Religion is a driving force behind the gender wage gap, study finds

New research published in the Academy of Management Journal indicates that religion perpetuates the gender wage gap. The findings provide evidence that men tend to earn significantly more than women in societies with heightened religiosity.

Read more at PsyPost

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Posted by on April 4, 2021 in religion


Changing Function of Religious Beliefs — Trajectory from primitive to advanced societies

If a proposition is going to be taken to be unquestionably true, it is important that no one understand it. — Roy Rappaport, Ritual, Sanctity, and Cybernetics The context of that assertion is a discussion about how religious beliefs function to keep a community of diverse populations together. The fundamental belief that binds must at…

Changing Function of Religious Beliefs — Trajectory from primitive to advanced societies
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Posted by on March 24, 2021 in religion


The Identity Hoaxers

The Identity Hoaxers

The notion of needing “to be associated with the victims rather than the perpetrators” is what sent me down the rabbit hole of identity hoaxers. You would be surprised at how many there are: the “pretendians,” who claim Native American ancestry, including the former Klansman who reinvented himself as a best-selling “Cherokee” author; the Syrian blogger “Gay Girl in Damascus,” who turned out to be a straight American man named Tom MacMaster; Scott Peake, who presented himself as a fluent Gaelic speaker from a remote Scottish island when he took over the Saltire Society, which promotes Scottish culture. (He was really from South London, and couldn’t speak Gaelic.)

Read more at The Atlantic

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Posted by on March 16, 2021 in economics/sociology


How can Christ’s life and miracles, and more precisely his birth, be explained, secularly?

Do you know who built the Coliseum in Rome? The Roman emperor Vespasian. That’s not all he was known for:

At Alexandria a commoner, whose eyes were well known to have wasted away …fell at Vespasian’s feet demanding with sobs a cure for his blindness, and imploring that the Emperor would deign to moisten his eyes and eyeballs with the spittle from his mouth.

… Vespasian …. did as the men desired him. Immediately … daylight shone once more in the blind man’s eyes. Those who were present still attest both miracles today, when there is nothing to gain by lying. – Tacitus, The Histories, 4.81 (c 110 CE)

How do Christians explain that? Was Vespasian stealing the powers of Jesus by healing people’s blindness with spit?

I can explain both. It’s real simple: They made it up.

The context of both Tacitus’ Histories and works like the gospels about Jesus is that both are pretty much the social equivalent of movies playing in a theater. It’s not like any Joe from the street can make a movie, get it marketed effectively, and then get it distributed across thousands of movie theaters across the globe.

The same was true for paper (well, papyrus) and quills in the time of Jesus. It’s not like you could just go to the Wal-Mart on the corner in Judea and get some paper and pencil and write a story. It took quite a bit of resources to acquire writing material 2,000 years ago. The majority of the population couldn’t even read or write. No, the people writing these stories are probably the equivalent of 1%-ers or Hollywood directors who are trying to make their stories sell. They weren’t CNN reporters.

Most Christians hearing these stories almost 2,000 years ago heard them in house churches, just like most people today see the latest movies in theaters.

Do you see something that happens in a movie and are like “No way, that didn’t happen” and actively go out and try to find people to confirm/deny what you saw? No. You enjoy the story.

That’s why Tacitus can write about Vespasian healing blind people with his spit, why the writers of the gospels of Mark and John can do the same. There certainly were no shows like Mythbusters in ancient Judea.

Apply this to every so-called miracle you read about in antiquity and it accounts for it all pretty elegantly.

Now, I picked Vespasian for a reason. This is the writing of a Jewish historian who lived during Vespasian’s time:

But now, what did the most elevate them in undertaking this war, was an ambiguous oracle that was also found in their sacred writings, how,” about that time, one from their country should become governor of the habitable earth.” The Jews took this prediction to belong to themselves in particular, and many of the wise men were thereby deceived in their determination. Now this oracle certainly denoted the government of Vespasian, who was appointed emperor in Judea. However, it is not possible for men to avoid fate, although they see it beforehand. But these men interpreted some of these signals according to their own pleasure, and some of them they utterly despised, until their madness was demonstrated, both by the taking of their city and their own destruction.

Josephus, Jewish War 6.5.4

Not only was Vespasian said to heal blind people with spit, but was declared to be the Jewish messiah by this Jewish historian! They certainly don’t teach this in Sunday school, now do they?


Is Bayesian Reasoning A Scam?

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Posted by on March 9, 2021 in Bayes


Why Are There As Many Males As Females?

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Posted by on February 21, 2021 in Evolution


Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts

“being smart can actually make bias worse…the smarter you are, the better you are at constructing a narrative that supports your beliefs, rationalizing and framing the data to fit your argument or point of view”

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Posted by on February 12, 2021 in cognitive science


The “Secular” Sovereign Defense And The Modern Euthyphro Dilemma

“The point which I should first wish to understand is whether the pious or holy is beloved by the gods because it is holy, or holy because it is beloved of the gods” – Socrates

Back in my 20s I would get into debates with religious people on the internet a lot. Indeed, I started this blog in the tail end of my 20s because of a religious debate with a particular ex girlfriend. One of the debates that came up regularly in my 20s was god being the source of human morality. God is responsible for our feeling of something being moral or immoral. This assertion leads one to the Euthyphro dilemma quoted above. Either god declares something good because it’s good per se, or something is good only because god says so:

For those that aren’t familiar with it, the question is: does God will something because it is good, or is something good because God wills it? If the theist says that God wills something because it is good then the good is independent of God and, in fact then, moral values are not based in God. They are independent of him.

On the other hand, if you say something is good because God wills it then that would seem to make what is good and evil arbitrary. God could have willed that hatred is good; then we would be morally obligated to hate one another, which seems crazy.

Some moral values seem to be necessary, and therefore there would be no possible world in which hatred is good. So the claim is that this shows that morality cannot be based in God.

I think it is clearly a false dilemma because the alternatives are not of the form “A or not-A” which would be an inescapable dilemma. The alternatives are like “A or B.” In that case you can always add a third one, C, and escape the horns of the dilemma. I think in this case there is a third alternative which is to say that God wills something because he is good.

That is to say, God himself is the paradigm of goodness, and his will reflects his character. God is by nature loving, kind, fair, impartial, generous, and so forth. Therefore, he could not have willed that, for example, hatred be good. That would be to contradict his very own nature. So God’s commands to us are not arbitrary, but neither are they based upon something independent of God. Rather, God himself is the paradigm of goodness.

That quote is from the famous Christian apologist William Lane Craig.

This post, however, is not a reinterogation of this argument. This post is about its secular equivalent.

Now that I’m in my 40s, I see that a lot of young people (get off my lawn!) today, especially activists, approaching a modern Euthyphro dilemma. But instead of god being on the horns of the dilemma, it’s science.

What if science concludes that slavery is ultimately beneficial?

What if science concludes that women working at home on balance produces the most good in society?

What if science concludes that children having sex with adults is good for their maturation?

What if science says that women who have male mentors do better than women who have female mentors?

Science doesn’t/would never say that“, you say.

But look at what that thought is defending. That’s exactly the same apologetic rationale that the likes of WLC would posit. You are in effect saying “science itself is the paradigm of goodness”.

But why?

What’s preventing a scientific conclusion like that from happening? If you’re not trying to not get impaled on the horns of Euthyphro’s dilemma, what concern is it that science might lead to a repugnant conclusion?


There’s no logical reason that science would not point towards something that we find morality reprehensible. In fact, it has to. Imagine how astronomically improbable it is that your morals and your science line up. If they do line up perfectly, then you’re probably doing science wrong. Or, you’re religious.

Indeed, it’s a fact that not everyone’s morals line up. Yet somehow, the findings of science line up with everyone’s morals; any science that doesn’t line up with a person’s morals is fake science, pseudoscience, not scientific enough, etc. There’s quite obviously a disconnect. Do you really think that the science you accept just so happens to match your moral and ethical convictions without any subconscious rationalization? What a coincidence!

Here’s a challenge: Try to overcome your biases. Stop contextualizing and find some scientific results that contradict your moral positions. Your moral repudiation of this science is evidence that the science is more likely to be correct than not.


Ok. So you’ve found some science that is morally unconscionable. Should this science be kept hidden? Why not? We all know suppressing morally compromised science is only done by the good guys throughout history. Because [your] morality is the one constant through all recorded history. So you’re in good company!

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Posted by on December 28, 2020 in euthyphro dilemma, morality, religion


Grandstanding: The Use and Abuse of Moral Talk

Grandstanding: The Use and Abuse of Moral Talk

We are all guilty of it. We call people terrible names in conversation or online. We vilify those with whom we disagree, and make bolder claims than we could defend. We want to be seen as taking the moral high ground not just to make a point, or move a debate forward, but to look a certain way–incensed, or compassionate, or committed to a cause. We exaggerate. In other words, we grandstand.

Nowhere is this more evident than in public discourse today, and especially as it plays out across the internet. To philosophers Justin Tosi and Brandon Warmke, who have written extensively about moral grandstanding, such one-upmanship is not just annoying, but dangerous. As politics gets more and more polarized, people on both sides of the spectrum move further and further apart when they let grandstanding get in the way of engaging one another. The pollution of our most urgent conversations with self-interest damages the very causes they are meant to forward.

Drawing from work in psychology, economics, and political science, and along with contemporary examples spanning the political spectrum, the authors dive deeply into why and how we grandstand. Using the analytic tools of psychology and moral philosophy, they explain what drives us to behave in this way, and what we stand to lose by taking it too far. Most importantly, they show how, by avoiding grandstanding, we can re-build a public square worth participating in.

“Moral talk often devolves into a moral arms race, where people make increasingly strong claims…trying to outdo one another…to be the most morally impressive…to signal that they are more attuned to matters of justice”

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Posted by on October 27, 2020 in morality, religion


Sex differences in moral judgements across 67 countries


Most of the empirical research on sex differences and cultural variations in morality has relied on within-culture analyses or small-scale cross-cultural data. To further broaden the scientific understanding of sex differences in morality, the current research relies on two international samples to provide the first large-scale examination of sex differences in moral judgements nested within cultures. Using a sample from 67 countries (Study 1; n = 336 691), we found culturally variable sex differences in moral judgements, as conceptualized by Moral Foundations Theory. Women consistently scored higher than men on Care, Fairness, and Purity. By contrast, sex differences in Loyalty and Authority were negligible and highly variable across cultures. Country-level sex differences in moral judgements were also examined in relation to cultural, socioeconomic, and gender-equality indicators revealing that sex differences in moral judgements are larger in individualist, Western, and gender-equal societies. In Study 2 (19 countries; n = 11 969), these results were largely replicated using Bayesian multi-level modelling in a distinct sample. The findings were robust when incorporating cultural non-independence of countries into the models. Specifically, women consistently showed higher concerns for Care, Fairness, and Purity in their moral judgements than did men. Sex differences in moral judgements were larger in individualist and gender-equal societies with more flexible social norms. We discuss the implications of these findings for the ongoing debate about the origin of sex differences and cultural variations in moral judgements as well as theoretical and pragmatic implications for moral and evolutionary psychology.

Sex differences in moral judgements across 67 countries

Also see How Disgusted Are You? and Ara Norenzayan: Religion and Prosociality

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Posted by on October 21, 2020 in cognitive science, religion

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