The recent New Scientist (March 17-23) is a special edition titled, The God Issue: the surprising new science of religion, and it is worth getting a copy. Some of the articles include:
1. Born believers on why our minds have god-shaped space. “Children are born primed to see god at work all around them and don’t need to be indoctrinated.”
2. The idea that launched a thousand civilisations on why without religion we would still be living in the Stone Age. Religion joined anonymous strangers into moral communities and “. . . belief in god or gods does appear to encourage people to be nice to one another.”
3. Natural religion, unnatural science on why religion may outlast science. For those who think that science will displace religion, Robert McCauley argues that they are wrong on many counts. One reason is “they underestimate the power and pervasiveness of maturationally natural cognition. Not everyone is religious, but religious ideas and actions spontaneously and inevitably arise in human populations.”
4. There are also two interviews—one of Alain de Botton who argues that atheists need to adopt the useful and supportive structures of religion (an idea that has drawn howls of protest from some atheists). The other interview is of Noam Chomsky. One question and answer caught my eye:
In your new book, you suggest that many components of human nature are just too complicated to be really researchable. “That’s a pretty normal phenomenon. Take, say, physics, which restricts itself to extremely simply questions. If a molecule becomes too complex, they hand it over to the chemists. If it becomes too complex for them, they hand it to biologists. And if the system is too complex for them, they hand it to the psychologists . . . and so on until it ends up in the hands of historians or novelists. As you deal with more and more complex systems, it becomes harder and harder to find deep and interesting properties.”
Perhaps it is the storytellers after all who will make sense of everything!