Trends, Connections and Implications

Despite my regular trashing of religion in general (and fundamentalism in particular) on these pages, I’ve long held that things are getting better in this regard, at large. And to contrast that with the advance of collectivism, there is at least some cause for celebration of the fact that strong religious belief is on the wane for most people. While some might argue that the advance of statism is related to such a decline in fervent or dogmatic religious belief, I would counter that you don’t ultimately do good by promoting (convenient) falsehoods. And besides, giving up God in favor of "The Great Society" should probably be seen as a natural progression. It is the exchange of one false authority for another, but there’s a bright side. At least the State is real, and as such, cannot issue divine revelation to high priests, while at the same time, is not generally impervious to rational argument (though it might often seem so).

Some weeks back, I got an email from several sources touting the number of Jewish Nobel Prize laureates vs. those awarded to Muslims. It should be noted that of the nine "Muslims" (as compared to 178 Jews), one of the Muslims is Arafat, and three are actually Christians and not Muslim. It’s quite an interesting list, side-by-side like that, and, to me at least, raises quite a stir of implications. I recall that as early as 1991, I came to the conclusion that the Jewish religion is generally the most rational. For whatever reason, I observed, it does not seem to promote anti-intellectualism among its adherents to the extent that other religions seem to. I’m still not sure why.

What I also realised when I received that list is that I didn’t get a list — nor was I likely — comparing Born-Again Christian laureates to anyone else. You’re welcome to try, but I Googled all around and can’t find a single reference to a professed Born-Again Christian ever being awarded the prize in any category. Even if there are, it certainly can’t be a very large list, and I’d be surprised if it even topped the nine that the Muslims claim.

Implications…implications. Well, I didn’t create reality. I just observe it and report on it. I’ll tell you what, though: for a group that claims millions upon millions of adherents worldwide, yet no significant scientific contributions to humanity, I’d certainly think twice about ever allowing myself to be so labeled. And I hasten to point out that the guy sitting in the White house, possessing at least some ability to start a nuclear war, claims to be a "born-again" and believes that Jesus is Coming Again, Praise God. Sorry, but I find it impossible to not ridicule the ridiculous. If not moronic, then tell me; how does one go about describing such people who believe such lunacies?

There’s more. I’d heard about the recent Harris survey on the news, but hadn’t had a chance to look into it. Really; you ought to go through that survey. I’m also gratified that they have separated out Born-Again Christians from the other religions, because at this point, it really doesn’t go with anything else. It is, at best, a protestant sect. Moreover, it serves to really illustrate the moronic lunacy that I’ve been talking about, and am so often criticized for. You look at that survey and you tell me that, relatively speaking, we’re not dealing with a growing body of lunatics, and potentially dangerous ones at that. Just tell me we’re not, that’s there’s nothing to be concerned about. The others? I don’t care about them. They’re silly, misguided perhaps, but not dangerous to me or anyone.

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  1. Rob on November 20, 2006 at 00:37

    That survey seems pretty lame; looks like a survey of the religious. Not to mention that it's an internet survey; I'd not give it much credence.

  2. Richard Nikoley on November 20, 2006 at 09:21


    What I find of particular interest is the relative elements, not the absolute numbers; i.e., the differences year to year, and the difference between the various faiths.


    I didn't say that born-agains contribute nothing to science, though I gather their contributions are minimal. As to the Nobel Prize, in spite of it's problems, there is still a lot of real and hard science that has been duly recognized. Even if you throw out the "Peace Prize," which you should, it only makes the results worse in comparison to the Muslims. They have two winners, all time, for any hard science award. The Jews, however, fill those categories.

    I'm simply making an observation of fact, and as with the survey, it's not the absolute number that's overly important, it's the relative comparisons. There's something real there, and to deny that it means something important with important implications is simply to deny reality.

    Will it result in some sort of disaster? I don't know, of course, but when you're talking about a group of people who literally believe in a heaven somewhere "up in the sky" (literal: i.e., physical place, and if you don't believe that, ask the millions of them and they'll tell you) and a literal, physical place called hell underground.

    Now, I am well aware that such beliefs, as insane as they are, can and are harmless as concerns most people. But, they have also been organizing politically the last three decades I've been aware of them (I was one, as a kid), to where, now, they have more and more of their nutbars in places where social policy can be influenced and enforced to their liking.

    It's something to be aware of and to keep an eye on. Remember, for people to whom facts of reality hold so little sway, virtually anything is possible from them. You can never predict where irrationality will lead. This is why I'd rather take my chances with statist commies than fundamentalist nut cases. You are at least dealing with the real world, and so argument can sometimes make a difference.

    Who contributes more money to charities? That's relevant how? You mean that if I give money to the poor, I no longer have to concern myself with the proper apprehension of reality?

  3. Richard Nikoley on November 20, 2006 at 11:00


    1. Correct, but I'm using it in a relative sense. All religions exist as degrees of fantasy over reality, and to what extent adherents are willing to disregard facts and reason. I'm making the observation that the Jewish faith seems to be on the lower end of that spectrum (and, I think, probably Buddhism too, from what I've observed), whereas, the Muslim and Born-Agains occupy the top spots.

    2. Probably true, but, as the survey points out, many people self-identify as Jews, Catholics, or whatever, but don't practice. When I lived in France, everybody is a Catholic, yet not many practice it in any meaningful way. So, this goes for everyone, not just Jews. My point then is that these religions are tolerant of being identified, but not staunchly adherent, which is a good thing. Born-Agains, however, are quite a bit different. It has far more cultish aspects to it.

    3. Could be, I'm not sure, and I'm not really talking about what nation-states produce, or religions, per se. I'm talking about what religions some of the most creative and productive people claim as their faith, if they claim one at all. I'm pretty certain that, at least in hard sciences, after no religion, you'll have plenty of Jews, Catholics, Buddhists, Hindus, Protestants, and so on. You'll have very few to no Muslims or Born-Agains.

  4. MInTheGap on November 20, 2006 at 08:58

    So, let me see if I get this straight. You're using as a test or proof that those that are fundamental in faith or "born again" have contributed nothing to science using a metric derived from a board that chooses scientists based on a predisposed worldview that looks at said people like they are unscientific. Since you control the data at both ends you are guaranteeing that your position is correct!

    I would like to see an analysis about the scientific minds going back to a time when there was not prejudice against the "born again" scientist. Show me a non-biased survey of contributions and then make this claim. But don't begin to tell me that a group that approves Arafat for an award for peace (I believe it was) is a good source for an unbiased look at the contributions of different religions.

    I'll not waste space talking about recent surveys about who contributes more monies to charities…

  5. SnoopyTheGoon on November 20, 2006 at 10:38

    Allow me to serve your devils advocate on this one:

    1. "Rational religion" is a bit of an oxymoron, isn't it?

    2. The overwhelming majority of the Jews that got the prize were/are not religious at all.

    3. The only rational explanation is not in genetics or religion, but in social status of Jewish minority in Diaspora. The best way to recognition and career for minorities is in sciences or other tough education – related activities (lawyers, doctors, …). Proof – Israel produces a pretty humble number of outstanding scientists, most probably due to lack of the same conditions that existed in Diaspora.

    I hope it goes some way, at least, to settle the question.


  6. Richard Nikoley on November 21, 2006 at 10:04

    "To live in a society where it is the government that gets to choose whether I live or die based on its whims– where my liberty or property can be taken away at their desire…"

    Where do you think you live?

  7. MInTheGap on November 21, 2006 at 09:43

    I agree with your assessment that there "is something there" when the born again scientists aren't listed as those getting Nobel prizes. Logically, that thing is either (1) that these scientists are fewer/not contributing in the awarding areas or (2) that those that choose to give out the awards do so exclusively in ways that are biased toward a particular worldview.

    Statistically, I'm sure that the sample data that you are using (i.e. choosing only those to win a Nobel prize) is not representative of scientific contributions to make the assumptions you are making. It only records back to the point the prizes were started.

    But to the larger point, I would argue that any system that is set up on a concrete set of rules is going to be more stable and predictable than those set up based on the tyranny of the people or government bent on expanding its own power.

    Truly, Christians do not implement a holy life correctly in all cases, however there are absolutes and there is the concept that the giver of the rules is bigger than self.

    As far as the opposing view, whatever seems right to a group of people can be considered right. This state is more terrifying than the other, since what has been dictated from the God of the Bible does not change (though man's interpretation may vary– and that is unnerving), but what man wants to do does change.

    Furthermore, since the United States is founded based on the concept that there is something bigger than grants rights than the government, we have the right to life, liberty and property– government cannot take that away.

    To live in a society where it is the government that gets to choose whether I live or die based on its whims– where my liberty or property can be taken away at their desire– that is indeed more terrifying than those that hold to an unseen Heaven and Hell for those that inhabit this land presently.

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