A militant form of atheism that claims the backing of science and encourages "brights" to take up arms may perhaps advance atheism. But it may also backfire, polluting the scientific study of religion with moralistic dogma and damaging the prestige of science in the process.New Atheist Sam Harris: samharris.org/response-to-jonathan-haidt
What would Haidt have us think about these venerable traditions of pious ignorance and senseless butchery?...
Before we start to talk about the science of religion, we should define terms. I assume that science is a noncontroversial term. Religion is a different story. The American Heritage Dictionary has 1a, 1b, 1c:
a. The belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers, regarded as creating and governing the universe.
b. A particular variety of such belief, especially when organized into a system of doctrine and practice.
c. A set of beliefs, values, and practices based on the teachings of a spiritual leader.
I like Wikipedia/Religion better:
A religion is an organized collection of beliefs, cultural_systems, and world views that relate humanity to an order of existence. Many religions have narratives, symbols, and sacred histories that aim to explain the meaning of life, the origin of life, or the Universe. From their beliefs about the cosmos and human nature, people may derive morality, ethics, religious laws or a preferred lifestyle.
My definition of religion goes back to the etymology of the word: re + ligament - to reconnect. [Middle English religioun, from Old French religion, from Latin religiō, religiōn-, perhaps from religāre, to tie fast; (reply) re- + ligāre, to bind; see leig- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Religion is the basis of religious communities. Religious communities are real world communities where people can find each other. One does not need to believe in any diety to feel the value of a religious community. We are tribal animals. We have so much "hardware" to guide us in our social gatherings. As Cozolino puts it:
Gaze, pupil dilation, facial expressions, posture, proximity, touch, and mirror systems are all reflexive and obligatory systems that work below conscious awareness. These and other systems yet to be discovered create a high-speed information linkup between us, establishing ongoing physiological and emotional synchrony.
Science: Science has not yet proved that god exists. Math: Negative proofs are impossible. YAWN...
We know a lot about humans. All humans are different. We have a wide variety of tolerance for abiguity and need for certainty. From the W.E.I.R.D, who are OK with the lack of intrinsic meaning in a chaotic universe to the far end of the fundamentalist spectrum, where there is absolute certainty about the meaning of all things and our purpose here. Most of us are in the middle. It is terribly naive to think religion is disappearing any time soon.
The vast majority of humans are in the middle range. We like to think we have a purpose in life and we look for deeper meanings.
Gariziano: Social Brain:
Consider human spirituality - the tendency to see spirits everywhere, to see mind not only in ourselves and in each other, ... We are all spiritual. Let me make sure the statement is unambiguous: even the atheistic scientists among us, such as myself, cannot help being spiritual. It is built into our social machinery. It is what people are.
The spirit world exists but only as information instantiated on the hardware of the brain. It has a perceptual reality that is hard to ignore, if not a literal reality.
And This quote from Josiah Royce from Atul Gawande's Being Mortal:
"By nature, I am a sort of meeting place of countless streams of ancestral tendency. From moment to moment ... I am a collection of impulses," Royce observed. "We cannot see the inner light. Let us try the outer one."
My minor rant.
Edward O. Wilson's views
On the question of God, Wilson has described his position as provisional deism. He has explained his faith as a trajectory away from traditional beliefs: "I drifted away from the church, not definitively agnostic or atheistic, just Baptist & Christian no more." Wilson argues that the belief in God and rituals of religion are products of evolution. He argues that they should not be rejected or dismissed, but further investigated by science to better understand their significance to human nature. In his book The Creation, Wilson suggests that scientists ought to "offer the hand of friendship" to religious leaders and build an alliance with them, stating that "Science and religion are two of the most potent forces on Earth and they should come together to save the creation."
Fun Note 2014.04.01
Singing in choir Synchronize-Heartbeats and to some degree in singing hymns as part of the congregation. That is a primal feeling for me. To be so tangibly part of the tribe.