That man created God, and not the other way around, is the basic explanation of religion from an evolutionary perspective. Religious belief would then be an accidental by-product of the way our minds have evolved. That, in a nutshell, is what a flood of books on religion argue—Breaking the Spell, Religion Explained, Faces in the Clouds—and those reading them sometimes conclude that anyone with logical training and a good education should be an atheist. That conclusion is shortsighted.
Luhrmann’s point is that belief does not come naturally, but “ is often the outcome of great intellectual struggle.” “Faith,” she writes, “is hard because it is a decision to live as if a set of claims are real, even when one doubts: in the Christian case, that the world is good; that love endures; that you should live your life as if the promise of joy were at least a possibility.
Further, she suggests we “turn the skeptic’s question on its head. If you could believe in God, why wouldn’t you? There is good evidence that those who believe in a loving God have happier lives. Loneliness is bad for people in many different ways—it diminishes immune function, increases blood pressure, and depresses cognitive function—and we know that people who believe in God are less lonely. We know that God is experienced in the brain as a social relationship. (Put someone in the scanner and ask them about God, and the same region of the brain lights up as when you ask them about a friend.) We know that those who go to church live longer and in greater health.
Finally, she concludes with this brilliant paragraph. It beautifully captures the humility which to my thinking is the only reasonable and appropriate response to the limited nature of our minds and the understanding that they possess:
At its heart, this is the dilemma of all human knowledge. We reach out to grasp a world we know to be more complex than our capacity to understand it, and we choose and act despite our awareness that what we take to be true may be an illusion, a wispy misperception.
If you have ever looked for deer resistant plants, foxglove was probably pretty close to the top of the list. Some say deer don't like it because it's bitter. Others say they are "hardwired" not to eat it because it is toxic. Some people won't even grow them in the garden because of their deadly reputation and the effect they can have on the heart.
If you have ever gone to a nursery and asked about plants that deer don't eat, if you got an honest answer it was "They'll eat anything if they are hungry enough." And they will. Note the middle foxglove above. It is missing leaves, stalk, and flowers. Yep, they deer decided to eat at Merola's Buffet (I haven't put the deer fence up yet because I haven't planted anything).
I guess they were still hungry after they went through the strawberries...
A couple days ago my niece celebrated her 9th birthday. So Linda took her shopping to buy an outfit, including the all-important accessories such a sandals and sunglasses. Then we all met for dinner, some hang out time, and a couple of games of Candyland (which the birthday girl easily won. Linda and I must be out of practice.)
Sure, these are two attractive women. But with smiles like those, you can see their real beauty doesn't come from their stunning good looks; it comes from the heart.
A good first step toward the liberation of humanity from oppressive forms of tribalism [religion] would be to repudiate, respectfully, the claims of those in power who say they speak for God, are a special representative of God, or have exclusive knowledge of God’s divine will. Included among these purveyors of theological narcissism are would-be prophets, the founders of religious cults, impassioned evangelical ministers, imams of the grand mosques, chief rabbis, Rosh yeshivas, the Dalai Lama, and the pope.
The crux of the matter seems to be this: Every religion teaches its adherents that they are a special fellowship and that their creation story, moral precepts, and privilege from divine power are superior to those claimed in other religions. He acknowledges that perhaps there really is a God behind it all. But he also says that perhaps there is no more to it than a tribe united by a creation myth. If the latter, religious faith is better interpreted as an unseen trap unavoidable during the biological history of our species. And if this is correct, surely there exist ways to find spiritual fulfillment without surrender and enslavement. Humankind deserves better.
More specifically, Wilson says we are wise to openly question the myths and gods of organized religions because they are stultifying and divisive. Because each is just one version of a competing multitude of scenarios that possibly can be true. Because they encourage ignorance, distract people from recognizing problems of the real world, and often lead them in wrong directions into disastrous actions.
But perhaps most significantly, Wilson suggests that science—in his view, the embodiment of inarguable empirical fact—has progressed to the point that it can explain who we are. He suggests that science, and science alone, is in a position to answer our biggest questions: Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?
Thus, one of “the most potent trends” he sees in the world today is the increasingly detailed scientific reconstruction of religious belief as an evolutionary biological product. When placed in opposition to creation myths and their theological excesses, the reconstruction is increasingly persuasive to any even slightly open mind.
Because the reconstruction of which he speaks, and which he provides in the earlier part of this book, still seems to be based on significant speculation, it raises the question of whether this is not another creation story vying for ascendancy and seeking to establish the right of his “tribe” to speak for what is right, true, and real. There is much I appreciate in this book, and much I learned from it, but as Wilson would claim of me, it seems to me that his reach still exceeds his grasp.
[Science] is not just “another way of knowing” as often claimed, making it coequal with religious faith. The conflict between scientific knowledge and the teachings of organized religions is irreconcilable. The chasm will continue to widen and cause no end of trouble as long as religious leaders go on making unsupportable claims about supernatural causes of reality.
These are the words of Edward O. Wilson in his latest book, The Social Conquest of Earth. For a person of religious faith such as myself, these are very sobering words. Wilson, a professor and honorary curator in entomology at Harvard, is widely recognized as one of the world's most distinguished scientists.
After reading his book “The Naturalist,” I felt like we are kindred spirits. So much of his childhood story could be mine. WiIson has described himself by saying, “ I had a bug period like every kid. I just never outgrew mine.” I love that. I love the way he stuck to his childhood passion—ants!—and how the whole world opened before him.
In the past, Wilson has been conciliatory towards religion. But no more. While he remains generally fair, respectful, and even humble (he does not consider himself an atheist because he admits there is so much he doesn’t know and that is at least possible if, in his opinion, highly improbable), he believes that religions have outlived their usefulness and that humanity deserves better. “Humanity has suffered enough from grossly inaccurate history told by mistaken prophets.” And while Wilson fully admits that “it is foolish to think that organized religions can be pulled up anytime soon by their deep roots and replaced with a rationalist passion for morality,” he does see trends that their place is weakening in the world.
Though I remain a deeply committed Christian passionate about my faith in Jesus Christ, I expect EO Wilson is right.
With the all the warm and beautiful weather we've been having up until the last couple days, one of the questions I've heard folks asking is "Should I plant my flowers and vegetables yet?" Seeing all the plants put out at the box stores makes us feel like we're falling behind if we don't get our plants in the ground now. I gotta admit, I've been feeling the urge pretty strong myself.
But it really is too early. The plant above is a "volunteer". It sprouted on its own a several weeks ago during a warm spell. But as you can see, since then it hasn't done much. In between the warm days have been very cold ones (like today), and that means that the soil simply has not warmed up enough yet for most plants to grow well. There's a good chance it's stunted and will never produce fruit like it should.
The plant below was actually planted after the one above. But I've brought it in at night, and kept it inside altogether on cold days. You can see the difference; it's over two feet tall and already setting fruit. That's the benefit of keeping a plant within its preferred temperature range.
And that means that if one person bought a plant at a box store and put it in the ground a month ago, or even last week, and another person waited and let the plants they will eventually put in the ground continue to grow in the warmth of a greenhouse at a local nursery, the plant that was put in the ground later will actually grow better and outproduce the one that was put in the ground earlier.
So when should we plant? Traditionally in this area, flowers and vegetables go in the ground after Mother's Day. It's looking like even this year, as warm as it has seemed, that's going to be about right. With plants that like really warm temps, like basil or peppers, it's probably actually better to wait until the end of May.