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current events, Politics, Religion

Who’s to Blame?

A reader recently sent me this link, along with the question:  Who or what is to blame?  Should we say that the religion or the culture causes this human atrocity?  I feel like my answer is involved enough that it needs its own post.

Here’s the situation.  A 12 year old girl in Yemen died of internal bleeding after having intercourse with her new husband.  It’s not an isolated incident, either.   The minimum age for marriage is somewhat nebulous there, and approximately one out of three women are married before age 18.  Prepubescent girls are not physically prepared for adult sexual relationships, so there are often complications and injuries.  In September, another 12 year old died from complications during childbirth.

So where do we place the blame?  To begin with, we need to know something about Yemen.  (Out of curiosity, could you find Yemen on a map?)  One of the poorest countries in the Middle East, Yemen suffers from an unemployment rate that fluctuates around 40%.  They have little oil compared to other Arab states, but they do have relatively large natural gas reserves.

Yemeni women bear approximately six children each.  The population growth rate is very high compared to more wealthy and industrialized countries.  Social organization is largely tribal, with somewhat sporadic interference and regulation from a weak central government.  Fifty-three percent of the population is Sunni and forty seven percent is Shi’a.  (Notice that’s 100% of the population. Officially, less than 1% of Yemenis are non-Muslim.)

Health care is scarce in most rural regions.  Most childhood mortality is the result of illnesses which are preventable with vaccination programs.  The average life expectancy is 63.27 years.  There are approximately 3 doctors for every 10,000 people.  Public education (including indoctrination into Islam) is universal, compulsory, and free for children aged 6-15, but the requirement is often not enforced, leading to a largely illiterate rural population.

Ok.  Now we know something about the country and the culture.  Most of my readers are probably somewhat familiar with Islam, so I will not spend time recapping their beliefs.

Now, with the caveat that I’ve never been to Yemen, nor am I an expert on Middle Eastern culture, I think there are still some generalizations that we can make about child marriage and abuse.

  • Progressiveness (both culturally and politically) generally correlates to wealth and health.  That isn’t to say wealth causes progressiveness — just look at Saudi Arabia and The United States.  Two politically backwards religious countries who also have great wealth.  But it is to say that when a culture is progressive, it also tends very strongly to have substantial wealth and health.  Yemen has neither, so it’s probably fair to say that extreme poverty is contributing to  their adherence to old traditional Muslim marriage models
  • Education works the same way.  Progressive countries tend to have high levels of education.  Yemen does not.  A lot of these folks probably have no idea how many mountains of empirical evidence stand against the practice of child marriage.
  • Speaking of education… Though there’s no clear correlation between education and non-religiousness, there is a strong correlation between under-education and extremism.  (There are some who might argue against this, citing the U.S. as an example, but I would make the argument that Liberty University doesn’t count as higher education.)  That is, poorly educated people are more susceptible to wild literalist religious beliefs.
  • Islam is a religion that actively and viciously punishes heresy (disagreement).  Women are religiously mandated to be subservient (slaves).  The law does not offer much, if any, protection for women who do not willingly acquiesce to their role in society.

I could probably go on listing potential factors involved in Yemen’s marriage policy, but I think the point is well made.  To say that any one thing causes the problem would be too simplistic.  There are many things that have caused it.  On the surface, it looks like a reasonable deal for many poor parents.  Their daughter is married off to a man who can afford to give her a better life.  The girl’s family is better off, and the girl is better off.  Many husbands make pledges to the bride’s parents, saying they will not consummate the marriage until she is older.  Many of these marriages are polygamous, so it’s not like the girl is her husband’s only sexual outlet.

Of course, we know that this rosy picture is not always how it happens, but the rationalization is probably enough to convince parents on the edge of starvation to consent to their daughter’s wedding.  So on one hand, we can explain it in purely economic terms.

On the other hand, we must recognize the power of theocracy.  Regardless of how many of Yemen’s top political officials really believe in their religion, a large part of the general public does, and their belief makes compliance more intellectually satisfying.   In the eyes of many good Muslims, the government is enforcing religious ideals, and that’s what God wants.

On the other hand (are we up to three hands now?) the Yemeni government is also pretty famous for less-than-entirely-legal enforcement of “local customs” such as complete subservience to the local warlord, regardless of what the centralized government says.  Tribal warlords are often the final say on who does what and why.

So there are a lot of factors.  Economic, political, social, and religious forces combine to create a compelling case for parents to continue to marry their daughters off at young ages.  Sadly, if we removed any one “cause” with some kind of magic culture-wand, we’d probably still have the problem.

It has been said by many that education is a fundamental step towards individual progressive thought, and individual progressive thought is necessary for governmental progressiveness.  I agree.  But there’s a pretty nasty catch-22 when education is prevented by multiple factors.  Education costs money, and there just isn’t much to be had.  Education is anti-religion, and Yemen is ruled by the religious.  (Most religious rulers are smart enough to know better than to educate their populace.)  For education to produce a genuinely egalitarian culture, it needs to be universal — not just universal for men.  Yemeni women generally drop out of school when they marry.  Men do not.  So that’s a problem as well.  How do you educate everyone when it’s in men’s interest to keep women from being educated, and women are willfully forgoing education as it is?

If there was such a thing as “Atheist Evangelism Ministries” it wouldn’t do any good in Yemen.  The culture is not ready for atheism.  The government would simply squash it, and the penalty for professing atheism would be too high socially for anyone to do it.  For godlessness to have a chance, there has to be religious freedom.

Cultural change is a long, slow process.  At the recent American Atheists Conference, several of the speakers discussed a fifty to one hundred year plan for secularizing America.  And that’s in a country which ostensibly already has religious freedom, and was founded on the separation of church and state.  Religion may not be the “cause” of various social problems in Yemen, but so long as religious theocracy and social norms enforce and facilitate them, we can certainly say that it is preventing change.  For Yemen, and unfortunately, for Yemeni girls, it’s unlikely that the practice of prepubescent marriage will end any time soon, and if it does, it’s likely that the fragmented nature of the society will lead to large pockets where the practice will remain prevalent even if the government takes a stand against it.

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Discussion

26 thoughts on “Who’s to Blame?

  1. How Bizarre, Hamby

    Atheism requires an unquestioned believe in evolution. Evolution believes that all human motives are simply for food, sex, and reproduction. All emotions such as love, hate, and compassion are simply electrons firing in the brain.

    Evolution states that your compassion for the 12 year old girl is is simply an illusion. Atheism requires that you simply let nature run its course.

    You need more Christian de-programing, your Atheism faith is under attack…

    .

    Posted by PG | April 11, 2010, 7:22 pm
  2. Sad but true. Cultural change takes a long time. I am glad I was born in a tiny spot called the USA on a tiny blue dot called earth. I won the genetic lottery.

    And the plan for a secular America is 50 – 100 years? Damn. I am not going to see it! I can only hope that whatever I do inches secular humanism forward. If you think of the chances that I won the genetic lottery, think of the chance of my little life making a difference. I can only hope for a ripple in the pond. I like to think of the progression America would make if 90% of the society were non-theistic science loving people.

    What is contributing to deistic faith in the face of evidence to the contrary? Is there anyway to penetrate it?

    Posted by PaigeB | April 11, 2010, 7:30 pm
  3. Atheism requires an unquestioned believe in evolution. Evolution believes that all human motives are simply for food, sex, and reproduction. All emotions such as love, hate, and compassion are simply electrons firing in the brain.

    Have you been watching God TV? Who told you atheism has anything to do with evolution? It doesn’t. Some atheists don’t believe in atheism. Most do, because most of the educated people on the planet believe in evolution. America and the Middle East are the only places where evolution is seriously questioned in the industrialized world.

    Evolution is one of the things that often makes Christians question their belief, and rightfully so. But liberal Christianity is compatible with evolution.

    Evolution states that your compassion for the 12 year old girl is is simply an illusion. Atheism requires that you simply let nature run its course.

    No, it doesn’t. Do some searching for Franz de Waal and primate research. His theories on reciprocity and non-zero sum math elegantly explain why compassion is real, natural, and a logical product of the evolution of group dynamics.

    You need more Christian de-programing, your Atheism faith is under attack…

    Hehe… thanks, PG. Let me know when your first journal article is published.

    Posted by hambydammit | April 11, 2010, 7:47 pm
  4. What is contributing to deistic faith in the face of evidence to the contrary? Is there anyway to penetrate it?

    There are a lot of things contributing to it. Evidence is pointing to distinct differences in the brains of atheists and theists, and that’s going to lead to some interesting research. There’s also some evidence that people are born with a certain capacity for accepting compartmentalization and cognitive dissonance. Atheists, it would seem, are less able to compartmentalize cognitive dissonance. There are lots of questions we haven’t even thought to ask yet, but the initial research is damn interesting.

    But that kind of research is being done in egalitarian countries with freedom of religion. We don’t know very much at all about the minds of believers in theocratic regimes. What effect does repression and lack of freedom have on belief? Hard to say.

    Then there’s the simple dichotomy between religion and science. Religion is really easy. Science is really hard. In order to be a good religious person, we need to remember a handful of platitudes and “Thou Shalt Not’s.” In order to be a good scientist, we need twenty years or so of intensive training, research, blood, sweat, and tears. For most people living “the normal life,” religion is a fast, convenient answer to the hard questions in life.

    Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions about science — especially evolution. For example, a lot of people believe that Hitler was an atheist and used evolution as a basis for his “final solution.” But the theory of evolution doesn’t address anything like it, and even if Hitler believed evolution was on his side, he was wrong. Many people think evolution prescribes a certain way of thinking about morality, but it doesn’t do that, either. Evolution is silent on the topic of normative morals.

    There are certainly ways to penetrate the wall of religion. You and I are helping to do it right now by simply talking about it in public. Memes can spread in a variety of ways, and anyone who is actively trying to spread skepticism about religious beliefs is probably helping. The Secular Coalition for America is working to spread the secular meme through both legislative and public opinion avenues. The Freedom from Religion Foundation steps in to protect the legal rights of those who are being discriminated against or abused in the name of religion.

    But it’s a slow process, and there will be lots of resistance. I believe the best thing we all can do is… well… to do everything we can think of, and add to the cumulative effect.

    Posted by hambydammit | April 11, 2010, 8:04 pm
  5. Hamby, do you have a link to the study about atheists have less tolerance for cognitive dissonance?

    What is contributing to deistic faith in the face of evidence to the contrary? Is there anyway to penetrate it?

    http://www.amazon.com/Gods-Trust-Evolutionary-Landscape-Evolution/dp/0195149300

    Posted by Cpt_pineapple | April 11, 2010, 9:30 pm
  6. For example, a lot of people believe that Hitler was an atheist and used evolution as a basis for his “final solution.”

    “Secular schools can never be tolerated because such schools have no religious instruction, and a general moral instruction without a religious foundation is built on air; consequently, all character training and religion must be derived from faith… we need believing people.”

    Adolf Hitler, Nazi-Vatican Concordant speech
    April 26, 1933

    That’s the quote I like to use when people tow forward either the ‘religion is necessary for morality’ or ‘Hitler was an atheist’ arguments.

    Still have your nostrils up Mr. Atran’s ass, eh Alison?

    Posted by Kevin R Brown | April 12, 2010, 1:52 am
  7. Still have your nostrils up Mr. Atran’s ass, eh Alison?

    PaigeB wanted to know why people hold a God belief so I linked here to a book on why people hold a God belief.

    Simple eh?

    But since you insist, here is one sans Atran

    http://artsci.wustl.edu/~pboyer/RelCogWebSite/CognitiveTemplates.pdf

    Posted by Cpt_pineapple | April 12, 2010, 2:00 pm
  8. Alison, I’ll have to find out if it’s been published yet. It’s a friend of mine’s research, and it was for a PhD paper. Not sure if it is on a fast track to publishing or not.

    Posted by hambydammit | April 12, 2010, 2:05 pm
  9. Okay, but did he specifically compare Theists to atheists?

    If I recall correctly, you’ve mentioned it before and simply said that some people are more tolerant to dissonance than others.

    Posted by Cpt_pineapple | April 12, 2010, 2:22 pm
  10. IIRC, atheists tended to have a higher resistance to cognitive dissonance. I do know there wasn’t a causal connection implied, and there was definitely some noise in the data, so it’s just preliminary, for certain. The study was just designed to detect tolerance for cognitive dissonance, and it was an observation of the data that showed a higher percentage of atheists. Might have been an artifact of the sample pool or something else.

    All this study of the “atheist brain” is very new, so pretty much anything is going to be preliminary at this point.

    Posted by hambydammit | April 12, 2010, 3:24 pm
  11. PaigeB wanted to know why people hold a God belief so I linked here to a book on why people hold a God belief.

    Simple eh?

    So you linked him/her to a book written by a right wing goon & fascist?

    Well, for PaigeB’s benefit, I’d like to throw out a bit of context regarding Mr. Atran: in the late 1970s, Atran was clinking mugs & sharing cigars with the leaders of the Indonesian military as they butchered & raped hundreds of thousands in people in East Timor for the ‘crime’ of opting to attempt the formation of a Marxist government under the banner of FRETILIN.

    Today, Mr. Atran spends much of his time in the Persian Gulf shaking hands with mass murderers and congratulating them for rejecting enlightenment concepts like democracy & free expression, for burning down embassies & killing Danes over offensive cartoons & for destroying the lives of North Africans & the citizens of Eritrea.

    What a man to surrender your ears to.

    Posted by Kevin R Brown | April 12, 2010, 4:13 pm
  12. I’m holding my breath. Wait for it… wait for it…. It’s a fruit, and it’s going to accuse you of something that starts with ad and ends with hominem.

    Posted by hambydammit | April 12, 2010, 4:27 pm
  13. kevin, that’s an ad hominem.

    Posted by general grapefruit | April 12, 2010, 5:21 pm
  14. Kevin what are you talking about?

    Seriously, I have yet to see any indication that Atran condones or supports genocide or terrorism.

    What he’s doing is in science called “gathering data”

    When Atran goes to the middle east to interview family members of suicide bombers, it’s not to pat them on the back, it’s to understand the mechanisms that motivate suicide bombers.

    If you haven’t noticed, when Atran writes an article or paper about Al Qaeda or genocide in Indonesia, it’s about how to reduce support for them and to STOP terrorism, not to let it flourish.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/scott-atran/to-beat-al-qaeda-look-to_b_390420.html

    Look at his too:

    http://www.edge.org/discourse/bb.html#atran2

    I do not criticize Sam Harris, or those he identifies with, for wanting to rid the world of dogmatically-held beliefs that are vapid, barbarous, anachronistic and wrong. I object to their manner of combating such beliefs, which is often scientifically baseless, psychologically uninformed, politically naïve, and counterproductive for goals we share.

    You see Kevin, the actual reason to his views about causes of terrorism, and the role of religion in society such as his debate with Harris at the Beyond Belief conference [linked to above] isn’t that religion is good, or that we should high five Bin Laden.

    It’s that by ignoring the other factors in favour of the religion factor, we’re not going to get anywhere.

    I can’t repair my car engine by getting a new muffler so the broken engine makes less noise. Simple eh?

    Also, haven’t we gone over this already?

    Let me say this AGAIN:

    The reason I link to Atran is that his research is relevent to the conversation, such as linking to his book explaining why people hold religious beliefs to answer the question of why people hold religious beliefs.

    His research is usually mainstream and accesable, a simple google search will pop up his papers, and his book is relativly simple to find and read.

    My obsessions are with Sailor Moon and Final Fantasy, not Atran.

    Posted by Cpt_pineapple | April 12, 2010, 5:41 pm
  15. That’s strange, I wrote one response to Kevin, and thought I posted it, but it didn’t go up. So I just thought I closed the window too fast after hitting submit and it didn’t go through, so I just wrote another one, but I don’t see that one either.

    Maybe it’s awaiting moderation, but I can usually see it and it says “awaiting moderation” below it.

    Posted by Cpt_pineapple | April 12, 2010, 5:47 pm
  16. I’m sorry, Alison. For some reason, a small percentage of your posts get kicked to the spam bin. I have to conclude that it has something to do with the links you posted, but I’m not really sure what it is. Some links get kicked to spam, and some go through.

    Posted by hambydammit | April 12, 2010, 5:48 pm
  17. kevin, that’s an ad hominem

    No, it’s quite relevant to the subject; Mr. Atran must be considered a credible source if he’s to be cited as a legitimate researcher. Participating in the massacre & rape of Timorians as a cheerleader punches a mighty large hole in his credibility when it comes to assessing sectarian violence & terrorism (for the same reason, you would not want to trust the content of, say, an anthropology paper that we discovered Dr. Joseph Goebbels had written – not without some incredibly vigorous scrutiny, at any rate).

    Kevin what are you talking about?

    Seriously, I have yet to see any indication that Atran condones or supports genocide or terrorism.

    Funny thing: I always knew, somehow, that Mr. Atran was a slug. I couldn’t really tell why I felt that way, other than his staunch defense of the fascists in the Persian Gulf (but I have a number of friends who do that, and I don’t have the same sort of reaction to them) and something of a suspicion he was a closet theist – but after you brought him up a few times as a source by which we could all apparently be enlightened, I went and did some reading on his background.

    Turns out that in 1976, having just two years prior hosted a landmark debate in France between himself, Mr. Chomsky, Mr. Piaget, Mr. Levi-Strauss, Mr. Bateson, Mr. Jacob and Mr. Monod, Scott apparently decided that it was time to start looking for some friends in politics (since his ‘friends’ in academia just weren’t delivering for him, I suppose). He found these friends in the persons of Henry Kissinger & Walter Mondale. He effectively arranged with Mr. Kissinger to become a civilian espionage agent operating within Southeast Asia (now that Kissinger now longer had access to the CIA, he was looking elsewhere for thugs to keep eyes on his political & business interests), and later with Mr. Mondale arranged to become an ‘advisor’ for policy in the Persian Gulf.

    What he’s doing is in science called “gathering data”

    Oh, really?

    MEDIN: It was made very clear to us that friends of Kissinger were friends of Suharto. [Atran] really became accustomed to our host and [Inaudible] especially accustomed to the palace. We hardly left it after we landed.

    MEDIN: Well, we were having some rum one evening I recall with Suharto and Murtopo, and a few drinks in the conversation shifted to the ‘New Order’ policy that was being implemented in Indonesia, and that’s when I recall Atran saying, “You’d think those fucking commies would’ve learned their lesson by now,”

    …Now, maybe I can sympathize with saying dumb & prejudiced things while I’m a few rums down for the evening, but what part of lounging around in a dictator’s palace, exchanging pleasantries & tanking on rum falls under ‘collecting data’?

    Posted by Kevin R Brown | April 13, 2010, 12:50 am
  18. Do you have a source?

    As in a link and a reliable one, preferably not from Alex Jones?

    Oh let me guess, a Mossad agent told you that over skype?

    Posted by Cpt_pineapple | April 13, 2010, 1:12 am
  19. Oh an let me tell you a little something about science, Mr Brown.

    In science we have something called peer review. This of course is the reason you don’t see Alex Jones’s political views in political science and history classes. That’s way you don’t see Behe’s work in biology journals. [Or his views on ID and evolution at least]

    You see, if Atran was a complete hack right wing facist with no empirical support for his claims, his views would have stopped with him. He would be merely ranting on blogs and internet boards. But he’s not. He’s writing in peer reviewed journals. He’s part of a scientific organization

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centre_national_de_la_recherche_scientifique

    publishing in peer reviewed journals.

    So one of two things:

    1] The CNRS is a right wing facist organization. [Compariable to the Nazis apparently]

    or

    2] You’re full of shit

    Even if he was a right wing facist, his views wouldn’t get through to journals and the scientific community if he was full of shit.

    Another thing in science is independent verification. That is if Atran was a hack tool on say suicide bombings, then other scientists wouldn’t find the same thing. But they do

    http://www.rationalresponders.com/forum/20181

    http://www.psych.ubc.ca/~ara/Manuscripts/GingesHansenNorenzayan2009.pdf

    I don’t see him as the author of either of those papers.

    Anyway, keep on chirping. But seriously, you serve as a perfect example of what I think is wrong with the atheist movement.

    Posted by Cpt_pineapple | April 13, 2010, 1:31 am
  20. Do you have a source?

    As in a link and a reliable one, preferably not from Alex Jones?

    Oh, look; once again Alice is left with nothing but snarls, now pretending that I’m a fan of conspiracy theories & Alex Jones’s trash, because she’s not used to dealing with people who read things outside of Wikipedia.

    The interview with Mr. Medin is from an old VHS video dealing with the Indonesia invasion & occupation of East Timor in reaction to FRETILIN (I presume you don’t need a source for that?) and the various collaborators & supporters from the United States that President Suharto received (most of which came to him through contact with Henry Kissinger; you can ask Mr. Atran about his relationship with Mr. Kissinger yourself. I doubt he’d deny anything).

    Posted by Kevin R Brown | April 13, 2010, 2:15 am
  21. Here’s the mini-documentary dealing explicitly with Mr. Kissinger:

    http://www.youtube.com/watchv=7CHFiJNE2IA&feature=related

    …though it does not include the small part that Mr. Atran played in Indonesia (as it was well after Mr. Ford & Kissinger first left the island chain), it does give you some sense of what occurred in the Cold War when the west collectively decided that anything at all was better than allowing a single successful communist government to sprout-up and threaten the Bourgeoisie.

    Hitchens’s online contributions give a more in-depth study of the affair (though, again, Atran is left out):

    http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Kissinger/CaseAgainst1_Hitchens.html

    http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Kissinger/CaseAgainst2_Hitchens.html

    Posted by Kevin R Brown | April 13, 2010, 2:35 am
  22. Oh, look; once again Alice is left with nothing but snarls, now pretending that I’m a fan of conspiracy theories & Alex Jones’s trash, because she’s not used to dealing with people who read things outside of Wikipedia.

    The projection is blinding.

    Anyway, I made another post after that one [which is awaiting moderation due to links]

    But it’s worth re-iterating:

    Even if he and Kissinger did those or that. Even if him and Chomsky set up this or that. Even if Atran said “those fucking Commies learned their lesson.”

    What matters is the evidence he presents and his arguments. For the record he IS part of a scientific organization so your ad hom isn’t even true.

    Do you even know what an ad hom is?

    An ad hom is calling into question a person’s character rather than evaluating their argument.

    Have you even READ Atran’s papers? Do you even know his arguments? Do you even know what he’s arguing?

    I say stupid things. I do stupid things. That doesn’t mean everything I say or do is stupid or wrong.

    The reverse, is you don’t see me saying “Scott Atran is part of CNRS which is a prestigious scientific organisation so he’s right neener neener neener!”

    What you see me doing is linking to his data and arguments and evidence presented.

    So Kevin, if you want another lecture on the scientific method feel free to ring me up.

    Posted by Cpt_pineapple | April 13, 2010, 3:14 am
  23. Even if he and Kissinger did those or that. Even if him and Chomsky set up this or that. Even if Atran said “those fucking Commies learned their lesson.”

    What matters is the evidence he presents and his arguments. For the record he IS part of a scientific organization so your ad hom isn’t even true.

    Do you even know what an ad hom is?

    An ad hom is calling into question a person’s character rather than evaluating their argument.

    An ad hominem attack is dismissing someone’s arguments, research, etc, exclusively through insults. I am dealing explicitly with Mr. Atran’s character here, and more specifically with your claim that, ‘he was out collecting data’ when he visited President Suharto on his trip to Southeast Asia. He was not.

    We’ve already had our differences about the conclusions Mr. Atran has presented in his papers (I’ve pointed out rebuttals to his conclusions, you choose to ignore or marginalize the rebuttals), and we are not talking about a hard science where anyone can point to a tangible object or a double blind trial and give us a concrete answer. A researcher’s character matters when we’re talking about anthropology.

    You say that the fact that the man is a monster doesn’t alone invalidate his findings; fine, I concede the point. But I’m not interested in listening to goblins – I’ll wait for his work to be replicated by someone more credible & humane.

    (…And, for the record, ‘him and Chomsky’ didn’t do anything. Go and re-read what I wrote; in 1974 (two years prior to his trip to Southeast Asia) he had his infamous debate in France, with many high profile intellectuals participating (Chomsky among them). I need to provide a source for one of the most prolific cognitive science meetings ever held, now?)

    Posted by Kevin R Brown | April 13, 2010, 4:04 am
  24. I’ve pointed out rebuttals to his conclusions, you choose to ignore or marginalize the rebuttals

    IIRC, you merely said, Dennet, Tyson, Harris et al disagreed with him without out citing why they disagree.

    In other words, no you haven’t offered any rebuttels you just threw ad homs.

    I have read Harris’s objections to his views and find them unconvincing.

    and we are not talking about a hard science where anyone can point to a tangible object or a double blind trial and give us a concrete answer. A researcher’s character matters when we’re talking about anthropology.

    Actually, yes were ARE talking about a hard science. Anthropology and psychology are hard sciences.

    I’ll wait for his work to be replicated by someone more credible & humane

    You’ll have to wait for that comment to get approved, but I did link to two studies that repliciated his results about suicide bombers.

    Posted by Cpt_pineapple | April 13, 2010, 4:41 am
  25. Actually, yes were ARE talking about a hard science. Anthropology and psychology are hard sciences.

    But Mr. Atran’s particular arguments are not. He has not (and cannot) conduct a double blind study, due to the nature of the topic being explored. Much of his work is based on inference, not on something substantive.

    I referred you to a critique of his paper once before; I don’t have time right now to link to it again – but (like Dennet, Harris, Dawkins, etc) you simply chose to shrug it off. Why is that? What makes Atran’s arguments empirically more compelling?

    The only reason to find rebuttals ‘unconvincing’ at this point is because you prefer Atran’s conclusions.

    Posted by Kevin R Brown | April 13, 2010, 7:40 pm
  26. But Mr. Atran’s particular arguments are not. He has not (and cannot) conduct a double blind study, due to the nature of the topic being explored. Much of his work is based on inference, not on something substantive.

    Actually, yes it is based on something substantive.

    Kevin, scroll up and the post I was refering to is up with the link the the study I was refering is linked to. It’s just below the one where I ask you for a source about Atran and Indonesia.

    The study determines whether or not Religiousity is a predictor for support for suicide attacks.

    Here’s the conclusion:

    Taken together, these four studies represent strong support for
    the coalitional-commitment hypothesis and disconfirmation of
    the religious-belief hypothesis. Our findings suggest that the
    relationship between religion and support for suicide attacks is
    real, but is orthogonal to devotion to particular religious belief,
    or indeed religious belief in general. Of course, economic and
    political conditions may contribute strongly to support for suicide
    attacks. Our studies concern only the relationship between
    religion and support for suicide attacks. The proposal that there
    is some relationship between religious devotion and intergroup
    violence did not receive empirical support. It appears that the
    association between religion and suicide attacks is a function of
    collective religious activities that facilitate popular support for
    suicide attacks and parochial altruism more generally.

    As you can see Atran did not author that study.

    Why is that? What makes Atran’s arguments empirically more compelling?

    Because of the empirical studies liked linked to above.

    As you can read, that study specifically tests the “religious belief hypothesis” propes by Harris, Hitchens et al. And emprically found them to be false.

    I have yet to see any empricial evidence published in peer reviewed journals that support Mr. Harris’ or Mr. Hitchens’ arguments.

    Posted by Cpt_pineapple | April 13, 2010, 11:11 pm

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