Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers & spiders dwell in unity!

I guess Abe beat me to this one, but I’ll join the party a little late.

Rebecca is looking at a study that found

“…low belief in human evolution was associated with higher levels of prejudice, racist attitudes, and support for discriminatory behaviors against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ), Blacks, and immigrants in the United States (Study 1), with higher ingroup biases, prejudicial attitudes toward outgroups, and less support for conflict resolution in samples collected from 19 Eastern European countries (Study 2), 25 Muslim countries (Study 3), and Israel (Study 4). Further, among Americans, lower belief in evolution was associated with greater prejudice and militaristic attitudes toward political outgroups (Study 5).”

That’s an observation that accords well with what I’ve seen, anecdotally. My most religious family members are also the most racist…or is it that my most racist relatives are the most religious? I don’t really know which direction the arrow of causality is facing.

But also, as someone who has associated more with atheists than theists, we all know that the atheist movement split over precisely this kind of issue. There are lots of self-declared evolutionists who also rail against immigration, who claim that there are differences in intelligence that split along racial lines, and who are confident that women are inferior to men. I’m looking at the study and thinking that maybe this result is an artifact of the godless being swamped out by the numbers of the godly.

But then, they controlled for religion.

“Finally, perceived similarity to animals (a construct distinct from belief in evolution, Study 6) partially mediated the link between belief in evolution and prejudice (Studies 7 and 8), even when controlling for religious beliefs, political views, and other demographic variables, and were also observed for nondominant groups (i.e., religious and racial minorities). ”

Now that’s more believable, and narrows the cause of the effect significantly. It’s not just religion, it’s having beliefs that encourage categorizing some living things as meaningless and subject to murder. That’s a metric that clearly suggests that the most egalitarian and benevolent people are those who even love spiders. (OK, respecting the right to life for fruit flies might be even better, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to that level of enlightenment yet.)

Now I want to see a comparison of NRA members to the general public. People who buy great big guns so they can slaughter large warmbloods might be the worst of them all.


  1. wzrd1 says

    Call me racist, but I can, at least barely, tolerate the human race. But, there is no power in the universe that can induce me to not loathe the rat race.

    I do have one problem with PZ’s desired study, due to selection bias errors. NRA members aren’t the only firearm owners and users, so one has already an inherent bias to give poor results. That wasn’t always the case, but since the industry takeover since the gun control act was supported by the sportsman’s NRA, well, the organization’s mostly industry types misleading it and yahoos who think precision is via superior volume of fire.
    Personally, I’m of the view that superior volume of fire is one precisely aimed shot, as that’d fill the dinner pot nicely if I bothered to load my hunting rifle.

    Oh, odd bug report. The e-mail notification was proudly titled “?p=65776”, which is the post number of this posting, rather than the title. Don’t know if it’s a software error, configuration error or simply a gremlin. Been feeding them at night again? ;)

  2. birgerjohansson says

    The good thing about people with big guns is, they will attract the attention of the Predators and give the rest of us a better chance of getting away.

  3. says

    Well, a low belief in evolution implies a high belief in Creationism. I remember a particular flame war I got into on YouTube about a flat Earth video. I drew a direct connection between flerfs and young Earthers. Dude told me “to leave religion out of it and just laugh at the flat Earther”. Those two things are inseparable. Fish have gills and flerfs believe in god. I have yet to see a single example of a young Earther or flerf who doesn’t also believe in god.

  4. ardipithecus says

    A fruit fly;s right to life does not include the right to not be eaten by spiders. There. Now you can sleep at night.

  5. PaulBC says

    This is just my hunch and I’d like to see data, but I wonder if the key factor behind many damaging belief systems is essentialism (using the wikipedia definition: “the view that objects have a set of attributes that are necessary to their identity”). It causes people to try to pigeonhole bits of reality into ill-fitting categories, and they get personally offended when the bits don’t fit. The connection to racist and anti-LGBTQ prejudice is clear: people have certain roles they must adhere to. The connection to evolution is, for instance, the idea that humans are essentially distinct from other animals, or that in general there are categorical barriers that must persist (for reasons never explained) even while acknowledging that mutations can happen and result in incremental adaptation (the “microevolution” vs. “macroevolution” canard).

    Some of this may be innate to personality types, but I would also blame Platonism for its grip on Western thought and on Christianity in particular. I grew up with the idea that a geometric sphere is “perfect” and that, for instance, a suspended droplet is an “imperfect” sphere. It was much later that I realized how backwards this view is. Reality is filled with features (such as a roughly minimized surface) that “perfectly” reflect what is actually there. A geometric sphere is an “imperfect” approximation that may often provide us with a useful abstraction to reality.

    In fact when such an abstraction is less applicable (perhaps the feature has fractal properties) that does not make a poor exemplar of a category (like a non-contender at a dog show) but merely demonstrates that your categories will never suffice to grasp reality. In fact, I may be giving racists and homophobes too much credit. Maybe they’re just assholes, but assuming there’s an intellectual cause behind their outlook, this is what it seems like to me.

  6. Pierce R. Butler says

    PaulBC @ # 7: … essentialism … causes people to try to pigeonhole bits of reality into ill-fitting categories… The connection to … anti-LGBTQ prejudice is clear…

    You don’t have to look hard to find essentialism in LGB & especially T assertions either.

    … I would also blame Platonism …

    Darwin would have gotten nowhere if he hadn’t first learned to abandon Platonism.

  7. Alverant says

    Racists will latch onto any theory to justify their superiority and the inferiority of others. Religion just makes it easier because of the whole “lack of evidence” thing.

  8. KG says

    You don’t have to look hard to find essentialism in LGB & especially T assertions either. – Pierce R. Butler@8

    For example?

  9. Pierce R. Butler says

    KG @ # 11 – F’rexample, the unnuanced claim by many transpersons that “I am a REAL ___”.

    This involves a re-definition of “____”, which I accept, but also implies some intangible essence of ____-hood, which at minimum calls for clearer description seemingly unlikely to emerge soon, from present trends. (Of course some philosophers may have created a comprehensive reconceptualization that hasn’t reached my aging cishet ears.)

    FTR: I do not oppose transgender rights or people in any way – I just think the revolution in gender relations their uprising has opened up has much further to go, and we should not lock ourselves into current understandings while those continue to ramify.

  10. PaulBC says

    KG@11 For example, equating sex with XX or XY karyotype is a form of essentialism. It’s also completely at odds with human history, throughout which XY women have always existed, and would have been identified as sterile women, not male zygotes who developed the “wrong way.” And stunningly, Richard Dawkins has done this equating, which in his case, I would attribute to dishonesty rather than ignorance. I assume he knows a lot more about human embryonic development than I do. (Or he’s really just losing it.)

    Even careful and sympathetic explanations of Swyer Syndrome can’t really get around the presumptions. In this case, it might be more precise to call the fallacy teleological* rather than essentialism. The SRY gene “failed” to function as it’s “supposed to” (my words with scare quotes) resulting in “the failure of the sex glands (i.e., testicles or ovaries) to develop” (their words).

    In fact, it’s not supposed to do anything. There was not an unlucky little XY zygote denied its birthright of becoming a boy. It was a cell with particular genes that under particular environmental conditions developed a certain way. And by convention, we call the outcome a baby girl. Things can get medically difficult if there is a germ cell tumor (which is by no means certain). Puberty doesn’t work out conventionally, but it is not out of line with other conditions, including those with XX karyotype. To call this a “failure” is making a judgment that comes from some fixed concept of what it means to be essentially male or female.

    I don’t deny that there are statistical clusters. The question is the language we use for outliers and whether we believe in some urgency to do something to make the categories line up more neatly. Anyway, that’s what I mean by essentialism. I am not sure about Pierce R. Butler.

    *Which suggests to me that teleology is another big part of the problem both with creationists and bigots and I might have mentioned it if I had thought about it at the time.

  11. PaulBC says

    Hmm… I guess I misread Pierce R. Butler, thinking (optimistically) he meant assertions about LGTBQ people by transphobes and homophobes. Of course, being gay or trans does not grant immunity against essentialism, so it certainly wouldn’t surprise me to hear them sometimes make assertions in terms of essential categories. Essentialism is hard to escape, both culturally and in informal thought. But I don’t think you’d find more than average levels and a lot less than from religious bigots.

  12. Pierce R. Butler says

    PaulBC @ # 13: … some urgency to do something to make the categories line up more neatly.

    Not quite what I mean by essentialism, but the fallacy of insisting on the primacy of labels does overlap quite a bit with it.

    @ # 14: … I misread Pierce R. Butler, thinking (optimistically) he meant assertions about LGTBQ people by transphobes …

    No, I specifically mentioned “LGB & especially T assertions”. But I agree that the LGBTQ population as a whole has given the relevant issues more and better thought than the ~phobes.