« Expertise in politics | Main | Single bloggers »

October 11, 2010

Comments

pablopatito

Given a choice, I would believe in God. Its depressing for me that I don't.

Luis Enrique

I have absolutely no doubt that in certain respect people make systematically bad choices. I know you are not suggesting the following (although others do): but I think it's a long way from accepting that proposition to concluding that economists should drop the assumption of rational maximization in most contexts, or that economics is somehow "wrong" for this reason.

Paul Sagar

"This, the authors claim, helps explain what Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers have called the paradox of declining female happiness."

Careful, or you'll stray into the territory of those who point to modern liberated women and say "aha! You were all happier when you were confiend to the kitchen - women's liberation has in fact hurt women; we told you feminism was a bad ideas...so let's reverse it".

I cant speak for the particular paper you cite. But from what I know of others, there's far too much messy data and messy over-crowding of factors to draw uncontroversial conclusions such as "women's happines has been falling since the 1970s". Mostly because the figures for female happines from the pre-1980s era tend to be manipulated garbage.

Duncan Stott

Did they include the happiness of people who needed to buy something in an emergency but couldn't?

James Reade

I'm always intrigued by statements like "religious belief is irrational". Which types of religious belief? Superstition, atheism, Christianity,...?

You define rationality as having "beliefs which are consistent with evidence". I'm not going to defend the person who actually believes in horoscopes and the like (or the superstitions of footballers and others), but I will defend Christians on the count of rationality.

Christians point to the historically documented life of Jesus (in the Bible and importantly for my point elsewhere), a man who lived and died (since most folk tend to do that). He then quickly amassed a lot of followers in a short space of time who persisted despite intense persecution. One of the documentations of his life, the Bible, offers an interpretation of these historical events that is consistent with these events, and Christians choose to go along with it.

Doesn't that make Christians, at least, rational?

Adam Bell

Hmm. I'm not sure this necessarily says anything about religious activity and happiness - for a proper control, you'd need to contrast the relative happiness of women who attended a community-based event every week with those who attended church once a week. The real story here may be more about fragmenting human ties than religious ones.

patrick

I'd be tempted to explain the above with the introduction of an additional proposition.

"Work makes us unhappy"

Leveller

I've heard similar argument to this before and given it some thought.

That religion makes us happy does not make it rational. That a believer is happier than an non believer is no more to the point that a drunk man is happier than a sober one. Certainly religion performs a social function, if it didn't it never would have evolved, but that doesn't make it rational to believe it. It is also not the case that to be non-religious is not to have a sense of the luminous and the transcendent. Indeed much of the self-reported unhappiness of people who stopped going to church is, I would argue, more likely because of the loss of social connections and sense of awe and well being that a spiritual sensation can give. However while religion may be a sufficient condition for social happiness and well being, it is by no means a necessary one. There are numerous social institutions which provide social cohesion and personal fulfilment, for one example, supporting the local football team.

If a society were founded on the shared belief in an invisible sandwich, it wouldn't make it rational to continue believing in the existence of the invisible sandwich simply to maintain the society's happiness. Especially if from time to time people were convinced the invisible sandwich was instructing them to fly planes into buildings or lie about condoms and aids.

Religion consists of many aspects, the cultural heritage and sense of identity which brings people a sense of warmth and joy is indeed a good thing, but you can have that without supernatural claims to the uknowable or the logically impossible.

Dain (Mupetblast)

"Religion consists of many aspects, the cultural heritage and sense of identity which brings people a sense of warmth and joy is indeed a good thing, but you can have that without supernatural claims to the uknowable or the logically impossible."

But from what I know the non-religious versions of communalism and a strong sense of shared identity/activity don't fare as well. See the secular kibbutz's fate vs. the Amish.

Leveller

"But from what I know the non-religious versions of communalism and a strong sense of shared identity/activity don't fare as well. See the secular kibbutz's fate vs. the Amish."

Historically yes they haven't, but I would contend that the religious paradigm is ending. For example an explicitly secular nation went from a fledging allegiance of colonies to the world superpower in under 2 and a half centuries, an instant in human history.

Infact in many parts of the world those who identify themselves as non-religious are the fastest growing groups. This would suggest that the religious paradigm is ending. Many secular institutions and organisations now perform the roles in society once performed by religion, government, education, healthcare etc. and I see no sign of this trend slowing.

James Reade

The religious paradigm is ending?! I'll believe that when I see it. I guess you're ignoring the meteoric rate of growth of Christianity in China as a minor point. Secular nations have come and gone throughout history at remarkable rates in both directions, so I don't really see how that's an argument, and non-religious organisations have provided social cohesion with similar success/failure rates to religious organisations throughout history too.

Recusant

Leveller

I think you are allowing your wishes to decide your conclusions. According to the Pew Research Center, religious belief is growing, both absolutely and as a proportion. Just because you live in Europe doesn't make the rest of the world the same in its behaviour patterns.

Is your 'invisible sandwich' an update of Russell's Chocolate Teapot? If so, it faces the same refutation: no one ever worshipped a Chocolate Teapot/Invisible Sandwich.

chris y

"It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, are of a different opinion, it is because they only know their own side of the question. The other party to the comparison knows both sides." - J.S.Mill

Religion offers simple, though by no means always easy, answers to perplexing and distressing questions. If you are able to accept such answers, you may well be less perplexed and distressed by the business of living, and so happier. But if you cannot accept such answers, regarding them as simplistic or unrealistic, you cannot rationally make yourself do so.

Michael

Chris Y's point that belief is not a matter of choice may be correct - a point already made by Pablo Patito - but the famous claim that "It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied" cannot be sustained on the basis that the human being, or Socrates, knows both sides, since that is transparently false. The supposedly transcendent perspective is simply that of the human being. What is it like to be a bat?

The comments to this entry are closed.

blogs I like

Why S&M?

Blog powered by Typepad