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Religious believers prefer dogs over cats — by a lot
- A 2019 study in Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion found that religious believers are more likely to own dogs than cats.
- Researchers found that hardcore evangelicals are less likely to own pets than more the progressive religious.
- Pet ownership also skews political: Democrats prefer cats while Republicans choose dogs.
Bastet was the daughter of the sun. The ancient Egyptian goddess was originally a fierce lioness warrior—a strong woman with the head of a big cat. Over time, her image morphed into a recognizable house cat until, as domestication commenced, her role disappeared altogether. I suppose it's difficult treating the furry purring machine rubbing up against your leg as an all-powerful solar goddess.
Strangely, there aren't a ton of feline deities. Bastet is by far the most famous. There's Dawon, the tigress that carries the fierce goddess, Durga, into combat; Bali's panther god, Barong Ket; Ovinnik, the black cat that chases away evil ghosts on Polish farms; and China's Li Shou, also revered by farmers for decimating mice and rats. Given their ubiquity in our world, you'd think cats would have a more religious presence.
Perhaps we can point to believers' lack of appreciation for cats. That's the topic of a 2019 study, published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. University of Oklahoma associate professor, Samuel Perry, and Eastern Illinois University assistant professor, Ryan Burge, wanted to gauge pet ownership among church goers. The religious prefer dogs by a wide margin: 74.9 percent to 40.3 percent.
Americans love dogs. With over 70 million claimed, we own 2.5 times as many canines as the runner-up, China. We also love spending money on pets: over $72 billion in 2018. That's more than on all sports combined.
Previous research points out religious tradition and biblical literalism don't necessarily predict pet ownership, though the team did discover that evangelicals are less likely to own a pet than progressive faiths. That's also true for people that attend church most often.
Jackson Galaxy's Top Tips For Cat Owners | My Cat From Hell
For this study, Perry and Burge used a 2018 survey with 2,348 respondents. Half replied to questions about pet ownership, with mean average of 1.72 pets per household. They broke down statistics on the three largest religious groups: evangelicals, mainline Protestants, and Catholics.
Biblical significance only affects evangelicals. Since the Bible isn't exactly PETA-friendly, with all the directives about lording over the kingdom, hardcore religious appear less likely to support animal rights and are more likely to tolerate cruelty toward other species.
On a related note, pet ownership is political: dogs are more likely to live in rural, Republican-leaning regions, while cats dominate urban, Democratic strongholds.
The most interesting aspect of their study involves speculation about pet owner psychology. Apparently, the most religious households think about what a pet can do instead of adopting them for what they are.
"We would expect that Christian conservatism―as indicated by evangelical affiliation and more literalist interpretations of the Bible―would predict the ownership of family pets that have more practical utility such as dogs, but not necessarily cats."
Cat owners are often considered isolated, neurotic individuals, whereas "dog people" are social and extraverted. Indeed, dog park visits and walking around the neighborhood appear to be motivating factors for owning a dog. Larger families tend to be more religious and own more dogs as well.
The antisocial aspect of cat owners has recently been downplayed. A few crazy ladies can't ruin the image for the rest of us. Pet ownership is psychologically healthy: Having an animal reduces your anxiety and depression, as well as increases self-esteem among adults and children.
After over two decades of living with cats, there are two personal notes I have of this and related studies.
While cats are independent animals, they are not antisocial. My wife and I have three cats. Every evening, three cats surround us on the couch; this is an actual photo she snapped while we were watching a movie. Hardly a night passes without all three sleeping on our bed—socially distanced, as cats do. Two hang out in my office daily while I'm writing; the third has claimed a cubby just outside my office door.
Like other animals, cats respond to how you treat them. If you act as if they're antisocial, they'll respond in kind. If you regularly play with and hold them, especially from an early age, you've got a companion for life. As they are extremely territorial creatures, if you construct a living environment conducive to their needs—lots of places to climb up high and look out windows—they're going to love living in that environment. Adopting one and refusing to meet them on their terms guarantees antisocial behavior.
The other comment is more speculative. Western religion is based on top-down authority. God gives directives; humans follow. This plays well with the psychology of dogs (which, to be clear, we also love). Dogs understand reward and punishment. If they could read, they'd love the Bible.
Punishment doesn't work on cats. They're not designed that way. If you scream at a cat while he's urinating on your carpet, he's going to think, "Why is this ape yelling?" not "I shouldn't be doing this." You probably shouldn't own a cat if you can't come to terms with this feature of their psychology.
Cats understand rewards, which is why clicker training is so effective. They'll never realize that urination + carpet = bad, but they will get that urination + litter box = treat, especially if you tether the treat to a clicker. (Clicker training also works for dogs, horses, and other animals.)
If you're trained to believe in a god that doles out punishment to criminals and rewards the faithful, you'll inherently understand dogs. By contrast, domesticated cats are the offspring of nature's fiercest killing machine. They have no need for your punishment or deities, but they will accept your treats. Think of it as tithing.
- Top vets urge dog lovers to stop buying pugs and bulldogs - Big Think ›
- Dogs, cats, other pets: would they eat you if you died? - Big Think ›
Scientists used CT scanning and 3D-printing technology to re-create the voice of Nesyamun, an ancient Egyptian priest.
- Scientists printed a 3D replica of the vocal tract of Nesyamun, an Egyptian priest whose mummified corpse has been on display in the UK for two centuries.
- With the help of an electronic device, the reproduced voice is able to "speak" a vowel noise.
- The team behind the "Voices of the Past" project suggest reproducing ancient voices could make museum experiences more dynamic.
Howard et al.<p style="margin-left: 20px;">"While this approach has wide implications for heritage management/museum display, its relevance conforms exactly to the ancient Egyptians' fundamental belief that 'to speak the name of the dead is to make them live again'," they wrote in a <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-56316-y#Fig3" target="_blank">paper</a> published in Nature Scientific Reports. "Given Nesyamun's stated desire to have his voice heard in the afterlife in order to live forever, the fulfilment of his beliefs through the synthesis of his vocal function allows us to make direct contact with ancient Egypt by listening to a sound from a vocal tract that has not been heard for over 3000 years, preserved through mummification and now restored through this new technique."</p>
Connecting modern people with history<p>It's not the first time scientists have "re-created" an ancient human's voice. In 2016, for example, Italian researchers used software to <a href="https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/hear-recreated-voice-otzi-iceman-180960570/" target="_blank">reconstruct the voice of Ötzi,</a> an iceman who was discovered in 1991 and is thought to have died more than 5,000 years ago. But the "Voices of the Past" project is different, the researchers note, because Nesyamun's mummified corpse is especially well preserved.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"It was particularly suited, given its age and preservation [of its soft tissues], which is unusual," Howard told <em><a href="https://www.livescience.com/amp/ancient-egypt-mummy-voice-reconstructed.html" target="_blank">Live Science</a>.</em></p><p>As to whether Nesyamun's reconstructed voice will ever be able to speak complete sentences, Howard told <em><a href="https://abcnews.go.com/Weird/wireStory/ancient-voice-scientists-recreate-sound-egyptian-mummy-68482015" target="_blank">The Associated Press</a>, </em>that it's "something that is being worked on, so it will be possible one day."</p><p>John Schofield, an archaeologist at the University of York, said that reproducing voices from history can make museum experiences "more multidimensional."</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"There is nothing more personal than someone's voice," he told <em>The Associated Press.</em> "So we think that hearing a voice from so long ago will be an unforgettable experience, making heritage places like Karnak, Nesyamun's temple, come alive."</p>
Inequality in wealth, gender, and race grew to unprecedented levels across the world, according to OxFam report.
- A new report by global poverty nonprofit OxFam finds inequality has increased in every country in the world.
- The alarming trend is made worse by the coronavirus pandemic, which strained most systems and governments.
- The gap in wealth, race and gender treatment will increase until governments step in with changes.
People wait in line to receive food at a food bank on April 28, 2020 in Brooklyn.
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Credit: Oxfam International
A supernova exploded near Earth about 2.5 million years ago, possibly causing an extinction event.
- Researchers from the University of Munich find evidence of a supernova near Earth.
- A star exploded close to our planet about 2.5 million years ago.
- The scientists deduced this by finding unusual concentrations of isotopes, created by a supernova.
This Manganese crust started to form about 20 million years ago. Growing layer by layer, it resulted in minerals precipitated out of seawater. The presence of elevated concentrations of 60 Fe and 56 Mn in layers from 2.5 million years ago hints at a nearby supernova explosion around that time.
Credit: Dominik Koll/ TUM