I was busy during the “brights debate a few weeks back, but Steve Sailer’s recent comments jogged my memory. As one of the only theistic Gene Expressors, I’ll concede that atheists’ unpopularity is for the most part undeserved. Having known several atheists in Europe (and many whom I suspect are closet atheists in America) I think that atheists’ ill-rep is mostly an image problem. In my experience most American atheists know that they are ill-favored and tend to keep mum. Therefore, an atheists who readily identifies himself as such quite frequently has a GIGANTIC chip on his shoulder and alienates most believers due to his hystrionic antisocialness. Not to say that many believers don’t have an instinctive revulsion for atheists (as they often do for theists, but I suspect that relatively few religious Americans have close friends who are open atheists. Therefore, whenever some self-infatuated wanker decides to promote himself on the back of his school-aged child, religious people read the paper and say “Huh, I was right about them.”
However, as a believer myself, I can assure you that “brights” is not the way to go. Richard Dawkins manifests in great abundance the atheist stereotype that I find to be probably the most accurate among them: noxious arrogance. I am not saying that religious people cannot be arrogant, but however great a scientist Dawkins might be, an image repair campaign of this magnitude requires skills and talents he does not have. Stone-hearted atheists who feel unloved, listen up: Chuck the obnoxious intellectuals and hire the best PR consultant money can buy. And here’s some free advice: trying to improve your image among believers by implying that you think they’re all stupid is a really dumb idea. Maybe Dawkins isn’t as “bright” as he thinks.
P.S. from duende: As of tomorrow, I’ll be in Japan for 4 weeks, so you won’t see me around here much.
Sailer’s a great guy and I like him a lot, but he’s totally wrong on the Dawkins issue. I mean, Dawkins may be a militant atheist, but he’s done a *huge* service in advancing the public’s understanding of evolution. Others (like Gould on the left, Robertson on the right, etc.) did much to advance the public’s *misunderstanding* of evolution.
As for theism… needless to say, as “godless” I disagree with duende. I do feel that if you believe in religion, you believe in magic and fairy tales. In the end, there are no believers in foxholes, because when push comes to shove you’ll reach for your gun rather than your cross. Science *works*, but religion does not.
I admit that I have less respect for people who can’t understand this, but I don’t push it in their faces. This is because I now understand that blaming them is like blaming people who can’t understand math. Developments in neurotheology and heritability estimates for religious belief have made me realize that arguing with someone who believes in God is often much like teaching someone to do mathematics who just doesn’t have the ability…it’s pointless because their brain simply isn’t programmed that way
…religion and belief in God is a human construction. I covered Bouchard’s twin studies showing a roughly 50% heritability of religiosity, Persinger’s research in replicating spiritual experiences in the laboratory (with electromagnetic fields), Ramachandran’s research with temporal lobe epilepsy-triggered religious experiences, NDE’s being replicated in the laboratory (all to show that religiosity and religious experiences are at least, in part, a function of our genes and biology…
I’m thankful that I don’t have quite so developed/influential a “god zone” in my brain. I’ll close with Sailer himself:
Anti-religiousness is the appropriate professional prejudice of scientists. The “Far Side” cartoon summed it up. A lab-coated researcher is filling the left and right sides of a black board with equations, but the only thing connecting the two clouds of symbols are the words, “A miracle happens here.” Another scientist suggests, “Maybe you could give us a little more detail on that middle section.” Relying on miracles in science is like relying on the lottery in retirement planning.
The difference, of course, is that relying on the lottery is far more certain.
 I am open to counterexamples.
 Ctrl-f for “religiosity”.