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What if being wrong is an evolutionary advantage?
Created on Feb 20 2013
Dear Mr Dawkins
I read The Selfish Gene when I was about 16, and that's probably the right age. I also had a couple of very very good Biology teachers that molded my brains to see evolution everywhere. Your books helped and I even considered becoming a biologist.
Now, I'm twice that age and still an atheist and I enormously respect your work, but some time ago a question popped in my mind and made me think, not if evolution is wrong, but if we, as evolutionary atheists, are on the wrong side.
I've heard Lawrence Krauss say that reality doesn't care about what fundamentalists believe. Truth is there and it's up to us to look for it. And you seemed to agree with that.
Now consider we are right, and religious people are wrong (easy thing to do). Can this be an evolutionary advantage in any way? Can this beat the meme "be fruitful and multiply"?
What if it can't. What if the average educated atheist is never going to outgrow the believers because we, by nature, consider freedom during our lifetimes as something more important than whatever happens next, and we don't feel the need to follow some superior orders to produce more of us, with a few notable exceptions, say parents with lots of kids or educators like you.
If that's the case, it also explains why only religious civilizations have proliferated, and why atheists have always been a small part of any given society, except for very rare cases.
You may argue this by saying that atheists (or critical thinkers, which are almost the same) are the kind of people who move our species forward, the ones who are open to new ideas and who explore them, but maybe the best societies are the ones that have only a certain amount of this kind of people and a bigger part that makes use of these discoveries.
Variety is not only useful, it's mandatory in evolutionary terms, and believing in some non existent thing may be part of that unavoidable variety, and like in many dynamic groups of animals, we may be on the small side, the one that can never completely disappear but will never rule for evolutionary reasons. Maybe our way of thinking is to a culture what the 0 negative to blood types.