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The Evolution of Religion

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As a follow-up of sorts to my genetics of altruism article, The New York Times Magazine had a fascinating, thought-provoking piece on the evolutionary advantages of belief. Scientists have been studying religion from an evolutionary perspective, trying to figure out why religion is universal when it is seemingly maladaptive to survival. Usually, believing in nonexistent things and expending energy on nonproductive pursuits will make it harder to survive, not easier.

First the science, then my two cents.

The science is split into two camps. There’s the “byproduct” school, which says religion is not in itself an evolutionary advantage, but is a byproduct of a complex and imaginative brain that is. Then there’s the “adaptionist” school, which argues that religious belief is in fact advantageous by promoting trust and cooperation within a group. The byproduct folks have some fascinating bits of data to work with. They assert three recognized human traits:

Agent detection: The ability to infer the presence of organisms that intend to harm us. If we see motion out of the corner of our eye, our mind tends to assume it is a potential hostile organism and reacts accordingly. We assume the motion is guided by a mind rather than assuming benign causes like wind blowing leaves around. This makes evolutionary sense. If we’re wrong about it being hostile, we’re still alive, and if we’re wrong about it being benign, we’re dead or injured, but it predisposes us to see intelligent agents behind every observed phenomenon.

Causal reasoning: The ability to “impose a narrative” on seemingly unrelated events. I tend to describe this as “pattern detection,” the ability to see patterns even where none exist. Again, this is evolutionarily advantageous. It helps us solve puzzles and figure out cause and effect even with scant evidence, and is largely harmless when applied incorrectly. It too, however, predisposes us to see order and causation where there isn’t any..

Theory of mind: This is simply the recognition that other people have their own viewpoint and do not know everything we know. It’s the ability to imagine yourself in other people’s heads. It lets us anticipate the actions of other people based on our knowledge of their knowledge. The survival advantage is obvious. The link to religion is a little more complex. Experiments show that children do not develop “theory of mind” until they are four years old or so. Until then, they believe others — and especially their parents — are omniscient. In other words, we are born believing in omniscient, invisible minds, which paves the way for a belief in God.

Then come the adaptationists. They argue that while the byproduct school might help explain some of the biochemistry of belief, belief itself is also favored by evolution. Some of my thoughts on altruism closely reflect adaptationist arguments. Religion can make people feel better by worrying less about death and instead letting them focus on living and the future.

By reinforcing desirable behavior, it helps them attract better mates. It makes groups more cohesive, allowing them to out-compete nonreligious groups. It makes individuals more willing to sacrifice themselves, again increasing the survivability of the group. Such advantages outweigh the evolutionary costs of religion, which is measured in the time and resources devoted to ritual.

Adaptationists also note that this doesn’t have to be an either-or thing. All species contain a range of various traits: height, strength, speed, disease resistance, etc. Why should belief be any different? In that view, theists and atheists aren’t enemies. They represent a socially healthy mix.

David Sloan Wilson, an evolutionary biologist at the State University of New York at Binghamton, says in The New York Times Magazine article, “What seems to be an adversarial relationship between theists and atheists within a community is really a division of cognitive labor that keeps social groups as a whole on an even keel.”

I don’t see the two schools as necessarily being in conflict. Humans are social creatures by design, and the idea that we’re wired to view the world in a certain way makes sense. Further, anything that promotes social cooperation is evolutionarily advantageous. Religion is an effective tool to that end, so it’s easy to see why it would be so ubiquitous.

I would add that belief is advantageous for a reason not cited in the article: because it gives us a sense of control. Early humans were surrounded by deadly things they didn’t understand. That could be debilitating to a mind imaginative enough to envision all the horrible things that could happen.

If we think we know why lightning strikes or earthquakes happen or people die, then we can develop rituals and practices to control or appease them. If we think we know what the stars are, we can use them to store our hopes and dreams. Belief is just one more tool to help us order our surroundings, giving us a framework that lets us live our lives more successfully by explaining away the unexplainable.

Believers may be offended by this whole discussion, as if God can be reduced to a particular brain structure or random chance, but that’s not necessarily the case. Knowing the mechanism by which humans experience God does not prove God doesn’t actually exist. To quote Justin Barrett, a prominent member of the byproduct school and a practicing Christian, “Christian theology teaches that people were crafted by God to be in a loving relationship with him and other people. Why wouldn’t God, then, design us in such a way as to find belief in divinity quite natural?”

This is a variation of “evolution is the tool by which God created humans” argument, and it works just as well. We believe because God gave us the ability to believe when He created us.

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About Sean Aqui

  • A Concerned Citizen

    Awesome article and interesting the whole way through. Keep up the good work.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer.php?name=gonzo%20marx jaz

    beast thing i’ve read around here in quite the while

    /golfclap

    thanks for laying this out there for all to read

  • Methuselah

    Good article.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Sean.

    This was an interesting article. Let me recommend this one on fine tuning the universe for you you to look at.

  • http://midtopia.blogspot.com Sean Aqui

    Ruvy: Thanks for the link!

    I don’t find it particularly compelling, not only for the rhetoric (“Universal Acceptance of Fine Tuning!!”) but also for the logic.

    The Universe is, indeed, finely suited to our existence. But that’s a tautology, because if it didn’t, we wouldn’t exist to comment on it. If the laws of physics required life forms to be hexagonal, they would be hexagonal. And the intelligent hexagons would look backward and marvel at how finely tuned the universe is to hexagonal life. Well, no kidding.

    All systems, even one as big as the universe, seek equilibrium (i.e., constants). Once that equilibrium is established, the only life forms that can possibly arise are those that match the equilibrium conditions. This is neither supernatural nor unexpected.

    Could it be the result of a divine hand? Of course. Must it be? No.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer.php?name=gonzo%20marx jaz

    Ruvy…read yer link…

    aAAAaaAAAaaaAAAaAAAarrRRRrrrRRRRRRRrrrRrrRrgGGgghh!

    “I.D.” makes Santa’s elves cry.

  • Leslie Bohn

    Mr. In Jerusalem:
    You actually, really linked to Gerald Schroeder?

    As certainly you must know, the work of Schroeder (and Dembski and Johnson and Thaxton and Behe and Wells…) isn’t science, and quickly falls apart under the light of reason and scientific proof.

    Schroeder’s goal is to reconcile the myths of Genesis with science, not to examine the truth of either.

    His writing on Bilbical “codes” is, however, hilarious.

  • duane

    If you don’t mind me asking, why are you guys opposed to the content of the link Ruvy provided? Isn’t it pretty amazing? Sean says it isn’t compelling. It’s stunning is what it is.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Interesting, Duane,

    After 5 days, nobody has seen fit to answer your question.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer.php?name=gonzo%20marx jaz

    argh…sry, lost track of the Thread…

    the gist fo it all appears to be…”A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintendent has monkeyed with the physics, as well as chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature”

    in other words, “Intelligent Design”

    a fine thing for metaphysics, but i see nothing compelling , or even solid enough evidence and empirical data to enable a hypothesis, much less a working axion for a Theory

    hence my earlier comment…

    those looking for some “hand” in things will see one…make like i’m from Missouri…ya gotta “show me”

    still ain’t seen anything compelling, either way…for or against

    just for Ruvy’s chiding…

    the Tao of D’oh.

  • zingzing

    it’s horse shit is what it is. i don’t like the smell of it. it’s stinky, and it doesn’t make much sense.

    it makes the same argument that the pro-evolutionists made in 19xx during the monkey trials when they had to make up some fuckin bullshit to get evolution taught in backwards southern schools. we were just giving you a fuckin blow-job then, and now you turn it around and are blowin smoke up our collective asses with this crap? fuck off.

    it makes the same argument that the pro-evolutionists made in 19xx during the monkey trials when they had to make up some fuckin bullshit to get evolution taught in backwards southern schools. we were just giving you a fuckin blow-job then, and now you turn it around and are blowin smoke up our collective asses with this crap? fuck off.

    wait. maybe i remember the wrong article. i went through this fuckin idiot’s website and looked at several of his essays, laughin all the way.

    if this is the one that says that, yeah, the world is only 5,347 years old (i’m making up that number), but the first 6 days could’ve been forever, man, it’s all before time existed, dude… that’s just some fuckin hippie-gawd nonsense.

    and if it’s not that article… then it’s the one that says the universe is made for us, and that’s nonsense too. we developed BECAUSE the universe was the way it was. how hard is it, in an infinite universe, bigger than you can fuckin imagine, to believe that a few chemicals came together, made a big boom and things just got movin towards where we are today? in an infinte universe, it’s not only probable, it’s impossible that it wouldn’t happen. it’s happened so many times, it’s ridiculous.

    you have to think pretty small to think that we are the center of the universe. we aren’t. we’re just a happy accident. bob ross might as well be G O D

    (i must apologize. i am drunk on a sunday night because i woke up very late and worked all day and can’t get to sleep. but that schroeder guy is really full of shit, just an apologist and nothing more. he’s got the scientific credenitials of my toenail.)

  • zingzing

    wow. i must apologize. that post is really fucked. i don’t know how it got that fuckered. paragraphs repeating themselves, etc. anyway… i will quote and edit:

    “it’s horse shit is what it is. i don’t like the smell of it. it’s stinky, and it doesn’t make much sense.

    it makes the same argument that the pro-evolutionists made in 19xx during the monkey trials when they had to make up some fuckin bullshit to get evolution taught in backwards southern schools. we were just giving you a fuckin blow-job then, and now you turn it around and are blowin smoke up our collective asses with this crap? fuck off.

    wait. maybe i remember the wrong article. i went through this fuckin idiot’s website and looked at several of his essays, laughin all the way.

    if this is the one that says that, yeah, the world is only 5,347 years old (i’m making up that number), but the first 6 days could’ve been forever, man, it’s all before time existed, dude… that’s just some fuckin hippie-gawd nonsense.

    and if it’s not that article… then it’s the one that says the universe is made for us, and that’s nonsense too. we developed BECAUSE the universe was the way it was. how hard is it, in an infinite universe, bigger than you can fuckin imagine, to believe that a few chemicals came together, made a big boom and things just got movin towards where we are today? in an infinite universe, it’s not only probable, it’s impossible that it wouldn’t happen. it’s happened so many times, it’s ridiculous.

    you have to think pretty small to think that we are the center of the universe. we aren’t. we’re just a happy accident. bob ross might as well be G O D

    (i must apologize. i am drunk on a sunday night because i woke up very late and worked all day and can’t get to sleep. but that schroeder guy is really full of shit, just an apologist and nothing more. he’s got the scientific credentials of my toenail.)”

    meh. it wasn’t that fucked up. just a little. still, embarrassing. sorry. i don’t often drink and get on here. sundays. “day of rest and masturbation” i say quite often to the girl, but the girl ain’t around, and the bottle is. stupid bottle.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Zing,

    Sober up if you want to write intelligently…

  • zingzing

    oh, shove off ruvy.

    schroder is full of crap and you know it.

    basically my point is that we developed because of the way the universe was/is. we couldn’t have existed any other way. all the scientific evidence points towards it. god is just a figment of our imagination. we invented him, not the other way around.

    it’s a valid argument, and if you want to blame my rambling on the fact that i’m drunk, which i am a little, then see the argument for what it is.

    schoreder (and i know i keep spelling his name different ways, fuckin germans–can we agree?) is a total crock.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer.php?name=gonzo%20marx jaz

    Ruvy..i wrote up a nice bit a while ago, but it wouldn’t go through

    hopefully it’s saved somewhere and Christopher gets it up here, but i’m not going to try and redo it now

    suffice to say, i don’t find anything compelling in your link… some see what they want to see in “appearances” and speak as if what they “believe” is factual

    nothing in the link was compelling or new to me, ID all over again…

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    basically my point is that we developed because of the way the universe was/is.

    And my point is that you need to sober up before you attempt to write with any level of intelligence…

    At the moment your writing sounds like a drunk talking. Back away from the liquor bottle…slowly.

  • zingzing

    ruvy–no.

    my point, written as drunk as i am, stands. respond to the point, not that i let you know i was drunk.

    you are drunk on religion 24/7. let me be drunk on pbr, and i know that’s not a good decision, for once.

    i know you want to believe in god. i know it’s something you think to be good. but it causes you to hate irrationally those who believe in the same god you do.

    and it causes you to link to quacks.

    that “scientist” you linked to is really silly. it’s a fantasy. nothing more.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer.php?name=gonzo%20marx jaz

    ok..i got one ta sum it all up, from my point of View at least…

    FreeWill(live)

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    “Choosing” free will is an illusion, Gonzo Jaz. We (humanity) are granted free will for a period of time. When that period of time ends, the evil inclination will no longer exist, and free will will be a shadow of its former self.

    That is basic to Judaism (properly named the Israelite religion) and the messianic concepts within it.

    You can choose to reject these things if you wish. But if I’m right, either your rejection of these concepts will be reversed by events (and you will “choose” differently), or you will no longer be there to “choose.”

    All Schroeder has done is to point out the congruence and convergence between observable science and concepts set forth in the Tana”kh, Talmud and the Zohar. As a scientist, he lays out the theoretical possibility for the existence of G-d. As a scientist, he can go no further. As a believing Jew, he takes the further step of “bitaHón” (trust) to correlate the existence of G-d to the science he understands.

    Neither he nor I tell you what to believe. But I am telling you that if you choose to believe in free will alone, you will find that belief useless in the not too distant future.

  • troll

    Ruvy says – *We (humanity) are granted free will for a period of time. When that period of time ends, the evil inclination will no longer exist, and free will will be a shadow of its former self.*

    so…if one abdicates responsibility for his free will here and now by submitting to authority and dogma will that hasten the coming of the Kingdom – ?

    War or Peace – ? it’s a question of individual free will – just say ‘No’ to brutality

  • Nancy

    How do you account for the fact that all organized religions end up benefitting only the few elites that ‘run’ them at the expense of the mass of ‘followers’? This doesn’t seem to produce any benefits for any but those at the top, and damned few if any for those who must support them. As for the other school of thought, how do you account for the fact that, on the contrary, “good” behavior is NOT rewarded: it’s the bullies, thieves, liars, killers, & others of a psychopathic nature in the world who accumulate wealth & power & all that they give access to, & live the ‘good life’ at the expense of the rest of us who are their victims, willing or un-.

    It seems to me that all religions do is foster thought control of the many by the few by imposing the imprimatur & enforcement (in life or afterwards) of an approving or disapproving Higher Authority on the general population to force them to submit to the outrages & rules of a more rapacious few who conveniently serve deity as it suits them.

  • duane

    Back to the issue of Ruvy’s link to Schroeder (#4). It makes no difference whether or not he is a quack. The quotations on that page are from scientists of the first rank (Sciama, Davies, Hawking, Weinberg, Turner, Penrose — Hoyle has made a few intentionally radical claims), and they know what they’re talking about. Even kooks can quote.

    Zingzing says, “… we developed because of the way the universe was/is.”

    That’s most likely true. That’s what I ‘believe,’ too. At a finer scale, we developed because of the way Earth is. We like the taste of a good steak, which just happens to come from another life form on Earth. We like the taste of bananas, which just happen to grow naturally on Earth. We thrive in temperatures between 0 and 100 degrees F, which just happens to be the temperature range over much of the Earth’s surface, etc. These kinds of observations gave rise to the original Design arguments — it seems that Nature has provided an environment from which we humans are ‘designed’ to benefit.

    A more modern idea is that we simply evolved in such a way that we can benefit from Nature’s provisions. We occupy an ecological niche. If we didn’t, we would not survive as a species. If all Earth provided to its inhabitants was blind toads and mushrooms that are poisonous to humans, a different species would have evolved that could find nourishment from the mushrooms and the toads, and so on and so forth.

    But all religion vs. science debate aside, Zing’s comment #14 misses the point of Ruvy’s link. Schroeder provides quotes that speak to a much more profound set of facts. The point is that the universe did develop the way it did. Why? The processes leading to the existence of carbon (not to mention the other elements heavier than helium), which is made in stars as a by-product of nuclear fusion, depends on a set of very ‘finely tuned’ physical constants. Very minor variations in these constants would have led to a carbon-free, and presumably life-free, universe. The thing is that there is no physical theory that can account for the values of the physical constants (the electron charge, the speed of light, the gravitational constant, etc.). They are what they are, they are measured quantities, and if they were different, the universe would not have produced the elements required for the existence of life. That is a truly amazing concept to grapple with.

    Just as Earthly observations gave impetus for Design arguments in centuries past, modern physics will provide more evolved variants of the same kinds of arguments. It’s a ‘safe’ position, and will be for a long time, because there are no signs that physicists are on the verge of a falsifiable naturalistic explanation [see Multiverse, see fine-structure constant (alpha), see dark matter, see dark energy].

    From It’s a Gift

    Bosterly: You’re drunk!
    Harold: And you’re crazy. But I’ll be sober tomorrow and you’ll be crazy for the rest of your life.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer.php?name=gonzo%20marx jaz

    ah Ruvy, there you go again, projecting “belief”

    i say “freewill” because it is the only universal constant when it comes to these things, objective and empirically proven

    even in a Scriptural context, freewill is there…Eve and the apple for example…Lucifer and the Fall…

    without being able to Choose, even in scriptural context, there is NO *meaning*…one cannot “test” a programmed drone..and the kind of spiritual robot you postulate could never be held above “all other Creations” if there was no *Choice*

    then there’s the olde demi-Urge theorem

    but, choose what Works for you, all i’m saying is that to try and say that there is some kind of *proof* is disingenuous and premature…much of what you touch on cannot be Known until after Death…and even that we can’t be certain of…

  • http://midtopia.blogspot.com Sean Aqui

    Nancy: My, you are cynical. ;)

    I think it’s false to assume that the “mass of followers” do not benefit from belief. That’s the whole point, really. Whether or not the priests use religion to gild their dens, belief itself has a survival value.

    Religion is a tool. It can be used for good or ill. But the fact that is universal suggests that it fills a niche — be it a need to explain the unexplainable, or a social glue that helps a society be more successful.

    I do not suggest, btw, that religion is the only social glue, or the best, or even a particularly desirable one. As human knowledge has advanced, you can make a plausible argument that religion is no longer necessary — that we can replace it with other social glues that are at least as effective and don’t require a cosmic cudgel to enforce.

    You seem focused on the very real downsides of religion. But a full picture of belief requires recognizing the upsides as well.

  • http://midtopia.blogspot.com Sean Aqui

    Duane: Good comment; thanks!

    I see the “universe designed for life” argument as simply the “Earth designed for humans” argument rewritten on a larger scale.

    The universe is an infinitely complex system; we think we know how much of it works, but it’s a stretch to take the next step and predict how things would work if the rules were different. Life as *we know it* might not exist in a universe with different rules, but perhaps a different kind of life would be possible under other rules.

    Or throw in theories like “there are an infinite number of universes.” In that theory, we happen to be in one of the tiny fraction that has the right conditions for life.

    Could it all be because of God? Sure. Could it be random chance? Sure. My problem with Ruvy’s link is not so much the listing of the various physical facts as the blithe assertion that it is proof of intelligent creation. It isn’t.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer.php?name=gonzo%20marx jaz

    in the context you speak of Sean, it would appear that religion was indeed a major social *glue* when societies were at the tribal level

    a good way to motivate was definitely the olde “my god can beat up your god…heathen!”

    the ramifications of that are still played out to this day (the middle east as an example)

    so, what may have been a cultural aid at one point in history, turns out to be detrimental in another

    what evolves next to fill that niche could well have been Nationalism…the two dynamics together explaining much of today’s realpolitik

    so, the real Thing to ponder, is what comes after those two…what replaces it as part of the human race’s survival mechanisms?

    hopefully we live to find out

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    You all read into Gerry Schroeder’s writings, and my defenses of them, things that aren’t there.

    But let’s start from a side point of view for a bit – what Nancy wrote about religion.

    All gangs benefit only the guys who run them – this is as true of a priesthood as it is a government, a corporation or a mafia. They are all different garbs used by the strong to beat up on the weak. It is really that simple. The only time this will change is when (for some, if) the evil impulse is destroyed, for it is the evil impulse that causes exploitation – the beating up of the weak by the strong. For a clear example of what I’m talking about, read the book of Samuel from the beginning to the retirement of the prophet Samuel and the anointment of king Saul.

    Troll:

    You quote me:

    *We (humanity) are granted free will for a period of time. When that period of time ends, the evil inclination will no longer exist, and free will will be a shadow of its former self.*

    and then assume that

    “if one abdicates responsibility for his free will here and now by submitting to authority and dogma will that hasten the coming of the Kingdom?”

    That is a Christian argument that sticks all evil on a god-on-a-stick for absolution. It don’t work that way.

    Until the destruction of the evil impulse, we are all responsible to other people for our sins against them, and to G-d for our sins against Him. And we are all expected to do good deeds until the destruction of the evil impulse. Submitting to dogma and authority is no substitute for honesty, kindness, straightforwardness, love and decency.

    Gonzo Jaz,

    I can tell you what I believe as a Jew, but as a scientist, Gerry Schroeder can create a theoretical construct for the possibility of G-d. That is as far as he can go. He cannot, I cannot, and no-one else can “prove” G-d’s existence. This is as possible as the nucleus of a cell on a fingernail trying to prove the existence of the arm the finger is on. We can infer the existence of a Mind from the fine tuning of the universe, but there is no proof of this.

    Here, I can speak for Professor Schroeder as well, for I made this precise assertion at the last Root & Branch lecture he spoke at, and he agreed with not only my claim but my analogy. What I say to you applies to Sean as well.

    The imperfections in the universe are proof of free will at the molecular level, and are the reason that one can walk into a cancer ward and find children condemned to die there. But the point of these diseases, and of most others in humans, is to call forth our interest in repairing the universe (i.e. curing the diseases, or at least trying). Using cancer in children as an example, 50 years ago, most cases of cancer in children were incurable. Now, due to the efforts of medicine, many forms of cancer are curable.

    What I’m telling you is that if you use only free will (as only it can be proven) alone as you basis of belief, I think that in the near future you will discover that it is useless to you. If I am wrong, then Judaism will be wrong as well, for there will be no messianic redemption – period.

    Duane, you write:

    “But all religion vs. science debate aside, Zing’s comment #14 misses the point of Ruvy’s link. Schroeder provides quotes that speak to a much more profound set of facts. The point is that the universe did develop the way it did. Why? The processes leading to the existence of carbon (not to mention the other elements heavier than helium), which is made in stars as a by-product of nuclear fusion, depends on a set of very ‘finely tuned’ physical constants. Very minor variations in these constants would have led to a carbon-free, and presumably life-free, universe. The thing is that there is no physical theory that can account for the values of the physical constants (the electron charge, the speed of light, the gravitational constant, etc.). They are what they are, they are measured quantities, and if they were different, the universe would not have produced the elements required for the existence of life. That is a truly amazing concept to grapple with.”

    Schroeder bases his ideas on this set of physical facts. If he didn’t, most of what he says would not be worth reading. In addition, HE posits the very same question you do – WHY? and, because he is a scientist first and a student of Judaism second, he can provide no answer.

    What he does is to attempt FIRST to point out that science against religion is a false opposition based on the ignorance of scientist of theology and the ignorance of theologians of science, and the refusal of both sides to even admit the other has something worth saying. THEN he attempts a convergence and explanation of how one is extremely similar to the other.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer.php?name=gonzo%20marx jaz

    Ruvy says -“for there will be no messianic redemption – period.”

    Quoted for Truth

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Gonzo,

    You’re a politer version of Chris Rose. You can prove your misquote of me as easily as he can prove his less polite assertions.

    There is neither truth nor honesty in your “quote” – just a bald assertion.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer.php?name=gonzo%20marx jaz

    Ruvy, no intent at insult or the like..merely stating my perceptions…my apologies if it came off harsh, such was not my intent

    i was attempting to point out the logical inconsistency in a part of your argument…

    you righteously state that it is up to the individual to do the best thing for the right reasons, and that they will be accountable for it

    i completely agree with that

    then you go and mention “messianic redemption”, and there’s where schism occurs

    if some “messiah” is going to “redeem”, then what’s the point? it is up to each of us to make things better, not to eternally await some piein the sky “redeemer” to make it all better like Mommy kissing a boo boo

    anything else removes freewill as well as the consequences of personal responsibility…even in the purely spiritual sense

    that’s a big part of my problem with christian dogma as well…no scapegoats, no get out of Hell free cards….no “redeemer” from on high

    YOU are responsible for what you do and what you do not do

    i do hope that clears things up..i’ll try and be less esoteric and cryptic

    the Tao of D’oh.

  • http://midtopia.blogspot.com Sean Aqui

    Ruvy: You say “You all read into Gerry Schroeder’s writings, and my defenses of them, things that aren’t there.” Then you say “Gerry Schroeder can create a theoretical construct for the possibility of G-d. That is as far as he can go. He cannot, I cannot, and no-one else can “prove” G-d’s existence.”

    But the very first line of your link says “According to growing numbers of scientists, the laws and constants of nature are so finely-tuned, and so many coincidences have occurred to allow for the possibility of life, the universe must have come into existence through intentional planning and intelligence.”

    How can I read that as other than claiming proof of God’s existence?

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Sean,

    One of Professor Schroeder’s most salient observations in his lectures is that increasing numbers of scientists state that the universe has more the nature of mind than matter to it.

    In originally scouring Dr, Schroeder’s website for something to send you to examine, I looked for just this in the articles he submits. The closest I could find to this was the link I sent you. There may have been something better that I missed.

    Dr. Schroeder will state, as a believing Jew, that this “mind” is G-d. So will I. But it need not be so. There is no proof that this is true and there cannot be.

    “According to growing numbers of scientists, the laws and constants of nature are so finely-tuned, and so many coincidences have occurred to allow for the possibility of life, the universe must have come into existence through intentional planning and intelligence.”

    I read this and see “G-d.” Interestingly enough, so do you. But G-d is not mentioned by the other scientists that Dr. Schroeder mentions…

  • http://midtopia.blogspot.com Sean Aqui

    Ruvy: I must be misunderstanding you, or you me. I don’t see God in the “fine tuning” aspect. I see it in the declaration “the universe must have come into existence through intentional planning and intelligence.”

    IOW, the opinion of the writer, claiming that God exists.

    I suspect the trouble arises in your mention of the universe having more of the “nature of mind” than of matter. I have no idea what that means.

    You say Schroeder says the “mind” is God, implying that others think it’s something else. Like what? Hyperintelligent aliens? IMO, any entity powerful enough to create the universe is — from our perspective — close enough to God as to be indistinguishable.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Scientists are very careful not to make theological claims. “the universe must have come into existence through intentional planning and intelligence.” does not necessarily mean G-d to a scientist who does not believe in G-d. Bear in mind that the idea of G-d carries with it for many all kinds of theological baggage like ideas of salvation, etc. Then there is the matter of proof. That is a nightmare.

    So, some scientists who want to get their work published will back away from G-d in their claims, even if they are firmly convinced of His existence. And others, not firmly convinced of G-d’s existence will not make that claim precisely because they are not convinced. So they will use other terms, like Idea or Mind. They don’t necessarily all mean the same thing.

  • zingzing

    there was an interesting interview in the new yorker recently about all this (in a general sense). not so much on the creation of the universe as it was about reconciling belief in god with practicing science. the interviewee was the guy behind the genome project. the interviewer was an agnostic. it was interesting because there was no hidden agenda on either end, actually it was brutally honest and yet never devolved into pointless arguing.

    i can’t seem to find it, but i think it was in one of the latest issues.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer.php?name=gonzo%20marx jaz

    Ruvy, there is a commen pending which addresses my quoting you, it was not to try and twist your words at all…if it doesn’t post soon…i’ll re-write

    but it’s not what you thought it was…

  • zingzing

    oh, i forgot to mention that the scientist behind the genome project happens to be a christian and believes that dna is god’s formula or something like that.

  • http://midtopia.blogspot.com Sean Aqui

    Ruvy: To be blunt, I think that’s either sophistry or cowardice. Seeing the universe as intelligently designed necessitates either God or some other entity so powerful as to be, for all practical purposes, God. If that’s what they think, they should say so. You say they want to get published; but they’re not fooling anyone, and by playing footsie like that they damage their credibility.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    “I think that’s either sophistry or cowardice.”

    Sean,

    I’m no scientist, that I need to give a damn… I can say I believe in G-d and no G-d-hostile editorial board is going to shoot down anything I want to get published.

    But I’ve seen work that might imply the existence of G-d shot down by hostile editorial boards, and have seen the authors of that work labeled as quacks. There is an awful lot of politics in the atheistic scientific establishment, and they invest a lot to keep their supremacy.

    So scientists who do want to get published mind their p’s and q’s.

  • duane

    Ruvy says (#39), “But I’ve seen work that might imply the existence of G-d shot down by hostile editorial boards…. ”

    Can you provide some specifics? Authors, articles, names of journals? I have seen work having nothing to do with the supernatural get shot down. In fact, I have shot down a couple of articles myself. These decisions had nothing to do with atheism, and there was no hostility involved. It was just poor work. So, I’m wondering about the articles you mention. Thanks.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Gonzo Jaz,

    I assume you play (or savvy) basketball or football. The goal of either game is to post as many points as one can on the scoreboard within a certain period of time. Once the game is over, the score is final and the audience goes home.

    Judaism argues that the essence of free will is the ability of an individual to choose between the good inclination and evil inclination within him, and he is judged accordingly. It also argues that this order of things will last, at least for humans, for a period of time, and that after that the evil inclination will be destroyed. That is what redemption means. At that point, it is no longer possible to acquire good deeds to be judged positively by, or to commit evil ones. G-d has “blown the whistle” on the game, and the Results are tallied. Thus, one is encouraged to perform as many good deeds as possible because none of us knows when the “Whistle” of Divine Redemption will be blown. Once that “whistle” is blown, different rules will apply, and the “Ball” will no longer be in play at all.

    At that point there is judgment, albeit not immediately. First, certain Items must be Squared, and Accounts Cleared. This is what much of the Prophecies of in the Tana”kh are about. But Judgment remains on the agenda, a fact that many who jump ecstatically shouting “MashiaH! mashiaH!” fail to inform us of. Perhaps getting rid of the immediate misery of persecution by non-Jews and the misery of the “Olám haShéqer,” the world of illusions and lies, has blinded them to the prospect beyond the immediate joy of redemption…

    G-d may grant mercy or be lenient in His Judgments, but He still Judges. Christianity and the Israelite religion are very different in how they view all this, and your Christian up-bringing and disagreements with its philosophy show in your arguments.

    At a different level entirely, there is a potential implication that some of the rules of physics may change at that point as well, as the uncertain behavior of molecules is the base upon which free will is built. But that goes to a level of science that is way beyond me, and to a level of physics entering upon metaphysics that is way beyond this ignorant Jew to understand, much less to speculate upon…

  • Leslie Bohn

    …then will come the Time of No Salami, when the righteous will receive an Abundance of mustard and mayonnaise. All will be forced to wear the Pants of Divinity, whose seam length will be determined by how many times the person has Masturbated. Then god will go through everyone’s Golf Scores, and if they’re low enough, gravity will be lessened by 4 percent, e will no longer equal MC squared, and many cake recipes won’t work as well…

    Of course, I’m using a different skip code.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer.php?name=gonzo%20marx jaz

    Ruvy..i understand the points you are making, and must clarify that my upbringing has nothing to do with my position on the issue at this time, since i am apostate to the “christianity” you are talking about due in part, to this very Issue..

    one does the right thing because it IS the right thing…any other reason is disingenuous and in the case of “believers” not an attempt to live “righteously”, but instead to curry favor arising from fear of”hell” or some other afterlife punishment

    i stand firmly with the dictum that each and every Individual are solely Responsible for what they do, and do not do…no “original sin” passed down, no scapegoat “redemption” for mouthing words…no supernatural “messiah” to “set things right”

    each Individual…alone…and completely Responsible for their action from first to last breaths

    as to the “
    physics of free will
    “… here’s one for you and duane…

    [Please just keep posting normally, jaz, the system will learn, eventually! Comments Editor]

  • http://www.rev.net/~aloe/ajivika Darwin A. Ward

    Sean Aqui wrote: “If the laws of physics required life forms to be hexagonal, they would be hexagonal. And the intelligent hexagons would look backward and marvel at how finely tuned the universe is to hexagonal life.”

    Do starfish “marvel at how finely tuned the universe is to pentagonal life”?