Scientific American’s Jesse Bering blogs on the breeding habits of religious people, including the wacky case study of the Oneida Community who died out despite strict eugenics that would have made Plato proud. The most surprising news, however, is the exploding number of Amish: they multiplied exponentially throughout the 20th century, up to 231,000 in 2008 – from 218,000 in 2007 and ca. 180,000 in 2000!
Heidelberg biologist Michael Blume has written about the Amish on his blog and in a recent study (Berling links to the PDF behind a paywall). The Amish are an extreme case, but Blume finds statistically significant differences in birth rates due to religious belief even among people with otherwise identical life styles:
Some of the strongest data from Blume’s analyses, however, come from a Swiss Statistic Office poll conducted in the year 2000. These data are especially valuable because nearly the entire Swiss population answered this questionnaire—6,972,244 individuals, amounting to 95.67% of the population—which included a question about religious denomination. “The results are highly significant,” writes Blume:
“… women among all denominational categories give birth to far more children than the non-affiliated. And this remains true even among those (Jewish and Christian) communities who combine nearly double as much births with higher percentages of academics and higher income classes as their non-affiliated Swiss contemporaries.”
In other words, it’s not just that “educated” or “upper class” people have fewer children and tend also to be less religious, but even when you control for such things statistically, religiosity independently predicts number of offspring born to mothers.
When they have taken over the world, let’s hope the religious folks will allow the remaining small minority of atheists to live out their lives in a reservation somewhere in the desert…