Science is just one gene away from defeating religion [The Observer]

The Observer is the world’s oldest Sunday newspaper.

. . . Brain scanning has indeed shown particular bits of the brain lighting up with activity when people pray, look at pictures of the Virgin Mary or recollect intense religious experiences. Richard Harries said: “It would not be surprising if God had created us with a physical facility for belief.” But there is another interpretation, which might eventually lead to the completion of the scientific harvest. . . .

increasingly, those who study the human brain see our experiences, even of our own intentions, as being an illusory commentary on what our brains have already decided to do. Perhaps we humans come with a false model of ourselves, which works well as a means of predicting the behaviour of other people - a belief that actions are the result of conscious intentions. Then could the pervasive human belief in supernatural forces and spiritual agents, controlling the physical world, and influencing our moral judgments, be an extension of that false logic, a misconception no more significant than a visual illusion?

I’m dubious about those “why” questions . . . Either they make no sense or they can be recast as the kind of “how” questions that science answers so well.

When we understand how our brains generate religious ideas, and what the Darwinian adaptive value of such brain processes is, what will be left for religion?

I don’t get the distinction between why and how. " Why is this such?" is the same as “How is it that this is such?” I’m not sure if that means I am agreeing or disagreeing with the distinguished Professor of Neuroscience.

Many Christians believe dogs don’t have free will but many of these same Christians still think the lives of their dogs have meaning. So if we don’t have free will as science is now suggesting, our lives too may still have meaning. I think the same goes for if our spiritual ideas are shown to be illusory. Life can be rewarding even if free will and our spiritual ideas are unreal. Being w/o free will is like riding a roller coaster. You are not in control of your movement, but you still have a lot of fun riding it.

Your reading an opinion piece. Realize that the author has an axe to grind.

What has been discovered is that people are predisposed to religion and that religion is good for you, physically.


If God made us to adore him, would we expect to find anything different?

It says that “Colin Blakemore is Professor of Neuroscience at the Universities of Oxford and Warwick. He is a member of the UK Drugs Policy Commission, but the views expressed here are his own”

Are there any Professors of Neuroscience that disagree with his view or interpretation of the science? I’d like to read them since besides the religion thing, it troubles me that science suggests I don’t have free will. If I cultivate more humility, I’m sure I will accept it serenely one day.

IMHO Many of the threads started by “trumpet” are biased and anti-religion. :shrug:

I once ran across an antitheist who was discussing modern neuroscience. He got really angry when someone proposed that one could interpret the findings of neuroscience as God’s work predisposing us for religion. I’ve often wondered why and I think it is because it shows that regardless of what science discovers, it can not “defeat religion” or what not. You can’t really prove whether or not God wired our brains or if they are the results of purely atheistic natural selection. Atheists proclaim the latter because it preserves their worldview, with some getting upset with people for going with the latter.

And? He is one guy offering his opinion in his limited sphere of expertise.

I don’t know if this is what you’re looking for:

I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Well, if it were, in that regard, proven that there were no such thing as free will, that only means that your will isn’t free. It would be the free will of the doctor, enevitably, that would dictate what you do have the ability to do and don’t. Which is silly. Because you have the free will to reject.

The only thing a doctor would be able to do then is to sit atop a pedeastal and say “I know more about you than you do therefore your will is mine.” Kinda diabolical in my opinion.

Can anyone who has ever had two year olds or (God help us!) teenagers in his or her home have the slightest doubt about the existence of free will?

It’s kind of a silly thing to be talking about in the first place.

When you start 42 or more threads it is hard to find things that fit an agenda that are truly news.:shrug: IMHO the motive is to keep us busy.

I just got a swift mental image of a bunch of marionettes in white lab coats, with the strings being pulled by Satan.

Of course, they’d say they came up with these ideas all by themselves. They don’t even realize they’re being manipulated, the poor blind dupes.

…hence the “religion” he/she" adhers to:


And once again, in case the antitheists didn’t notice it the first time a very long time ago now, the brain has areas that can hallucinate colors, vocal sounds, music, the scent of pine, orange, and dog hair, and the touch of a cool hand, among millions of other experiences that also exist in reality.
These brain areas are all susceptible to genetic variations. That does not mean we invented dog hair and colors to meet some evolutionary need. It means we do best when our brains have efficient models for important or frequent experiences. They could find the gene and pinch it until it confesses when it came into existence and how many people are expressing it right now, and the issue of religion would never feel a thing because the issue of religion is truth and the issue of brain science is experience. Experience sometimes reflects truth and sometimes fails to do so. That’s a starting point for either area of inquiry. It would serve them well if they decided to acknowledge something so basic.

There is no scientific evidence to support the existence of Satan and according to A Companion to the Summa (click on the link in my sig), the existence of Satan or any other angel can never be given scientific support and yet the author says that angels exert influence on the affairs of the earth. I think there are things out there (life forms) that exert influence on the earth but I think they would be able to be in principle discerned by science. Some have tried to prove this through science (by studing the effects of prayer) but without any success thus far.

Apophatism is not “antireligion.” “must be described in negative terms” doesn’t mean “negative” as in bad.

Apophatism exists in many religious traditions, including the Christian East.

It’s very liberating to not have a religious creed (dogmas you must believe in) since I can without fear explore all religious traditions and draw inspiration from any of them.

How could science ever defeat Religion?

I’m guessing if the powers that be could influence knew that there was a science experiment trying to discern their influence, they may just as well set it up to give the results a wash. It’s not like every prayer is like pressing a button, which then leads to a particular reaction.

It would be like trying to prove there are people living in a house by making phone calls, then concluding since there was no answer there is no one in the house. All the while, the people in the house knew of the test, and just chose not to pick it up.

True, but we still do experiments involving humans. We can do them with “angels” too since angels aren’t all-knowing. When priests do exorcisms they keep many details secret so that demons don’t catch wind of them or at least that’s what I’ve been told. So experiments could be done like that observing a similar kind of secrecy. And if angels are real, then exorcisms should actually work and science should be able to do a meta-analysis of all the exorcism data to see if they produced any tangible results. To make it more solid, they’d need a control group to see if there was a placebo effect. But they could see if the tangible results are too amazing to be explained by common placebo effects.

So what is the difference between the control and the experimental group? Also you really cannot disprove there are angles or other supernatural forces that way.

How could Religion ever be defeated by science?

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

It also leaves you quite open to deception, put forth by that guy we discussed above whom there is no scientific evidence to support the existence of. There’s no scientific evidence to support the existence of hell, either, but if there was any possibility I might end up there, I’d think twice before blithely shrugging it off as irrelevant.

I had a friend that would say JUST IN CASE BE SAFE:thumbsup:

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit