June 29, 2012, 7:40 am
Renowned "Face on Mars" photographed by an early Viking mission, and later shown to be an illusion caused by local geology and the sun's angle (Wikipedia)
I’ve previously explained my contention that when it comes to evolution and human beings, what we don’t know is if anything more interesting than what we do. (Indeed, my latest book looks specifically at an array of evolutionary mysteries—including but not limited to homosexuality, female orgasm, menopause, and consciousness—laying out some of the most prominent hypotheses for each.)
Among these mysteries, of course, is religion, and among the reasonable hypotheses thus far adduced, there are several based on what I call “overshoot.” The basic idea is that natural selection can favor a given trait, which under certain circumstances ends …
June 19, 2012, 7:07 am
Reverse side of the New Hampshire quarter, featuring the Old Man of the Mountain. “We find human faces in the moon, armies in the clouds,” wrote David Hume in The Natural History of Religion.
Memes aside, what are some other evolutionary hypotheses for religion? It is not sufficient simply to say that people worldwide turn to religion to meet certain psychological needs, otherwise unmet: explaining great mysteries such as death, or the meaning of life, or because it provides solace, a sense of belonging, meeting our “spiritual” needs, and so forth.
The problem is that these don’t suffice as biology, which requires us to ask: Why do people need explanations for death, or for the meaning of life? Why do people need the solace that religion evidently provides, etc.? Why do people have spiritual…
June 7, 2012, 7:33 am
Alice and the White Queen (who reputedly believed in six impossible things every day before breakfast). Illustration for the fifth chapter of Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass (1865) by John Tenniel
I freely admit it: It’s possible that my current series of blogs on the evolutionary biology of religion is a waste of time, yours as well as mine. Maybe religion isn’t an evolved human trait after all, but instead, entirely a product of culture, learning, and social tradition. To be sure, the religions of humankind are extraordinarily diverse, and, moreover, they are clearly passed on from person to person, nearly always from parents to children, but via transmission that is cultural, not genetic.
The Greek historian Herodotus, writing about 2,500 years ago, tells the following story….
April 28, 2012, 10:05 am
One perspective on "the creation" (from Wikipedia)
I must confess that I don’t regularly read the excellent blog “why evolution is true” maintained by fellow evolutionist and atheist Jerry Coyne, mostly because he writes so much, and I read so slowly. Jerry somehow manages to generate a gazillion words per day, every day, and I’m the kind of stubbornly slow-mo reader who must carefully pronounce every polysyllabic name in a 19th century Russian novel. With so much wonderful material out there on the Web (not to mention all those great Russian novels!), we slow-pokes have to pick and choose carefully.
And so, I was grateful when a friend and colleague (who, with astounding assiduity, actually reads my blog as well as Jerry Coyne’s) just told me that some time ago, Dr. Coyne had preceded me in…
October 16, 2011, 1:59 pm
St Paul's offers sanctuary to the Occupy movement--but what if churches were the target?
As the occupy movement flashed to 1,500 cities across the globe this weekend, police repression intensified. At Occupy London, organizers moved from the London Stock Exchange to St. Paul’s Cathedral, where as many as 250 protesters set up tents. As police prepared to “protect” the building, the cleric in charge of the facility, Giles Fraser, intervened. “Canon Fraser came out to greet us. It was amazing,” protesters said. “He defended the right to protest [and] asked the police to leave, and they did!”
Meanwhile guest blogger Thomas Beaudoin asks the compelling question: What if churches didn’t just offer sanctuary for protests aimed elsewhere, but were themselves the target of a nonviolent movement that would…
September 10, 2011, 4:22 pm
Finally a religion I can get behind, one that believes
Sex is a holy, sacred and divine healing force at the core (of) our beings. Once we embrace this force instead of deny it, we become successful, happy and powerful manifestors.
The Phoenix Goddess Temple offers
classes, Socials and Spiritual gatherings based on Tantra, Sacred Sensuality, Sacred Sexuality, Divine Feminine…, Awakened Masculinity, and much much more! The classes are open to men and women, 18yrs and up.
I’m ready to even get up and go to this temple come Sunday morning, but alas, the police have shut it down. According to the Phoenix police, the temple was in fact a brothel. Maybe it was the “Naked Life Coaching” sessions or even the Sunday services that offered “divine communion with the Goddess” that according to the Phoenix police included
male and female ‘practitioners’ working at the Temple ……
July 31, 2011, 4:09 pm
I was much moved by today’s New York Times “quotation of the day,” from Halima Mohammedi, an Afghan teenager in love with another teenager, a relationship that set off a lethal riot in their village: “We are all human. God created us from one dirt. Why can we not marry each other, or love each other?”
Not a bad motto for the noble anti-miscegenation crusaders or yore as well as gay marriage advocates of today. Lets hear if for dirt, for our deep-down dirtiness, our shared ancestry in the wonderfully yucky, difference-defying dirt of the cosmos! At the risk of introducing farce into what is after all a legitimate tale of societal stupidity and human tragedy, Ms. Mohammedi’s profound lament also brings to mind, in addition to the obvious references to Romeo and Juliet, one of my all-time favorite books, Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle.
In it, we learn of a religion,…
April 19, 2011, 8:24 pm
Image from http://incakolanews.blogspot.com/2011/01/on-copper-etfs-emperors-and-new-clothes.html
Two decades ago, I wrote a book proposal for a volume to be titled The Atheist’s Bible. It was embraced by a major publishing house but not by my wife, who worried that such a book, appearing in the Age of Endarkenment then known as the Reagan administration, might well subject our children to ostracism, verbal abuse, and possibly even physical risk. I backed down, returned the advance, and have regretted it ever since.
That is my sole discomfort vis-à-vis the New Atheists: Envy. They have said, and said magnificently, pretty much what I wanted to but didn’t. I’m not surprised at the criticism heaped on these courageous thinkers and effective writers by the theological establishment and their…