Razib Khan One-stop-shopping for all of my content

July 14, 2017

The past was not PG

Filed under: Bible,Culture,Game of Thrones,Mythology — Razib Khan @ 9:34 am

The Week has published a screed against the low moral quality of Game of Thrones, Game of Thrones is bad — and bad for you. Obviously there is something to this insofar as one can see a coarsening of entertainment, or at least a decline in the stylized aspects of the depiction of reality.

But one of my initial reactions is that much of the narrative that we value from the past was not particularly PG. If you read The Harlot by the Side of the Road: Forbidden Tales of the Bible you see that the “Good Book”, in fact the only book many read front to back by many after the Reformation in Protestant Europe, has some quite unsavory tales. The story of Judah and Tamar in particular is hard to digest from a modern Western perspective because many of the elements are understated and workaday. Greek mythology is no better obviously. From Zeus raping Leda, Achilles throwing a fit because his sex-slave was taken away, to the tradition of Agamemnon sacrificing Iphigenia.

In some cases the shocking aspect of ancient stories is because moderns have different values. Slavery and concubinage were taken for granted during the period that the Hebrew Bible and Classical mythology crystallized into the forms which came down to us. In other cases I presume that it was unlikely that small children were going to ever read the original stories themselves, so sexual elements that might confuse were probably omitted in some oral tellings.

This is not to say that Game of Thrones is a modern masterpiece. But some of the disquieting, and frankly perverse, aspects of the narrative are only shocking if your standard is the relatively antiseptic literary fiction which one finds between the Regency and the cultural revolution of the 1960s. That is the aberration in human history, while gritty genre fiction much closer to primal human storytelling.

July 10, 2011

Kids, satisfaction, and scriptural literalism

Filed under: Bible,GSS,Religion — Razib Khan @ 9:54 pm

Bryan Caplan* found something interesting in the GSS:

People who believe in the Bible’s literal truth (BIBLE=1) are much more satisfied with their jobs than people who believe it’s just a book of fables (BIBLE=3)….

Relatively speaking, this is a huge effect. But what’s going on? It’s not just a disguised left-right effect; Biblical literalism crushes self-identified ideology in a multiple regression. And it’s not a disguised social support effect; Biblical literalism crushes church attendance, too. Marxists will no doubt claim vindication for their view that religion is the opium of the people. But you could just as easily conclude that traditional religion successfully teaches gratitude.

In my personal experience with the GSS the BIBLE variable, which asks rather awkwardly one’s stance toward the nature of the Bible, is one of the most powerful predictors of a whole host of social metrics. I suspect that scriptural literalism has very strong personality correlates.

One thing that’s rather amusing also is that Biblical fundamentalists are naturally skeptical of evolution, but they’re rather reproductively fit. Here’s the trend from the GSS:


And yet this is an illustration that fertility ...

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