Pharyngula

First evening in Dublin

The first panel (DPR Jones, Lone Frank, Richard Dawkins) at the Wotld Atheist Convention has got us off to a roaring good start. Lots of interesting discussion and disagreement within the panel and the audience, good questions, not too many audience manifestos.

There is a delegation of Muslims here, one of whom stood up to ask a question that instantly marked him as a moron: he asserted the common inanity that Dawkins believes in a universe of nothing but chance. There were boos, Dawkins ripped him a new one, but of course he was undeterred. Now the Muslims are hitting the twitter hashtag #wac11 hard.

The basic conflict raised was by DPR Jones, who expressed a rather pessimistic view that religiosity was an inevitable consequence of human psychology, and we’re not going to escape it. I disagree. I didn’t raise my hand and comment, though, because the Q&A should be for Qs — those things that end in question marks — and I have my own soapbox. 

Psychology is not an issue of inevitability. We grow and change all the time, and to suggest that one state is determined because we can developmental evidence for it is misleading. An example: there is a game that children play that palls for us adults. It’s called peek-a-boo. That one year olds can be naturally thrilled by hiding and reappearing  says nothing about adult behavior. Unfortunately, we live in cultures that have enshrined peek-a-boo as an act of reverence, that couples weekly peek-a-boo sessions with sociability, and tells everyone they’ll be horribly punished if they aren’t good at peek-a-boo. Don’t tell me it’s an inevitable aspect of human nature, because my response will be to tell you to just grow the fuck up. Some of us already have.