Ed Dutton has made many interesting videos about religion and religious people. His central thesis is that, due to the evolutionary benefits of being religious such as higher birth rates, the religious shall inherit the Earth. In this article, I intend to expand upon this idea while also adding some nuance. Before I do, I must first address Ed’s axioms and why they are not entirely accurate.
When Ed speaks of the evolutionary benefits of religion, he is often referring to the so-called “organized religions” of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. The 1st problem is that there is, in reality, no such a thing as an atheist or secular person. This error is a relic of Enlightenment thinking and has since been updated by its modern-day “parallel but opposite” philosophy, namely the Perfectionment intellectual movement. According to its model of socio-cultural evolution known as dialectical geneticism, there is no distinction between religion, ideology, worldview, and so on.
The Perfectionist political ideology demonstrates this in its view of authority. God is nothing more than a moral foundation, and all other morals derive from such a foundation. Whether it is an Abrahamic faith which worships Yahweh, a supposedly secular Enlightenment ideology which worships freedom, or a supposedly secular communist ideology which worships equality, all of these are ultimately submitting to a moral foundation. The term “god” is used to refer to a moral foundation by those who understand themselves as being religious and it is avoided by those who are ignorant of their own religiosity. Thus, the belief in a god is universal but its cognizance is not.
Further to this point, Ed distinguishes between organized and unorganized religions with the idea that liberalism, woke-ism, and similar worldviews are examples of unorganized religions. This is factually incorrect. To the contrary, liberalism is much more organized than any denomination of Christianity. Church attendance is optional, school attendance is not. Church-goers attend once a week, if at all, whereas liberal children attend school everyday. There is no punishment for being a heretic within a Christian church, whereas one can be ostracized, harassed, abused, persecuted, kidnapped, and murdered for rejecting the liberal ideology. It is rather bizarre that the United States claims to believe in “separation from Church and State” – a concept which is nonsensical and impossible to achieve in practice. Similar things can be said of Freudo-Marxism in the “secular” Soviet Union.
There are published studies which claim to demonstrate that religiosity is highly heritable (0.7), whereas “atheism” is not. Ed often cites this research without further interpretation. The problem with that is that the study is highly flawed in 2 ways. First, it fails to recognize the religiosity of these supposed atheists. Secondly and more importantly, the research fails (unlike dialectical geneticism) to treat the meme as the unit of socio-cultural evolution – that which is being selected for. In other words, Ed and the researchers are interpreting the data from a logical abstraction that is similar to how group selectionists neglect to treat the gene as the unit of biological evolution. Why do these 2 points matter?
Because from a memetic evolutionary perspective, the data does not, in fact, support the researchers’ claims. This is demonstrated by the fact that the vast majority of consequential memes are fully inherited. For example, one might replace the belief in Jesus the liberator with the belief in freedom itself (a negligible difference in practice), but what is fully retained is the very consequential populist morality; liberalism is the newer Christianity, just as Christianity is the newer Platonism . If the research were to interpret the heritability of the individual memes, it would find that the most consequential memes are almost universally inherited, giving the most important components of religiosity a heritability of more than 0.9.
Why does the consequentiality of a meme matter with respect to heredity? Because an inconsequential meme cannot affect evolutionary outcomes, whereas a consequential meme can either hurt or help. Therefore, it only makes sense that a Baesian exclusion ought to be applied to inconsequential memes, given that as part of a dataset, they represent noise. On the other hand, only consequential memes are informative with respect to heredity and evolution.
Therefore, a Christian whose children convert to liberalism is not, in fact, an indication of mutational load. To the contrary, the instinct to reject archaic religiosity in favor of a more dominant version of the same ideology is a highly evolutionarily adaptive instinct. A plausible argument can be made that “atheism” is an indication of low mutational load, outside of the obvious losers of society (i.e. if we discount fringe extremists like the cringe-left).
Conversely, the belief in Christianity signals a rejection of or resistance to the status-seeking instinct. Since women are hypergamous, it stands to reason that genes which would prevent status-seeking behavior would eventually be weeded out. Since the presence of that trait cannot be passed down in the long-term, it can only come about as a result of mutation. If someone is rejecting the dominant ideology in favor of an older (defeated) one, there is a credible case that it is due to mutational load.
On Birth Rates
I further challenge the notion that birth rates, or demographics more generally, leads to power. It is, of course, an important factor; one cannot have people in power without those people first coming into existence. However, the historical precedent disputes the “demographics is destiny” argument.
Instead, history is ripe with examples of a core genetic nucleus lording over an increasingly genetically distant commoner class. The European Nobility, the Normands in Briton, the Ancient Egyptian elites, the Achaemenid dynasty, India’s Brahmin caste, and the Jewish community within the Anglo-American sphere comes to mind.
Also, these ruling groups share a common meme: the idea that they are in some way exceptional and that their exceptionalism morally justifies their authority or a “special status” among the commoners. Christians, to the contrary, identify themselves with the down-trodden, the weak, the poor, the sick, and ultimately, as survivors. They are the ultimate anti-authoritarians, much like their ideological descendants in liberalism. Their ideology fundamentally delegitimizes them. “Well, who am I to judge? It’s not my place!”
By virtue of the fact that everyone is religious, but only a few comprise the elites, it is mathematically impossible for the religious to inherit the Earth. It is not the religious instinct that leads to power, but rather, the instinct for supremacy.