Monday, May 28, 2018

Vox Popoli: Dawkins Syndrome - (Is atheism a mild form of autism?)

Apparently my hypothesis that atheism is a mild form of autism was correct, but didn't go anywhere nearly far enough. Scientists are determining that atheists are mutants who are literally unfit in a variety of ways.

Until the Industrial Revolution, we were under harsh conditions of Darwinian Selection, meaning that about 40% of children died before they reached adulthood. These children would have been those who had mutant genes, leading to poor immune systems and death from childhood diseases. But they would also have had mutant genes affecting the mind. This is because the brain, home to 84% of the genome, is extraordinarily sensitive to mutation, so mental and physical mutation robustly correlate. If these children had grown up, they might have had autism, schizophrenia, depression… but they had poor immune systems, so they never had the chance.

Under these conditions, prevalent until the nineteenth century, we were individually selected for but we were also “group selected” for. Ethnic groups are simply a genetic extended family and some groups fared better against the environment and enemy groups than others did, due to the kind of partly genetic psychological adaptations they developed.

Among these, the authors argue, was a very specific kind of religiosity which developed in all complex societies: the collective worship of gods concerned with morality. Belief in these kinds of gods was selected for, they maintain, because once we developed cities we had to deal with strangers—people who weren’t part of our extended family. By conceiving of a god who demanded moral behaviour towards other believers, people were compelled to cooperate with these strangers, meaning that large, highly cooperative groups could develop.

Computer models have proven that the more internally cooperative group—which is also hostile to infidel outsiders—wins the battle of group selection [The Evolutionary Dominance of Ethnocentric Cooperation. Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation by Max Hartshorn, June 2013]. This very specific kind of religiousness was selected for and, indeed, it correlates with positive and negative ethnocentrism even today.

The authors demonstrate that this kind of religiousness has clearly been selected for in itself. It is about 40% genetic according to twin studies, it is associated with strongly elevated fertility, it can be traced to activity in specific regions of the brain, and it is associated with elevated health: all the key markers that something has been selected for.

And it is from here that the authors make the leap that has made SJW blood boil. Drawing on research by Michael Woodley of Menie and his team (see here and here)they argue that conditions of Darwinian selection have now massively weakened, leading to a huge rise in people with damaging mutations. This is evidenced in increasing rates of autism, schizophrenia, homosexuality, sex-dysmorphia, left-handedness, asymmetrical bodies and much else. These are all indicators of mutant genes.

Woodley suggests that weakened Darwinian selection would have led to the spread of “spiteful mutations” of the mind, which would help to destroy the increasingly physically and mentally sick group, even influencing the non-carriers to behave against their genetic interests, as carriers would help undermine the structures through which members learnt adaptive behaviour.

This is exactly what happened in the infamous Mouse Utopia experiment in the late 1960s, where a colony of mice was placed in conditions of zero Darwinian selection and eventually died out. [Death squared: The explosive growth and demise of a mouse population. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, January 1973(PDF)].

So Dutton and his team argue that, this being the case, deviation from this very specific form of religiousness—the collective worship of moral gods in which almost everyone engaged in 1800—should be associated with these markers of mutation. In other words, both atheists and those interested in spirituality with no moral gods (such as the paranormal) should be disproportionately mutants.

And this is precisely what they show. Poor physical and mental health are both significantly genetic and imply high mutational load. Dutton and his team demonstrate that this specific form of religiousness, when controlling for key factors such as SES, predicts much better objective mental and physical health, recovery from illness, and longevity than atheism.

It’s generally believed that religiousness makes you healthier because it makes you worry less and elevates your mood, but they turn this view on its head, showing that religious worshippers are more likely to carry gene forms associated with being low in anxiety. Schizophrenia, they show, is associated with extreme and anti-social religiosity, rather than collective worship. Similarly, belief in the paranormal is predicted by schizophrenia, and this is a marker of genetic mutation.

Next, they test autism, another widely accepted marker of mutation, as evidenced by the fact that it’s more common among the children of older men, whose fathers are prone to mutant sperm. Autism predicts atheism.

The good news is that once times get difficult again, atheism will again recede in both quantities and virulence. The bad news is that we are going to have to try to treat people born with what I suggest we call "Dawkins Syndrome" with a little more sympathy, since they probably can't help their lack of belief or behavior much more than those born with Downe's Syndrome.

How fortunate that those born with Dawkins Syndrome are so highly rational and inclined to put perfect faith in science. Surely they will accept these new scientific discoveries about their condition with grace and aplomb.