Session B14: Applications of Statistical and Nonlinear Physics to Social Systems and GSNP Student Speaker Award Talks

11:15 AM–2:03 PM, Monday, March 21, 2011
Room: D227

Sponsoring Unit: GSNP
Chair: Victor Yakovenko, University of Maryland

Abstract ID: BAPS.2011.MAR.B14.5

Abstract: B14.00005 : Modeling the decline of religion

12:03 PM–12:15 PM

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  Richard Wiener
    (Research Corporation for Science Advancement and Department of Physics, University of Arizona)

  Haley Yaple
    (Department of Engineering Sciences and Applied Mathematics, Northwestern University)

  Daniel Abrams
    (Department of Engineering Sciences and Applied Mathematics, Northwestern University)

People claiming no religious affiliation constitute the fastest growing ``religious'' minority in many countries throughout the world.\footnote{Zuckerman, P. ``Atheism: Contemporary rates and patterns,'' in Cambridge Companion to Atheism, University of Cambridge Press, 2007.} Here we use a minimal model of competition between social groups\footnote{Abrams, D. M. and Strogatz, S.H. Modelling the dynamics of language death. Nature 424(6951), 900 (2003).} to explain historical data on the growth of religious non-affiliation in 85 regions around the world. We also describe numerical experiments that support the validity of the model. According to the model, for societies in which the perceived utility of not adhering is greater than the utility of adhering, religion will be driven toward extinction.

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