It’s that time again. There’s been another horrific high-profile mass shooting. And as usual, all the nonsense that typically circulates when that happens is circulating again. “We need more gun control!” “The problem is mental illness!” Or “it’s not mental illness!” “It’s racism!”
Chris Harper Mercer added another layer to the matter – the fact that he was an atheist, indeed, a literal antitheist who specifically targeted Christians adds another lay to this whole thing. Conversations about atheism and religion are sure to follow.
— Slate (@Slate) October 2, 2015
— Slate (@Slate) October 2, 2015
Atheism is not a worldview so no one is motivated to kill in the name of it. Murders have many motives but no belief is not one of them.
— Michael Shermer (@michaelshermer) October 2, 2015
Line of best fit according to pro-gun activists. pic.twitter.com/dAeAUll9Mv
— Dave Radcliffe (@daveinstpaul) October 2, 2015
The key thing about this however is that I’ve written about all this stuff before. I don’t even need to add anything new, it seems, so far.
So with that said, check out my posts:
I showed that the relationship between the prevalence of guns and homicide, globally, was pretty weak:
Homicide rate per capita on bottom.
— Random C. Analysis (@RCAFDM) June 23, 2015
this should make clear the foolhardiness of trying to identify causal factors – especially those from life experience – that are responsible for any given individual’s behavior. How interesting would it be if Elliot Rodger had a twin brother with similar difficulties – including one or more violent episodes – but was raised in some far away place in quite different circumstances?
But none of that stops people from trying, cooking up all manner of explanations for Elliot Rodger’s killing spree, and in so to doing, executing, broadly, the post hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy in the process.
Religion comes to the religious because that’s how their brains are wired. A believer cannot think any different … Believers literally have God/Earth spirits/Buddha on the brain. To such a person, their deities are as real as the Sun in the sky (since, after all, the believer’s brain is the only brain he’s got). Religiosity is highly heritable (as are all behavioral traits)…
religious belief – or lack there of – is largely intractable. It is a futile effort to get people to give up religion en masse (or, for that matter, to get non-believers to believe). You may have some individual “successes”, largely because of changing the environmental context of people who already had the genetic potential for whatever belief you want to instill, but you’re not going to achieve broad change in the population.
However, it’s worth mentioning here that while there seems to be genetic underpinnings to religion – even the particular religion one adheres to (at least on the level of ethnic groups) – for the religious there is quite a bit of flexibility in what particular beliefs one holds. Many belief systems can fit the various “god-shaped holes” in people. Indeed, today’s atheists evolved from quite theistic earlier people. We can see that all across the developed world, where previous traditional religions have given rise to de facto and nominal atheism.
Of course, in many of these societies “atheism” is a bit of a stretch. Even in many of these nominally atheist societies, belief – or more accurately faith – is not absent. Secular religions have replaced spiritual ones. The belief in the supreme rational faculties and universal similarity of man that New Atheism (and for that matter, much of modern liberalism) is predicated on – essentially a watered-down blank-slatist view – is such an example.
(Note, don’t bother me about posting the killer’s name and face. That information is clearly relevant to what I discuss here.)
For that matter, you may want to see my posts on Peter Turchin’s work:
Turchin, who studies population dynamics at the University of Connecticut, has discovered the violent upheavals seems occur along a roughly 50 year cycle. If he is correct, and if this pattern holds, with the violence of the 1960s and ‘70s considered, it seems that we are on course for rough times around the year 2020. The current signs are not at all promising.
— Virginia Dare (@vdare) October 2, 2015
While we’re at it, check out M.G.’s post Those Who Can See: Reacting to Spree Killings, Progressively.
I’m just sayin’. This matter is clearly not as mysterious as the mainstream press makes it out to be. Nor are the usually proposed solutions likely to be effective (in fact, I think there is no solution). But that doesn’t stop the usual nonsense discussions from taking place. ‘Round and ’round in circles we go, where we stop, nobody knows.
In any case, here’s all you need for this discussion in one place. There are plenty of graphs and data in these posts, so, they should prove useful.