Susan Blackmore throws in the towel on the "Religion is a virus" schtick.
Blackmore, who has largely functioned as a seneschal in the service of Dan Dennett's philosophy of mind (as well as a CSISOP member), bought into and promoted this idea for... you know, I'm pretty sure it's been for years now. So it's rather noteworthy that she's throwing in the towel on this one, and in a very thorough manner. From Blackmore's perspective, religion is no longer a virus from a genetic or societal point of view.
Now, I never bought into this idea to begin with because 'viral' in the way Blackmore is defining it (even as she defines it in the article) requires speaking in terms of harm, which in turn gets into value judgments. Now, I believe in objective goods and intrinsic values, but I know it's not the stuff of science, so her project was irrelevant to me from the start. Still, I thought, interesting to see that even on her own terms the idea failed.
Interesting enough, right? But there's one problem, easy to miss.
See, the data that turned Blackmore on this question was comparative data: Stack the religious up against the irreligious and measure their traits. On sizable number of them, the religious fared better.
But... what if we reversed all the results in question? Switched the irreligious with the religious?
And there's the problem. Blackmore isn't abandoning her position because of some fundamental flaw with the 'theory' in question, but because the data that informs the theory went the wrong way. But if the religious are performing so well compared to the irreligious... then isn't secularism, or atheism, a virus itself by those very same standards?
When is a virus not a virus? When the right people have it, apparently.