Montag, 18. Februar 2008

The reproductive benefits of an anthroposophic lifestyle


Scientific data about people following an "anthroposophic lifestyle" show that new forms of religiosity and spirituality developed mainly in the 20
th century are able to enhance birth rates of people, also of those who have left the traditional Christian churches.

The german version of this article can be found --->


The young discipline of "Evolutionary Religious Studies" (
ERS) has made a lot of progress in the last few years. (1 - 3) At the moment, this discipline is concerned in the first place with modern world religions or with tribal predecessors - like Judaism – which have survived in modern times. But what about their modern "successors"? Sometimes it is assumed that forms of atheism or "political ideologies" can be viewed as evolutionary and historical "successors" of the former, demographically successful world religions. But no one has ever been able to show, that atheism has a positive influence on birth rate, and on the stability of human groups over a longer time-span, which are some of the most important indicators of the evolutionary adaptability of elements in human culture.

So, we have to be aware that modern world religions and their most important tribal predecessor today - Judaism - are only a few thousand years old. This is a very short time measured in evolutionary periods. It is very plausible to assume, that they have been established in world history mostly by a process of cultural and genetic individual and group selection. Christianity for example has begun as a small religious sect and minority among other cultural, ethnic and religious groups which were formed by the majority of people in those days and which all had their own reproductive success and "group evolutionary stability" in their time. This means that they were able to maintain their own "evolutionary stable strategy" or "group evolutionary strategy", i.e., they were able to maintain their "reproductive regime". The last term is the English word for the German term "Bevölkerungsweise" introduced by the well known German demographer Gerhard Mackenroth (1903 - 1955).

Abb. 1: "Badging" - the use of culturally-generated external signals of group membership (Wiki)

But a lot of those cultural, religious and ethnic groups that have existed parallel to early Christianity have lost their former ability for reproductive success and group coherence in the centuries that followed, while Christianity successfully maintained its ability in world history for the next two thousand years. The roman Emperor Julian the Apostate, for example, was not able to maintain and reerect the former successful "group evolutionary strategies" of paganism of the ancient world in the face of upcoming Christianity in his times. There are a lot of other adherents of ancient religions and ethnicities worldwide who experienced failure in the face of the triumph of the world religions around the world.

There are a lot of good hypotheses why Christianity was so successful in evolution and history and why the old pagan religions were not able to maintain their "reproductive regimes". The most convincing is that it was the new scientific thinking of the Greeks which destroyed the former "reproductive regime" of the ancient world that was stabilized by tribal religiosity. And Christianity "imitated" the rationality in scientific thinking of the Greeks in the area of religion to an extreme that has never been seen in the world before. (25) But the rise of a naturalistic worldview and philosophy in the face of Christianity in the last thousand years has convinced a majority of people in the northern hemisphere that the old forms of world religions can not be any more the moral and religious stabilisators of a successful "reproductive regime" of progressive, enlighted, modern societies.

One may presume that from a historical point we are now at the beginning of another "phase transition" in world history (that is in the history of the northern hemisphere) which creates a new "reproductive regime", stabilized by a new, modern form of religiosity. *)

Today, more and more people are wondering about what kind of religiosity could stop the demographic decline of the western world and will thereby maintain the former reproductive success of the people in the northern hemisphere. It is obvious that atheism in the course of history has never had this quality. On the contrary, it has caused the described demographic decline. It does not even seem very plausible that atheism will achieve the quality to stop demographic decline in the future. (- Or will possibly such a fictitious world as the one shown in the famous novel "Brave new world" by Aldous Huxley come true by establishing such inhumane and apparently psychologically nearly impossible "reproductive regimes"?)

As far as I know at the moment, there is no scientific evidence in literature that shows a possibility by principle to enhance fertility rate of people in modern western societies by a modern religiosity of the 20
th century and not only by the ancient forms of religiosity of traditional world religions. These ancient forms have an above-average reproductive success today; because their successful "group evolutionary strategies" have been selected many centuries ago. And maybe the inborn psychology of the ethnicities in the western world have also been adapted to these ancient forms of religiosity in some way or other by living thousand years under their "reproductive regime". This is also assumed for the "Natural History of Ashkenazi Intelligence". (5) We can hypothesize about the decline of the frequence of "warrior genes" (MAOA-genes) or ADHS-genes in ethnicities of the northern hemisphere because of the more peaceful "reproductive regime" of Christianity, for example.

But most people in science at least do not assume, think, know or hope (6), that these old "reproductive regimes", these old "group evolutionary strategies" of the traditional world religions or of Judaism are of that kind of religiosity that will be of reproductive success for modern secular societies in the western world in the future. Atheism does also not seem to be a reproductive advantage to its adherents. There fore, could it be possible to establish a new religious "group evolutionary strategy" in modern societies, that is more successful in reproduction than atheism?

Is there any group that could be an example for this? A glimpse into literature about people following an "anthroposophic lifestyle" could be a hint. Anthroposophy was founded by
Rudolf Steiner (1861 - 1925). He was an admirer of Friedrich Nietzsche and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (7) but also in a way of Jesus and Buddha. Today, people following an "anthroposophic lifestyle" can be found in Western Europe (Western Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, Great Britain) as well as in the United States and Australia. In Germany they run the most private schools in which they practise the so called "Waldorf-education". In Western Germany there are about 200 schools with 80.000 children.

They have their own Kindergarten, too, as well as their own "anthroposophic medicine", physicians, hospitals and old people’s homes. These are all indicators for a high social engagement and shows social responsibility. These are also indicators for areas of prevailing female activity. Example: More females than males are among the patients of anthroposophic physicians. And it is a fact that only very few women are members of atheistic organisations - for example of the german "
Giordano Bruno-Stiftung". (22, 23) (The same is true for the "Brights movement").

A lot of people following the "anthroposophic lifestyle" work at universities and in medical research, they have their own established research programmes and scientific journals. People who are living a so called "anthroposophic lifestyle" have been object of various studies and meta-studies in medicine (8 - 13). They have also been focused on in education research (14, 15) and religious studies (7, 16 - 20).

Thousands of people with an "anthroposophic lifestyle" have been subject of scientific research in various areas. (8 - 20)

In general: The underlying trend and some of the more important results are: There are a lot more people among them with academic education than in control groups, and less people living alone compared to control groups. Children who experience Waldorf-education have more brothers and sisters than control groups. Family size or the "number of people per household" are slightly above the average. There are much less smokers and people being overweight among them.

Attitude towards the Steiner philosophy and Waldorf-education: What about religion? Regarding this group this is a very complex question, because the majority of people following the anthroposophic lifestyle seem not to identify themselves with the anthroposophic philosophy of Rudolf Steiner. The majority of them have a sceptical attitude towards the Steiner philosophy. But in what do they believe instead? 1.124 of persons who experienced Waldorf-education were asked in the winter of 2004/05 in questionnaires about their life, their religion and religious attitudes. This study group was born between the 1930s and 1970s. (14 - 16) The results: 60 % are sceptical towards the Steiner philosophy or reject it. But 80 % of them would repeat their Waldorf-education.

This means that there is obviously a high identification with the practical consequences of this philosophy but not with the philosophy itself. And this may be typical for people with an anthroposophic lifestyle. But we have to be aware of the fact that there might be a minority - an "inner core" of adherents of the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner - who seem to be essential for the coherence, the survival and the growth of the group and its social activities for over eighty years now.

Political orientation: Half of the mentioned 1.124 people sympathize with political parties. And half of those sympathizing with political parties are sympathizing with the German party "Bündnis 90/Die Grünen" (the green party). And half of the other halve of people sympathizing with political parties are sympathizing with social democracy.
Birth rate:
692 of the 1.124 had children (61 %) and 352 (30 %) did not have children. 50 % of them were between 30 and 37 years old. 253 were between 64 and 68 years old and had an average of 2,2 children per person. 236 were between 50 and 60 years old and had 2,0 children per person. 542 were between 30 and 37 years old and had 0,9 children per person till now. (15, p. 6) If these 542 with some plausibility will have at the end of their lives twice as many children as now, they will have 1,8 children per person. And this would mean a birth rate of the whole study group of 1,9 children per person. (24)

Membership in churches:
In Western Germany in the year 2004
19 % of the people were no members of a church and 74 % were members of a Christian church.

Germany as a whole in the year 2005 there were
32 % with no membership of a church and 65 % members of a church,
that is because in the former [predominantly atheistic] Eastern Germany in the year 2005 there were
70 % with no membership in a church and 27 % members of a church.)

In the whole study group of 1.124 people who experienced Waldorf-education (all from
Western Germany) there were
43 % with no membership of a church and 57 % members of a church.
Briefly, among people following an anthroposophic lifestyle there are more than twice as many people who have left the traditional Christian churches than in the control group. This is also true for the older people, born in the 1930s, but there is an upward tendency among the younger persons.

This is a case that seems not to have been studied very often in "Evolutionary Religious Studies" yet: Non-membership in Christian churches twice as much than the average and birth rate above the average. And at the same time a group with members with academic education above the average too.

Here are some more details: Among the members of a church of the 1.124 (this means among the 57 % of the whole of the study group):
55 % are members of a protestant church,
17 % are members of the Catholic Church,
17 % are members of the anthroposophic "Christengemeinschaft" (founded in 1922 in cooperation with Rudolf Steiner but without him being a member and still without acknowledgement of the official and established protestant church in Germany)
10 % are members of Judaism, Buddhism or other religious communities.
We can recognize a development towards more Catholics (27 %) and less members of the "Christengemeinschaft" (12 %) among the younger persons of the study group.

Church-membership and attitude towards Steiner philosophy as demographic factors:

There is not so much difference in the identification with anthroposopical philosophy of Rudolf Steiner among members of a church and non-members of a traditional church. Only the members of the "Christengemeinschaft" identify significantly more with the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner. Maybe they belong to the ideological “inner core” of the Steiner movement.

Among the 692 with children, 60 % are members of a church and 40 % are non-members. Among the 352 without children, 50 % are members of a church and 50 % are non-members. (
15, p. 193) Among the 692 with children, 43 % have a positive attitude towards the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner and 56 % do not. Among the 352 without children, only 34 % have a positive attitude towards the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner and 65 % do not.

Thus, we can conclude that church-membership as well as a positive attitude towards the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner have positive effects on the birth rate. But church-membership has even stronger positive effects.

Religious orientation in a broader sense: The 1.124 were also asked to answer "Yes" or "No" to the sentence: "The thought about a higher cosmic order gives meaning and orientation to my life."
("Der Gedanke an eine höhere kosmische Ordnung gibt mir Sinn und Orientierung in meinem Leben.") 58 % answered "Yes."


What can be said about the results all in all? Birth rates of church-members with Waldorf-education seem to mirror the birth rates of church-members of
Germany as a whole. They are also slightly above the average.

But the most remarkable result is: Non-church-members with Waldorf-education seem to have birth rates not very much below birth rates of church-members. And because non-membership of churches in this group is above the average compared to the whole of
Germany, the birth rate of people following an anthroposophic lifestyle which is slightly above the average cannot only be caused by the church-members in their rows. The non-members among them also have birth rates slightly above the average compared to Germany as a whole - and at least compared to non-members of churches of the whole of Germany.

This is simply what can be said at the moment about the published data. For a deeper understanding of the religious demography of people following an anthroposophic lifestyle we have to await more precise data than those published until now. E. g., there is still no answer to the question, if church-members have bigger families (i.e. more than two children) than non-church-members.

Michael Ebertz interpreted the results saying (16) that there are two kinds of religiosity in modern people (21). On the one hand there is the institutionalized one: people are members of churches. But on the other hand there is another one which he calls the "universal religion" that means the belief "in a higher cosmic order of the world". He also calls it "vitalistic" worldview – let me call it “monism” in the sense of Ernst Haeckel. Ebertz also assumes that the former kind of religion is often overlapped by the second kind of religiosity that differs in many ways from the former. And the data show that this second kind of religiosity seems to be able to influence the birth rates as well. - At least when it is framed by a social setting like the one of an "anthroposophic lifestyle".

And, to my mind, it is of the utmost importance to underline again that this modern belief and religion Albert Einstein and many other people and scientists have adhered to – or that is not refused by people like Richard Dawkins has also the quality - by principle - to establish a "reproductive regime" that seems to be necessary for the demographic survival of the western world.

Ingo Bading, M.A., Berlin, Germany


*) One may presume even more within a pure naturalistic worldview - and together with philosopher John Leslie or palaeontologist Simon Conway Morris (4): That religiosity itself is hidden in the inner heart of all natural existence, in the heart of the big bang ("anthropic principle"), in the heart of evolution and human evolution - in the past as well as in the present and future. And this may be the reason, why human religiosity in itself has often such a high level of evolutionary adaptability. Even if these thoughts are only hypotheses, not proved facts, they can give motivation to formulate hypotheses that more easily can be proved than the philosophical hypotheses as such.
1. Wilson, David Sloan: Darwin's Cathedral. Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society. University of Chicago Press 2002
4. Conway Morris, Simon: Life's Solution. Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe. Cambridge University Press 2003
5. Cochran, Gregory; Hardy, Jason; Harpending, Henry: Natural history of Ashkenazi Intelligence.
Journal of Biosocial Science, 2006
6. Dawkins, Richard: The God Delusion. 2006
7. Blume, Michael: Anthroposophie - Religionsdemographische Betrachtungen von Ingo Bading. At: "Religionswissenschaft aus Freude", Scienceblog of Michael Blume, 20.02.2008, see here.
8. Roland Unkelbach u.a.: Unterschiede zwischen Patienten schulmedizinischer und anthroposophischer Hausärzte. In: Forsch Komplementärmed 2006; 13:349–355, Published online: November 3, 2006
9. Gunver S. Kienlea u.a.: Anthroposophische Medizin: Health Technology Assessment Bericht – Kurzfassung. In: Forsch Komplementärmed 2006; 13 (suppl 2):7–18
10. Helen Flöistrup u.a.: Allergic disease and sensitization in Steiner school children. In: J Allergy Clin Immunol, January 2006, Available online November 29, 2005
11. Harald J. Hamre u.a.: Anthroposophic vs. conventional therapy of acute respiratory and ear infections: a prospective outcomes study. In: Wien Klin Wochenschr (2005) 117/7–8: 256–268
12. H. J. Hamre u.a: Anthroposophic therapies in chronic disease: the anthroposophic medicine outcomes study (AMOS). In: Eur J Med Res (2004) 9: 351-360
13. Johan S Alm u.a.: Atopy in children of families with an anthroposophic lifestyle. In: Lancet 1999; 353: 1485 – 88
14. Barz, Heiner; Randoll, Dirk (Hg.): Absolventen von Waldorfschulen. Eine empirische Studie zu Bildung und Lebensgestaltung. 2. Aufl. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 2007 (St. gen.-Bookshop) [important parts of the text, introduction and formulars - all in german - can bee found at:]
15. Randoll, Dirk; Barz, Heiner: Absolventenstudie zur Waldorf-Pädagogik (Deutschland). Tabellenband 1. (free download - pdf. ---> here.)
16. Ebertz, Michael N.: Was glauben die Ehemaligen? (= What do believe people that have experienced Waldorf-education?) In: see 14., p. 133 – 160
17. Hörtreiter, F.: Anthroposophie und christlicher Glaube. Eine Erwiderung auf Bernhard Grom SJ. In: Materialdienst der EZW 68/2005, S. 251 - 255 (---> here)
18. Bading, Ingo: Anthroposophen: Akademiker-lastige Gruppierung mit leicht überdurchschnittlicher Geburtenrate. At: Scienceblog "Studium generale", 22.01.2008 (---> here)
19. Bading, Ingo: Anthroposophen: Auch Neue (nicht-monotheistische) Religiosität in westlichen Gesellschaften erhöht Geburtenrate. At: Scienceblog "Studium generale", 15.2.2008 (---> here)
20. Bading, Ingo: Auch die konfessionslosen anthroposophisch Orientierten haben eine überdurchschnittliche Geburtenrate. At: Scienceblog "Studium generale", 17.2.2008 (---> here)
21. Campiche, Roland J.: Die zwei Gesichter der Religion. Faszination und Entzauberung. Zürich 2004
22. Bading, Ingo: Die Atheisten in Deutschland sind stark "Männer-lastig". At: Scienceblog "Studium generale", 20.11.2007 (---> here)
23. Salcher, Ernst: Ergebnisse der Befragung der Förderkreismitglieder der Giordano Bruno-Stiftung (Juli-September 2007) (pdf.) (free download: ---> here)
24. Bading, Ingo: Die positiven demographischen Auswirkungen eines anthroposophischen Lebensstils - Diskussion weiterer Details. At: Scienceblog "Studium generale", 26.2.2008 (---> here)

25. Assmann, Jan: Die Mosaische Unterscheidung oder der Preis des Monotheismus. Carl Hanser Verlag, Munich 2003 (The Mosaic distinction)

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