>> Have you considered the possibility that religion might a
>> biological trait of _Homo sapiens_ instead of some cultural
>> artifact? If not, I suggest that you read _The Biology of God_
>> by Alister Hardy (sorry not have publication information at hand).
> This may weaken the argument that religion is due to something
> trancendental. If it is a biological trait, this claim might link
> it close to issues, such as behavior, that are relatable to
> evolutionary theories. Many of the so-called universal, and
> trancendental, moral standards, are relatable to behaviors that
> have a known evolutionary context. This includes all of what has
> been called "Family Values", of late. It also includes antethetical
> behaviors such as competition between unattached males and male
> competition with offspring of earlier matings. Do you care to
> expand on this subject?
On Friday (6 November) I attended the 1992 Voltaire Lecture in London,
given by Dr. Richard Dawkins and entitled `Religions as Viruses of the
Mind'. The full text of the lecture is published, and it's too long to
type in without a scanner even if it were legal w.r.t. copyright (I don't
know whether it is because I don't have my copy here), but I will post
the bibliographic details if anyone's interested.
Suffice it to say that Dawkins nailed his colours firmly to the memetic
parasite theory of religion, and rejected the proposal of one of the
questioners at the end that there might be some benefit conferred by
religion which could be selected for if the predisposition to religion
were mediated by mechanisms of inheritance with modification, be they
genetic or cultural.
Dawkins sees religion as universally and invariably pernicious, and
attempted to draw hard qualitative distinctions between religious and
other meme sets such as those underlying acceptance of the scientific
method and/or rationalism. I'm not convinced that he succeeded all that
well in this particular endeavour, and he failed (to my mind) to bring
forth any evidence that religions could *never* have a rather more
symbiotic than parasitic relationship with their `host' brain.
I spoke briefly to Dawkins backstage after the lecture (and before
he was whisked away by organisers nervous of the gaggle of excitable
Christians and Muslims whose fatuous haranguing sadly constituted much
of the Q&A period) and suggested that there might be a `super-meme' or
`meta-meme' on the backs of which religions are mere opportunistic
infections: namely that meme which permits the investment of belief
in unfalsifiable notions without evidence. An analogy might be a
victim of AIDS who technically dies of pneumonia resulting from
infuenza or whatever; the *big* problem isn't the opportunists
themselves but the meme which makes it all possible by destroying
the immunity which ordinarily exists.
Dawkins appeared to agree, but did not seem keen to buy the idea that
it was worth treating the predisposition to believe in unfalsifiabilities
as a `meta-meme' on a rather qualitatively different level. Ah well, ho hum.
Simon Clippingdale email@example.com