This article popped up in my Firefox start page, courtesy of Mozilla’s Pocket acquisition’s AI gaming of my tastes in online reading. (It actually works hella better than the advertising AIs, which always seem to deluge me with ads for things I’ve already bought.) Anyhoo, I think some of you may be interested.
The article’s title is a bit misleading. It’s really about simulations that might be able to predict social trends and events. There are some key assertions about what makes people cling to religion instead of becoming more secular. Here is one:
Using a separate model, Future of Religion and Secular Transitions (FOREST), the team found that people tend to secularize when four factors are present: existential security (you have enough money and food), personal freedom (you’re free to choose whether to believe or not), pluralism (you have a welcoming attitude to diversity), and education (you’ve got some training in the sciences and humanities). If even one of these factors is absent, the whole secularization process slows down. This, they believe, is why the U.S. is secularizing at a slower rate than Western and Northern Europe.
Being the cynic that I am, I think some of the assumptions by the people doing the work that is referenced are hopelessly naive. The tools under development are said to be intended for use by politicians to help them create better social conditions. In my view, politicians will as often as not seek to create worse social conditions if it helps to sustain or increase their own power. Nonetheless, knowing about tools like this that are accessible to the public is good, because just as the article says, there are assuredly tools like this that are not available to the public and are being used by those who do not necessarily align the public’s interest with their own.