Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Lewis Wolpert on Point of Inquiry



Here is a good interview on The Evolutionary Origins of Belief. Wolpert's main idea is that the origin of belief in supernatural lies in the human ability to make tools (i.e. understand cause and effect). He also makes a departure from the New Atheists and believes that religion can be useful for some people. Overall, he has an interesting take on things. Check out the interview here.
Lewis Wolpert is Professor of Biology as Applied to Medicine in the Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology of University College, London, focusing his research on the mechanisms involved in the development of the embryo. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society, and the Royal Society of Literature. He has presented science on both radio and TV for years, and was Chairman of the Committee for the Public Understanding of Science in the UK. Among his books are Malignant Sadness: The Anatomy of Depression (the basis for the BBC documentary entitled 'A Living Hell"), The Triumph of the Embryo, and A Passion for Science (with Alison Richards). His most recent book is Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast: The Evolutionary Origins of Belief.

6 comments:

Psiloiordinary said...

Is that really a departure from the new atheists?

Away from my books for the next week so can't check.

Psi

Salman Hameed said...

Well the departure in attributing some positive values to religion, compared to treating it as a malignant virus. Sam Harris, in particular, has been pretty harsh on most things associated with religion, whereas Dawkins is appreciative of religious arts and music, but not more than that. In that sense, Wolpert is taking a different stance by saying that religion is a positive influence for many people (and apparently, including his own son).

Psiloiordinary said...

Haven't both of them, and Hitchens for that matter, both granted that religion can help people be happier and/or feel they have purpose in their lives?

They do make this point as part of the comment that this does not make religion true, but they make it none the less.

Salman Hameed said...

Haven't both of them, and Hitchens for that matter, both granted that religion can help people be happier and/or feel they have purpose in their lives?
Oh yes, but this happiness is in the context of a delusion and nothing more. Or sometimes they credit that religion may have had an earlier evolutionary advantage, but now it's certainly harmful for us (the oft-cited example of our propensity to like chocolate) - and this is the place, I think, where Wolpert disagrees with them. I think both Wolpert and the New Atheists agree that God is made-up, but disagree on the social impact of religion (beneficial or harmful) on society (as per Wolpert's comment towards the end of the PoI interview).

Psiloiordinary said...

I'll certainly give it a listen.

Regards,

Psi

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