In the past few years, arguing about God has made a modest resurgence online. Qualitatively-speaking however, the God-talk sphere of online discourse is much different than it used to be. Gone are the days of fedora-tippers and true believers lobbing ad hominems on Reddit or making poorly-cut YouTube videos misunderstanding and misexplaining the Kalam cosmological argument.
Today’s scene in popular philosophy of religion forums is dominated by discourses we could not have even dreamed of fighting in the ruins of normalcy represented by the Bush years: Neo-paganism and the Bronze Age Mindset vs. RadTradCaths or perhaps atheism vs. mega-esoteric quantum Eastern Orthodox hesychasm. In short, the question is not just whether or not theism is true, but whether it is politically useful and in what way.
The Dutton-Turley Thesis or The Eugenic Case for Christianity
The most interesting subset of these new God-explainers, however, are what I will refer to as Dutton-Turleyites or what has hitherto been referred to as the Dutton-Turley Thesis, whose argument is contra the argument. Whereas everyone else is stuck in the mire of proof-counterproof (or in other circles, which one is “more based”) the Dutton-Turleyites argue that whatever happens, Christians/religious people of some variety will win automatically. This is asserted given that the birthrates for religious conservatives are higher, and that both religiosity and politics are highly heritable from one’s parents.
There are various modes of attack that can be made against this thesis. For one, it justifies (perhaps even recommends) total political inaction by religious conservatives for an automatic win. It is the religious conservative equivalent of the Qanon cry that “patriots are in control.” Also it ignores certain factors like:
1.The overall decline in fertility even in religious conservative populations.
2. Immense social upheaval such that stable pairbonding has become very difficult for those without elite status (and therefore elite beliefs, therefore not us).
3. Commensurate with no. 2, religious conservatives cannot just spit out children who, without any effort, turn into crusading religious fanatics. Supporting a godly population requires an entire spiritual infrastructure: churches, proper catechism, the sacraments, etc. This spiritual infrastructure is constantly being eroded.
4. And finally, the willingness of government entities, even if you are a turbo-Amish with a small army of children, to just forcibly take your children away from you for indoctrination or fabricate some cause de jure to injure or kill you. Throw slippery-slope objections all you want, how long is it before any large family that homeschools is seen in the exact same light as the Branch Davidians?
But there is another argument I would like to make against the Dutton-Turley Thesis or the Eugenic Case of Christianity: it is an empty truth. Now, to my knowledge, no one has used the Thesis as a proof for Christianity, per se, but rather the truth of the Thesis has two corollaries: one should become a Christian because it is evolutionarily selected for and therefore a marker of fitness, a sort of Darwinian Pascal’s wager. The implication may be that Christianity isn’t true, but Evolution, the true “God” of Modernity, smiles upon it. Or the implication could be that if theistic evolution is true, God made Christianity evolutionarily selected for, as a proof of its truth. Additionally, if you already are a Christian, all of these political fights with pagan larpers and progressives are meaningless because you will win anyways through demographics.
The problem at the heart of the whole theory, in my estimation, is the problem at the heart of every theory of human evolution as it relates to social structures today. Namely, it all amounts to a tautology.
Consider, natural selection states that animals with traits that perform well in their environments pass on their genes to the next generation and therefore the species continues to exist. This is tantamount to saying: things exist because they are good at existing. Most people in history have been religious conservatives because religious conservatives are good at existing, but what of it? If they continue to exist in Modernity, it is because they are robust enough in the power of existing to continue to exist. If they do not, it has everything to do with a change in environment and nothing to do with the virtue or viciousness of religious conservatism itself.
When humans became agricultural, they began to experience problems that they never would have had they remained nomadic such as disease, chronic malnutrition, and large-scale war. Hunter-gatherer societies died out, but was that because hunting and gathering was an objectively vicious or irrational way to live? No, of course not.
A Thesis with Everything but the Truth
This is a long-winded way of saying that the Dutton-Turley Thesis never touches the actual issue. For one, the thesis has holes. For two, the obvious corollaries and implications may or may not be correct given the theory is sound. For three, even if the thesis is true it is largely meaningless. Is religious conservatism a virtue because of its supposed eugenic effect, or is it just a useful fiction? The thesis never says.
I am reminded of C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters, wherein Screwtape impresses on Wormwood that he should avoid real intellectual argument around religion and instead seek to make materialism/naturalism the high-status option. To me, that’s what the Thesis does. It takes a strange understanding of the Christian religion and cloaks it in the high-status robes of Evolutionary Theory. It would be better, I think, to drill down to the truth of the matter.
This essay was originally published at Hidebound Press, which is the publishing arm of the Hidebound Convivium YouTube channel, and has been republished with the permission of the site's owner. Please help support independent content creators and "Like" and subscribe to these sites.
Photo Credit- elon. edu