04-02-2008, 09:40 AM
The relationship between science and religion has always been uneasy and sometimes controversial. The religious views of eniment scientists have been studied in a couple of surveys conducted in the early part of 1900’s. In a poll conducted in 1910 to 400 scientists, 32% of them believed in a “personal god”. The same poll was again carried out in 1933, and this time the belief in a personal god had dropped to a mere 13%, which is not all that surprising given the rapid advancement in our scientific understanding back then, and even more less surprising is the fact that biologists scored lower percentages in both polls.
Now, in 2003, we have another similar but more sophisticates survey conducted - this among eminent evolutionists. This is the website for the study
, and here is the article
featured in American Scientist Online.
This time, the concept of god is widened to include more choices for the participants, and the graph below shows the result:
Only a mere 4.8% of the evolutionists consider themselves to be a full theists i.e. believer of a personal god. Yes - only 4.8%
of them believe in the personal God most of us are familiar with!
Now onto the relationship between science and religion:
Evolutionists were presented with four choices on the relation between evolution and religion: A, they are non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA) whose tenets are not in conflict; B, religion is a social phenomenon that has developed with the biological evolution of Homo sapiens—therefore religion should be considered as a part of our biological heritage, and its tenets should be seen as a labile social adaptation, subject to change and reinterpretation; C, they are mutually exclusive magisteria whose tenets indicate mutually exclusive conclusions; or D, they are totally harmonious—evolution is one of many ways to elucidate the evidences of God’s designs.
The result is that 72% of the evolutionists chose B - that is, religion is a social phenomenon developed as we evolved. I find this particular question rather interesting - choice B seems to be the odd one out. All other choices address the question of how science and religion overlap, except for B which is more about the origin of religion.
The authors of the survey did point out this good point:
If Asa Gray represented the commonly held view of scientists who studied evolution in the 1860s, evolution could be subsumed under religion as a manifestation of God’s design. Today, as our results show, the commonly held view among evolutionists is that religion is subsumed under sociobiological evolution. There has been a complete inversion of the naturalist worldview in the last 150 years.
The following chart gives a nice visualisation of the result of the survey.
04-02-2008, 09:45 AM
The Problem with God: Interview with Richard Dawkins
Interview by Laura Sheahen
British biologist Richard Dawkins has made a name for himself defending evolution and fighting what he sees as religiously motivated attacks on science. Dr. Dawkins sat down with Beliefnet at the World Congress of Secular Humanism, where his keynote address focused on intelligent design.
You're concerned about the state of education, especially science education. If you were able to teach every person, what would you want people to believe?
I would want them to believe whatever evidence leads them to; I would want them to look at the evidence, judge it on its merits, not accept things because of internal revelation or faith, but purely on the basis of evidence. Not everybody can evaluate all evidence; we can't evaluate the evidence for quantum physics. So it does have to be a certain amount of taking things on trust. I have to take what physicists say on trust, for example, because I'm a biologist. But science [has] a system of appraisal, of peer review, so that I trust the physics community to get their act together in a way that I know from the inside. I wish people would put their trust in evidence, not in faith, revelation, tradition, or authority.
What do you wish people knew about evolution?
They need to understand what evolution is about. Many of them don't. I was truly shocked to be told by two separate religious leaders in this country [the U.S.] a few weeks ago--they both said something to the effect that, "I'll believe in evolution when I see a tailed monkey give birth to a human." That is staggering ignorance of what evolutionary science is about; if they think that's what evolutionists believe, no wonder they're skeptical of it. How can a civilized country have adult people in positions of leadership who know so stunningly little about the leading biological concept?
You said in a recent speech that design was not the only alternative to chance. A lot of people think that evolution is all about random chance.
That's ludicrous. That's ridiculous. Mutation is random in the sense that it's not anticipatory of what's needed. Natural selection is anything but random. Natural selection is a guided process, guided not by any higher power, but simply by which genes survive and which genes don't survive. That's a non-random process. The animals that are best at whatever they do-hunting, flying, fishing, swimming, digging-whatever the species does, the individuals that are best at it are the ones that pass on the genes. It's because of this non-random process that lions are so good at hunting, antelopes so good at running away from lions, and fish are so good at swimming.
There are intelligent people who have been taught good science and evolution, and who may choose to believe in something religious that may seem to fly in the face of science. What do you make of that?
It's certainly hard to know what to make of it. I think it's a betrayal of science. I think they have a religious agenda which, for reasons best known to themselves, they elevate above science.
What are your thoughts about the despair some people feel when they ponder natural selection and random mutation? The idea of evolution and natural selection makes some people feel that everything is meaningless--people's individual lives and life in general.
If it's true that it causes people to feel despair, that's tough. It's still the truth. The universe doesn't owe us condolence or consolation; it doesn't owe us a nice warm feeling inside. If it's true, it's true, and you'd better live with it.
However, I don't think it should make one feel depressed. I don't feel depressed. I feel elated. My book, "Unweaving the Rainbow," is an attempt to elevate science to the level of poetry and to show how one can be-in a funny sort of way-rather spiritual about science. Not in a supernatural sense, but there are uplifting mysteries to be solved. The contemplation of the size and scale of the universe, of the depth of geological time, of the complexity of life--these all, to me, have an inspirational quality. It makes my life worthwhile to study them.
You criticize intelligent design, saying that "the theistic answer"--pointing to God as designer--"is deeply unsatisfying"--presumably you mean on a logical, scientific level.
Yes, because it doesn't explain where the designer comes from. If they're going to emphasize the statistical improbability of biological organs-"these are so complicated, how could they have evolved?"--well, if they're so complicated, how could they possibly have been designed? Because the designer would have to be even more complicated.
Obviously, a lot of people find the theistic answer satisfying on another level. What do you see as the problem with that level?
What other level?
At whatever level where people say the idea of God is very satisfying.
Well, of course it is. Wouldn't it be lovely to believe in an imaginary friend who listens to your thoughts, listens to your prayers, comforts you, consoles you, gives you life after death, can give you advice? Of course it's satisfying, if you can believe it. But who wants to believe a lie?
Is atheism the logical extension of believing in evolution?
They clearly can't be irrevocably linked because a very large number of theologians believe in evolution. In fact, any respectable theologian of the Catholic or Anglican or any other sensible church believes in evolution. Similarly, a very large number of evolutionary scientists are also religious. My personal feeling is that understanding evolution led me
How would you respond to people who say the most interesting or worthwhile aspect of human beings is behavior that natural selection would not promote? I'm thinking of behavior like adopting children who aren't family members, voluntary celibacy, or people deciding to spend their whole life praying.
Adopting children that are not your own or a close relative's is an interesting question. Why do not just humans, but other species, do what on the face of it is the wrong thing to do from a selfish gene point of view? Cuckoos play upon this and actually engineer it so that other species raise [baby cuckoos]. This is a mistake on the part of the foster parents, which have been "forced" to adopt the cuckoos.
So that's sort of a wild analogy to adopting children, in this case ones who are not your own species.
By the way, I would hate this to be taken as any sort of suggestion that adoptive parents don't love their adopted children; of course they do. But you could think of it as a kind of genetic mistake, in that human adults have strong parental instincts which make them long for a child. If they can't have a child of their own, they can then satisfy those parental instincts by adopting a child.
In the same way, we have sexual instincts; we long for sex and it doesn't matter that we use contraception. That's, as it were, separating the natural function of sex, which is reproduction. But we still enjoy sex in the same way that we enjoy being a parent even if it is not our own child that we're looking after.
You've said, "don't name our present ignorance God"--which you said is what intelligent design proponents are doing. They're taking an area where we're ignorant and naming that God. Do you think science will eventually explain everything we wonder about now?
I don't know the answer. I'm equally excited by both in a way. I rather like the idea of understanding everything and I also quite like the idea of science being a never-ending, open-ended quest.
Why There Almost Certainly Is No God?
04-02-2008, 10:12 AM
"Richard Dawkins on Evolution and Religion"Reply
Airdate: November 8, 1996
ANNOUNCER: "Think Tank" is made possible by Amgen, recipient of the Presidential National Medal of Technology. Amgen, helping cancer patients through cellular and molecular biology, improving lives today and bringing hope for tomorrow.
Additional funding is provided by the John M. Olin Foundation and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.
MR. WATTENBERG: Hello, I'm Ben Wattenberg. Most Americans believe that Charles Darwin basically had it right, that human beings evolved from the so-called primordial soup. But most Americans are also religious and likely believe that God created the soup.
We will explore these ideas and others with an outstanding scientist and one of the world's leading scientific popularizers. The topic before this house: Richard Dawkins on evolution and religion. This week on "Think Tank."
MR. WATTENBERG: Richard Dawkins is a professor at Oxford University, where he holds the Charles Simone chair of public understanding of science. Dawkins has written many books on the topic of evolution, including "The Selfish Gene," "River Out of Eden," "The Blind Watchmaker," and most recently, "Climbing Mount Improbable."
Dawkins' writings champion one man -- Charles Darwin. In 1831, Darwin set out on a five-year journey around the world on the H.M.S. Beagle. His travels took him to the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador, where he catalogued a startling variety of plant and animal life. Darwin saw in such diversity the key to the origins of all life on earth.
Today naturalists estimate that there are 30 million species of plants and animals. According to Darwin's theory, all creatures large and small are the end result of millions of years of natural selection.
The reaction to Darwin's theory was explosive. Critics declared that Darwin had replaced Adam with an ape. Atheists applauded. Benjamin Disraeli, the prime minister of England, summed up the debate at the time. He said, "The question is, is man an ape or an angel? Many laugh. Now I am on the side of the angels."
Today the controversy persists. Evolution is generally accepted, religion endures, begging the question, is there a conflict?
Professor Dawkins, welcome. Perhaps we could begin with that fascinating title, "Climbing Mount Improbable." What are you talking about?
MR. DAWKINS: Living organisms are supremely improbable. They look as if they have been designed. They are very, very complicated. They are very good at doing whatever it is they do, whether it's flying or digging or swimming. This is not the kind of thing that matter just spontaneously does. It doesn't fall into position where it's good at doing anything. So the fact that living things are demands an explanation, the fact that it's improbably demands an explanation.
Mount Improbable is a metaphorical mountain. The height of that mountain stands for that very improbability. So on the top of the mountain, you can imagine perched the most complicated organ you can think of. It might be the human eye. And one side of the mountain has a steep cliff, a steep vertical precipice. And you stand at the foot of the mountain and you gaze up at this complicated thing at the heights, and you say, that couldn't have come about by chance, that's too improbable. And that's what is the meaning of the vertical slope. You could no more get that by sheer chance than you could leap from the bottom of the cliff to the top of the cliff in one fell swoop.
But if you go around the other side of the mountain, you find that there's not a steep cliff at all. There's a slow, gentle gradient, a slow, gentle slope, and getting from the bottom of the mountain to the top is an easy walk. You just saunter up it putting one step in front of the other, one foot in front of the other.
MR. WATTENBERG: Provided you have a billion years to do it.
MR. DAWKINS: You've got to have a long time. That, of course, corresponds to Darwinian natural selection. There is an element of chance in it, but it's not mostly chance. There's a whole series of small chance steps. Each eye along the slope is a little bit better than the one before, but it's not so much that it's unbelievable that it could have come about by chance. But at the end of a long period of non-random natural selection, you've accumulated lots and lots of these steps, and the end product is far too improbable to have come about in a single step of chance.
MR. WATTENBERG: One of your earlier books, a very well known book, is "The Selfish Gene." What does that mean? You call human beings "selfish gene machines." Is that --
MR. DAWKINS: Yes. It's a way of trying to explain why individual organisms like human beings are actually not selfish. So I'm saying that selfishness resides at the level of the gene. Genes that work for their own short-term survival, genes that have effects upon the world which lead to their own short-term survival are the genes that survive, the genes that come through the generations. The world is full of genes that look after their own selfish interest.
MR. WATTENBERG: And the prime aspect of that is reproduction?
MR. DAWKINS: Yes.
MR. WATTENBERG: And so that's what drives all organisms, including human beings, is the drive to reproduce their own genetic makeup?
MR. DAWKINS: That's pretty standard Darwinism.
MR. WATTENBERG: Right.
MR. DAWKINS: We are -- in any era, the organisms that live contain the genes of an unbroken line of successful ancestors. It has to be true. Plenty of the ancestors' competitors were not successful. They all died. But not a single one of your ancestors died young, or not a single one of your ancestors failed to copulate, not a single one of your ancestors failed to rear at least one child.
MR. WATTENBERG: By definition.
MR. DAWKINS: By definition. And so -- but what's not by definition, which is genuinely interesting, is that you have therefore inherited the genes which are a non-random sample of the genes in every generation, non-random in the direction of being good at surviving.
MR. WATTENBERG: What is motivating great musicians, great writers, great political leaders, great scientists? I mean, what are you doing now? You're obviously passionate about what you write and what you think and what you're doing. That is absorbing your life. That does not involve, I don't think, the replication of your genetic makeup.
MR. DAWKINS: That's certainly right, and because we are humans, we tend to be rather obsessed with humans. There are 30 million other species of animal where that question wouldn't have occurred to you.
MR. WATTENBERG: Yeah, but most of our viewers are humans. Now, how does that work out for -- are humans different?
MR. DAWKINS: Humans, like any other species of animal, have been programmed -- have evolved by genetic selection. And we have the bodies and the brains that are good for passing on our genes. That's step one. So that's where we get our brains from. That's why they're big.
But once you get a big brain, then the big brain can be used for other things, in the same sort of way as computers were originally designed as calculating machines, and then without any change, without any alteration of that general structure, it turns out that they're good -- they can be used as word processors as well. So there's something about human brains which makes them more versatile than they were originally intended for.
Now, you talked about the fact that I'm passionate about what I do and that I work hard at writing my books and so on. Now, the way I would interpret that as a Darwinian is to say certainly writing books doesn't increase your Darwinian fitness. Writing books -- there are no genes for writing books, and certainly I don't pass on any of my genes as a consequence of writing a book.
But there are mechanisms, such as persistence, perseverance, setting up goals which you then work hard to achieve, driving yourself to achieve those goals by whatever means are available.
MR. WATTENBERG: And you believe that is in our genetic makeup?
MR. DAWKINS: That's what I believe is indicated.
MR. WATTENBERG: Some people have more of it, some people have less of it.
MR. DAWKINS: That's right. Now, in the modern world, which is now so different from the world in which our ancestors lived, what we actually strive for, the goals we set up, are very different. The goal-seeking mechanisms in our brains were originally put there to try to achieve goals such as finding a herd of bison to hunt. And we would have set out to find a herd of bison, and we'd have used all sorts of flexible goal-seeking mechanisms and we'd have persisted and we'd have gone on and on and on for days and days and days trying to achieve that goal.
Natural selection favored persistence in seeking goals. Nowadays we no longer hunt bisons. Nowadays we hunt money or a nice new house or we try to finish a novel or whatever it is that we do.
MR. WATTENBERG: In this town, political victory.
MR. DAWKINS: Yes, right.
MR. WATTENBERG: Why is this so important? I mean, you obviously feel that this idea of evolution of primary importance. I mean, this is what makes the world goes round. Is it, in your view at least, the mother science?
MR. DAWKINS: Well, what could be more important than an understanding of why you're here, why you're the shape you are, why you have the brain that you do, why your body is the way it is. Not just you, but all the other 30 million species of living thing, each of which carries with it this superb illusion of having been designed to do something supremely well. A swift flies supremely well. A mole digs supremely well. A shark or a dolphin swims supremely well. And a human thinks supremely well.
What could be a more fascinating, tantalizing question than why all that has come about? And we have the answer. Since the middle of the 19th century, we have known in principle the answer to that question, and we're still working out the details.
MR. WATTENBERG: Well, I read that, and a long time ago I read some of Darwin. Darwin doesn't really answer the question why we are here. He answers the question of how we are here. I mean, why in a -- when you normally say, well, why are we here, you expect a theological answer or a religious answer. Does Darwin really talk about why we are here in that sense?
MR. DAWKINS: Darwin, if I may say so, had better things to do than talk about why we are here in that sense. It's not a sensible sense in which to ask the question. There is no reason why, just because it's possible to ask the question, it's necessarily a sensible question to ask.
MR. WATTENBERG: But you had mentioned, you said that Darwin after all these years has told us why we're here.
MR. DAWKINS: I was using "why" in another sense. I was using "why" in the sense of the explanation, and that's the only sense which I think is actually a legitimate one. I don't think the question of ultimate purpose, the question of what is the fundamental purpose for which the universe came into existence -- I believe there isn't one. If you asked me what --
MR. WATTENBERG: You believe there is not one?
MR. DAWKINS: Yes. On the other hand, if you ask me, what is the purpose of a bird's wing, then I'm quite happy to say, well, in the special Darwinian sense, the purpose of a bird's wing is to help it fly, therefore to survive and therefore to reproduce the genes that gave it those wings that make it fly.
Now, I'm happy with that meaning of the word "why".
MR. WATTENBERG: I see.
MR. DAWKINS: But the ultimate meaning of the word "why" I do not regard as a legitimate question. And the mere fact that it's possible to ask the question doesn't make it legitimate. There are plenty of questions I could imagine somebody asking me and I wouldn't attempt to answer it. I would just say, That's a silly question, don't ask it.
MR. WATTENBERG: So you are not only saying that religious people are coming to a wrong conclusion. You are saying they're asking a silly question.
MR. DAWKINS: Yes.
MR. WATTENBERG: There is a scientist in the United States named Michael Beahy -- I'm sure you're involved in this argument -- who is making the case -- he is not a creationist, he is not a creation scientist, or at least he says he's --
MR. DAWKINS: Well, I'm sorry, he is a creationist.
MR. WATTENBERG: Well, he says he's not.
MR. DAWKINS: He says he's not, but he is.
MR. WATTENBERG: He says he's not. But his theory is that of a hidden designer, that there is something driving this process. And could you explain how you and he differ on this?
MR. DAWKINS: Yes. Like I said, he's a creationist. "A hidden designer," that's a creator.
MR. WATTENBERG: You say he's a hidden creationist.
MR. DAWKINS: Well, he's not even hidden. He's a straightforward creationist. What he has done is to take a standard argument which dates back to the 19th century, the argument of irreducible complexity, the argument that there are certain organs, certain systems in which all the bits have to be there together or the whole system won't work.
MR. WATTENBERG: Like the eye.
MR. DAWKINS: Like the eye, right. The whole thing collapses if they're not all there.
Now, Darwin considered that argument for the eye and he dismissed it, correctly, by showing that actually the eye could have evolved by gradual stages. Bits of an eye -- half an eye is better than no eye, a quarter of an eye is better than no eye, half an eye is better than a quarter of an eye.
MR. WATTENBERG: I mean if it has some sight, but if you just created the windshield wiper, it doesn't --
MR. DAWKINS: Exactly. So I mean, there are things which you could imagine which are irreducibly complex, but the eye is not one of them.
Now, Beahy is saying, well, maybe the eye isn't one of them, but at the molecular level, there are certain things which he says are. Now, he takes certain molecular examples. For example, bacteria have a flagellum, which is a little kind of whip-like tail by which they swim. And the flagellum is a remarkable thing because, uniquely in all the living kingdoms, it's a true wheel. It actually rotates freely in a bearing; it has an axle which freely rotates. That's a remarkable thing and is well understood and well known about.
And Beahy asserts: this is irreducibly complex, therefore God made it. Now --
MR. WATTENBERG: Therefore there was a design to it. I don't think --
MR. DAWKINS: What's the difference? Okay.
MR. WATTENBERG: Whoa.
MR. DAWKINS: Therefore there was a design to it.
MR. WATTENBERG: Right.
MR. DAWKINS: Now -- (audio gap) -- too complex. The eye is reducibly complex, therefore God made it. Darwin answered them point by point, piece by piece. But maybe he shouldn't have bothered. Maybe what he should have said is, well, maybe you can't think of -- maybe you're too thick to think of a reason why the eye could have come about by gradual steps, but perhaps you should go away and think a bit harder.
Now, I've done it for the eye; I've done it for various other things. I haven't yet done it for the bacterial flagellum. I've only just read Beahy's book. It's an interesting point. I'd like to think about it.
But I'm not the best person equipped to think about it because I'm not a biochemist. You've got to have the equivalent biochemical knowledge to the knowledge that Darwin had about lenses and bits of eyes. Now, I don't have that biochemical knowledge. Beahy has.
Beahy should stop being lazy and should get up and think for himself about how the flagellum evolved instead of this cowardly, lazy copping out by simply saying, oh, I can't think of how it came about, therefore it must have been designed.
MR. WATTENBERG: You have written that being an atheist allows you to become intellectually fulfilled.
MR. DAWKINS: No, I haven't quite written that. What I have written is that before Darwin, it was difficult to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist and that Darwin made it easy to become an intellectually -- and it's more. It's more. If you wanted to be an atheist, it would have been hard to be an atheist before Darwin came along. But once Darwin came along, the argument from design, which has always been to me the only powerful argument -- even that isn't a very powerful argument, but I used to think it was the only powerful argument for the existence of a creator.
Darwin destroyed the argument from design, at least as far as biology is concerned, which has always been the happiest hunting ground for argument from design. Thereafter -- whereas before Darwin came along, you could have been an atheist, but you'd have been a bit worried, after Darwin you can be an intellectually fulfilled atheist. You can feel, really, now I understand how living things have acquired the illusion of design, I understand why they look as though they've been designed, whereas before Darwin came along, you'd have said, well, I can see that the theory of a divine creator isn't a good theory, but I'm ****ed if I can think of a better one. After Darwin, you can think of a better one.
MR. WATTENBERG: I mean, isn't the standard rebuttal to that that God created Darwin and He could have created this whole evolutionary illusion that you are talking about? And I mean, getting back to first causes that you sort of --
MR. DAWKINS: Yes. Yeah. Not that God created Darwin, but you mean God created the conditions in which evolution happened.
MR. WATTENBERG: And Darwin.
MR. DAWKINS: Well, ultimately Darwin, too.
MR. WATTENBERG: I mean ultimately.
MR. DAWKINS: Yes, it's not a very satisfying explanation. It's a very unparsimonious, very uneconomical explanation. The beauty of the Darwinian explanation itself is that it's exceedingly powerful. It's a very simple principle, and using this one simple principle, you can bootstrap your way up from essentially nothing to the world of complexity and diversity we have today. Now, that's a powerful explanation.
MR. WATTENBERG: It's not any simpler. In fact, it's more complex than the -- than Genesis. I mean, "And God created the heavens and the earth." That --
MR. DAWKINS: You have to be joking.
MR. WATTENBERG: Well, I mean, "God created the heavens and the earth" -- I can say that pretty quickly. I mean --
MR. DAWKINS: You can say it, but think what lies behind it. What lies behind it is a complicated, intelligent being -- God, who must have come from somewhere. You have simply smuggled in at the beginning of your book the very thing that we're trying to explain. What we're trying to explain is where organized complexity and intelligence came from. We have now got an explanation. You start from nothing and you work up gradually in easily explainable steps.
MR. WATTENBERG: But then I can ask you the same question: where does the nothing come from? I mean, this is a -- I mean, I don't want this to degenerate into a sophomore beer brawl, but I mean, you know, that is -- isn't that the ultimate --
MR. DAWKINS: You can ask that. That's the ultimate question.
MR. WATTENBERG: Right.
MR. DAWKINS: That's the important question. But all I would say to that is that it's a helluva lot easier to say where nothing came from than it is to say where 30 million species of highly complicated organisms plus a superintelligent God came from, and that's the alternative.
MR. WATTENBERG: Well, now, you wrote in "The Selfish Gene" this. "Living organisms had existed on earth without ever knowing why for 3,000 million years before the truth finally dawned on one of them. His name was Charles Darwin."
That sounds to me like a religious statement. That is a -- that is near messianic language. And you are making the case that these other people have this virus of the mind. That tonality says, I found my God.
MR. DAWKINS: You can call it that if you like. It's not religious in any sense in which I would recognize the term. Certainly I look up to Charles Darwin. I would look up to anybody who had the insight that he did. But I wasn't really meaning to make a particularly messianic statement about Darwin.
I was rather saying that not just Darwin, but this species, homo sapiens -- or for the -- the time that has elapsed between the origin of humanity and Darwin is negligible compared to the time that elapsed from the origin of life and the origin of humanity. And so let's modify that statement and make it a bit more universal and say, life has been going on this planet for 3,000 million years without any animals knowing why they were there until the truth finally dawned upon homo sapiens. It's just happened to be Charles Darwin, it could have been somebody else.
Our species is unique. We are all members of a unique species which is privileged to understand for the first time in that 3,000- million-year history why we are here.
MR. WATTENBERG: I see. There was a study recently reported, I believe, in that great scientific journal "USA Today," but it's one that had a certain resonance with me and I think other people. It said that people who are religious live longer and healthier lives. And it seems to me on its face, perhaps to you as well, that that makes some sense. I mean, people who do have a firm belief system and don't worry about a whole lot of things are healthier. We've seen this in all the mind-body sorts of explorations that have been going on.
But does that perhaps put a Darwinian bonus on believing in religion?
MR. DAWKINS: It could well do, yes. It's perfectly plausible to me. I've read the same study and I think it might well be true. It could be analogous to the placebo effect, you know, that many diseases -- obviously they're cured by real medicines even better, but nevertheless if you give people a pill which doesn't contain anything medicinal at all, but the patient believes it does, then the patient gets better, for some diseases.
Well, I suppose that religious belief can be one big placebo and it could indeed have highly beneficial effects upon health, particularly where stress-related diseases are concerned.
MR. WATTENBERG: So if I want to advise my viewers, I could say, for example, what Professor Dawkins says is true, but harmful; I would like you to believe something that's false, and healthy.
MR. DAWKINS: Yeah, you could say that. I mean, it depends whether you value health or truth better, more.
MR. WATTENBERG: Which would you value?
MR. DAWKINS: For myself, I would rather live a little bit less long and know the truth about why I live rather than live a few -- it probably isn't very much longer, actually, which is -- let's be very --
MR. WATTENBERG: Suppose it was substantially longer and we were talking about your children rather than you.
MR. DAWKINS: Yeah, okay. I mean, these are fascinating hypothetical questions and I suppose there would come a trade-off point. I mean, there'd probably come a point when -- but I do think it's important, since this is a very academic discussion we're having, I think it would be positively irresponsible to let listeners to this program go away with the idea that this is a major effect. If it's an effect at all, it's an elusive statistical effect.
MR. WATTENBERG: Okay, thank you very much, Professor Richard Dawkins.
MR. DAWKINS: Thank you.
MR. WATTENBERG: For "Think Tank," I'm Ben Wattenberg.
04-02-2008, 10:49 AM
Originally Posted by Eric H
Thats the 6 Billion person question Eric.
We cant really know, religion indeed ascribes attributes and a name and a history and his supposed expectations. Religion ascribes punishments to be carried out and a reward after death.
It gives a promise of hope to those who would like to live forever, young healthy and beautiful. For the thirsty nomads there is endlessly flowing water,(a bit like taps really), you get to see all your much missed mum and dad, gramps and granny, get to say all the things you wish you could have said.
Your chronic pain vanishes, and if you were always a bit of a loser with the girls, you get a whole shedful of willing virgins who are really really foxy. The beer costs zero pence a pint, and even your sweat smells like perfume, which saves a bundle on antiperspirant.
Who in their right mind wouldnt want to go here? Especially when the other place has got jumpers of burning tar, with renewable skin in case yours burns off, and its all for eternity.
So imagine a steel ball the size of the sun, brushed by a butterflys wing once every ten thousand years. When that ball of steel is worn away completly, your torment has only still only just begun.:)
All you have to do is follow the laws God has laid out.
Pay the poor rate, worship him and no other, beleive in his prophets, dont murder, kill the unbelivers, stay off pork, grow your beard, wear single fibre Armani suits, cover your poop up when in battle,Respect your parents, chop off the hand of your assailents wife if she grabs your bits whilst your fighting him, wear his laws in a box on your head, start your prayers again if you pass wind, stone your kids to death for choosing a different religion.
Are all these what god wants? Do we have to filter out what he wants from the books? Shouldnt we just obay them all?
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