Friday, October 14, 2005

Religion will make you stupid

The irrepressible Theodore Dr. Dalrymple, of no religious faith, eviscerates Gregory Paul's ballyhooed "scientific" study showing that religion will make you poor and stupid.
The Victorian militant atheist Charles Bradlaugh, who went on tub-thumping speaking tours, used to stride onto the stage, take out his pocket watch and challenge God to strike him dead in 60 seconds. His survival at the end of the minute was, for him, proof positive that God did not exist. Charles Darwin's cousin, Francis Galton, tried to prove the inefficacy of prayer, at least to his own satisfaction, by comparing the life expectancy of the British royal family--whose health was prayed for in churches throughout the land--with that of other members of the aristocracy. Finding no difference, he concluded that prayer was not an effective means of prolonging life. Very much in the same tradition, Gregory S. Paul, writing in the Journal of Religion and Society, attempts to prove that religious belief, far from contributing to the moral fiber of society, actually causes social disintegration. Mr. Paul is a paleontologist whose previous works have included "Predatory Dinosaurs of the World" and "Dinosaurs of the Air." He finds that highly developed countries with the lowest levels of belief in God also have the lowest levels of social pathology and the best physical health; and that the U.S., with its uniquely high level of religious belief, "is so inefficient that it is experiencing a much higher degree of societal distress than are less religious and wealthy, prosperous democracies." ... It is interesting that Mr. Paul's paper makes no mention of Russia, whose 70-year experiment with enforced atheism did not create a society altogether lacking in social pathology, to put it mildly, and where the life expectancy of men is now appreciably lower than that of credulous countries such as Guatemala.
Dr. Dalrymple doesn't say it, but surely what you have faith in is at least as important a question as whether or not you have it? There are many other factors not controlled for here either. Finally, those Victorian "proofs for the non existence of God" are so inane that I don't think they need any commentary from the likes of me.

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