Uh, no it doesn’t

ScienceDaily: Good Behavior, Religiousness May Be Genetic:

A new study in Journal of Personality shows that selfless and social behavior is not purely a product of environment, specifically religious environment. After studying the behavior of adult twins, researchers found that, while altruistic behavior and religiousness tended to appear together, the correlation was due to both environmental and genetic factors.

According to study author Laura Koenig, the popular idea that religious individuals are more social and giving because of the behavioral mandates set for them is incorrect. “This study shows that religiousness occurs with these behaviors also because there are genes that predispose them to it.”

Unless you can show that environmental factors for twins raised separately (and just how unusual is that population) are seriously discordant for expected behavior, you’ve got nothing of the sort.

Of course, “the notion that religious individuals are more social and giving because of the behavioral mandates set for them” almost certainly is wrong, but on both of its premises and with no need to invoke a genetic explanation. Let me count the ways, starting with

  • Charity within an associational group such as a church isn’t  exactly altruism. There’s an expectation of reciprocity even when the usual kin-altruism mechanisms don’t apply. (And giving to  televangelists in particular isn’t altruistic, it’s multi-level marketing.)
  • Being “more social” isn’t really an independent variable when you’re segregating people by whether they belong to a a social-networking organization.
  • Even assuming you could show that altruism and socializing were increased among the religious, you’d be hard put to say it was because of the mandates imposed by a religion rather than as a result of self-selection (see above).

No wonder this researcher still hasn’t gotten more than an MA.

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