Seriously, if you haven’t considered this angle on the issue, have you been living under a rock for 30+ years? Or maybe it wasn’t a rock, maybe it was a cross, since that tends to suppress mental activity and feelings of compassion.
Religiosity is waning in the U.S. Non-belief has almost doubled since 1990.
A wide-ranging study on American religious life found that the Roman Catholic population has been shifting out o of the Northeast to the Southwest, the percentage of Christians in the nation has declined and more people say they have no religion at all.
Fifteen percent of respondents said they had no religion, an increase from 14.2 percent in 2001 and 8.2 percent in 1990, according to the American Religious Identification Survey.
Non belief (not the same as atheism) is still a distinct minority, but I’m heartened with the trend line, since I think religion is mostly a negative influence on society. Some of my best friends are progressive Christians, but they are the exception, not the rule.
The number of people who say they have no religion rose in every state. In Oklahoma, the percentage went from 7% to 11% since 1990.
Overall, the study shows there is more variety in religious belief than media discourse and political grandstanding would indicate.
It’s Darwin Day, and time to celebrate science and the beauty of observable, provable reality. But, yet, old myths, and bad policy on based on them, seem as strong as ever — at least in my neck of the woods.
Though I love science, I’m tired and uninspired at the moment, so just some interesting notes and links.
John Lynch gave a talk on “Was there a Darwinian Revolution?” at the Sam Noble Museum and reports say 300 attended. He may post photos at the link, so check back.
At Pharyngula I guess every day is Darwin day, but today they made a special effort to poke fun at the denial movement, with cartoons, and a new post in the series called “Things that make creationists look stupid” all about the appendix.
Google made a special image for the anniversary like they do for Halloween, July 4 et. al.
And Gallup polled Americans about whether they believe in evolution, and only 39% say they do. Why don’t they poll about who believes in the theory of gravity? Jesus, help your people!
Via Yellow Dog at They gave us a republic …
Four thousand miles away from a tiny log cabin in the Kentucky woods, another Great Emancipator was born 200 years ago today.
Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves, corrected a 250-year-old injustice and set the nation on the path to the Inaguration of President Barack Obama.
But Charles Darwin freed human minds from the tyranny of religion, crowned two centuries of the Enlightenment, and ushered in the era of scientific reason.
The link is to the Smithsonian’s page on Darwin. How could I have overlooked that?
Public attitudes toward the press, which have been on a downward track for years, have become more negative in several key areas. Growing numbers of people question the news media’s patriotism and fairness. Perceptions of political bias also have risen over the past two years.
A research team at Sonoma State University has recently finished conducting a network analysis of the boards of directors of the ten big media organizations in the US. The team determined that only 118 people comprise the membership on the boards of director of the ten big media giants. This is a small enough group to fit in a moderate size university classroom. These 118 individuals in turn sit on the corporate boards of 288 national and international corporations. In fact, eight out of ten big media giants share common memberships on boards of directors with each other.
Or what? Digby knows that the correct answer is not (a nod to Charles Shultz) “12”.
It seems to me that if you are a member of the “reality based” community, as so many of us liberals claim to be, that you can’t answer such a question without qualifiers. This means that we are unable to respond in appropriate knee jerk fashion and are therefore assumed to be unpatriotic. The question is simple minded and it demands a simple minded answer and that’s a problem for us. Perhaps we should just lie, like everyone already does about going to church or whether they are faithful or all the other things Americans are forced to lie about in our right wing PC times.
By JOHN TIERNEY
You would never guess it from the news, but we’re living in a peculiarly tranquil world. The new edition of “Peace and Conflict,” a biennial global survey being published next week by the University of Maryland, shows that the number and intensity of wars and armed conflicts have fallen once again, continuing a steady 15-year decline that has halved the amount of organized violence around the world.
Those statistics are no solace for mourners in Iraq and Darfur. But so many other people are now living in peace that you don’t have be a dreamer like John Lennon to take seriously the question raised by Gregg Easterbrook in this week’s New Republic cover story, “The End of War?”
I posed that question nearly a decade ago to my favorite prophet, Julian Simon, the economist who spent his career refuting doomsayers’ predictions. He was convinced that three horsemen of the apocalypse – famine, pestilence, death – were in rapid retreat, and he suspected that the fourth was in trouble, too.
“I predict that the incidence of war will decline,” he told me in 1996, two years before his death. He based his prediction on the principle that there is less and less to be gained economically from war. As people get richer and smarter, their lives and their knowledge become far more valuable than the land, minerals and natural resources they used to fight over.
The Iraq war is sometimes described, by both foes and supporters, as a pragmatic venture to keep oil flowing, but not even the most ruthless accountant can justify the expense. Even before the war, America’s military costs in the Persian Gulf were much greater than the value of all the oil it was getting from the region, and now it’s spending at least four times what the oil’s worth.
Of course, wars are also fought for noneconomic reasons, but those, too, seem to be diminishing. The end of the cold war left the superpowers’ proxy armies without patrons, and the spread of democracy made nations less bellicose. (Democracies almost never fight each other.) Mr. Easterbrook calculates that the amount of military spending per capita has declined by a third worldwide since 1985.
Meanwhile, the number of people fighting has plummeted, even though population has grown enormously. “From what we know about war, we can only conclude that it’s a much lesser problem today,” said Monty Marshall of George Mason University, a co-author of the “Peace and Conflict” report. “War between countries is much less likely than ever, and civil war is less likely than any time since 1960.”
These benign trends may be hard to believe, especially if you’ve been watching pictures from Iraq or listening to warnings about terrorists acquiring nuclear weapons. One explosion could indeed change everything.
But before you dismiss the optimists as hopeless naifs, you might ask yourself if you’re suffering from the malaise described in a book by Mr. Easterbrook called “The Progress Paradox”: the better life gets, the worse people feel. The more peaceful and wealthy the world becomes, the more time we all have to watch wars and warnings on television.
The only antidote is to look at long-term trends instead of daily horrors. For a really long-term trend, consider that of 59 skeletons found in a Stone Age graveyard, at least 24 died from violence. Or that a quarter of the male population died fighting in some pre-agricultural societies.
In the 20th century, despite two world wars, humans had less than a 2 percent chance of dying in war or a mass killing, according to John Mueller, a political scientist at Ohio State. Today the risk is lower still – about a quarter the chance of dying in a car accident.
I mention these numbers not to minimize today’s tragedies. I plan to be at a parade on Monday honoring the soldiers who have fallen, especially the more than 1,600 in Iraq. But I will also be thinking about the Progress Paradox and the origin of Memorial Day.
It started after the Civil War as Decoration Day, an occasion for widows wearing red poppies to decorate graves and memorials in virtually every town. If a war of that scale happened now, there would be nearly five million graves to tend. Sixteen-hundred is still too many, but if the trend continues, Memorial Day may eventually become a memory itself.
For Further Reading:
“The End of War?: Explaining Fifteen Years of Diminishing Violence” by Gregg Easterbrook. The New Republic, pp. 18-21, May 30, 2005
The Progress Paradox : How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse by Gregg Easterbrook (Random House. 400 pp., November 2003)
Why Isn’t There More Violence? By John Mueller. Security Studies 13, p. 191-203, Spring 2004
The Remnants of War by John Mueller. (Cornell University Press, 272 pp., September 2004)
The Ultimate Resource 2 by Julian L. Simon. (Princeton University Press, 778 pp., July 1998)
Peace and Conflict 2005: A Global Survey of Armed Conflicts, Self-Determination Movements, and Democracy by Monty G. Marshall and Ted Robert Gurr
Constant Battles: The Myth of the Noble Savage and a Peaceful Past by Steven A. LeBlanc and Katherine E. Register (Princeton University Press, 778 pp., July 1998)