Wednesday, March 7, 2007

"Darwin's God"

From Sunday's NYT Magazine, "Darwin's God" (I'm just catching up, having been precoccupied with my own transcendental pursuits here in Florida)--

Call it God; call it superstition; call it... “belief in hope beyond reason” — whatever you call it, there seems an inherent human drive to believe in something transcendent, unfathomable and otherworldly, something beyond the reach or understanding of science...

Lost in the hullabaloo over the neo-atheists [meaning Dawkins, Dennett, & Sam Harris -- though none of them is "neo" in this regard] is a quieter and potentially more illuminating debate. It is taking place not between science and religion but within science itself, specifically among the scientists studying the evolution of religion. These scholars tend to agree on one point: that religious belief is an outgrowth of brain architecture that evolved during early human history. What they disagree about is why a tendency to believe evolved, whether it was because belief itself was adaptive or because it was just an evolutionary byproduct, a mere consequence of some other adaptation in the evolution of the human brain.
Which is the better biological explanation for a belief in God — evolutionary adaptation or neurological accident?

I'm not sure that's 's quite the right question, but I incline to James's observation as the beginning of an answer: the impulse to transcendence is not about God, it's about life. People reach for religious and other magic because they want a more intense and satisfying experience of mortal life (and the quest for immortality is satisfying for them). Transcendence is a natural phenomenon, and the invocation of transcendent entities, powers, potentialities, etc., is natural too. This is what I've called "global naturalism."

More on this later, I have miles to go and one more stop on my baseball junket.

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