Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Coming or Going

Are atheists on the rise or dying out?

It depends on who you ask. A recent article on the Telegraph's website makes the case that "atheists are dying breed".

The evidence?

Religious people are more likely to have lots of kids and in a single country (Austria), the average number of kids being produced by atheist parents is less than one kid (.85 to be exact).

Hooray! The atheists are doomed within a few generations due to lack of breeding! Now the author can delight because he doesn't like us ebil atheists "criticising people for their privately-held religious beliefs".... which aren't at all "private" and are regularly forced on us....

But we'll ignore that particular bit of stupidity. What's even more disgusting is the horrible use of small number statistics to generalize a situation that isn't even applicable:

1) Austria is not the world - I'm sure it's a nice place, but just because atheists aren't popping out kids like my Catholic neighbors doesn't mean that's the case worldwide. Indeed, there's many countries where birth rates in general are lower than the death rates. Given that, the author of this article should write an even more sensational title: "A nightmare for Everyone: statistics show that humanity is a dying breed!" That's the problem with small number statistics.

2) Memetically transmitted traits are independent of genetics - Religion is an idea. It's not a gene that's passed down. While it's been argued that there be genes that make you more susceptible to that particular meme, it doesn't mean you're going to get it, even if your parents are religious. A large number of atheists are ones that were formerly religious. Recent events (from 9/11 to Bush's overt religiosity) are driving people away from religion completely independently of inheritance.

Meanwhile, if you were to pull your head out of your ass and look at numbers that aren't full of blatant flaws, non-belief is on the rise.

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