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Lewis Wolpert explains the origin of religion

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Lewis Wolpert is among the most fanatical of British Darwinists — one might say that Darwinism is his religion. How does such a religion evolve by mutation and selection?


I read the debate on telepathy and I have to say that I would agree with Wolpert's assertions. Sheldrake did convince me that there may be something going on, but if there is it is so elusive and fleeting as to defy study. When a theory for telepathy is proposed it is all fine and plausible but without any evidence. The fact that Sheldrake gave mass experience and anecdotes as the primary peices of support also leads me to a dubious conclusion about the verifiability of telepathy. As Wolpert pointed out, the bottom line is that if there was a demonstrable phenomena, telepathy would be the most exciting field in science. ftrp11
If anyone wishes to see an example of Wolpert's (Darwinian) version of scientific objectivity, google: "Wolpert Sheldrake debate". What was supposed to be a debate over scientific data obtained by Sheldrake, supporting telepathy, was actually Sheldrake's presentation, followed by Wolpert's angry denial of any possibility that telepathy could exist. Wolpert wasn't the least bit interested in the data, since Darwinian/reductionist philosophy, precludes the existence of anything that could be construed as of a spiritual nature. Wolpert's invisible blinders were very clearly exposed. hugh williams
I first heard the idea that religous states were "just" brain states, and that my mystical revelation was no doubt epilepsy about a year or so ago. Since that time, I have continued to read and think about this, and I realized that far from detracting from the veracity of religious experience, having areas of the brain wired for perception of the deeper and the spiritual is completely natural. How indeed could we have such experiences if there were not a brain ready for it? Every moment of our lives, we have brains ready to perceive and interpret what is happening to us. I have become increasingly convinced that the brain is in fact a highly important and underrated companion in our spiritual quests. Just as with any experience, our brains lay down pathways, and I think that when a person has a spiritual breakthrough, new and permanent pathways are built in the brain. I don't think evolution theory really has any good explanation for cavemen developing the vast intelligence and abilities that we have, which far surpass our needs for survival. There seems to be a spiritual center in the brain which in the case of a few epileptics gets stimulated just prior to or as part of a seizure. Dostoevsky was such an epileptic. But I have seen seizures and I have seen lifelong epileptics, and it is an abnormal state that results in harm to the person. The result of a seizure is always a decrease in consciousness and a very depleted and tired brain and person. This is completely opposite to the state I was describing (on a philosophy forum) when I was assured I had temporal lobe epilepsy. I do not have epilepsy. I have never had a seizure, and if what I had was a seizure, I can only hope and pray for more. avocationist
Scott writes (a quotation especially appropriate during Lent): "Where was Christ going when he took up his cross? To his death. And Christians are called to do the same. It’s a call to ridicule, to missed promotions because of personal convictions, to Ostracization and scorn in many cases. How does this benefit the individual in the 'Darwinian' sense?" Yep. Here's where Christianity and Darwinism are diametrically opposed. I recently visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. Their special exhibit, "Deadly Medicine," showed the kind of medical practice which can be inspired by Darwin's theories. The links with eugenics and "racial hygiene" were obvious. I was especially struck by a 1938 quotation from Goebbels, which echoed in a distorted way the Gospel of Matthew, the 25th chapter: "Our starting point is not the individual, and we do not subscribe to the view that one should feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, or clothe the naked...our objectives are entirely different. We must have a healthy people in order to prevail in the world." Lutepisc
I find it interesting that Wolpert's arguments rest on the assumption that he and other atheists have managed to beat this tendency toward belief in the irrational. I find it more likely that Wolpert and other atheists have an irrational belief themselves and have gone looking for evidence for it. Jon Jackson
I only mention this because it pertains to the topic at hand and is a good example of why the Darwinian view of religion's origin is not coherent (not in an attempt to defend my particular faith)... At my church this Sunday, we studied about how truly following Christ is a call to death. It is about dying to ourselves with all of our selfish ambitions. It is about admitting our spiritual bankruptcy and realizing that there's nothing we can do about it. Jesus said:
Mark 8:34: ..."If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."
Where was Christ going when he took up his cross? To his death. And Christians are called to do the same. It's a call to ridicule, to missed promotions because of personal convictions, to Ostracization and scorn in many cases. How does this benefit the individual in the "Darwinian" sense? So my point is, that with the example of Biblical Christianity at least, we have a core tenet which seems to be diametrically opposed to the Darwinian principle of selfishness and survival at all costs. A message which seems to fly in the face of the Materialist's narrative. Scott
I read just today a passage about believing in Donald Miller's book, Blue Like Jazz: "And that's when I realized that believing in God is as much like falling in love as it is like making a decision. Love is both something that happens to you AND something you decide upon. I bring [this] up ... not because I want to talk about love, but because I want to talk about belief. I have come to think that belief is something that happens to us too. Sure there is some data involved, but mostly it is this deep, deep conviction...this idea that life is about this thing, and it really isn't an option for it to be about anything else." I believe that deep, deep conviction is designed. Our purpose is to discover the grand, unifying principle of the I AM's eternal self-existance. And because, as Gonzalez and Richards say in "The Privileged Planet," the whole universe and life itself seem to be designed for that discovery, I believe the religions that teach of a relationship with God are more in line with the evidence than the ones that are mechanistic and not relational. The question then becomes, who decides how we can approach the Designer? kathy
I've heard there are something like 5000 religions in the world. to the extent, and I suspect it's pretty large,that they are mutually exclusive, the implication is that, even if one is right, there's lots of folks in the world standing on their heads. (I usually think of "Father William" from the Alice in Wonderland story) But, IMHO, if we were all standing at the end of history, and had "the facts" in front of us, I feel like, if design ends up to be the case (as many on this blog suspect) the folks that didn't see it (for whatever reason) are not only standing on their heads as well, (and I would also throw atheists into that group) but orders of magnitude beyond all the religionists combined es58
"Do you think that Lewis Wolpert and such like persons are mistaken in their interpretation of the origin of religion? If so, why? It fits the Darwinian picture so logically, so perfectly, that I dare you to show me where the error in his logical extrapolation is…" That's a good question. I think humans have a natural tendency to create religions (and cults on the smaller scale). This is apparent by looking at history and seeing the countless cultures that have created countless religions. The religions are all very diverse and some share no common themes, but the one common theme they do have is that they all tap into that religious side of the brain. Perhaps this human trait grew as a result of selection pressure. It obviously does have selection benefits to some degree. Humans are social beings, and we depend on other humans to survive. Religions are superb at uniting groups of people together. But ultimately the origin of mankind's religious nature can make no statement on the core set of beliefs that religions are built around. Religion is mankind's way of reacting to the world around him, like art, music, etc. I don't feel these reactions require some supernatural input to be legitimate. I hope that makes sense. Cheers. Fross
Credulity may ensure survival better than logic. The same applies with religious beliefs. Surveys suggest that religious people are happier, more optimistic, less prone to strokes and high blood pressure, more able to cope with life’s problems and less fearful of death than the irreligious. It follows that belief in the supernatural is an evolutionary advantage, and our ability to have such beliefs must, Wolpert deduces, have been partly determined by our genes. Religious people might rejoice at that, concluding that God has wired us up to believe in him. Deuteronomy 4:19 (NKJV) And take heed, lest you lift your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun, the moon, and the stars, all the host of heaven, you feel driven to worship them and serve them, which the LORD your God has given to all the peoples under the whole heaven as a heritage. The biblical passage is out of context, I know, but comparison with the similar passage from this article does point out something that is, in my mind, important. That is that these people who write these things seem to make many broad and sweeping statements about christianity, and yet, don't seem to know what is actually said in the bible. If one were to search through the old testament, one would find that it is replete with statements similar to this, about a great many subjects, that are even more complete and have even more practical value even today. Those of us who agree with intelligent design are often accused of arguing out of our ignorance?? carbon14atom
"...sticking to it obstinately despite adverse evidence." This would seem to be the pot calling the kettle, black. Indeed the evidence points unequivocally away from a comatose natural mechanism being responsible for everything and points towards an extremely powerful designing intelligence. So who has the evidence working in their favor? It certainly ain't Wolpert. And don't even get me started about the impossibility of the Christian gospel message, in particular, being the result of Human minds when said message flies in the face of our "pat-yourself-on-the-back-because-you-had-something-to-do-with-it", human nature. Because then I'd be getting all apologetics on Wolpert's arse. ;) Scott
Although some other creatures, notably chimpanzees and crows, use primitive tools, no animal except us has ever joined separate components to make a tool — as in the haft and blade of an axe — and only humans have learnt to use containers such as pots and bags.
This is just so wrong it's hard to know where to begin. Beavers select and cut down trees, trim them, haul them to the worksite, and cement them together with mud and clay to build artificial ponds and living quarters. Birds use all kinds of ingenuity to build nests. Bees construct containers of wax to store food and the ability of the food and the container to resist spoilage is enviable even by modern standards. Spiders bag their meals in handcrafted silk sachets. Dogs dig holes to store food. It's hard to believe the ignorant crap that finds its way into print. Did all the editors at the Times up and quit or something? DaveScot
It looks like a big, fat, question begging exercise to me. Wake me up when he start criticising the religious truth claims... Hey mentok "You would think these big big thinkers, big big “intellectuals”, would notice their consistent exposure of themselves as buffons and hypocrites." The man already told you how it works: "Neuroscience reveals that belief and logic activate different parts of the brain, and where belief and logic clash, humans will almost always opt for belief, sticking to it obstinately despite adverse evidence." =P Marcos
If religious belief is an evolutionary advantage as Wolpert claims, then why does he write a book which is essentially nothing more then an attempt to make people lose faith in religious belief? Why is he "preaching" the gospel of atheism trying to keep or gain converts if it goes against evolutionary advantage? People like him are less evolved then the people they claim are fools, right? You would think these big big thinkers, big big "intellectuals", would notice their consistent exposure of themselves as buffons and hypocrites. mentok
By the way, if any of you theistic evolutionists are reading this thread, this is exactly the stuff I have been scoffed at for ranting about to you! Do you think that Lewis Wolpert and such like persons are mistaken in their interpretation of the origin of religion? If so, why? It fits the Darwinian picture so logically, so perfectly, that I dare you to show me where the error in his logical extrapolation is... tinabrewer
How depressing. I wish I had the energy left after reading such leaden drivel to be infuriated by his reductionism. I just feel like the life has been sucked out of me. tinabrewer

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