In a presentation by Jonathan Haidt, the type of person who attends a TED talk is clearly identified within the first minute. Haidt's discussion is on the human need for transcendence and asks if anyone considers themselves religious. He notes that three to four percent of the audience raised their hands. He then asks if anyone considers themselves spiritual. A majority of hands go up. These audience members are allocating time to sit and listen to a TED speaker, sometimes paying for airfare and hotel rooms to hear what they can learn from a documentary or book that the speaker is usually promoting. The point is to be there. When audience members are shown on camera, they are nearly all white. Spotting a minority at a TED talk is most likely to happen when the speaker mentions the third world or a nurture bats nature presentation, and even then, the minority present is usually the speaker and their entourage members in the audience. This is a Brahmin crowd. TED talks have become so successful that they are popping up in cities rather than just the annual designated TED conference spot. Even if you live in a deep red state, if their is a TED talk in your major metropolitan area, the local Brahmins will congregate.
Haidt talk is a bit special because it discusses things one would associate with religion yet it argues for the evolutionary basis for these needs. You do not need silly religion for transcendence because being part of a group event and incorporating the meme is a natural thing that involved group selection. This demystifies religion. This argues that religion is an accident. This presentation slices at the opposing camp, believers, and reaffirms the thoughts the audience of Brahmins already considers true. In the first minute, the audience revealed that only three percent considered themselves religious. This entire exercise is done in low lights with spotlights on the speaker who works the stage. There are audio-visual aids. Audience participation was a small piece of the
What does that sound like? A group of nearly uniform people of a shared belief system travel to hear a speech less than an hour long about how they live their life and what they can do to makelife on earth have more meaning and be closer to perfect. Sunday mass. I bet drinks are sold outside the TED talk amphitheater and wine is not free (evangelicals use grape juice anyway). Secular saints and prophets make appearances like Charles Darwin popping up in Haidt's talk to validate modern Brahmin's beliefs. Joel Osteen would be proud of Haidt's ability to pull off that speech and not have to wear a suit and tie. That is part of the funhouse mirror effect. Haidt dresses down while Osteen is suited up. Haidt's audience is made up of three to four percent of religious folks while Osteen's crowd most likely contains a three to four percent in size contingent of nonbelievers. Haidt's speech patterns are laid back and lower key while Osteen and his peers will work a crowd with emotion. They both are telling their audiences what they want to hear and what they already believe. The messages are roughly the same.
Osteen will give a rah-rah self esteem boosting speech on how Jesus and God want you to be successful, help lift up the poor, love your family, help your community, raise good little Christians and make the world a better place. TED talks want you to recycle for Gaia, help lift up the poor, love yourself, help the nation, raise an adopted third world kid as a good little progressive and make the world a better place. It is a religious war that we endure, not a political one.
Update: A TED talk debunking the Paleo diet. In other words, pay no attention to competing articles of faith, our way is the one true way.