3/3/07

NY Times Magazine: Evolutionary Scientists baffled by Religion

The Times reports on people who don't study religion, who don't know anything but the most superficial facts of religious life or belief, and are baffled by its significance and meaning for mankind.

Well, excuse me! The Times reports on the most current trends in an article written by an author described as follows: "Robin Marantz Henig, a contributing writer, has written recently for the magazine about the neurobiology of lying and about obesity." Two fields that are right on relevant to religion, no? And the "scientists" whose work she describes seem to think that some variety of a superficial Protestant faith in God is the sum and substance of religion.

These scientists would benefit from some actual study of the religions of the world. Before jumping up and down in wonderment at the persistence and value of the faiths of our planet, these biologists might consider becoming expert in one or two religions.

Or is it good science to be a botanist who is not expert in plant life? Oy vey.

Yes folks the why-do-we-believe question is paramount. The subtitle of Sunday's NYT Magazine cover story is, "How evolutionary science explains faith in God." The teaser is worse, to wit, "In the world of evolutionary biology, the question is not whether God exists but why we believe in him. Is belief a helpful adaptation or an evolutionary accident?"

The beginning of this week's miserable NY Times Magazine article, enigmatically entitled "Darwin's God," follows:
God has always been a puzzle for Scott Atran. When he was 10 years old, he scrawled a plaintive message on the wall of his bedroom in Baltimore. “God exists,” he wrote in black and orange paint, “or if he doesn’t, we’re in trouble.” Atran has been struggling with questions about religion ever since — why he himself no longer believes in God and why so many other people, everywhere in the world, apparently do.

Call it God; call it superstition; call it, as Atran does, “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. “Why do we cross our fingers during turbulence, even the most atheistic among us?” asked Atran when we spoke at his Upper West Side pied-à-terre in January.

1 comment:

Bryce said...

It looks like some of these scientists don't care much for Dawkin's "non-overlapping magisteria" recommendation.