Bonkers evolutionary psychologist explains why he’s not an atheist

If you’ve read anything about evolutionary psychology in the popular press, you’ll know about the infamous Satoshi Kanazawa. Although he’s a reader in Management at the London School of Economics, he’s published several books and a bunch of popular articles purporting to explain the evolutionary roots of human behavior.  I say “purporting” because he is probably the one person who’s given evolutionary psychology a bad name through his wild and unfounded speculation.  Among the claims that he has advanced (and which haven’t been supported by subsequent work) are that poor people in sub-Saharan Africa have more illness because they have lower IQs, that black women are rated as less attractive than women of other races because black women have higher levels of testosterone, supposedly reducing their physical attractiveness (see a critique here), and that we’re losing the war on terrorism “because our enemies have a full range of human emotions [including hatred] while we don’t.

Kanazawa is a loose cannon, speculating freely—and invidiously—in the absence of data, and tarnishing the decent work that exists in evolutionary psychology. He instantiates everything I’ve criticized about the discipline, yet he’s been very successful.  Although he was fired from Psychology Today for the African-women speculations, he continues to get public audiences for his science-woo, and I understand that his books have sold well. The public, after all, does have an appetite for such speculation, for we want to understand our evolutionary roots—even if there’s no real data backing up the evo-psycho explanations.

That’s just a bit of background, for I want to highlight a new piece by Kanazawa at Big Think: “Why I am not an atheist.” After this piece, they should name the venue “Big Fail”, because there’s no thought on tap in Kanazawa’s rant.  It’s all based on the fact that Americans are nicer than other nationalities, that Americans are more religious than other nationalities, and therefore religion makes people nice.  It’s a correlation, of course, and hardly a causation, but even the primary data about “nice Americans” is totally unconvincing. It’s a piece as weakly supported as were Kanazawa’s speculations about human evolution.

But first, of course, he attacks the Antichrist—Richard Dawkins—on completely erroneous grounds:

Thanks to Richard Dawkins and his ilk, “atheist” now means someone who is (and acts as if he is) intellectually superior, and who mocks and derides the deeply held and personal religious beliefs of less intelligent others by pointing out how wrongheaded and stupid they are to believe what they believe.

Virtually all of Dawkins’s contemporary examples of how evil, oppressive and destructive religion is come from Islam.  There is no question that Islam is an evil, oppressive and destructive force, but that does not mean all religions are.  In fact, I would contend that, apart from Islam, most contemporary religions throughout the world today are for the most part forces of good most of the time.

Dawkins’s major problem is that he doesn’t know Americans and how religion works in the United States.

Each of Kanazawa’s assertions about Dawkins is dead wrong, and I hope I don’t have to tell readers why. But why does Dawkins”s supposed ignorance of America lead him to such an ill-founded atheism? Because of a). one study on civility in big cities, and b). Kanazawa’s personal experience with Americans, including The Argument from Television.

Americans are by far the most religious people in all of the western industrial world.  And anyone who has lived in and traveled to as many places as I have will unanimously tell you that Americans are the kindest and most generous people on earth.  Although it would be difficult to demonstrate it scientifically, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Americans are the kindest and most generous people on earth because they are deeply religious.

It is not just the opinions of those who have lived and traveled everywhere.  There are actual data.  In 2006 the Reader’s Digest conducted a worldwide survey of residents of 35 different countries throughout the world and reached the conclusion that New Yorkers were the most civil and courteous people in the world.  Late-night comedians mercilessly lampooned the finding, because everybody knows how nasty and mean New Yorkers are.  What they didn’t realize, however, is that the Reader’s Digest’s study was an international one, comparing residents of major cities throughout the world, and New York was the only American city chosen.  So their study didn’t show that New Yorkers were more civil and courteous than people in Charleston or Des Moines (they almost certainly aren’t); it showed instead that Americans – even the meanest and nastiest ones in New York – were more civil and courteous than Russians and Kiwis.

What the hell?  Does what holds in New York hold everywhere in America? (My own experience, by the way, is that Americans are really nice to foreign travellers, but not as nice to their fellow Americans. And that, as a traveller in foreign lands, I’ve experienced unremitting kindness as well.) Are the differences between cities statistically significant? What about those unsampled countries? Here’s a list of the countries studied, with their “courtesy indices”:

New York USA 80%
Zurich Switzerland 77
Toronto Canada 70
Berlin Germany 68
São Paulo Brazil 68
Zagreb Croatia 68
Auckland New Zealand 67
Warsaw Poland 67
Mexico City Mexico 65
Stockholm Sweden 63
Budapest Hungary 60
Madrid Spain 60
Prague Czech Republic 60
Vienna Austria 60
Buenos Aires Argentina 57
Johannesburg South Africa 57
Lisbon Portugal 57
London United Kingdom 57
Paris France 57
Amsterdam Netherlands 52
Helsinki Finland 48
Manila Philippines 48
Milan Italy 47
Sydney Australia 47
Bangkok Thailand 45
Hong Kong 45
Ljubljana Slovenia 45
Jakarta Indonesia 43
Taipei Taiwan 43
Moscow Russia 42
Singapore 42
Seoul South Korea 40
Kuala Lumpur Malaysia 37
Bucharest Romania 35
Mumbai India 32

Notice any countries missing? Where are the hyper-religious countries of the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa?

Further, here’s the protocol, as reported by The Reader’s Digest (RD):

RD sent reporters to major cities in 35 countries where the magazine is published — from Auckland, New Zealand, to Zagreb, Croatia. In the United States, that meant targeting New York, where looking out for No. 1 — the heck with the other guy — has always been a basic survival skill.

The routine in New York was similar to the one followed elsewhere: Two reporters — one woman and one man — fanned out across the city, homing in on neighborhoods where street life and retail shops thrive. They performed three experiments: “door tests” (would anyone hold one open for them?); “document drops” (who would help them retrieve a pile of “accidentally” dropped papers?); and “service tests” (which salesclerks would thank them for a purchase?). For consistency, the New York tests were conducted at Starbucks coffee shops, by now almost as common in the Big Apple as streetlights. In all, 60 tests (20 of each type) were done.

Well that settles the issue! Nothing about how women are treated, nothing about freedom of speech, nothing about government enforcement of morality, corruption, and so on. The supposed effect of religion can be measured by the frequency of dropped papers and opened doors?

And of course, even if you could trust those pathetic data, and even if they did hold for all the nations of the world, with a statistically significant correlation, what does it say about causality? What if you substituted average income, or income inequality, for religiosity?

Kanazawa goes on to claim that a television program like “On the Road”—an American show that features ordinary people doing nice things for others—could never survive in Germany or the UK because they’d run out of nice people!

Kanazawa adduces other anecdotal evidence:

If you want to know how incredibly good and generous deeply religious people are, I’d recommend the 2007 documentary film For the Bible Tells Me So.  I wish I could be as good and kind a human being as many of the people who appear in For the Bible Tells Me So are, and I am deeply ashamed and saddened that I am not.  I am just as much of an asshole as Dawkins is.

Yes, that’s right: he calls Dawkins (and himself) “assholes” at The Big Think.

Kanazawa ends with a slur and a final unsupported assertion:

Dawkins tells religious people to their faces that their beliefs are delusional because God in fact does not exist.  It is a scientific fact that God does not exist, so it is not rational to believe in God.  I wonder if Dawkins walks up to random people on the streets of Oxford and tells them that he is more intelligent, better looking, and wealthier than they are.  That would also be scientifically true, but I would consider such behavior to be exceedingly gaudy and tasteless, as gaudy and tasteless as telling the same people that they are stupid to believe in God.

What a mischaracterization of Richard’s claims! Again, do I need to refute Kanazawa’s slurs?  And, after all this, Kanazawa claims that he’s more atheistic than Dawkins. Look at this mess:

It is ironic because, according to Dawkins himself, I am actually more atheist than he is in the original meaning of the word.  Fellow Big Think blogger Mark Cheney quotes Dawkins as saying “On a scale of seven, where one means I know he exists, and seven I know he doesn’t, I call myself a six.  That doesn’t mean I’m absolutely confident, that I absolutely know, because I don’t.”  It’s funny, because, unlike Dawkins, I absolutely know for sure that God doesn’t exist, as any scientist would.  For scientists, it’s very simple; absolutely nothing exists in the universe, except for those entities for which there is credible scientific evidence for their existence.  So I know for sure that God doesn’t exist for the same reason that I know Santa Claus or Superman doesn’t exist.

But I am not an atheist.

He’s not an atheist even though he is absolutely sure that God doesn’t exist? What is he, then? He quacks like a duck but calls himself a swan.

And “as any scientist would,” he absolutely knows for sure that God doesn’t exist? Well, I’m a scientist, and I don’t absolutely know anything for sure (except, perhaps, that I think). And what kind of statement is “absolutely nothing exists in the universe, except for those entities for which there is credible scientific evidence for their existence.” Has he contemplated the possibility that things may exist for which we don’t yet have credible scientific evidence? That was the case for the Higgs boson a year ago.

This whole piece is a mess, and it’s an embarrassment to whoever puts together The Big Think. Can anybody spout this kind of garbage at that place?

83 Comments

  1. Posted January 15, 2013 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    On with the Gnusade, brother Coyne!

  2. Posted January 15, 2013 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    why so many people accuse good ol’ Dawkins for giving atheists a bad name I don’t get plus I don’t know of anyone who goes telling random people in the streets how intelligent they are. It would be in bad taste to begin with.

    • Alektorophile
      Posted January 15, 2013 at 7:31 am | Permalink

      I have read much of what Dawkins has written, watched many of his documentaries and plenty of debates he has appeared on and heard him on the radio several times. There must be another Dawkins out there I am not aware of, because the one I’ve read and listened to does of course not resemble at all the “scary atheist ogre” religious fundamentalists and their allies like to use as a boogeyman when telling their fairytales to the public. But of course they never let facts get in the way of a good story, and if you can’t refute the ideas, going after the person is of course the only thing intellectually dishonest people have left.

      • Mark Fuller Dillon
        Posted January 15, 2013 at 10:49 am | Permalink

        I suspect that if we ever find this Other Dawkins, we’ll find the Other Darwin as well: the one who believes in genocide, the exploitation of the weak by the strong, and the utter supremacy of white Victorian imperialists.

        But I wouldn’t bet on success.

        • Posted January 16, 2013 at 2:57 am | Permalink

          Ah, you mean the one that converted (back) to Christianity on his deathbed?

      • Wowbagger
        Posted January 15, 2013 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

        I say we refer to this ‘other’ Dawkins as Strawkins, because that’s exactly what that line of ‘argument’ is – a straw one.

        • Posted January 15, 2013 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

          +1

          • Posted January 15, 2013 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

            And the Other Darwin can be Strarwin.

        • truthspeaker
          Posted January 16, 2013 at 10:32 am | Permalink

          Nice!

    • Sastra
      Posted January 15, 2013 at 9:05 am | Permalink

      The way Kanazawa writes the paragraph on this, it sounds as if he’s seriously implying that Richard Dawkins goes up to random people on the street and tells them there’s no God. If you wouldn’t go up to random people on the street and tell them you’re more handsome than them, then you shouldn’t do the other one, either.

      And oh, yeah — saying there is no God is exactly the same as telling someone they are stupid. Because being wrong means you’re stupid.

      • Posted January 15, 2013 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

        The part that leaves me perplexed is in his final paragraph. He knows there is no god and he is not an atheist because of Dawkins, now here is the question, is Dawkins the registrar or what has Dawkins to do with his atheism?

        Those in the UK who meet this Dawkins to kindly introduce him to us, this will be much appreciated.

  3. Sophie
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    It is an unbelievable pile of bollocks. I suppose he is just trying to provoke?

    • BilBy
      Posted January 15, 2013 at 7:22 am | Permalink

      Yep, those are my thoughts too. I would like to imagine him cackling and rubbing his hands together waiting for the response to his masterful trolling. That would be more charitable than thinking he believes the tosh he has written.

    • Posted January 15, 2013 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

      Does he get paid for it?

      • ebonmuse
        Posted January 15, 2013 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

        Presumably he gets paid based on traffic, like other Big Think authors.

  4. Alektorophile
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    I see that Zürich is right behind NY on the list. Should we assume, using the same weird reasoning, that Switzerland is a much more religious country than Indonesia or India? I think not.

    Funnily enough, people in Zürich, like city dwellers anywhere of course, are commonly considered to be rather rude by everybody else in the country.

    • Kevin
      Posted January 15, 2013 at 8:44 am | Permalink

      When I first moved to New York, it took me 6 months to develop my “shell”. The constant bombardment of input from merely walking down the street was exhausting in and of itself.

      Once I developed the “shell”, I tuned out the every-little-thing-happening minor stuff in favor of making sure that the homeless guy with a bad attitude didn’t push me in front of a bus.

      I’m quite sure visitors to New York regard the “shell” as being “rude”. But in my experience, if you need something from a New Yorker, they’ll be as nice and accommodating as can be. Because they know the city is intimidating.

      Couple years back, I was approached on the street by someone who spoke English with a German accent. “Vere is the Empire State Building?” she asked.

      I pointed up.

      • Chris Quartly
        Posted January 15, 2013 at 9:37 am | Permalink

        I moved to New York last January, and for the most part I haven’t really experienced any of this supposed NYC rudeness. The thing with NYC is that because there are so many people you get so many types of ALL people, some people are rude, some people are polite.

      • Alektorophile
        Posted January 15, 2013 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

        I’ve lived in New York for about eight years, and yes, I agree of course, people there are as nice as anywhere else I have been. I moved to the city after growing up in a town of 500 inhabitants, and I fully understand what you mean by “developing a shell”. I still remember visiting a smaller town out in CO after living a few years in New York, and at first being freaked out by complete strangers saying hi from their front porches as I was walking by on my first evening there…

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted January 16, 2013 at 1:18 am | Permalink

        My experience has been that New Yorkers are the warmest, friendliest people in the world — except when interacting with tourists in Manhattan.

        I recall on my first adult visit to The City, while waiting for some distant relations to return to their apartment in Queens, spending a couple of hours in a neighborhood Chinese restaurant and corner bar in the company of local folk who couldn’t have been any sweeter to an obvious outsider.

        The next day, in lower Manhattan, I watched a young guy walk right past three tourists — without breaking stride or changing facial expression — who had approached him to ask if he knew where “Avenue of the Americas” was. (Then again, the guy may have simply been an NY native who had never heard another name for Sixth Avenue.)

    • Occam
      Posted January 15, 2013 at 9:14 am | Permalink

      :) For the cognoscenti: where were the samples recorded? Zürich Bahnhofstrasse, Zürich Kreis 4 Langstrasse, or Zürich Höngg?

      The RD “Good Manners Test” must rank among the most atrociously whipped-up poop-froth they have excreted in a long time, and not for the lack of trying.
      Dazzling example of an astounding lack of the most basic anthropological, cultural, and sociological perception. Zero data value.

      (Perhaps also, and this would be more serious, a casebook model of why so many American initiatives, although genuinely generous and well-intentioned, fail with a dismal thud on the international scene.)

    • Posted January 15, 2013 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

      Auckland? They judged New Zealand by Auckland? That’s exactly like judging the USA by New York.

      “Aucklanders think New Zealand stops at the Bombay Hills” (just south of the city)

      An Aucklander outside Auckland is known as a JAFA (Just Another … Aucklander).

      Auckland is called “Sydney for beginners”.

      And isn’t there something non-random about doing your sampling at Starbucks?

      Being a Readers’ Digest reporter sure sounds like a cushy job. Go to exotic countries and stand by doors or drop papers….

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted January 16, 2013 at 1:43 am | Permalink

        Hey, I live in Auckland!

        And, err, yeah, Wellington and Christchurch are far nicer more interesting cities (even after the Christchurch earthquake).

        Maybe the RD sampled Auckland because it’s got a Starbucks (or so I hear).

        Which leads me to another thing – all the RD sampled was the politeness of Starbucks customers and staff. For all we know, New Yorkers might be the rudest people on the planet except for that subset of them who frequent Starbucks. New York Macdonalds customers – spit in your face. New York KFC customers – knife you as soon as look at you. New York Pizza Hut customers – don’t even think of speaking to them if you want to live. But the Starbucks customers – aww, they’re nice.
        (If anyone here fits those categories, please don’t take it personally, I just made it all up for the sake of argument. Just like Kamikaze :)

  5. Hempenstein
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    Hey Kanazawa, you want an asshole? Here’s one. Brother of someone I once knew drowned (this is ca. 1955). Her distraught mother beseeches her priest to explain why this could have happened. He tells her that clearly she has done something that displeased God, and she should go off and think about what that might have been.

    Inexplicably, the family is still religious.

  6. Jumping Joey
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    Well you say Kanazawa “is the one person who may have given evolutionary psychology a bad name.”

    It seems like people forget what the “mainstream” of evolutionary psychologists say when they are not talking to fellow evolutionary psychologists.

    If you go to Amazon you can look up a book by David Buss called “The Murderer Next Door: Why the Mind Is Designed to Kill”. According to the publisher’s blurb, the book argues “that the human psyche has evolved specialized adaptations whose function is to kill.”

    According to reader reviews, the book even conflates War and Murder. Read the Amazon page and you will cringe.

    I could give other examples. Ev Psych, your “mainstream” is pretty fringey and publicity-crazed–you just aren’t all as effective as Kanazawa at pushing the media’s buttons!

    • Gary W
      Posted January 15, 2013 at 10:56 am | Permalink

      So on the basis of a book jacket blurb and some book reviews on Amazon, you have concluded that mainstream Evolutionary Psychology is “pretty fringey and publicity-crazed.” Very convincing.

      • Jumping Joey
        Posted January 15, 2013 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

        Buss has been president of HBES! He is on anyone’s list of well known Ev Psych people. Do you find his “Evolved to Kill” thesis credible?

        You may not know much about publishing, but blurbs from the press like this are normally written by the author. My point was: This blurb by a leader of the field reads like Kanazawa on a bad day. I could find similarly silly things by Barash, Daly and Wilson, and others.

        But I am the last to trash evolutionary psych in general. People like Don Symons and Randolph Nesse are great thinkers. But it is just a fact that many people in the core of Ev Psych field have been big publicity hounds who have pushed stories backed up by laughably thin evidence.

        So why bash Kanazawa, when he is just a little more edgy with the race stuff?

        • Gary W
          Posted January 15, 2013 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

          David Buss is a major EP researcher. What exactly are you contesting about what you call his “evolved to kill thesis,” and why? Be sure to address Buss’s actual work, not some silly misrepresentation of it in a comment on Amazon.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted January 16, 2013 at 10:34 am | Permalink

      If you go to Amazon you can look up a book by David Buss called “The Murderer Next Door: Why the Mind Is Designed to Kill”. According to the publisher’s blurb, the book argues “that the human psyche has evolved specialized adaptations whose function is to kill.”

      According to reader reviews, the book even conflates War and Murder.

      That all sounds plausible. What’s the issue?

  7. gravelinspector
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    homing in on neighborhoods where street life and retail shops thrive

    That strikes me as begging for trouble. Neighbourhoods where “street life” thrives often also mean “mugger’s paradise” IMHO. I walk with my hand on my wallet, and my eyes WIDE open.

  8. gbjames
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    sub

  9. Kevin
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    Isn’t the “Big Think” a Templeton project?

    And, as usual when right-wingers are involved, the title of the project is 180 in opposition to the product.

    • ebonmuse
      Posted January 15, 2013 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

      No, Big Think is an independent media organization. It’s not run by Templeton, though it’s possible we’ve received funding from them at some point.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted January 15, 2013 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

      To expand upon ebonmuse’s comment…

      Big Think [BT] was set up to be a “Youtube for ideas” & it’s profit-based with a lot of venture capital behind it. Here’s a rather self-important quote from their ABOUT US page:-

      Every idea on Big Think comes from our ever-growing network of 2,000 Big Think fellows and guest speakers, who comprise the top thinkers and doers from around the globe. Our editorial team regularly sources ideas from these experts, asking them about the most important ideas in their respective fields. Our editors then sift through the submitted ideas and determine which qualify to appear on Big Think

      The Templeton Foundation has sponsored various Big Questions [BQ] which have appeared ultimately as videos on BT, but I don’t know if money flows directly from Templeton to BT. My guess is that it doesn’t ~ BT picks up on anything interesting that comes out of the BQs & out pops a video or series of videos.

      However I’d love to know generally how the cash trickles down in the Christian, right-wing, conservative Templeton economy.

  10. TJR
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    So, one of the main aspects of the “courtesy index” was whether salesclerks would thank you for a purchase.

    And the US did well in this.

    Well what a surprise. Maybe the “courtesy index” could be improved by including the number of times that people talk to you about baseball?

    • Sastra
      Posted January 15, 2013 at 9:08 am | Permalink

      And they used Starbucks.

    • Posted January 15, 2013 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

      FSM bless the USA, the country that invented “Have a nice day!”!

    • truthspeaker
      Posted January 16, 2013 at 10:36 am | Permalink

      Going to businesses where employees can be written up for NOT smiling and thanking customers and being surprised that employees smile and thank customers is like being surprised that you ordered a Big Mac and received a Big Mac.

  11. Posted January 15, 2013 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    the document drops the RD used in its tests should have been sheaves of paper colored gray & green with pictures of dead presidents. Results might have been different.

  12. Posted January 15, 2013 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    Yeah, that is a bizarre protocol. For one, it completely misses differing cultural expectations (for example, the U.S. has a far more service-based culture than in Russia. In Moscow it is completely standard to have service clerks never smile, nevermind thanking you for your purchase). Also, as Jerry Coyne pointed out, it misses so many other aspects of politeness!

    Having lived in Canada, the United States, and Russia, my own anecdotal evidence is certainly not that Americans are uniquely kind and generous. Having additionally traveled to a number of the locations on that list, I would actually rank Kiwis as the friendliest, but that may just be my childhood memories playing tricks on me.

    Of course, all this is moot (in the American sense) because Kanazawa lives in his own bizarre world in which racism and misogyny have no bearing on evaluations of kindness or generosity.

  13. Hempenstein
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    And for consistency they ran all the NYC tests in Starbucks? How convenient. I suspect there’s a feeling of being with fellow club members in Starbucks – far more than McDonalds, anyway.

    If they’d wanted to be consistent, they shouldda run their little tests in city buses in all cities.

    • Sastra
      Posted January 15, 2013 at 10:18 am | Permalink

      Well, all I know is that if I’m looking to find “deeply religious” people, the first place I’m going to go is a NYC Starbucks.

  14. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    The documentary to which he refers “The Bible Tells Me So” is about Christianity and homosexuality, and while it gives more airtime to the more gay-tolerant Christians, it makes quite clear they are the minority in American religion.

    For the second day in a row, I must weigh in as a writing teacher and observe that this is poorly written as well as poorly argued. However, unlike my target yesterday(Joseph Smith) English may not be this guy’s first language.
    “anyone will unanimously tell you…”???

  15. Posted January 15, 2013 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    Yeah, this guy seems to be out to embarrass himself and his affiliated institutions as much as possible in as many ways as possible. If I were thinking of enrolling in the “management” program at LSE, I would actually reconsider based on his presence. He also drags down the credibility, as you mention, of The Big Think.

    And the idea of being “absolutely sure” that God does not exist is, as you note, pretty ridiculous. There are a few definitions of ‘God’ for which one can be pretty close to absolutely sure that this being does not exist: the self-contradictory definitions of this being, such as the definitions that claim He is both omnipotent and necessarily morally perfect. (One can be as sure that that God doesn’t exist as one is sure that non-square squares don’t exist.)

    But it’s not conceding too much for the theist to back off a bit and say that God is merely, e.g., maximally great, and so possesses the maximally great compossible set of attributes.

    • Posted January 15, 2013 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

      Yes, Tom, but my form of ignosticism/igtheism/ theological non-cognitivism finds that ignosticicism pervades our naturalist arguments, instead of going against it and theism in that without referents Creator and so forth, as we knock off each theistic argument, His referents shrink! How then He cohere with reality?
      The teleonomic argument alone deprives Him of referents as most depend on the divine intent that science denies! Then having those incoherent and contradictory attributes, again, He cannot exist!
      How then could rational people have a relationship with that square circle or married bachelor?
      John Hick’s epistemic argument fails due to His maintaining that why, God had the intent to become ambiguous so as not to overwhelm our free wills. No. Determined volition is what we do have. And Hick’s Scriptures, despite his errant views, claim that time after time, His sheep Israel disobeyed Him after He punished them!
      Why, he is making Lamberth’s new Omphalos arguments that theists, in effect, are claiming that He deceives us with apparent mechanism as Philip Gosse’s original claimed that He deceives with apparent ancient age!
      No Virgin birth, no Resurrection, no splitting of the Moon and no Muhammad on a horse ascending into Heaven as science maintains could have occurred. To claim otherwise, begs the question and is another argument from ignorance.
      “Logic is the bane of theists.” Fr. Griggs
      Begged question after begged question and the arguments from personal incredulity and from ignorance, which underlie most other theistic arguments, confirms that!
      How then can one have a relationship with something that cannot exist?
      The argument from physical mind, [Hans]Reichenbach’s from Existence and others confirm that.
      Yet, I’ll let others vet whether we make Wykstra’s noseeum arguments.

  16. Sastra
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    As I said over on Pharyngula, this extended whine is just another one of those arguments against atheism which have nothing to do with demonstrating the existence of God and have everything to do with getting the atheist to back off. It’s a Little People Argument: “simple-minded folks can’t handle the truth like you and me, they need religion to make them happy and good. Leave the Little People alone!”

    It’s arrogant, condescending, and predicated on the idea that the religious are weak and child-like.

    And if you tell them they’ve made a mistake and why, the only thing they will get out of that is that you think you’re better than them.

    I think this last one is subtly buying into the religious belief that people “choose” their faith based on their wonderful, loving, perceptive character. If they’re wrong, then this means they’re bad.

  17. Brian
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    Weird how Coyne is eagle-eyed in accurately recognizing Kanazawa’s mischaracterization of Dawkins, but blind to his own mischaracterization of Kanazawa (and blind to his own quasi-religious pre-existing ideology that can’t admit obvious facts such as the African women are rated as less attractive by men (and African men as more and Asian men as less by women!) because his pre-commitment to standard liberal difficulty with the is/ought distinction when it comes to self-esteem and qualist issues. The world sucks and it is true that black women are considered the least attractive (on average – surely Coyne gets the difference between group and individual data) but black men are considered more attractive, thus it ain’t about racism. With men, Asian men are considered the least attractive (while Asian women are considered quite attractive).

    Intermarriage rates bear this out perfectly, with exactly the opposite trends you would expect to see if you based your prediction on social constructionist victim-history.

    Mating preference is hard-wired with a little cultural variation (just as it is in other animals). Women like men more masculine than themselves, men like women more feminine than themselves – these are honest markers of mate quality just like a peacocks tail.

    We liberals would do well to do what we expect of conservatives and the religious – recognize when our emotional tails are wagging our rational dogs and when we have a pre-existing ideology that blinds us to ideas that don’t easily serve it.

    http://www.isteve.com/islovecolorblind.htm

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted January 15, 2013 at 9:44 am | Permalink

      Thank you for your rude and snarky comment, and I don’t appreciate you calling me “Coyne.”

      The ratings may be “obvious facts” to you, and indeed, may be correct, but the testosterone explanation, which was what I was contesting, has, as far as I know, little data to support it.

      Here’s what Wikipedia says:

      In May 2011, he published an article in Psychology Today that explored why black women had been rated less attractive than those of other races in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health and hypothesized that the rater’s preference for physical markers of estrogen levels, which he asserted were lower in blacks, was the culprit.[13] Subsequent critical independent analysis of the results showed that the difference in assessed attractiveness held for three of the four data sets in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health and that there was only a statistically significant race difference in younger women and that it disappeared by early adulthood.[14] His explanation has generally been considered incorrect as there is no evidence that black women have lower levels of estrogen than other groups.[15]

      So there’s some support for the attractiveness, though I haven’t seen the original study, but none for the hormonal explanation.

      As for mating preference being hard-wired with little cultural variation, well, what’s considered attractive in females has varied tremendously over time, suggesting that what’s hard-wired is malleable.

      At any rate, your comment is quite rude and could have been made without insulting the host. You will apologize for the “quasi-religious” comment, refrain from snark, or go somewhere else. I don’t mind criticism about data, but I do mind your rudeness.

      And I stand by my comment that Kanazawa is a loose cannon of evolutionary psychology who makes sweeping assertions based on little or no data. Science (if that’s what he does) would be better off without him.

      • Scote
        Posted January 15, 2013 at 10:53 am | Permalink

        “Thank you for your rude and snarky comment, and I don’t appreciate you calling me “Coyne.””

        One of the things I like about this site is the general civility, based on you leading by example. However, in this case your example is to call Kanazawa “Kanazawa” repeatedly, which is a pretty standard (other than at, say, the awkwardly formal NYT) way of succinctly referring to people that doesn’t presume the familiar use of their first name. So I think your objection to the same standard applied to yourself seems inconsistent.

        • whyevolutionistrue
          Posted January 15, 2013 at 11:02 am | Permalink

          You realize there’s a relevant difference, right? I am the host of this site.

          • Scote
            Posted January 15, 2013 at 11:22 am | Permalink

            I think civility is a two way street, so, no, I don’t see a relevant difference if consistency is a principle that has value. Granted, it is your right to be inconsistent as the host of the site… ¯\(°_°)/¯

            Anyway, the WEIT standards guide for site host vs. non-site host name usage notwithstanding, I liked the article, found you to be on point as usual and found Brian to have some valid, if possibly overstated, points, which can be countered on their merits, and which do not detract from your larger point.

            • whyevolutionistrue
              Posted January 15, 2013 at 11:29 am | Permalink

              I prefer, “Jerry,” actually. Is that inconsistent?

              Geez!

              • Scote
                Posted January 15, 2013 at 11:41 am | Permalink

                I’m happy to use “Jerry,” though years of conditioning, calling teachers and professors Mr. or Professor, are a bit hard to undo. :-o

              • Diane G.
                Posted January 19, 2013 at 12:28 am | Permalink

                Wasn’t there a time when you felt Jerry was a little too informal? Guess I’ve been here too long. Customs have evolved… :D

      • Posted January 15, 2013 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

        Jerry, Dr. WEIT, thanks for the article!
        This pale face white man of sixty-five years find beauty in all races!
        Yes, don’t suffer fools! You are reacting appropriately as I would do.
        Advance theology equals advanced double-talk! Prof. Irwin Corey makes more sense that those theologians and their Necessary Being!
        I suggest using Jefferson’s suggestion to mock such idiots!

    • DV
      Posted January 15, 2013 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

      I like the comment in that article that explains the lopsided intermarriage ratios as due to genitalia size. Asian penis < white < black. Asian vagina < white < black. That's why Asian man + Black woman partnerships are rare – it's the most sexually unsatisfying combination. :)

  18. Posted January 15, 2013 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    “fired from Psychology Today”

    He must be off the bonkers scale.

  19. Posted January 15, 2013 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    I’ve been told by people in New York, when I’ve visited, by people I know and by strangers (on buses, in parks) that New York became a lot nicer after 9/11, that the daily experience of interacting with other New Yorkers for these New Yorkers was much better.

    I hadn’t visited New York until after 9/11 so couldn’t tell for myself.

  20. DV
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    WTF. NYers are nice because they are religious? Mexico City, Manila, Jakarta, Bangkok are at least as religious as NY (I bet, more religious, in fact), but why are they not nice?

  21. Brygida Berse
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    It is well documented that the Southern states are the most religious in the US. At the same time, people there are generally regarded as the friendliest and the most polite in the country (whether that stereotype is supported by real evidence, I’m not prepared to judge, but I can’t exclude this possibility).

    Incidently, that is also the part of the country that historically had the lowest indices of social justice and the most support for the Ku Klux Klan and racial segregation.

    • DV
      Posted January 15, 2013 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

      well, obviously, racial segregation makes people polite. yeah, that’s it.

    • Jeff Walker
      Posted January 15, 2013 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

      Sure, if I have a flat tire or need my roof repaired because a tree fell on it, I’d much rather be in the south than where I live (the northeast). But I’m a straight white male. Based on personal experience (the plural of which is not data), southerners are extraordinarily nice to the in-group, and not nearly so kind and generous and sympathetic to the outgroup, although who’s in/out changes with context (sometimes females are in sometimes out).

      When I lived on Long Island (Suffolk Co) for 7 years, I thought New Yorkers (from the city) were the exemplars of southern hospitality by comparison.

    • Neil Schipper
      Posted January 15, 2013 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

      Guns.

      Lots of guns.

    • Posted January 15, 2013 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

      That’s my South to a lesser extent than before. I see constant friendships betwixt blacks and palefaces.

  22. Sam
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    That guy is in cloud cuckoo land. Why would anybody give him a stage to share his ideas? And I’m a supporter of evolutionary psychology, much of which I know through Pinker.

  23. Owlglass
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    Ah, New York. Isn’t this the capitol of the Bible Belt and hotbed of most religious Americans? They are indeed very nice people, but I’m happy that Berlin is up there as well. \o/

    On a slightly more serious note. It would not surprise me if there was an actual causality between politeness and religiousness, but it doesn’t mean much. There are simply people who want to maintain a fascade, and others who are genuine. You can also frame in terms of those who care, and those who don’t. Those who don’t might rather leave you alone, but conversely won’t breath down your neck if they disapprove of something.

    Something tells me that the deeply faithful are more judgemental, how else can they have opinions on what other people do with their lives (or in their bedroom). I’d feel uneasy among people where I get that they are just being polite, because they have to, while they think I should go to hell to burn.

  24. truthspeaker
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    Religious people are friendly. Therefore, God exists.

    Even if his premise were true, it would be a stupid argument.

    • Sastra
      Posted January 15, 2013 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      That’s not his argument. He’s saying that religious people are friendly, therefore it’s stupid to argue against the existence of God.

      He’s considering religion as if it were a harmless and successful therapeutic program. It works. Leave it alone.

  25. Posted January 15, 2013 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Colin's mind.

  26. Timothy Hughbanks
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Americans are nicer than other nationalities because that Americans are more obese than other nationalities, and therefore obesity makes people nice.

    I can haz job in Management at the London School of Economics!

  27. corio37
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    Kanazawa’s nonsense has also made Pharyngula. As I commented there, if he hadn’t closed off comments I’d send him a copy of the Accommodationist’s Anthem:

    http://religiousatrocities.wordpress.com/2013/01/08/global-the-accommodationists-anthem/

  28. crusherofdreams
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    I hope this isn’t considered uncivil of me and in violation of the posting rules, but I find myself forced to agree with Kanazawa on one lonely point. He does indeed appear to be an asshole. And a rather loony one at that.

  29. Posted January 15, 2013 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    I like quite a lot of the stuff that Big Think puts out, and they have given a platform to some lectures by people like Steven Pinker, but I deplore their decision to give a platform to this loon. I would advise, though, that everyone who is frustrated with this cretin resists the temptation to make a point of it every time he writes something – if you look at his personal website, it is so blatantly obvious that this man loves the attention it garners. He doesn’t care about the truth, so if you argue about evidence, you’re playing a different game, and he’ll just love that he’s successfully riled people again.

  30. eric
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    Love that first excerpt. Shorter Kanazawa: “Dawkins gives atheism a bad name by mocking religious beliefs. BTW, take it from me, Islamic beliefs are evil!”

  31. Robert MacDonald
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    I’ve stood at New York street corners looking lost with a map in my hands, which the guide books tell you not to do. The only result was New Yorkers coming up to me to help with directions.

  32. Explicit Atheist
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    Big Think is definitely a blog site where popularity carries more weight than substance in selecting the authors. They are not selective because the readers can select who they want to read, the authors are segregated, and it is intended to earn a profit for the owners. They self promote themselves as a platform for “top thinkers”, but its about making a profit first, everything else is secondary at most.

    • ebonmuse
      Posted January 15, 2013 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

      Big Think is definitely a blog site where popularity carries more weight than substance in selecting the authors.

      I’m wounded. (Not really – I’m as upset as anyone over Kanazawa being given a blog on BT. I agree with everyone who’s said it diminishes the credibility of all their authors.)

  33. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted January 16, 2013 at 1:28 am | Permalink

    What a moron! He isn’t an atheist but he’s more of an atheist than Richard Dawkins? Yep, that’s what he said. Along with a whole slew of assertions unsupported by any data (what we in the trade call ‘making stuff up’).

    And I know that Readers Digest poll is bogus because I live in Auckland and they never asked me, if they had we’d rate somewhere south of Bucharest ;)

  34. MadScientist
    Posted January 16, 2013 at 3:20 am | Permalink

    Ah – the Argument From Television – it’s one of my favorites … not. I’ve encountered it many times and never understood how people can think they have a serious argument. And yet there are people out there who know better than the (ex)natives because of what they saw on television or in the movies. My only response these days is “you’re in for a rude surprise if you ever go to the USA.”

    Hahaha – Sydney ranks lower than New York for courtesy … ooooh – hahahahaha! Oh, that’s a good one. I guess that “study” was compiled by watching TV.

  35. kastemato
    Posted February 14, 2013 at 5:43 am | Permalink

    Actually, Andrew Gelman of Columbia University demonstrated that the research about “why beautiful people have daughters” was wrong. Beautiful people have sons and daughters in the usual proportions.

    It’s that sloppiness of Kanazawa’s methodology which is even worse than his statements, though he certainly is a misogynist.


One Trackback/Pingback

  1. [...] YouTube, the popular video-sharing site, did for bulldogs on skateboards,” and this morning Jerry has a comment on a post at “Big Think” by an evolutionary psychologist named Satoshi Kanazawa in which he which tears Kanazawa apart limb by limb, indicating how [...]

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 29,358 other followers

%d bloggers like this: