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Science is just one gene away from defeating religion - Comments

Neuro's Avatar Comment 1 by Neuro

"But increasingly, those who study the human brain see our experiences, even of our own intentions, as being an illusory commentary on what our brains have already decided to do. "

Yep. Read 'The Illusion of Conscious Will' by Daniel M. Wegner.

Sun, 22 Feb 2009 09:15:00 UTC | #328952

P. Kelsey's Avatar Comment 2 by P. Kelsey

Everybody is blogging on the Guardian/Observer site.

Sun, 22 Feb 2009 09:17:00 UTC | #328954

Opisthokont's Avatar Comment 3 by Opisthokont

This is an excellent article, but the title annoys me. The article makes little mention of genes; I suspect that this is a case of an editor applying a title to someone else's work. The title uses an odd and memorable metaphor which sticks well enough in the reader's mind that it implies a particular solution to the origin of religion that is neither correct nor implied in the article itself. We know better than to claim that every aspect of life is controlled by individual genes, although I suppose that it will still take some time before the general public will absorb that knowledge. And, all told, I suppose we should pick our battles: as I said, this is an excellent article, and inasmuch as the title gets people to read the article, I should not complain too loudly.

Sun, 22 Feb 2009 09:31:00 UTC | #328960

cherson's Avatar Comment 4 by cherson

This is a bit of an odd article - the title appears to prepare us for an account of how scientists are close to uncovering a gene that predisposes us to, or perhaps causes religious belief. Instead, we are presented with an attemtpted mauling of the Pope's recent statement regarding the fragility of secular reason. In doing so Blakemore calls on the supporting evidence of recent research into the brain, suggesting that consciousness is an "illusory commentary". Unfortunately for Mr Blakemore, that kind of argument isn't just a problem for religious belief, as it is certainly fatal for notions of rationality and truth. His line of reasoning would seem to support the Pope's contention rather than undermine it.

Sun, 22 Feb 2009 09:59:00 UTC | #328968

ahmunnaeetchoo's Avatar Comment 5 by ahmunnaeetchoo

never heard the field mice and harvester metaphor before.

Not bad.

Sun, 22 Feb 2009 10:03:00 UTC | #328972

brian thomson's Avatar Comment 6 by brian thomson

According to my schedule, the show is called "Christianity: A History", and is on at 7PM.

Sun, 22 Feb 2009 10:04:00 UTC | #328974

NewEnglandBob's Avatar Comment 7 by NewEnglandBob

This article is all over the place. The author:

1. Misstated what transpired at the public conversation in the Oxford University Museum.

2. Makes declarative statements without evidence which backs them up without attribution. "It's true that..."

3. Gives the author's own opinions near the end.

Sun, 22 Feb 2009 10:16:00 UTC | #328980

flying goose's Avatar Comment 8 by flying goose

Religion without God of the gaps will continue.

Anyway progarmme about to start.

Sun, 22 Feb 2009 10:59:00 UTC | #328999

Pony's Avatar Comment 9 by Pony

@Comment #344888 by ahmunnaeetchoo

*sings* "Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves..."


Sun, 22 Feb 2009 11:10:00 UTC | #329005

Bonzai's Avatar Comment 10 by Bonzai

There will always be gaps in our knowledge. The lazy, the insecure and the needy will continue to insert their Gods into these gaps, only that these gods of the gaps will become increasingly irrelevant.

Even now, at least for those who are educated, where do they find God?

No longer in their everyday lives like in the time of the Bible, but in far away and exotic realms like the singularity before the big bang, the innermost of the quantum and the fabrics of the laws of nature. Grand though it sounds, but this God is utterly impotent in interfering with human affairs.

This "God" is merely a signpost for the limit of our knowledge. As knowledge expands "God" is exorcised from our daily existence and banished to the edge of the cosmos.

Sun, 22 Feb 2009 11:26:00 UTC | #329009

k o n g's Avatar Comment 11 by k o n g

1. Comment #344868 by Neuro
"But increasingly, those who study the human brain see our experiences, even of our own intentions, as being an illusory commentary on what our brains have already decided to do. "

So, what's wrong about that phrase. Those who study the human brain also believe that all is brain. So, our intentions are really the intentions of the brain... wich is the same to say our intentions are... err... our intentions.
So... that's confusing. What´s the role of the illusory part?

Sun, 22 Feb 2009 11:49:00 UTC | #329018

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Comment 12 by Richard Dawkins

I've just watched Colin Blakemore's show on Channel Four, and was very impressed. Did anybody else see it? I thought Colin presented it beautifully, with good humour but not taking any nonsense. And it was visually very striking.


Sun, 22 Feb 2009 12:02:00 UTC | #329021

aquilacane's Avatar Comment 13 by aquilacane

Cockcroft, Rutherford and Walton's splitting of the atom

Sun, 22 Feb 2009 12:04:00 UTC | #329022

capacitor76's Avatar Comment 14 by capacitor76

Religion without God of the gaps will continue.

Anyway progarmme about to start.

Exactly. Apart from the fact that the article doesn't make any specific mention of genetics, I find the title misleading because science isn't actually anywhere close to defeating religion.

In the playground of logic, science has actually defeated religion so long ago that it isn't even a spot in the rear view mirror any more. Or one could even say religion defeated itself right from the start.

Most people are not frequent visitors to the playground of logic, though. They will continue to believe in the most ridiculous concepts, completely ignoring evidence to the contrary. Creationists have been merrily practicing this for 150 years, and no scientific discovery remotely troubles them. Beliefs not based on logic and evidence cannot be defeated using logic and evidence. If anything, manipulative psychological tricks may help.

Sun, 22 Feb 2009 12:07:00 UTC | #329024

flying goose's Avatar Comment 15 by flying goose

I too have just watched it, and I concur with Richard. I wonder if there is transcript anywhere?

Richard would you care to to say a bit more about the physics issue that you touched in the film?

Sun, 22 Feb 2009 12:08:00 UTC | #329025

flying goose's Avatar Comment 16 by flying goose

Yes I agree with you Capacitor I think Colin is little optimistic. My own theism has gradually givin way to Spinoza's pantheism. But I am still religious.

I disagree with Prof Blakemore about Religion being written on tablets of stone as it were. Religion is very adaptable and mutable, that it has survived. It is instituitions that find it difficult to change.

Sun, 22 Feb 2009 12:10:00 UTC | #329026

Bonzai's Avatar Comment 17 by Bonzai


To add to your pesemism I should add that the bulk of humanity don't live in the developed countries. Many of them are illiterate and have to struggle for basic necessities.

The light of science doesn't pentrate very deeply into the human race as a whole. Organized religions,--Islam and Christianity,--find their most fertile breeding ground in places where people are still living not far from the Dark age, both materially and mentally. There are a lot of such places, and they also happen to be where most humans reside.

The only way to really defeat irrationalism is genuine development and improvement of material conditions of the third world , where most of humanity live.

Sun, 22 Feb 2009 12:19:00 UTC | #329030

heathen2's Avatar Comment 18 by heathen2

I would like to watch this program, but we don't get it here (in the US). Maybe when it gets posted on youtube.

Sun, 22 Feb 2009 12:42:00 UTC | #329040

Christownsend's Avatar Comment 19 by Christownsend

I watched the programme and it was certainly well presented and visually interesting (especially the amazing scenes from the Creation Museum - how did they get permission to film those for a programme like this?). I found the religious people interviewed intriguing, particularly the Vatican Astronomer and the Sea of Faith priest. The first seemed to have accepted that the Old Testament is a collection of stories and myths but that the New Testament was factually true while the second had rejected both as factual but was still religious. And as for the Creation Museum astrophysicist - to hear a scientist actually say that if science contradicted the Bible then the Bible was always right was disturbing, despite knowing that such irrational people exist.

Sun, 22 Feb 2009 12:48:00 UTC | #329043

Szymanowski's Avatar Comment 20 by Szymanowski


[The author] gives the author's own opinions near the end.
Really? In the Comment section of a Sunday paper?


Sun, 22 Feb 2009 12:51:00 UTC | #329044

lozzer's Avatar Comment 21 by lozzer

I've just watched Colin Blakemore's show on Channel Four, and was very impressed. Did anybody else see it? I thought Colin presented it beautifully, with good humour but not taking any nonsense. And it was visually very striking.

I thought it was brilliant Richard. He could have expressed a little more scepticism over creationism but I think the creationist museum really did show how insane it all was anyway.

Sun, 22 Feb 2009 12:54:00 UTC | #329046

flying goose's Avatar Comment 22 by flying goose

I thought the treatment of the Old Testament was a bit simplistic. But then Christians and post Christians are nearly always simplistic in their treatment of the Old Testament, especially in 60 minute television programmes.

Sun, 22 Feb 2009 12:55:00 UTC | #329047

adamf's Avatar Comment 23 by adamf

Anyone know if "Christianity: A History" will be aired in the US?

Sun, 22 Feb 2009 12:57:00 UTC | #329048

Carole's Avatar Comment 24 by Carole

I've been recording this series, but accidentally caught this episode live and thought it was wonderful.
Perhaps a bit predictable, if we are lucky we might see Richard Dawkins here, cut to the southern USA to discuss fundamentalism, cue...the Large Hadron Collider! But just lovely.
How did Colin Blakemore remain so calm and polite in the Creation Museum? I almost couldn't bear to watch that part.

Sun, 22 Feb 2009 13:05:00 UTC | #329052

flying goose's Avatar Comment 25 by flying goose

I suspect that Colin Blakemore remained clam and polite because he has faced far worse in the pursuit of his science.

When he was being terrorised by animal rights activists he even went in to dialogue with some of their number. A creationist museum is Noddy land by comparison.

Sun, 22 Feb 2009 13:09:00 UTC | #329054

Carole's Avatar Comment 26 by Carole

Noddy land full stop really. :)

Sun, 22 Feb 2009 13:20:00 UTC | #329055

aoratos philos's Avatar Comment 27 by aoratos philos

channel 4 programme catch-up

Sun, 22 Feb 2009 13:25:00 UTC | #329058

itopal63's Avatar Comment 28 by itopal63

Science isn't even close to pushing religion out of reality, for good, and why should it aspire to?

You can define religion how you like, make a strawman out of it--thence blow down your own creation. How is that being anywhere near the idea of defeating religion. It's laughable nonsense.

Religion is a word that indicates a binding to something... take that for whatever you like, but for some it means:

God transcendent,
and not just the myths you wish would be treated with utter-contempt when lauded as reality, in that purely literal or simple-sheepish manner they can be read.

PS: That is without even mentioning the obvious (negative) reasons why it shant soon be defeated: the continual birth of ignorance, desire for simple answers, the desire to be told what is the absolute, wishful thinking ...

Sun, 22 Feb 2009 13:33:00 UTC | #329059

NewEnglandBob's Avatar Comment 29 by NewEnglandBob

20. Comment #344961 by Szymanowski:

Which proves my point that the article is all over the place. Poorly written, a hodgepodge of facts, unattributed declaratives, misinformation and opinions - therefore having little worth.

Sun, 22 Feb 2009 13:38:00 UTC | #329060

DeludedNoLonger's Avatar Comment 30 by DeludedNoLonger

When we understand how our brains generate religious ideas, and what the Darwinian adaptive value of such brain processes is, what will be left for religion?

Quite frankly, I think we are already there (i.e. we know enough about our brains and evolution to understand why religious beliefs are powerfully adaptive memes). Religion currently persists in spite of the overwhelming weight of reason because fooling oneself into a belief in God is an inviting delusion, a mirage in what for many would be a desert of nihilism. Read a little Nietzche or Schopenhauer and you will appreciate why religion will always pose a lure to the human psyche.

The Atheist Missionary

Sun, 22 Feb 2009 13:41:00 UTC | #329062