Once again those feisty young fellows at Frink Tank have caused my withered ovaries to twitch with faint lust. As a Simpsonophiliac, casual (and sometimes cynical) Dawkins observer, and admirer of All Things Irreverent, I was sent over the edge by this blog gobbet from Not Shitashi. Crazy Cat Lady. Ha! I will never think of Dawkins as Darwin’s Rottweiler again.
That cephalopodean dude wrote a review of The God Delusion which appears in the November ’06 print edition of Seed Magazine. We coddled Science Bloggers get freebie print mags but you readers will have to rush to your newstands if you don’t want to wait for it to appear online. The good squidly doc gives his review a mention in this post, A devil’s catechism. PZ has selected a good passage from the review which lends some perspective to crazy cat lady yowlings.
Myers points out that Dawkins believes the pervasiveness of religious belief is a byproduct of another adaptative characteristic which confers a survival advantage. PZ notes that Dawkins, in his speculation on the evolutionary underpinnings of religious belief, has overlooked the capacity of empathy as biological-religion, and provides a few neat little notes on mirror neurons which may represent the hardwiring for empathy. Reading these passages reminded me of Paul Bloom’s article in last December’s Atlantic Monthly, Is God an Accident?
This article has been well blogged to a Cajun-blackened crisp, and I have no doubt that most of the Science Blogs crowd has read it. But hey, I’m aging, and we geriatrics love to repeat ourselves. Bloom contends that humans are natural born dualists and pop into this world with a predisposition toward belief in the supernatural. Yep, religion is the darned babies’ fault. Human babies quickly develop two systems to help them make sense of the world: an understanding of physical objects and an understanding of social interactions. This, according to Bloom, gives rise to the perception of duality.
Babies have two systems that work in a cold-bloodedly rational way to help them anticipate and understand–and, when they get older, to manipulate–physical and social entities. In other words, both these systems are biological adaptations that give human beings a badly needed head start in dealing with objects and people. But these systems go awry in two important ways that are the foundations of religion. First, we perceive the world of objects as essentially separate from the world of minds, making it possible for us to envision soulless bodies and bodiless souls. This helps explain why we believe in gods and an afterlife. Second, as we will see, our system of social understanding overshoots, inferring goals and desires where none exist. This makes us animists and creationists.
Give the full article a read if you haven’t done so already. Also be sure to check back at the Richard Dawkins Foundation web site. An online store is under construction. I hope to buy a Dawkins bobblehead.