Date & Time: Jan 27 2011 - 6:30pm
Location: SLC Conference Center–352 Seventh Ave./16th Floor-(29/30th St.)
Speaker: NICHOLAS WADE - Scientific reporter, editor and author who writes for the Science Times section of The New York Times
Subject: The Faith Instinct
An “instinct” for faith? You’ve got to be kidding, right? Nope, none other than the renowned author and New York Times science editor and reporter, Nicholas Wade, holds that since time immemorial, humans have had a built-in instinct for faith.
In fact, Wade has written a book about it, THE FAITH INSTINCT, and he’s going to explain it to New York City Atheists next Thursday, January 27th.
Wade, a British-born graduate of Eton and Cambridge and a countryman of Richard Dawkins, will present a case for the evolution of the faith instinct in human history. You may note that he uses the words “instinct” and “faith” in a very special way: If you have ever used the word “evolved” to describe how you gradually became an Atheist, you may have some notion as to how Wade employs these scientific words.
Brain Wired for Religion?
But Wade is adamant about what he dubs the “neural mechanisms that predispose humans to behavior patterns that favor survival.” Religion, he points out, has been one of those survival patterns.
“The faith instinct is something that’s wired into our neural circuits just like the instinct to learn the language one hears spoken around one,” he explains. “It’s a behavioral instinct that prompts you to a certain behavior but it doesn’t actually supply the behavior.
“With both language and religion, we have neural mechanisms that predispose us to learn them,” he adds. “Just as culture supplies the content of language, culture supplies the content of religion.”
Religion an Invisible Government
Religion was an important survival tool in primitive times that may have determined which tribes survived and which perished, he notes. “Belief in supernatural beings is an important tool because the role it played in these early communities was as a form of invisible government. They had no police force or judiciaries and no laws, so how did keep everyone in line? By the means of an invisible avenging god who would punish infractions of his rules.”
Thus, religion was, Wade adds, “an invisible overseer in people’s heads and a very effective way of getting everyone to follow community rules. Those groups that employed religion had an enormous advantage over the groups that didn’t.
“And that’s how the genes for the religious instinct became wired into all of us just like the genes for language: It provided such an enormous survival advantage.”
Religion: Survival Tool
Whether you follow down Wade’s historic, evolutionary and neuro-science path or not, the idea of religion as a tool to keep people in line has certainly survived to today. Most religions claim morality as their bailiwick even in our times.
But how ingrained is this faith instinct? How physiological is it? And if our brains are hard-wired for religion, how did we Atheists escape the wiring?
Come and ask author Nicholas Wade these tricky questions. He has taken the difficult path of going down the neuro-scientific road to explain religion. Are his theories valid for today? Can science and reason overcome an “instinct” that has lost its usefulness in today’s more complex society?
This is undoubtedly one of the more controversial events that NYC Atheists have sponsored. Come, question, learn, be counted!
WHAT: “THE FAITH INSTINCT,” a talk by author and New York Times science
reporter Nicholas Wade explaining his contention that religion was
hard-wired into our brains to aid survival.
WHEN: THURSDAY, JANUARY 27, 2011 at 6:30 p.m.
WHERE: SLC Conference Center
352 Seventh Avenue (bet. 29th & 30th Streets)
COST: We would appreciate a donation of $5 to cover the cost of the
Conference space. Students and unemployed excused.
Cost: We ask for a donation of $5 to help cover the cost of room rental.