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Monthly Archive: July 2010

Jul 16 2010

World Cup musings

Although I am not a soccer fan, I watched the World Cup soccer final between the Netherlands and Spain. I had nothing better to do last Sunday afternoon and thought that I should at least see the culminating event of something that had been engrossing the entire world for a month. I was surprised at …

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Jul 15 2010

The origin of religion-5: The struggle between the primal and thinking brains

In an article in The New Scientist titled Born believers: How your brain creates God (subscription required), Michael Brooks says: There is plenty of evidence that thinking about disembodied minds comes naturally. People readily form relationships with non-existent others: roughly half of all 4-year-olds have had an imaginary friend, and adults often form and maintain …

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Jul 14 2010

Overdoing public grief

On the radio yesterday morning I heard a report on camps designed specifically for children who have recently had a bereavement in the family to attend with other similarly situated children. The camps will be staffed by people trained in grief counseling and the children will be encouraged to express their feelings through artwork and …

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Jul 13 2010

The origin of religion-4: Religion as an evolutionary adaptation

While the growth and perpetuation of religious beliefs is an interesting question, we also need to explain how they originated in the first place. How did such unreal information arise at all? Some have argued in favor of the direct adaptation model, based on Darwinian natural selection principles, that says that the tendency to assign …

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Jul 12 2010

The end of an affair

Well, the great drama of where LeBron James would play in future years has mercifully come to an end. There must not be a single person in America, however remotely located or disinterested in sports, who escaped from the endless speculation that culminated with an actual TV show where he revealed his decision. Surely the …

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Jul 09 2010

The origin of religion-3: Do people have a ‘god gene’?

It seems clear that people want to believe in religious ideas or at last have a propensity to believe in supernatural phenomena. Is religion a social belief that developed only after complex societies formed or is a predisposition towards religion hardwired in our brains? Those who argue the former think that religious beliefs emerged late …

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Jul 08 2010

The origin of religion-2: The power of religion and other superstitions

When investigating the origin of religion and other superstitions, an important fact to bear in mind is that it is not just humans that base their behavior on imputing meaning to meaningless correlations. There is evidence that even animals do this, suggesting that this instinct comes from a fairly primitive part of the brain, and …

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Jul 07 2010

The origin of religion-1: Superstitions

I think we can all agree that, looked at objectively, religious beliefs result in a colossal consumption of time and resources that, to anyone outside that particular religion, seems like an enormous waste. As Richard Dawkins says: As a Darwinian, the aspect of religion that catches my attention is its profligate wastefulness, its extravagant display …

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Jul 06 2010

Anonymity, pseudonymity, and sockpuppetry

The recent article I wrote in The Chronicle Of Higher Education titled The New War Between Science and Religion generated a lot of interest. The editors told me that it was the most viewed, forwarded, and commented on article for some time. The article dealt with the current debate between the new/unapologetic atheists and the …

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Jul 05 2010

On the pursuit of happiness

On this holiday on the day after independence day, I am posting again a reflection on what to me is one of the most intriguing phrases in the US Declaration of Independence. It is contained in the famous sentence: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are …

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