Science, Religion, Reason and Survival

Just 40 years after a famous TIME magazine cover asked "Is God Dead?" the answer appears to be a resounding "No!" According to a survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life in a recent issue of Foreign Policy magazine, "Why God is Winning."

Religions are increasingly a geopolitical force to be reckoned with. Fundamentalist movements — some violent in the extreme — are growing. Science and religion are at odds in the classrooms and courtrooms. And a return to religious values is widely touted as an antidote to the alleged decline in public morality.

After two centuries, could this be twilight for the Enlightenment project and the beginning of a new age of unreason? Will faith and dogma trump rational inquiry, or will it be possible to reconcile religious and scientific worldviews? Can evolutionary biology, anthropology and neuroscience help us to better understand how we construct beliefs, and experience empathy, fear and awe? Can science help us create a new rational narrative as poetic and powerful as those that have traditionally sustained societies? Can we treat religion as a natural phenomenon? Can we be good without God? And if not God, then what?

This is a critical moment in the human situation, and The Science Network in association with the Crick-Jacobs Center brought together an extraordinary group of scientists and philosophers to explore answers to these questions. The conversation took place at the Salk Institute, La Jolla, CA from November 5-7, 2006.

Sunday, November 5, 2006
Session 1(watch) -->
Steven Weinberg, Lawrence Krauss, Sam Harris, Michael Shermer

Session 2(watch) -->
Neil deGrasse Tyson; Discussion: Tyson, Weinberg, Krauss, Harris, Shermer

Session 3(watch) -->
Joan Roughgarden, Richard Dawkins, Francisco Ayala, Carolyn Porco

Session 4(watch) -->
Stuart Hameroff, V.S. Ramachandran

Monday, November 6, 2006
Session 5(watch)-->
Paul Davies, Steven Nadler, Patricia Churchland

Session 6(watch) -->
Susan Neiman, Loyal Rue, Elizabeth Loftus

Session 7(watch) -->
Mahzarin Banaji, Richard Dawkins, Scott Atran

Session 8(watch) -->
Scott Atran, Sir Harold Kroto, Charles Harper, Ann Druyan

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Session 9(watch) -->
Sam Harris, Jim Woodward, Melvin Konner; Discussion: Harris, Woodward, Konner, Dawkins, Paul Churchland

Session 10(watch) -->
Richard Sloan, V.S. Ramachandran, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Terry Sejnowski


Anonymous said...

I have not the least fear. The more powerful the religions become, the more the intellect will flower. What? Did we think we were going to dominate the world? No, of course not. Voltaire said that we shall leave the world as wicked and foolish as when we found it. A thousand years from now,
jackasses will still run for office on family-values tickets, wringing their hands over our collective sins and preaching salvation through proper voting. Our kind will still be here, reading Hume, Nietzsche, A J Ayer and Ayn Rand, and listening to the aforementioned jackasses telling us that atheism is a religion. They will always be here. We will always be here. I do not care if this whole sorry world succumbs to another dark age, there will still be a remnant that refuses to put their lights out.

Anonymous said...

Prevention is better than cure ryan, cut the throat of the theistic monster before it rises up to devour you. Sam adams, Richard dawkins and several others are fighting against the tide and so are we...vie la revolution!

Anonymous said...

I find the idea of boxcars of Christians going to the gaschamber to be ridiculous and abhorent. I'm an ex-Christian and many of my friends and family remain Christian. I don't hate them. I love them. Do I think that their need for an imaginary friend/parent is somewhat juvenile? Of course I do.

The kind of change that Dawkins, Harris and others are proposing does not happen overnight. We didn't come by our imaginary friends overnight and neither will they be abandoned overnight.

Anonymous said...

Agreed, i don't want to harm anyone, if they want to harm me however...

Ultimately though it's social change we want, keep science and logic in the limelight long enough and all the theistic nonsense will fade into insignificance.

Anonymous said...

The only thing that concerns me somewhat, is that there is nowhere left to migrate to. In the past, if you didn't like the direction the surrounding culture was going, you picked up stakes and went somewhere else. There are no more 'New Worlds' on this planet for the religiously disgruntled and dogmatically annoyed to ship off to (damn shame too).

I'd rather the fundies ship off and colonize the moon or something rather than dig their heels in and try to keep a stranglehold on a civilization that is methodically moving forward despite their tantrum throwing.

Anonymous said...

How can owner of the Universe be loosing? There is no being powerful enough to casuse Him to loose anything. He is the creator of "all" period their is no other creator, "only one"

The rest are all creatures, nothing more...

Anonymous said...

PS: He is the creator and owner of all. "All" is going according to Hie plan and purpose...

Anonymous said...

The universe has no owner. None. We are a tiny pocket of sentience in a vast expanse of chaos and emptiness, and there may be other such areas, but I see no sign of any immortal and ultra-powerful beings.

I doubt very much that any sentient being could actually create a universe. First of all, from what would it create things? And why? And how did it, itself, come into being? Yet another creator? No, I don't think so. That would make all the so-called creators "creatures" in infinite and increasingly absurd regress.

It's even more absurd to take such an unlikely being and burden it with human personality traits.

I find it easier and less headache-inducing to consider that energy and matter gradually organized into a form that we now recognize as the universe.

Anonymous said...

Dang! I know I'm still going to hell, but Boxcars of Christians going to the gaschamber? How original! I love free speech, but, I'm with Legion Regalis - this thought is abhorent!

Anonymous said...

Where did matter come from? everything has to have a beginning, things aren't just there, something has to put someting there. If matter did exist without something to push it then everything would just be absolute zero.

Anonymous said...

...and I suppose you have knowledge as to where it all came from? Let's hear it! -Wes

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, we don't know where matter came from. Yet. Scientists continue to work on that question and may one day answer it.

In the meantime... I haven't encountered any difficulties that required me to answer the "where does matter come from?" question. Even if the question is utterly unanswerable, I don't think it matters a heck of a lot. We live in the present, not in the distant past.

Shrugging one's shoulders and glibly answering, "Oh, (name of god) did it" is worse than having no answer at all.

Anonymous said...

You guys may not have purpose in your life but I do. My life was hopeless until I received Jesus as Lord and Savior. Jesus is the light of my life and he can be yours too! Life is not hopeless! God is with us and he became one of us so that you may have eternal life. God Bless and Merry Christmas to you guys. I really hope and pray you rethink your eternal destiny before it is just too late.

Anonymous said...

Dear Amy, how dare you presume that our lives have no purpose? Then again, who is to say whose purpose is better than the other? Do we need a grand purpose? I do not believe in God or any super natural beings. My purpose is to live one day at a time, fully, humanely, humanly, with kindness, with reason, with courage, with humility, with love, with laugther. That's enough and fulfilling for me because it is a handful already and will take me more than a few lifetimes to live like that. God need not figure in the picture and is not necessary at all. And I am happy and at peace. Nobody could agree on what name to call God by or what heaven is like. So I am not going to worry about it at all.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you bud. Why does life even need purpose? Isn't just living enough of a purpose for anyone? Of course "purpose" is ultimately a human construct, a result of a brain configured for tool use, the fact is is that mostly shit just happens, what the hell. the only time anything has actual purpose is when we make it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Amy, just how do we go about to being saved?

What must we do to arrive at the same level of the self-righteousness bigotry that you have?

What does one need to do to perceive in one's mind, that the whole world is going to hell, except you and people that believe as you?

Amy:"My life was hopeless until I received Jesus as Lord and Savior."

So in what form did you receive the Lord Jesus as your savior, did you receive an e-mail or a post card or by carrier pigeon, what form did you receive your message to the point of surety that you were brave enough to come on here and tell us what and how we are to believe?

Are we to believe as you, simply because you say we are supposed to? There must be some form of proof, that we can rely on, that you can share with us infidels to keep us out of hell.

Are we to simply take your word that you have all the exact correct answers for our survival in the next world, simply because you say we should?

On what grounds do you posit your supreme authority?

Where were you exactly and how old were you, the first you heard the words, Jesus saves?

This website is about finding absolute truths and whole truths, can you prove to us what you say is absolutely true?

If not, then I suggest you have nothing further to say, on this website.

webmdave said...

everything has to have a beginning, things aren't just there,

Except, I assume, your god.

HE never had a beginning and has always been "just there."

If having a highly complex "god" who is just there without a beginning is a reasonable explanation for everything, then having a universe full of matter that is "just there" without a beginning would have to be equally as reasonable.

I take that back. Those two statements are not equally reasonable.

Since we have a considerable amount of testable evidence demonstrating that there is a universe full of matter, but we don't have a single shred of testable evidence pointing of an invisible deity in the sky, the conclusion that it is possible for there to be a universe that just is without a beginning is much more reasonable than assuming a magical, mysterious, maniacal, monster that is undetectable by any means, but that just is, and that we know that it JUST IS, because poor, ignorant, filthy, tribal sand people from thousands of years ago wrote it down in a religious book.

May the Flying Spaghetti Monster at the center of the universe touch you with his noodley appendage.

Anonymous said...

Hi Amy, your meaningless life, with the belief in an illusion has given you meaning. So, your meaningless life before, plus an additional illusion is like; 0 + 0 = 0 As long as you keep telling yourself "0" is worth something, I suppose it works for you.

webmdave said...

Hi Amy!

You may not have real purpose in your life, but I do. My life was hopeless until I rejected Jesus as Lord and Savior. Jesus is doesn't exist and although I once thought he brought light to my life, it was a lie. Run away from the cult of Christianity now! Life is not hopeless! We are all with each other on this planet, we can became one with each other so that people will continue throughout history.

All our best and Merry Christmas to you, Amy. I really hope and pray you rethink how you're wasting your life by chasing after a mythological "god" created in the minds of Bronze Age savages before it is just too late.

Anonymous said...

Dave(WM): I'm on Holiday Leave until the end of the year and took the time to watch, this in its entirety. It's long, but very well done. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I am inclined to beg the WM's pardon if my last post was unwelcome. I am not inclined to indulge in a similar courtesy toward the rest of you.

The word "abhorrent" keeps coming up. Let me tell you what I find abhorrent: the Crusades; the Inquisition; witchhunts; persections of jews and heretics; humiliation of scientists and thinkers; extermination of Native Americans; lynchings of Blacks; beating and murdering of homosexuals.

The modern "christian" is but a pale copy of what that religion once was--the modern christian resembles his religious ancestors in the sense that a lizard resembles a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Catholics; Unitarians; Presbyterians; Lutherans; Methodists....all are about as dangerous as Eleanor Roosevelt. The monstrosity that we talked about is still around and very much alive. I live in the heart of Indiana Klan country and those fanatics are organized and armed to the teeth. They are awaiting their time, as they say. If the religious right (the religious reich) gets the power it craves, that time will come.

All over this country, Klansmen or otherwise--not all kooks wear white sheets--there are people who are prepared to deprive us of rights and dignity. They are not all as visible as Fred Phelps. One of you suggested "science and logic" as the remedy. Was that a joke? Among the lunatics I have been describing, science and logic are the tools of the devil. Philosophy is heathen. Tolerance is blasphemy. All of us who want to talk about reason are going to be silenced.

I do not imagine this. I am near these people every day; people who cannot complete a sentence without "nigger" or "queer" or "fag"; people for whom "fuckin'jew" is one word; people for whom abortion is murder. If you thought my comments were harsh, do not forget that the stake is a worse way to die than gas.

Anonymous said...

I get a giggle out of self-righteous nincompoops like Amy P who claim they had no purpose in life before they found jay-zuss. If this life is meaningless without the promise of an after-life, then how do You find meaning in the after-life? Or, is there an after-after-life and an after-after-after-life and so on?

P.S. Is this the same Amy Marie who use to amuse us on the forums with her soft-porn fantasies about her affair with God Jr. - or just another deluded fundie?

Anonymous said...

Amy,for the first time in my life,I feel like a grown-up.

The babble says," you have to become like a child". How else could you believe in the talking donkey and snake stories?

I now choose to be a rational adult,free to think for myself and it's,... FREAKIN GREAT!!
I highly recommend it!

Anonymous said...

These christians crack me up. They feel sooo high and mighty when they ask us "Well if no god-where did it all come from?" And feel righteously smug with their thumb up their ass when we honestly say "We don't entirely know yet-we don't have all the data."

They and their church leader with support of a badly written book have their people conned into thinking they have "knowledge" without research, inquiry, testing, or supporting data for their beliefs. They have been blinded into thinking not seeking answers IS the answer, and feel condescendingly wise when they tell us IT is simply so.
Everything is simple for them. It has to be. Their ego's really aren't strong enough to be able to handle a complex world or a complex universe that has all grown and developed over time. They can't function surrounded by complexity they have not bothered to try and understand. So they claim it's all simple. As though that erased all the evidence that tells us otherwise.
If there IS a supreme being or higher power....they are in no place to accept that being at all. Because such a being would be too complex for them to comprehend, let alone understand (not to mention probably wouldn't be anything like their infantile "holy" books suggest). Understanding a being like that begins with understanding WHERE IT CAME FROM and how it came to be.
Since the religious don't ask that, they will wind up declaring the first E.T. that ever comes into contact with us a god.

Jim said...

It's been a while since I posted here.So here is something to think about for xmas. Cheers All Jim Lee.
My new e-mail address can be found at my web page
The whole story of the Nativity is in the Temple in Luxor - 3,350 years old. So it was the Roman Church that pinched Xmas, and they shouldn't complain when the Holiday is being reclaimed by 'Pagans'. .

Anwyay here is an old Christmas Carol from the days of Akhenaten -

(from Dr. Margaret A Murray’s ‘Egyptian Religious Poetry 1949):

"He is Born! He is Born! O come and adore Him!

Life-giving mothers, the mothers who bore Him,

Stars of the heavens the daybreak adorning.

Ancestors, ye, of the Star of the Morning.

Women and Men, O come and adore Him,

Child who is born in the night.

He is Born! He is Born! O come and adore Him!

Dwellers in Duat, be joyful before Him,

Gods of the heavens come near and behold Him!

Bow down before Him, kneel down before Him,

King who is born in the night.

He is born! He is born! O come and adore Him!

Young like the Moon in its shining and changing,

Over the heavens His footsteps are ranging,

Stars never-resting and stars never-setting,

Worship the child of God's own begetting!

Heaven and Earth, O come and adore Him!

Bow down before Him, kneel down before Him!

Worship, adore Him, fall down before Him!

God who is born in the night."

Anonymous said...

Plenty of brilliant and talented men, many with the power of the unrestrained state behind them, have tried to destroy religion...from the French Revolution, through the Soviet experiments, to the more recent attempts of the Chinese to impose atheism on the Tibetans as a means of destroying their cultural identity.

All have failed.

You will fail.

Anonymous said...

And so many more dictators and theocratic fascists in world history have tried to impose their religion as a justification to threaten, overpower, and annihilate so many people.

BTW, many of those brilliant dictators you mentioned were trying to destroy another religion so their religion would rule.

You theocratic fascists are so full of shit.

Anonymous said...

"Plenty of brilliant and talented men...yada yada yada..."

Bertram, nursing your persecution complex isn't helping anyone, least of all yourself.

Any institutionalized dogma, including those you mention, is antithetical to survival. At this point in history - 2006 - religion is the prime mover behind dogmatism.

"Needless to say, a rational argument against religious faith is not an argument for the blind embrace of atheism as a dogma. The problem that the atheist exposes is none other than the problem of dogma itself—of which every religion has more than its fair share. I know of no society in recorded history that ever suffered because its people became too reasonable." ~ Sam Harris (full article here.)

Anonymous said...

Bertram, there is a distinct difference between trying to force a people to change their beliefs....and those beliefs simply dying out on their own. We cannot "fail" at something we are not attempting to enforce.

Go to if you don't believe me. Awful LOT of gods and goddesses in human history. Some of them believed in for a lot longer than the current beliefs have even existed. Vast majority of them are now a distant memory.

Oh....what's that? YOURS is different? Uh-uh. Sorry. If you bother to look at the mythologies behind those pasts gods, you can't help but notice some familiar stories.

That's right. Your belief is a mere regurgitation of old beliefs. Nothing about Christianity is original....but you want to fantasize IT is somehow the one truth?

Barbie's Dreamhouse has nothing on yours.

Anonymous said...

"Plenty of brilliant and talented men, many with the power of the unrestrained state behind them, have tried to destroy religion...from the French Revolution, through the Soviet experiments, to the more recent attempts of the Chinese to impose atheism on the Tibetans as a means of destroying their cultural identity.

All have failed.

You will fail. "

Then humanity is doomed to an endless cycle of meaningless divison, violence, ignorance and death. I sincerely hope your wrong, and I have reason to hope, all the statistics are sliding inexorably over to my side.

Besides, for religion to win it has to win EVERY time, we just have to win once, I like those odds, care for a wager?

Anonymous said...

"Go to"

Thanks for the link, White Raven! Glory!

Anonymous said...

*sigh* To the chick who thinks jeezus is the end all and be all...I'd suggest reading "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" and "Secrets of the Knight's Templar"...that is if you can be objective enough to do so. I don't agree with sending ANY ONE to a gas chamber..that smacks too much of nazi germany and the holocaust. As for how the universe came into being...why don't you take a perspective that the universe itself is a living entity of it's own? that's a concept. Also, I'd suggest reading the work(s) of Zacharia might actually enlighten some of you crispies who have this bullshit idea that some faceless big-beard-in-the-sky kneeded some dirt together and breathed on it and made a human being. *rolling eyes* If ANY of you bothered to really take a look at ALL, at the MANY old creation stories from the really ancient cultures...or just really THINK about the one that you think is the only will see that it smacks of scientific genetic manipulation of DNA. Again, I suggest reading Zacharia Sitchin's stuff. F**K! Use the brain you were born with and feed it something else besides the drivel you claim to believe in! Or, soap operas, or lame-assed sitcoms. LEARN SOMETHING for f**ks sake!

Anonymous said...

White_Raven provided this link to Very cool! I like it a lot. Thanks for that.

Anonymous said...

My goodness, mr cabot, your words of gloom and doom sent a chill down to the marrow of my bones. You must have been moved by the holy spirit to speak with such power and authority. Now wait until I stop laughing.

Okay, that took awhile. mr cabot, I do not intend to speak for the rest of the x-xians, but I believe that religion is here to stay. There are lots and lots of meek, servile little cretins who are eager to get on their knees, and lots more who are just as eager to keep them there. I do not believe that is going to change. No, mr cabot, I am not trying to take away whatever darkage fantasy you so desperately cling to. Stay on your knees--you belong on your knees, jabbering your impotent litany.

And just who are those "brilliant and talented men" to whom you refer? I know about the tyrannts of the past and present, and call them john calvin or joe stalin, they have all come straight out of the gutter. Call it mein kampf or the word of god, it is all shit. And as long as there are cowards and weaklings in this sorry world, that shit is going to be around.

About the notion of "failure". No, I will not fail. I am living my life on my feet, as an atheist and a thinker, calling my own shots. My life is a success, in whatever ways success can be measured. My kind will always be in the minority. We are not going to eliminate religion any more than we are going to shovel sand against the tide.

Anonymous said...

Bravo to your last post Ryan! I doubt I could have said it better myself. (I'm not an fact I'm not sure what the correct label would be...maybe ecletic gnostic.) I was laughing my ass off with you. The sheer arrogance of most of these crispies never ceases to astound me.

Anonymous said...

Thank you religionkills, and bravo to you and to all of us. Thanks again.

And do not be overly concerned about labels. The important thing is that you live your life as you choose. Let the label come later....if it fits, wear it.

And, uh, Merry Xmas

Anonymous said...

Ooo, ooo! New favorite phrase: "Organized Superstition"

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