Atheists and Daddy issues

Behold science in action. We’ll begin with the well-known observation that many atheists have serious problems with their fathers. To this, we add the fact that scientists at Boston University, the University of British Columbia, and UC Davis have all reported evidence supporting my original hypothesis that there is a connection between atheism and higher than normal Asperger’s Quotients, as well as this new study, which has the potential to explain the reason for that connection.

Older men are more likely than young ones to father a child who develops autism or schizophrenia, because of random mutations that become more numerous with advancing paternal age, scientists reported on Wednesday, in the first study to quantify the effect as it builds each year. The age of mothers had no bearing on the risk for these disorders, the study found….

The overall risk to a man in his 40s or older is in the range of 2 percent, at most, and there are other contributing biological factors that are entirely unknown.

My random thought of the day is that older fathers not only increase the number of random mutations, but also tend to behave differently than younger fathers. Certainly everyone who has multiple children knows that the youngest is brought up somewhat differently than the eldest, and at least part of this may have to do with the increased age of the father rather than “been there done that” syndrome. This means that the children of older fathers are likely to experience a double-whammy of Nature and Nurture teaming up against them with regards to the probability of their turning out neurotypical.

This all leads to my hypothesis that the reason atheists are less likely to be neurotypical and less likely to believe in the existence of gods and the supernatural is because their fathers are, on average, older. This hypothetical causal connection between the age of the father and the atheism of the child is interesting in that it would have the potential to explain both the relatively recent increase in the number of atheists as well as the reason Europe is more atheist than the United States and other religious countries.

The testable prediction generated by this hypothesis is that there will be a statistically significant difference in the average/median age of fathers of atheists and the rest of the population. The average age of the atheist’s fathers should be older than the norm, while due to their much greater numbers, the average age of religious individual’s fathers will very closely approximate it. Unfortunately, the USA doesn’t track the age of fathers, only first-time fathers, but Australia does.

1. The average age of a first-time dad in the U.S. was 29.65 in 2010, considerably younger than a Western European equivalent of 32.51 (based on the average of UK, France, Germany, Netherlands, Italy and Spain only).

2. Between 1988 and 2008 the median age of married fathers increased by almost three years, from 31.0 to 34.1 years, while the median age of unmarried fathers who acknowledged the birth of their child also increased, from 27.0 years to 29.8 years. In 2008 the median age of all fathers was 33.1 years. [This indicates that the median age of all fathers in Australia was 30 in 1988.]

So, for the time being, we’ll use 30 as our approximate average age. And like we did before, let’s take an informal poll here to see if the average age of fathers of the atheists here is, in fact, above 30. Just indicate if you are atheist, agnostic, or religious, and your father’s age when you were born. Here are some examples:

Vox Day: religious-25
Richard Dawkins: atheist-26
Christopher Hitchens: atheist-40
Daniel Dennett: atheist-32
Bertrand Russell: atheist-30
John Russell: atheist-50
Skatje Myers: atheist-32
Friedrich Nietzsche: atheist-31
H.G. Wells: atheist-38
Scott Atran: atheist-26

So the average age of the father of the New Atheists is 32.7. So far so good. Anyone know how old Sam Harris’s or PZ Myers’s fathers were when they were born?