Robert M. Sapolsky is one of my favorite science writers — if you haven’t read Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll), The Trouble With Testosterone: And Other Essays On The Biology Of The Human Predicament(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll), A Primate’s Memoir(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll), or Monkeyluv: And Other Essays on Our Lives as Animals (amzn/b&n/abe/pwll), I suggest you get off your butt right now and visit your library or bookstore. He’s a primatologist who studies the endocrinology and behavior of baboons, but he always presents his work in terms of the human condition. We aren’t so different, we primates.
If you don’t feel like getting up right this instant, though, at least click on this link to his speech to the Freedom From Religion Foundation. You’ll get a taste of that Sapolsky humanism that will get you wanting more, and he also has an interesting message: that religion is a kind of controlled psychosis.
It’s also a message that I’m surprised is not getting targeted by the creationists more. They are so hung up on godless evilutionism that they mostly don’t seem to realized that there is another, equally ferocious wolf coming up their flank, the neurosciences. Evolution is shredding their preconceptions about history and their origins, but neuroscience is going to rip out a different, but even more central concept: the soul. Minds are the products of electrochemical and molecular/physiological activity, not spirits or souls or extradimensional magical forces — brains are meat and thoughts are the product of ions and small molecules bubbling about in coordinated patterns. That doesn’t demean us and I think it makes us just as interesting and wonderful, but it is another case where the religious guesswork is proving wrong.