Skepchick Quickies 3.22

  • Religion may become extinct in nine nations – “A study using census data from nine countries shows that religion there is set for extinction, say researchers.” From Steve D and cerberus40.
  • At MIT success comes with unexpected drawbacks – Because MIT has worked to make their hiring practices equitable for women, “women now say the assumption when they win important prizes or positions is that they did so because of their gender.” From Dave.
  • US man stoned to death – “A “deeply religious” Pennsylvania man, said to have been inspired by the Old Testament, stoned a 70-year-old to death, claiming that his victim was gay.”
  • Piggyback virus could curb HIV pandemic – “Rather than destroying HIV, a proposed treatment would embrace its infectious abilities, sending the virus into competition with a harmless, stripped-down version of itself.”


Amanda works in healthcare, is a loudmouthed feminist, and proud supporter of the Oxford comma.

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  1. Re: Religion and extinction: This has been predicted so many times that I’ll wait and see if it happens.

  2. Re: man stoned to death: The first comment in that article is right on.

    “Imagine the outcry if he’d said that Grand Theft Auto said it was okay.”

  3. @QuestionAuthority: This has been predicted so many times that I’ll wait and see if it happens.

    Yeah. Doesn’t this prediction sound a bit like Hari Seldon? I thought the math only worked if you kept it secret.

  4. “Police said Thomas, who is the executor and sole beneficiary of Seidman’s will, returned to the apartment and pretended that he had just discovered Seidman’s body.” — I know religion can often be an excuse … but cash money, yo!

  5. I could almost buy the religious extinction story until I get to the list of 9 countries.

    [i]Australia, Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Switzerland.[/i]

    Ireland! Ireland!? Are you fucking shitting me? A country that has a very recent (some might argue, current) history of tearing itself to ribbons over religion is ready to chuck it all?

    I call shenanigans.

  6. Today’s news makes me want to facepalm.

    Freaking Upper Darby. That isn’t the rural area it’s basically inside of Philadelphia at this point. Ugh. So ashamed of my home area atm.

    PZ covered the religion article as well. I commented there but thought I may as well copy my comment here (I hate going into his comment section): The problem with taking complex social trends and institutions and simplifying them to clean mathematical models is that they lose their explanatory value. This model treats affiliation as a simple trend withing the larger social sphere instead of seeing it as an institution and actor within its own right. It presumes that there will be few or no actions on the behalf of affiliation which could be enacted to alter the trend and tends to smooth out and hid through data cleaning those which had large impacts in the past. You could pick major points in the past (pre-enlightenment for example) and run the same trend to come up with entirely different futures predicted based upon the data at that point. Actors within society sharply altered the trend right after that point.

    Overall the model makes my sociological training cry inside. I love the concept but wow. Dynamics at the societal level cannot be simplified this much and provide anything of academic use. Additionally, by not including a social scientist within the investigators there is a common flaw included, in that the study treats people, or groups of people at totally rational actors. They take the concept of religious affiliation and apply some variables that seem to keep people affiliated and then assume those people weigh the pros and cons and make a choice. When dealing with institutions like religion and groups this large their decisions and actions are often anything but rational. Particularly when there is cultural, historical, emotional pressures acting upon them to actively force non-rational decision making.

  7. Even if a person makes advances to a person, that is no reason for murder, which is what the “deeply religious” man did, pure premeditated murder.

  8. @Nightfall

    I don’t know, maybe it started that way and is no more but it happened fairly quickly if that’s the case.

    Or maybe the whole thing was completely misread as being about Catholic/Protestant when it was really about other issues. I know a few Irish-Americans that take the religious angle pretty damned seriously anyway. But then they’re alway drunk so… j/k

  9. There may be people with better knowledge of this than I, but I think the religion issue in Ireland’s troubles is connected more strongly to protestant English/British control of catholic Ireland , vs. purely religious hatred.

  10. @mrmisconception: I think if scratch deep enough you will find the cathy/proddy divide to be more tribal in nature.

    Even Dara O’Briain identifies himself as a catholic Atheist.

    People who are raised on one side or the other of that culture can easily walk away from their faith but not so easily from keeping up the appearance.

  11. @mrmisconception
    Seriously. Ireland isn’t as religious as Americans make it out to be. And Irish-American culture is very different to contemporary Irish society. While in Ireland we do have certain institutional holdovers from a very religious past, as far as I’m concerned we appear to have a very secular society. Few people attend church, I’ve never experienced any stigma for being atheist, and the church’s reputation is dodgy, to say the least. In comparison with the US, we have an incredibly secular society. And I, for one, am getting a bit tired of the twee notion of Catholic Ireland that’s spoken of as if it’s existed in the last quarter century or so.

    Also, like people have already said- there’s a lot more to the North than religion. Religious differences are a quick shorthand for longstanding historical, cultural and class differences. Again, I’ve really only heard the difficulties there being described as “Catholic/Protestant” in places like the US, as opposed to Unionist/Nationalist as they’re normally described here.

  12. I agree the Irish Troubles are ‘tribal’ rather than ‘religious’. On the other hand, religion has acted to maintain the separation between the groups. Without it, the two groups would probably have assimilated by now. For example, consider the Norman invasion of England (1066 and all that.) The distinction between Norman and Saxon was blurring after about 150 years and pretty much non-existent by 300 years.

    NOTE: I am not a historian. My facts may be wrong, my analysis may be faulty.

  13. Also, like people have already said- there’s a lot more to the North than religion. Religious differences are a quick shorthand for longstanding historical, cultural and class differences.

    This. The US is very religious centric so it’s easy for that to be the talking point here. Also when you look at the waves of Irish assimilation into the US you see religion and class being the distinguishing factors between two different groups of Irish. The first to come were the middle upper classes who came over to populate the middle class of the US. They were usually English trained and educated and experienced few negative stereotypes against them in this country. Then 20 or so years later you have the poor, un- or under educated catholic Irish immigrating to the US. These are the group that is so often described when you look at Irish stereotypes. If you look at a ethnic map of Pennsylvania you will see a broad swath of populations that identify ethnically as “American” these were often from the first wave of Irish immigrants who disavowed their ethnic background in order to separate themselves from the later waves.

    Even without the religious differences there are more than enough regional, tribal, ancestral, cultural, etc differences to keep the two groups fighting each other for a long time. Also England loves to sow divide in her former colonies as a way of keeping them from competing with her.

    If you would like a detailed list or discussion please email me! I could write a small book about Unionist/Nationalist divide both inside the US and Ireland.

  14. I stand rightly corrected.
    I was using anecdotes of others’ travels to Ireland as a gauge, I should know better.
    I was speaking out of ignorance not malice.
    I apologize to anyone I may have offended.

  15. @mrmisconception

    Thank you! Seriously. One of the things I absolutely love about skeptic-ish places (both online and off) is the larger-than-average amount of times that people have a bit of grace about being corrected. None of us know everything. Comments like your last one make me smile almost as much as kittens do.

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