Category Archives: sociology

Religion doesn’t improve society: more evidence

Religion is often touted as essential as a kind of secular glue, keeping society moral and empathic. Indeed, some say that even if there isn’t any evidence for a God, we should promote belief anyway because of its salutary side effects—the “spandrels” of belief. This “belief in belief” trope, as Dennett calls it, is counteracted […]

Gender differences in toy use: boys play with boy toys, girls with girl toys

Every parent I know with whom I’ve discussed the issue of sex differences has told me that, if they have children of both sexes, they notice behavioral differences between boys and girls quite early, and these include preferences for which toys they play with. Usually, but not inevitably, boys play with “boy toys” (trucks, trains, […]

Thoughts and prayers: what are they worth?

Everyone knows about the “thoughts and prayers” sent out after tragedies as a quotidian feature of the daily news. And all of us nonbelivers disparage not only the use of prayers (shown in a Templeton-funded study to not have any effect on healing after surgery), but also the uselessness of thoughts—unless conveyed directly to the […]

Greg Sheridan in The Spectator: The West will die without Christianity

I’ve heard mutterings in the dark corners of the Internet that I spend too much time posting critiques of religion and theology. Well, to those who beef about that, I say, “I hear you, but I’m gonna keep doing it anyway.” For there must be constant pushback against religion, which is always sticking its nose […]

How many atheists are there in the U.S.? A new paper says about 26% of the population

The estimate given in the title suggests a much higher number of American atheists than estimates from other studies relying on self-report (e.g., “Are you an atheist?”). Those self-report estimates range between 3% and 11% (the authors of the paper below define “atheists” as “people who disbelieve or lack belief in the existence of a […]

“Stop me if you’ve heard this one”

I was telling a friend a joke today, or rather sending it via email, and I got a reply back: “You already told me that one.” At first I was chagrined at having to waste my friend’s time, but then I thought, “Wait a tick. Why did he say that?” As far as I can […]

Why is Pinker demonized?

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a new and longish article by Tom Bartlett about the character, achievements, and demonization of Steve Pinker. Click on the screenshot below to read it. Let me give my own take on Pinker first. It’s no secret that I consider him a friend and admire him hugely. Among all […]

Is the world really getting poorer? A response by Steve Pinker

I don’t mean to be Pinker’s Fanboy, but I’ve had some recent correspondence with him that I thought would be enlightening to readers, and got his permission to share it. (The first exchange was about Pinker’s supposed misuse of quotations in Enlightenment Now, which turned out to be a kerfuffle about nothing.) Now we’re on to […]

The New Yorker goes after Pinker and his progressivism

UPDATE:  I forgot to add this picture of the plaque adorning the building where the New Yorker was founded. Check out the last sentence!     __________ Not long ago the New Yorker had an article about free speech whose message, at least to me, was that we have to ratchet back on the First […]

Americans often find it hard to distinguish between fact and opinion

There’s a new Pew survey out that asks a timely question, or rather several timely questions. How often can Americans distinguish between factual statements (that is, statements that can be empirically verified or disproven) and statements of opinion? And does that depend on whether the statements are congenial to their ideology? Does exposure to or […]