Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Evolution Makes Women Stupid

 
I've been a vocal critic of evolutionary psychology and just-so stories but from time to time they might be right.

This article by Lauren Sandler combines all the right scientific arguments for why women are more stupid religious than men [Why Do More Women Than Men Still Believe in God?].

It even quotes that famous Canadian scientist, Michael Persinger, who not only built a cool helmet, but also won an award for being Ontario's best university teacher. Here's what Lauren Sandler writes.
Researchers have offered many theories about why women are religious in greater numbers than men. Most are inconclusive; all are fascinating. Some investigators locate the engine of belief in our very brain chemistry, and find the female brain far more apt to sense the divine. Canadian cognitive neuroscientist Michael Persinger, the reigning cleric of the neurology of belief, has asserted that the “experience” of God, or feeling the presence of the divine, is literally built into the brain, specifically in the limbic system or the temporal lobe. When Persinger applied magnetic fields over the temporal lobe to mimic the reaction he found in electromagnetic studies, the gender difference was “quite impressive”—that women sensed the presence of a “sentient being” in greater numbers than men.

“Belief,” Persinger told me, “relates more to how the person relates, interprets, and reconstructs the experience.” In other words, even when men and women had the same response in the brain, women were more apt to attribute it to something divine, “out of body.” Other scientists have found these limbic tendencies particularly pronounced in adolescent girls, concurrent with the final stages of brain development. As Barry Kosmin, a coauthor of the new Trinity College study says, “That's why when anybody sees the Virgin Mary, it's a couple of young girls on a mountainside in Southern Europe.” ....

Some researchers hypothesize that women are hardwired to believe because of evolutionary imperatives. Belief in God—or the Mount Olympus ensemble cast, or a phalanx of wood spirits, and so on—has long been connected with tribal ritual, and formed the center of communities. Women relied on these communities for the survival of their children, while men were off spearing buffalo, pillaging neighboring settlements—or whatever the caveman business trip furnished. The relationship between belonging and belief is an ancient one. It may have resulted in the development of certain alleles connected to a sense of God, or at least a commitment to religion.
It's not their fault that women fall for superstitious nonsense. Their brains are built differently and evolution is to blame.


[Hat Tip: Friendly Atheist: Science or Sexism?]

7 comments :

  1. Oh, so why am *I* a moron? :-)

    (note: my real name is Ollie...the "Harriet" comes from a spoof blog that I sometimes write for)

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  2. Now Larry, what do you make of this mathematically minium sample of two fringe individuals taken from Persinger’s fringe science work?


    Persinger explained the failure of Dawkins to respond to the helmet by the fact that he had scored low on a psychological scale measuring proneness to temporal lobe sensitivity. Sue Blackmore, by contrast, was subject to paranormal experiences in her younger days, and although now sceptical of the claims made for such phenomena, she does practise Buddhist meditation on a daily basis. One assumes her temporal lobe sensitivity is much higher than Dawkins’.


    (see http://www.sofn.org.uk/sofia/84mystical.html )

    What’s your size in helmet by the way? Professor Persinger might interested.

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  3. Hey, it's not the size of the helmet; it's what you do with it that counts!

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  4. I wish I could make the joke that would adequately describe Persinger's work.
    As one whose religious experiences (which are themselves as bizarre and inexpicable as sny atheist or agnostic would assume and which I will keep to myself because I know how strange they are) have always been tempered by Temporal Lobe Epilepsy, I'd like to say this, only: Persinger is a dangerous fraud. The temporal lobe is not a toy. Persinger should keep his hands to himself. See my blogs for Oct 8 and 11.

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  5. Actually, are women more religious than men? I mean, in international, cross-cultural perspective? And even if they are, is that biological or cultural? There are a few studies on this, but they tend to get ignored because it's not want people want to hear (see Why women are more religious

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  6. Nice study.... but they did not take in consideration cultural influence, education, and education is still made through age old gender stereotypes still today.

    And now this : "That's why when anybody sees the Virgin Mary, it's a couple of young girls on a mountainside in Southern Europe.” ...." Wooow. So women in Northern Europe don't see the Virgin Mary, but only women in Southern Europe ?. Come on ! Where in Europe women are still living in a very sexist and religious way ? Southern Europe of course.

    The only things many low end scientists today want is to be published at any cost, no matter if they publish crap.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Nice study.... but they did not take in consideration cultural influence, education, and education is still made through age old gender stereotypes still today.

    And now this : "That's why when anybody sees the Virgin Mary, it's a couple of young girls on a mountainside in Southern Europe.” ...." Wooow. So women in Northern Europe don't see the Virgin Mary, but only women in Southern Europe ?. Come on ! Where in Europe women are still living in a very sexist and religious way ? Southern Europe of course.

    The only things many low end scientists today want is to be published at any cost, no matter if they publish crap.

    ReplyDelete