The Meek shall Inherit the World

Evolution can happen faster than we think, and contrary to popular opinion, human evolution hasn’t ended at all. While I don’t expect anything like wings, the X-Men, or a prehensile tail to appear, humanity’s general makeup is going to change in some very significant ways over the next generations.

Various scientists have theorized over how humanity is evolving, and what we’ll see in the future. Some speculate that, like South Park’s “Goobacks,” future human beings will be of a more homogeneous stature, skin color, and more due to blending of all the races. Others speculate people will evolve smaller skulls and a younger breeding age. What’s more interesting to me is a rather robust hypothesis that humanity as a whole will evolve a strong sense of religiosity. Though secularism seems to be in vogue today, the future apparently belongs to the strictly religious.

Organized religion isn’t the passing fad many atheists claim it to be

I’m not going to pretend this is a fact like the laws of thermodynamics (so feel free to disagree), but given the theory of evolution, current long-standing trends, and some pretty reasonable assumptions about the future, it’s pretty difficult not to come to this conclusion.

You see, evolution isn’t actually about survival of the fittest. It’s about survival of those who manage to reproduce the most. Faster, stronger, smarter, hardier animals generally do win the game of natural selection, but only because these are usually the animals that manage to reproduce more. Contrary to survival of the ‘fittest,’ through artificial selection (breeding) we’ve managed to evolve wolves into dogs, the auroch into a cow, and the wild turkey into whatever you could call the turkey you find on your plate today.

So the future of humanity doesn’t necessarily belong to dominant men and women that out-compete everyone else. Natural selection doesn’t care for your athleticism or survival skills anymore, nor is it really concerned with your dominance in the work place, or even your prowess with the opposite sex. All that matters is who’s passing on their genes the most, and, as it turns out, no matter how bullied they are by the rest of society, the orthodox theists tend to reproduce like rabbits.

Religiosity is certainly something that can be passed on from generation to generation. Studies on separated twins suggest that much, if not most, of our personalities are determined by our genes. Our tendencies towards organized religion, conservatism, etc., all have at least some degree of a genetic basis. If you’re to deny that religiosity could be a genetic trait, it’s certainly one that can be instilled through upbringing. Whether it’s nature or nurture (probably both), religious parents are much more likely to have religious children. So religiosity is at least partially hereditary.

Even when you control for income, education, race, etc, someone’s religiosity is a strong predictor of how many children they will have. In the article I linked to above, the clearly irreligious author describes a study in Switzerland showing the clear divide between non-religious and religious parents. The non-religious didn’t even come close to the replacement rate, only having about 1.1 children per couple, while religious parents had an average of two to three times as many children. So while the secular population is diminishing rapidly, the religious population is growing.


And the more secular the region, the greater the trend

Yet the more popular culture and society reject organized religion, the more the religious fanatics will out-breed the rest of the population.

The majority of the secular population, as well as the nominally or liberally religious, embraces contraception and turns a blind eye to abortion, while simultaneously undermining or even rejecting traditional institutions like marriage and family altogether. They’re more likely to marry late, if at all, and to raise few children, out of choice or due to biological constraints. Even if you wanted a lot of children it’s hard to have many if you’re married in your thirties. If you marry too late you may not be able to have any at all.

In contrast to the rest of the population, the orthodox and deeply religious are more likely to marry, and at a younger age. They’re also much more likely to reject modern practices like abortion and contraception. Certain religions like Catholicism and Orthodox Judaism outright forbid both abortion and contraception, viewing sexuality as inherently linked with reproduction, while most others maintain at least somewhat similar practices or beliefs. Even if only a fraction of their adherents take these teachings seriously they’re bound to massively out breed the others, and within a few to several generations they’ll become the majority.

Eventually, whether by divine decree or by the universe’s taste for the ironic, humanity will consist of the religious adherents who were fruitful and multiplied. Who knows, trends may change, but whether we believe in Jesus or not, his prophesy seems inevitable: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5.

Post-script: But how does this account for the current rise of secularism?

I’ve had multiple people ask me why, if this is true, atheism and agnosticism and liberal Christianity has been on the rise in the last century? If evolution selects for religiosity, why hasn’t it been? If you’re wondering the same, I’d suggest you give my piece another read, and see what my reasoning is.

Religiosity wasn’t always selected for. In the past traditional values were, well, expected. Few criticized them, and even those who disagreed with them were often pressured into conforming with the rest of society anyway. Whether you were liberal or conservative for the 14th century, you were probably still going to expect to get married, and still going to have as many kids as nature would provide you. If you didn’t want extra children you didn’t have much recourse, neither contraception nor abortion were widespread. So overall there was little selection pressure for religiosity in those days.

Today in the West, as the more lukewarm Christians have broken from Christianity and the values it espoused, the same is not true. Suddenly there is a huge reproductive disparity, and therefore a huge selection pressure for traits that lead people to reproduce more. Which brings us back to the main premise of this article.

4 thoughts on “The Meek shall Inherit the World

  1. “Organized religion isn’t the passing fad many atheists claim it to be…”

    I don’t think the claim is that the followers of religion will come to pass, but rather that its place in knowledge will. I actually don’t disagree with your fundamental claim — that religious-born people will continue to increase in their proliferation; however, there are a few carefully chosen words that I have used here. Many of those who are born into a religious upbringing (“religious-born”) do not remain religious.

    Now, onto my own tangent about human knowledge. It is certainly true that evolution accords to those that procreate the most, but the collective knowledge of humanity does not. Knowledge evolves according to truth. It is not religious followers that are dwindling: it is the experts’ acceptance of deism as truth that dwindles.

    • Hmm, I can see what you’re saying, but I’ve also noted an increase in intellectualism and scholarly pursuits among certain denominations. Then again I mostly know Catholics and Orthodox Christians. The same might not be the same, or I suspect may be the opposite even, for evangelical ‘non-denominational’ Christians. Food for thought.

  2. Intriguing. However, you failed to note that evolution is more than just a simple linear progression – it’s a branching tree. Speaking as an atheist myself, I wouldn’t be interested in having children with a religious fundamentalist – I’d be much more inclined to partner with somebody who shared my views on religion. So another possible (and I think more likely) scenario is that we’d wind up with two increasingly divergent genetic strains, driven by a memetic factor.

    One might outnumber the other by a wide margin, sure, but I don’t immediately see any particular pressure which would drive the secular branch of humanity to extinction.

    • Haha that’s actually a really interesting point. The divergence of two separate races of humanity *is* possible given what we’re saying here, but I generally don’t think it’s probable given the way human societies work. It seems nigh impossible to prevent mixing and flow between any two groups of human beings these days. Even the Amish occasionally leave and intermarry.

      I wouldn’t see a strong reason to see why secular humanity would be driven to absolute extinction at all. However, the data suggests they’re breeding at such a low rate (almost half the replacement rate in Switzerland, for example) that their population will not only dwindle proportionately, but absolutely as well.

      I appreciate the input. Human evolution is so fascinating.

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