We’re being outbred. Big time.
Here’s a serious problem with that theory: today’s strongly religious people tend to have a relatively large number of children, whereas secularists increasingly have few, if they have them at all. If you believe in evolution (and what secularist doesn’t?), then you have to take this thoroughly naturalistic explanation for God’s comeback into account.
In a world in which childbearing is rarely accidental and almost never rewarding economically, birthrates increasingly reflect values choices. And so, by Darwinian process, those who adhere to traditions that preserve and celebrate the ancient injunction to “go forth and multiply” wind up putting more of their genes and ideas into the future than those who don’t. As [author Eric] Kaufmann shows, fertility, over time, plays out like compound interest. That is, even if religiously fundamentalist families only have a few more children than secular or religiously moderate counterparts, and they can keep those children holding on to fundamentalist faith and values (especially related to child-bearing), the passage of generations will greatly magnify their numbers and influence. Similarly, secularists and others who choose to have only one or two children, and who pass those values on to their children, will, over time, see their population decline precipitously.
So should atheists have more babies?
I interviewed Kaufmann about his book Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?: Demography and Politics in the Twenty-First Century earlier this year and asked him that very question.
Tough question. My instinctive answer would be ‘yes’, but this would only be effective if immigration were reduced and religious fundamentalists responded to calls for smaller families, which is unlikely. There is also the matter of global warming to worry about — we don’t want a population footrace with fundamentalism. So in the end, the most promising course is to somehow attract more people away from fundamentalist religion, no easy task.
Hmph. I think Kaufmann just cock-blocked me.
So how big of a problem is Christian overbreeding? There’s a much more in-depth discussion of the issue in Kathryn Joyce‘s fantastic (and frightening) book Quiverfull. Check it out and prepare to be scared.
(Thanks to Verimius for the link!)