The Religious Resurgency: an epiphany from Live Science

Live Science is a journalistic website that reports science for plebeians. In a recent article they report that the world will get more religious by the year 2050.

This is hardly a revelation. The religious vibe has been increasingly in our faces, ever since 9/11. As George Dubbya Bush explained to Australian Prime Minister John Howard in February 2003, liberating the people of Iraq would not be a gift provided by the United States but, rather, "God's gift to every human being in the world". And so it came to pass that God rid the world of Saddam Hussein and gave us The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Of course we can think back a few more decades to 1979 when Iran became an Islamic State. And we can look at the here and now, and see than President Erdogan is maneuvering Turkey towards Islamic Statehood.

So we might wonder, why did it take Live Science sooo looong to figure out the obvious? Well, Live Science didn't figure out anything. They were just parroting a report by the Pew Forum. In turn, the Pew Forum was simply looking at demographics and extrapolating:

Fertility rates varied by religion ... with Muslims having the highest fertility rate, of 3.1 children per woman; Christians coming in second, with 2.7 kids per woman; Hindus and Jews with average fertility rates of 2.4 and 2.3, respectively; and Buddhists having one of the lowest fertility rates, at 1.6.

Today's religiously unaffiliated population, by contrast, is heavily concentrated in places with low fertility and aging populations, such as Europe, North America, China and Japan.

This sort of extrapolation is pretty minimial when it comes to scientific content. I guess that we could say that the underpinning scientific principles are (1) that religions grow their numbers by promoting the fertility of their followers and (2) by making sure that the resulting children are indoctrinated before they develop any capacity to think for themselves.

The mechanism(s) that cause religiousity of society to shift are not addressed by Live Science, nor by the Pew Forum. Would you be surprised to know that there is a scientific theory that not only explains resurgence of religion but also predicted it!

The theory is called "ecology". Effective application of ecology to human history is developed by Paul Colinvaux (1980) "The Fates of Nations: A Biological Theory for History". If you don't have a solid grounding in ecology, and even if you think you do, I recommend that first you should read his 1979 book, "Why Big Fierce Animals Are Rare".

Much as I'd like to, I'm not going to explain it all to you. Read the books.

As for the Pew Forum and Live Science, I think that it would be better if journalists read more.