>> Have you considered the possibility that religion might a >> biological trait of _Homo

---
Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

>> 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 simon@dcs.warwick.ac.uk

---

E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank