Firstly, I’d like to point out the great irony of this. Atheists, whose worldview depends most heavily on Evolution, who talk a lot about the selfish gene and biological fitness, focusing all of their thought and efforts on the preset, physical world, are themselves unfit in it. Theists, who don’t seem to care much about fitness or genes (and in some cases, actively reject evolutionary notions), focus instead on non-physical places like Heaven and spiritual beings like God; they are the ones who turn out to be the more fit in the physical world. Faith in “Iron Age fairy tales” (as Sam Harris puts it) turns out to be more effective in producing fitness than faith in Science (with a capital ‘S’). Perhaps we have, as a species, finally discovered our origins, and are now being destroyed by the forbidden knowledge.
Now it’s time for that ever-dangerous and often wrong practice called extrapolation! Now that we have, in strict biological terms, determine the meme of Atheism to be a parasite, let us turn our attention to what this will mean for the meme and its host.
One of two things will happen if the evident fertility rates are true and remain unchanged. If Atheism does not prove to be contagious, if it does not transmit horizontally from person to person, then it will go extinct; it will prove to be a parasite whose hosts are out-bred by those with the symbiont meme of Theism. If those infected fail to proselytize and spread the meme, then it will fail in a few generations.
If, on the other hand, Atheism proves contagious, then it may survive. It reduces the fitness of its hosts, and, like a virus, can only stay alive by reducing its host's fitness. As far as we know, this is how viruses we have today did survive through the ages: perpetual transmission despite host destruction. In this case, Atheism doesn’t destroy the life of its victims, only their ability to reproduce. It is possible that it will persist by continued horizontal transmission (adults to adults), despite how it is self-limited in vertical transmission (parents to children) by reduced fitness.
If this latter case is true (and I think it is, given the increasing number of nonreligious people), and given present fertility rates hold, we as a species must keep it under control; if Homo sapiens is to survive, we cannot all be Atheists. Dawkins and the New Atheists envision a world without religion and think such a world would be better (for a direct critique of this idea, I can think of no more convincing argument than that advanced by Parker, Stone, et. al.: here). But, if our assumptions hold, such a world cannot exist. With a fertility rate of 1.18 (or anything less than 2), it would not take many generations for our race to go extinct. And then, even if it were better morally, ours would be a selfish tyranny of a greedy few human generations, who despised their ancestors’ hopes for their would-be descendents to go on living.
With or without an Atheist utopia, this critique can be applied to Atheists as a group. With a collective fertility rate below 2, they are enjoying the benefits of their ancestors’ genes without carrying on the proud tradition of life by bestowing their genes to their children. A billion generations of unicellular organisms, fish, amphibians, mammals, apes and humans in an unbroken line have all kept positive population growth up through the present day, just to be cut off at last by a creature calling itself an Atheist. (Now I've been picking on Atheism for low birth rates as it is the thrust of this essay. But the same arguments apply to rich people, educated people and white people on the whole; all of them have negative population growth. I might blog about that later.)
Atheism, like every parasite, needs to constantly spread to new organisms if it is to survive. It must recruit Theists, because it cannot, by itself, produce enough Atheists. To maintain the population of infected hosts, it must draw from the vivacious uninfected. Thus, Atheism is a meme that is dependent on another: Theism. Without the population to recruit from, it would drive its host into extinction. The opposite is not true of Theism; Theism is independent.
So we now have the following state of affairs:
So we now have the following state of affairs:
When the Selfish Gene finally produced his masterpiece, the Atheist, he found that he had finally created a being like unto himself. In the image of The Selfish Gene, he created him. Male and female he created them. But the Atheist had no high ambitions for immortality like the Selfish Gene who carried on for untold eons with a singular plan. No. The Atheist lacked this ideal, but he retained the selfishness. And so instead of spending resources in bearing and rearing young, the Atheist used all these for himself, The Selfish Gene and his plans be damned. So The Selfish Gene was destroyed by his child and his advocate: the Atheist. The Selfish Gene was, in the final hour, out-selfished by the Atheist.
What is the conclusion of the matter? As I said in the beginning, this essay is not about right and wrong. It’s not about true or false. I have taken concepts of biology and applied them to Atheism and Theism. So what’s the point of this essay? Some of the comments thus far have been along the lines of 'sure, but so what'? Why did I just write so much about Atheism and fitness? Let me be clear about some things I did not mean. When I said Atheism is unfit, I did not mean that Atheists are worthless people. When I said that they are selfish, I did not accuse them of irredeemable moral deprivation. All of the sins committed by the Atheist are also committed by the Theist, even idolatry. The point of this essay is not to bash Atheists, but to argue Atheism’s claim to be beneficial for the human race is biologically false. I argued that, in terms of the primary biological definition of benefit, Atheism does not benefit our race and that it must be sustained by a meme that does.
But all this leaves me open to a very powerful criticism. The Atheist may justly reply, "There are more important things than fitness! It's not all about biology!" To such a criticism, I would happily reply, “Then let us discuss Philosophy!” But, alas, Philosophy is not the subject of this essay!
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