Monday, November 17, 2008

MercatorNet: Explaining away religion for the 100th time ... Denyse O'Leary

You'd think people would get tired of this, but ...

This time, anthropologist Pascal Boyer, of the ambitiously titled Religion Explained takes an inept swipe at explaining away religion:

From Part I:

In fairness, it is very difficult for a social scientist to write a book about religion that does not fundamentally distort its nature. Those who can write such a book usually have a background in the humanities -- Peter Berger comes readily to mind. Most attempts sponsored by atheistic materialists do not explain, they merely explain away.

Boyer, for example, constantly compares humans to animals, ending in the swamp of the ridiculous. For example,

Indeed, the extraordinary social skills of humans, compared with other primates, may be honed by constant practice with imagined or absent partners.

Hmmm. I don't suppose lemurs have imaginary friends; they probably don't have actual friends either. So something about humans is definitely different, .... Tellingly, while natural scientists quite often regard social scientists with contempt (having the style of science without the substance), Nature gladly prints an article by a social scientist if it tries, however inadequately, to explain away religious belief. The journal's editors would not likely print a similar article explaining away Darwinism as a mere "cognitive construct" whose "truths" about nature are no more valid than the "truths" of African mythology or medieval Catholicism. Darwinism is, after all, their cult.

Read all here:

From Part II:

Boyer closes with a self-flattery that is so naive as to, at first, provoke derision:
Knowing, even accepting these conclusions is unlikely to undermine religious commitment. Some form of religious thinking seems to be the path of least resistance for our cognitive systems. By contrast, disbelief is generally the result of deliberate, effortful work against our natural cognitive dispositions — hardly the easiest ideology to propagate.
But hold the laughter! To the extent that a non-materialist worldview is defined as delusional but a materialist worldview is defined as rational, the groundwork is laid for academic and legal discrimination against non-materialist points of view.

Here is how it unfolds: The non-materialist worldview cannot be supported by evidence because those who accept the evidence are, by definition, delusional. The materialist worldview can never be disconfirmed by evidence because only a non-materialist is likely to advance such evidence, and such a person is delusional. Here we have a justification for discrimination against, for example, Christian schools or Christians in academic life.

Against this background, a group of non-materialists in neuroscience recently held the “Beyond the Mind-Body Problem: New Paradigms in the Science of Consciousness” symposium at the UN (September 11, 2008), co-sponsored by the Nour Foundation, UN-DESA, and the Université de Montréal. They were promptly attacked by a hit piece in New Scientist, a reliable standard-bearer for materialism, which read a dark conspiracy to institute religious fundamentalism in the United States into the multinational proceedings. Scratch a materialist atheist and a truther emerges, full-grown. That's no laughing matter.

Read all here:

See also: The payoff for straining the brain - how focus and sleep really do improve your academic performance
Dorian Gray, I hope you believe in miracles, because cosmetic surgery ...

Andrew Newberg and the problem of measuring consciousness

Spotted: Neuroscientists in themovies - Andrew Newberg!

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