussion involved the utility of cognitive and evolutionary psychology in probing the reflexive roots of our moral intuitions, and how that might modify our moral reasoning. One of the interlocutors, Joshua Greene, suggests that exposing the proximate cognitive processes and the ultimate evolutionary rationales which set the framework for our reflexive moral judgments may allow us to reconsider their validity. What should be the criteria which we use? Greene alludes to utilitarianism. But that begs the question: what is this utility you speak of Dr. Greene?

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The question as to the relationship on a socio-cultural scale about the relationship of acceptance of evolution and belief in God is often mooted.  In The Blind Watchmaker Richard Dawkins famously contended that the theory of Darwinian evolution allowed one to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.  I am mildly skeptical of universalizing this as a general truth; that is, just because Richard Dawkins’ atheism was solidified by his exposure to Darwin’s theory of evolution, does not entail that this is so for most humans.  The fact is that most humans do not understand the theory evolution, let alone are able to generate inferences and entailments from said theory.  An acceptance of the theory of evolution in the modern world is much more likely simply a signal or indicator that one is well educated and accepts the contemporary consensus of scholarship.  This general lack of internalization of evolutionary theory into the cognitive toolkit of the typical “educated” and “well read” person makes me skeptical of evolution’s socio-cultural impact, no matter what Creationists and Evolutionists might contend.

In any case, what does the cross-cultural data tell us?  As it is, we have a great deal of survey on belief in God (or lack of) in modern nations, as well as attitudes toward evolution theory.  So it is only a matter of effort to generate a few scatterplots…. (more…)

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