Posts Tagged ‘Religion’

Surviving Darwin – The Biology of God

March 7, 2008

 The case has been argued previously that humans have bred themselves through natural selection for belief in God  because it had survival value to the individual. Has the time come for us to begin looking at the religious experience as a biological function?  

Over the last 50 years many have written and documented on the similarities of religious experience and chemical experiences on the mind. Most recently Benny Shanon, a professor of cognitive psychology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem wrote in the Time and Mind journal of philosophy that Moses may have seen a “burning bush” based on consumption of a concoction based on bark of the acacia tree which is used for curing premature ejaculation or rabies in some parts of the world (you suspected all along that there was a connection between the two conditions, didn’t you?). 

If we do begin to address religious experience in this way, does that then pave the way for a more studied approach and a less shamanistic one? Much has changed in the treatment of other biological aspects over the last few centuries. And despite the fact that some may claim that modern medicine has moved us away from a “more, better natural” approach to treating biological infirmities, one can hardly deny that the discoveries and practices have overall led to healthier lives with longer life spans and far better interventions.Remember that as little as 200 years ago, we new nothing about germs and ascribed the human condition to a balance among the humors.  You did not want to be a surgery patient at a time when puss from others was applied to your wound in an effort to see a “natural result.” 

Like other biological management methods, of course, this too would fall victim to people taking advantage of others.

But is this not the case with religious experience today? History does not come to us short of all types of strange religious experiences designed to de-robe people of their money, land and even their lives in the name of this possibly biological experience. 

Still the approach might be worth it. There has been much study as the impact on the brain of prayer or meditation. How practical would it be if we could get all that from a pill?  

“Forget the Lithium, Ms Borden. I want you to try this new pill: Graceetra. It’s like manna from heaven.” 

Oh, and for the Atheists who get all excited about the notion that we may be biologically bred for the religious experience, maybe you just have a failed gene and there may be a therapy developed for that. 

Of course you could always fake it and plan on converting to Atheism on your death bed.

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