Kevin Lewis

September 21, 2021

The problem of evil: An economic approach
Francisco Parro
Kyklos, forthcoming

This paper develops an economic model to study the philosophical problem of evil. God's creation of the world is modeled as a problem of optimal incentives. A principal (God) must choose a world so that the populating agents behave according to his benevolent objective. In a world, the physical environment resembles a contract that determines the rewards and punishments for different choices. The agents' behavioral rule determines how they respond to these incentives. I characterize a contract and a behavioral rule that solve the principal's problem, and evil is evidenced. Specifically, evil endogenously aligns the agents' actions with the principal's objective. Other insights on the origin, cause, and role of evil are also derived from the model. The result of this analysis is a theodicy arisen from an economic model. As a byproduct, this paper shows how an economic model can be used to study philosophical or theological questions. 

The economics of religious communities
Jean-Paul Carvalho & Michael Sacks
Journal of Public Economics, September 2021

The religious club model is central to the economics of religion. To expand its scope for application, we develop the first model to combine (i) increasing returns to membership, (ii) discrimination, and (iii) religious competition. Any degree of non-rivalry in religious club goods introduces scale effects which require new analytical techniques. Due to increasing returns, a religious leader faces a trade-off between forming a large inclusive club and screening out less committed types to form a small strict club. Endogenous screening makes religious strictness a non-monotonic function of economic development, which is consistent with the emergence of strict sects following periods of liberalization and economic growth. Blanket discrimination against all community members makes the religious community stricter and more cohesive, explaining the survival of religious sects and minorities under persecution. Stigmatizing actively religious members promotes social integration on the whole, but can create an extreme isolationist sect. Contrary to prior work on religious markets, we uncover a mechanism by which religious competition reduces religious participation and boosts social integration. Thus, attempts to moderate religion by stigmatizing participation and restricting competition could backfire. Finally, our model provides guidance for empirical work on religious discrimination and further extensions of the religious club model. 

Was Henry VIII Infertile? Miscarriages and Male Infertility in Tudor England
Valerie Shrimplin & Channa Jayasena
Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Autumn 2021, Pages 155–176

Although fertility has traditionally been viewed as the responsibility of women, recent studies suggest that reduced sperm function is a major cause of the recurrent pregnancy loss that affects 1 to 2 percent of couples. The reproductive and nutritional history of King Henry VIII indicates that 70 percent of the legitimate pregnancies attributed to Henry and his six wives resulted in miscarriage or stillbirth. By comparison, only 10 percent of the recorded pregnancies of the thirty-one noblemen closely associated with Henry had the same outcomes. Henry’s reproductive health likely contributed to the fertility problems for which his wives took the blame. The disregard of male infertility in Henry’s case may offer a clue to the reasons for the under-reporting of male reproductive health, then and now, to the detriment of both men and women. 

In the Name of the Father? Fertility, Religion, and Child Naming in the Demographic Transition
Dylan Shane Connor
Demography, forthcoming

This article shows that parents reveal information about their fertility behavior through how they name their children. I arrive at this finding from a detailed examination of the net fertility of 130,000 married couples in Ireland, a country known for its historically high fertility rate, circa 1911. After stringently accounting for couples' occupation, religion, and location, I find higher fertility rates among couples who chose distinctly Catholic names and traditional names for their children, with the latter being particularly important. Exposure to towns and cities lowered net fertility and weakened preferences for traditional and Catholic names. Cumulatively, these findings highlight the role of traditional rural norms over explicitly religious influences in driving high fertility rates in Ireland. The impact of towns and cities in reducing net fertility suggests that Ireland's sluggish urbanization was a key factor in its high historical fertility rate. 

Karma and God: Convergent and divergent mental representations of supernatural norm enforcement
Cindel White & Ara Norenzayan
Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, forthcoming

Few studies have directly examined mental representations of supernaturally monitored morality, as they are reflected in world religions as conceptions of karma and God. In seven samples (total N = 3,861), we use an open-ended free-list task to investigate participants’ mental representations of God and karma, among culturally diverse samples from the USA and India, including Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, and nonreligious participants. Key results showed that (a) there is substantial consensus among believers that actions relevant to interpersonal cooperation (e.g., generosity, harm, fairness, and honesty) are highly relevant to both karma and God beliefs; however, (b) God is prototypically represented as a personified, social agent, who believers have a devotional relationship with, whereas karma is more commonly conceived of as a nonagentic causal process, through which moral actions generate commensurate good and bad consequences; (c) God — but not karma — is expected to reward and punish acts of religious devotion, in addition to the harm and fairness norms that characterize interpersonal prosociality; and (d) karma — more than God — is expected to reward generosity and punish greed. These findings show how culturally constructed religious beliefs shape expectations about the consequences of moral behavior. A greater understanding of the mental representations of karma and God contribute to cultural evolutionary theories of supernatural norm enforcement and its role in large-scale cooperation. 

Muslim undergraduate biology students’ evolution acceptance in the United States
Elizabeth Barnes et al.
PLoS ONE, August 2021

Evolution is a prominent component of biology education and remains controversial among college biology students in the United States who are mostly Christian, but science education researchers have not explored the attitudes of Muslim biology students in the United States. To explore perceptions of evolution among Muslim students in the United States, we surveyed 7,909 college students in 52 biology classes in 13 states about their acceptance of evolution, interest in evolution, and understanding of evolution. Muslim students in our sample, on average, did not agree with items that measured acceptance of macroevolution and human evolution. Further, on average, Muslim students agreed, but did not strongly agree with items measuring microevolution acceptance. Controlling for gender, major, race/ethnicity, and international status, we found that the evolution acceptance and interest levels of Muslim students were slightly higher than Protestant students and students who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, Muslim student evolution acceptance levels were significantly lower than Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist, and Hindu students as well as students who did not identify with a religion (agnostic and atheists). Muslim student understanding of evolution was similar to students from other affiliations, but was lower than agnostic and atheist students. We also examined which variables are associated with Muslim student acceptance of evolution and found that higher understanding of evolution and lower religiosity are positive predictors of evolution acceptance among Muslim students, which is similar to the broader population of biology students. These data are the first to document that Muslim students have lower acceptance of evolution compared to students from other affiliations in undergraduate biology classrooms in the United States. 

Crisis as Catalyst: Crisis in Conversion to Islam Related to Radicalism Intentions
Daniel Snook et al.
Terrorism and Political Violence, forthcoming

In Western democracies, Muslim converts are overrepresented in Islamist terrorism compared to born-and-raised Muslims. Consequently, researchers have begun to consider how the process of conversion to Islam might influence participation in terrorism, yet empirical data are lacking. To explore these connections, the present study measured the conversion experiences of Muslim converts, as well as their intentions to engage in radicalism. 177 U.S. Muslim converts completed the Radicalism Intentions Scale, which measures willingness to engage in violent and illegal political behaviors to support one’s group, and the Adult Religious Conversion Experience Questionnaire, which measures the components of conversion, including crisis. Crisis is an experience of stress or difficulty that contributes to the collapse of one’s pre-conversion belief system (e.g., when an alcoholic hits “bottom”). Results indicate that the level of crisis that converts experienced was the only conversion variable associated with converts’ radicalism intentions, which suggests that crisis may be an important construct in connecting the processes of conversion to Islam and participation in Islamist terrorism. 

Religious orientations, prototypicality threat, and attitudes toward church–state separation
Joseph Wagoner & Serena VanCuren
Journal of Applied Social Psychology, September 2021, Pages 927-945

We investigated whether stronger religious fundamentalism predicted negative attitudes toward church–state separation as a consequence of perceiving low in-group prototypicality (IGP). Across two studies (N = 635), Christians from the United States reported their religious orientations (intrinsic, extrinsic-personal, extrinsic-social, fundamentalism) before we measured (or manipulated) their perceptions of IGP. The dependent variables were attitudes toward church–state separation (S1, S2) and attitudes toward religious–national integration (S2). Results showed that stronger religious fundamentalism predicted negative attitudes toward church–state separation. Results also showed that fundamentalists’ negativity toward church–state separation was stronger when Christianity was not perceived as prototypical of America's identity. Religious fundamentalism did not predict attitudes toward church–state separation when perceiving high IGP. Religious fundamentalism predicted support of religious–national integration irrespective of IGP. The results suggest that fundamentalists will oppose the separation of church and state when they perceive their religion is not prototypical of their national identity. 

Local religiosity, workplace safety, and firm value
Md Ruhul Amin, Incheol Kim & Suin Lee
Journal of Corporate Finance, forthcoming

This paper examines the effect of local religiosity on employee treatment, proxied by workplace safety incidents. Using the establishment-level data compiling on the incidents of work-related injuries, we find that employees of the establishments in more religious counties get less injured than those in less religious counties. We further find that a reduction in occupational accidents is more evident for establishments in counties dominated by one religious denomination, strengthening our argument on community solidarity and homophily stemming from religious networks. Firms whose establishments are located in high religiosity counties are less likely to violate workplace conduct and more likely to take workplace safety measures. Moreover, firms with more work-related injuries exhibit poorer firm performance. Overall, our findings suggest that local religiosity has a value implication through human capital protection.


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