Monday, December 6, 2010

Winning Through Fecundity

An interesting meme that has been circulating for a couple of years now is that secularism will die out not because religious folk defeat it either in the battle of ideas or by virtue of political power, but through the inexorable pressure of the demographic facts of life. Vjtorley at Uncommon Descent summarizes the thinking of Phillip Longman and a book by Eric Kaufmann, both of which address this issue.

According to Longman:
“[I]n countries rich and poor, under all forms of government, birth rates are declining across the globe. But they are declining least among those adhering to strict religious codes and literal belief in the Bible, the Torah, or the Koran.”

“Indeed, the pattern of human fertility now fits this pattern: the least likely to procreate are those who profess no belief in God; those who describe themselves as agnostic or simply spiritual are only somewhat slightly less likely to be childless. Moving up the spectrum, family size increases among practicing Unitarians, Reform Jews, mainline Protestants and ‘cafeteria’ Catholics, but the birthrates found in these populations are still far below replacement levels.

Only as we approach the realm of religious belief and practice marked by an intensity we might call, for lack of a better word, ‘fundamentalism,’ do we find pockets of high fertility and consequent rapid population growth.”

“When confronted with the fact that they are being outbred, secularists often respond that many if not most children born into highly religious families will grow up to reject the faith of their fathers,” but “[a]mong fundamentalist families, it turns out, the apple does not fall far from the tree. And the more demanding the faith, the more this rule applies. Only five percent of children born to the most conservative Amish, for example, move on to other faiths or lifestyles.”
Kaufman's book is titled, Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?: Demography and Politics in the Twenty-First Century. The product description of the book says this:
“Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have convinced many western intellectuals that secularism is the way forward, but most people don’t read their books before deciding whether to be religious. Instead, they inherit their faith from their parents, who often inoculate them against the elegant arguments of secularists.

And what no one has noticed is that far from declining, the religious are expanding their share of the population; in fact, the more religious people are, the more children they have. The cumulative effect of immigration from religious countries and religious fertility will be to reverse the secularization process in the West. Not only will the religious eventually triumph over the non-religious, but it is those who are the most extreme in their beliefs who have the largest families.”
Vjtorley points out the irony in these predictions that believers will swamp non-believers by out-reproducing them - a purely Darwinian strategy for biological success. He also believes that the secular elites are aware of this, but are in a bind, because they have only three options for combatting the rising percentage of believers. They can have more children themselves, they can seek to undercut the religious beliefs of believers' children, and they can prevent believers from having children.

The first is anathema to most secularists because they're generally among those who believe the earth is over-populated as it is, and that everyone should limit themselves to just two children.

That leaves the second and third options, and vjtorley lays out the measures that he thinks we might soon see advanced which, deliberately or not, will have the effect of diminishing the strength of religious belief both here and abroad.

Read what he thinks lies in store for religious folk in both the near and middle future at the link. It's both fascinating and chilling.

Darwinian Conservatives

John West, in an article at First Principles, identifies a somewhat surprising epiphenomenon in today's ideological culture wars - Darwinian conservatism. I say it's surprising because most conservatives, especially social conservatives, are very skeptical of the claims of the Darwinians. There are some, however, who are not. West begins by preparing the ground. Here are some excerpts:
“Darwinian” conservatives claim that Darwinism can be used to defend traditional morality, economic freedom, limited government and even religion. They further contend that the science behind Darwinism is so overwhelming that conservatives must embrace it or be doomed to irrelevance. I think they are wrong on all counts.
So do I. He continues:
It should be made clear from the outset that the term “Darwinism” does not refer merely to “change over time” or even to the idea that all living things share a common ancestor. Instead, in its modern formulation, Darwinism refers primarily to the claim that the mechanism of evolution is an undirected material process of natural selection acting on random mutations, and furthermore to the reductionist corollary of this view that seeks to understand mind, morality, and religion as fully explicable by such a blind material process.
In other words, the Darwinian holds that natural processes are all that's necessary to account for living things.
Charles Darwin thought he had explained the origin of the appearance of design throughout nature through a process that did not have the design of particular organisms or biological structures in mind. The only “purpose” of natural selection is immediate survival. Natural selection is blind to the future, and thus in no sense are particular organisms or biological features—say the wings of a butterfly—to be considered the “purposeful” result of evolution. This truth applies even to the development of human beings. In the famous words of Harvard paleontologist George Gaylord Simpson, “Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind.”

It is important to understand that the rejection of teleological evolution was Darwin's own view, not something grafted onto his theory by others. As Darwin himself emphasized: “No shadow of reason can be assigned for the belief that variations . . . were intentionally and specially guided.” It is equally important to understand that Darwin thought his theory provided a reductionist explanation for the development of mind, morality, and religion, and that he believed his theory had implications for social policy.

Having clarified the meaning of Darwinism, we are ready to scrutinize the claims of Darwinian conservatives in five key areas: Does Darwinism support or subvert traditional morality? Does it erode or reinforce the basis of capitalism? Does it promote or undermine limited government? Does it nurture or weaken religious faith? Finally, is the evidence for Darwinism so overwhelming that all rational people must accept it?
In the discussion which follows West makes the case that naturalistic, materialistic Darwinism is incompatible with all of these and thus with conservatism. His treatment will be helpful to anyone who's interested in the impact of Darwinism on culture. It's worth close examination and study.