A surprising new paper in the journal Evolutionary Psychological Science claims that atheism1 is underpinned by “high mutational load” as indicated by (1) poor general health, (2) autism, (3) fluctuating asymmetry (attractiveness), and (4) left-handedness (Dutton et al., 2017). This is silly for a number of reasons. Let’s start with the preposterous rationale for the study, which is actually based on Christian blogs, Yelp, Yahoo Answers, and the Bible:
There seems to be a stereotype that religious people, and especially religious women, are particularly attractive and healthy. A number of popular articles and social media pages discussing this observation can be found online (Malloy, 2017; Hewitt, 2010, p. 99) including threads beginning with questions such as “Why are Mormon girls so hot?” (Yahoo Answers, 2008) and “OMG … why are Christian woman so extremely (physically) attractive?” (Yelp, 2010).2 Several passages in the Bible seem to suggest that those who intensely fear Yahweh are more disease-resistant (Deut. 7:15) and are more physically attractive (e.g. I Samuel 16:18). Those inspired by other gods or by Satan are, in contrast, autistic (Mark 9:25) and even left-handed (Matt 25: 41). Why should the authors of these books believe this to be the case? It could, of course, be a way of idealising the virtuous, but it is not clear that all of these features were the most pertinent for that purpose.
Really??? Has anyone heard about the stereotype that “religious women are particularly attractive and healthy”? And that the New Testament says autistic individuals3 and left-handers are “Satanic”?? This is so ridiculous that I thought the paper must be a spoof, similar to the articles that appear in the The BMJ Christmas issue.4
Oh, and then there’s the title of the article:
The Mutant Says in His Heart, “There Is No God”: the Rejection of Collective Religiosity Centred Around the Worship of Moral Gods Is Associated with High Mutational Load.
It’s really hard to go any further. Professor Shane O’Mara named it a contender for the worst scientific paper of 2017.
worst: https://t.co/Ma4Z2Lr4Z7 atheists are mutants!
— Shane O’Mara (@smomara1) December 24, 2017
1 …and paranormal belief…
2 The first answer on Yelp is quite amusing:
I think you lucked out….go to a heavily Christian city in middle America and the church populace will look more like peopleofwalmart.com (is that the right site?). I don’t think their looks is attributed to religion, you just happened onto a group of good-looking women. It can happen anywhere.
3 The author of the gospel of Mark must have discovered autism, then.
4 I asked the journal about this, but didn’t hear back.
You don’t have a Christmas edition of joke papers like BMJ, do you?
— sarcastic_f (@sarcastic_f) December 25, 2017
Dutton E, Madison G, Dunkel C. (2017). The Mutant Says in His Heart,“There Is No God”: the Rejection of Collective Religiosity Centred Around the Worship of Moral Gods Is Associated with High Mutational Load. Evolutionary Psychological Science. pp. 1-12. First Online: