The Forum's year-long exploration of religion launches with a program featuring distinguished philosopher and cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett and noted evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson.
They are joined by additional participants to discuss questions such as: What is the nature and purpose of religion? Is it a product of our evolution and something we can now do without? Is it a system of belief and practice that humans require in order to build communities and construct meaning for their lives? What in human make-up renders religion possible? How has religious belief developed and changed over the years, and how does it continue to do so?
Dr. Daniel Dennett received his B.A. in Philosophy from Harvard University in 1963, and earned his Doctorate in Philosophy at Oxford University in 1965. After teaching at U.C. Irvine for six years, Dennett joined the faculty at Tufts University in 1971, where he is now a Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University.
Dennett has written extensively about the mind, consciousness, and evolution. He published his first book, Content and Consciousness, in 1969 and is perhaps best known for his 1995 book, Darwin's Dangerous Idea, which explores the implications of natural selection on humanity's place in the universe. He has also published more than one hundred scholarly articles in professional journals, ranging from Behavioral and Brain Sciences to Poetics Today.
John F. Haught (Ph.D. Catholic University, 1970), is Senior Fellow, Science & Religion, Woodstock Theological Center, Georgetown University. He was formerly Professor in the Department of Theology at Georgetown University (1970-2005) and Chair (1990-95).
His area of specialization is systematic theology, with a particular interest in issues pertaining to science, cosmology, evolution, ecology, and religion.
William P. Kelly
William P. Kelly was appointed president of the Graduate Center of the City University of New York on July 1, 2005. From 1998 through June 2005, he served as the Graduate Center's provost and senior vice president, a tenure that was marked by the recruitment of a remarkable cadre of internationally renowned scholars to the school's faculty.
A distinguished American literature scholar and an expert on the works of James Fenimore Cooper, Dr. Kelly's books include Plotting America's Past: Fenimore Cooper and the Leatherstocking Tales (Southern Illinois University Press), and a work in progress, Exhibiting Nature: Scientific Culture and The American Museum of Natural History.
His numerous articles and reviews have appeared in a broad range of publications including the New York Times Book Review, The American Scholar, and the Journal of Western History, and he is the editor of the Random House edition of The Selected Works of Washington Irving and the Oxford University Press edition of The Pathfinder.
Dr. Kelly graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University in 1971, where he won the David Bowers Prize in American Studies. He was named Outstanding Graduate Student in English at Indiana University, where he received his Ph.D. in 1976. Dr. Kelly also holds a diploma in intellectual history from Cambridge University and in 1980 received a Fulbright Fellowship to France, where he subsequently became visiting professor at the University of Paris.
He was also executive director of the CUNY/Paris Exchange Program and, in 2003, was named Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Palmes Academiques by the French Ministry of Education in recognition of his contributions to Franco-American educational and cultural relations.
Gustav Niebuhr is an associate professor of Religion and the Media, director of the Religion and Society Program, director of the Carnegie Religion and Media Minor, and co-director of the Luce Project in Religion, Media, and International Relations at Syracuse University.
Over a twenty-year career in journalism, most recently at the New York Times and, prior to that, at the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and the Atlanta Journal/Constitution, Gustav Niebuhr has established a reputation as a leading writer about American religion. He is a frequent guest blogger on the Washington Post's "On Faith" column, and he also does occasional commentaries on religion for the National Public Radio program "All Things Considered."
His most recent book, Beyond Tolerance: Searching for Interfaith Understanding in America, will be published in August.
David Sloan Wilson
David Sloan Wilson uses evolutionary theory to explain all aspects of humanity in addition to the rest of life, as he recounts for a general audience in Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin's Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives (Bantam 2007). He is a distinguished professor of biology and anthropology at Binghamton University, part of the State University of New York.
He publishes in anthropology, psychology, and philosophy journals in addition to his mainstream biological research. His academic books include Unto Others: The Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior (with Elliott Sober, Harvard 1998), Darwin's Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society (Chicago, 2002), and The Literary Animal: Evolution and the Nature of Narrative (co-edited with Jonathan Gottschall, Northwestern 2005). Wilson also directs EvoS, a campus-wide program that uses evolutionary theory as a common language for the unification of knowledge.
Relation of human beings to God or the gods or to whatever they consider sacred or, in some cases, merely supernatural. Archaeological evidence suggests that religious beliefs have existed since the first human communities. They are generally shared by a community, and they express the communal culture and values through myth, doctrine, and ritual. Worship is probably the most basic element of religion, but moral conduct, right belief, and participation in religious institutions also constitute elements of the religious life. Religions attempt to answer basic questions intrinsic to the human condition (Why do we suffer? Why is there evil in the world? What happens to us when we die?) through the relationship to the sacred or supernatural or (e.g., in the case of Buddhism) through perception of the true nature of reality. Broadly speaking, some religions (e.g., Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) are outwardly focused, and others (e.g., Jainism, Buddhism) are inwardly focused.
Science and Religion.
What is the vacuum?
‘It might even give us some ground to speculate that
the vacuum itself (and hence the universe) is ‘conscious’.
/ Book ‘The quantum self ’ page 208. by Danah Zohar. /
‘If we were looking for something that we could conceive
of as God within the universe of the new physics, this ground
state, coherent quantum vacuum might be a good place to start.’
/ Book ‘The quantum self ’ page 208. by Danah Zohar. /
communication technology has also brought religious crazies together. people will always seek out like minds to communicate with weather by the internet or the pony express , over time however fundamentalism will be in decline. it just takes awhile, the internet has only been available to the general public since 1995, so i would give it a few more decades when instant communication is available to every human on earth. then when we can ALL talk to each other at any time, literally, fundamentalism will die out for the most part
is there not an evolutionary reason why one would want to control a population, i mean if you talk about religion are they (we) including spirituality, not necessarily the worship of a god, but an acknowledgment of something outside our normal existence, this way of seeing the world doesn't even conflict with science, a shaman would not see any conflict, a shamans role is to explore the spirit world and to guide others when experiencing it, but at some point, perhaps with the advent of agriculture and permanent large scale settlements, like cities and states, there became a need to control the populations buy a ruling class, so Government and religion evolve hand in hand, government is the technique of ruling over large groups, Religion became the panacea, the excuse the reason behind a governments power,
is this not something of evolutionary value, 50,000 years ago we as humans lived in small groups numbering 30-40 individuals, the leaders of these groups do not need religion to help lead, common goals and a common good legitimize the leaders of a tribal group, the need to survive as a group, if you then throw in agriculture and can feed 100's of individuals, even 1000's how do the leaders control there community, they create a religion.
you can see a fundamental difference in the spiritual beliefs of more ancient cultures like Australian Aborigines, the Natives of the Amazon basin, Ancient African tribal beliefs, which go back the the very origins of human spirituality. there is no conflict with science and empirical investigation, the Shaman is using his tools ( things like psychedelic substances ) so seek out knowledge and learn new things about the world both physical and spiritual and to explore the human consciousness
religion ( and i mean the western religions ) is a tool of control, so if science is undermining religion those who are religious are going to be in conflict with it, those who lead the religions in there communities will be in conflict with it.
those who do not see or experience there religion as a tool of control ( this can and dose even include people who are christian ) have no conflict with science
my 2 cents anyway
I think part of the issue is that people look at science as simply an institution, or some way of study while not thinking about the fact that the term is ambiguous. Ambiguous, in that it also means "a method of learning about the physical universe by applying the principles of the scientific method, which includes making empirical observations, proposing hypotheses to explain those observations, and testing those hypotheses in valid and reliable ways" ( http://www8.nos.noaa.gov/coris_gloss....aspx?letter=s )
In short, science isn't here to make you feel good, or to answer these Big Questions of God, a potential afterlife, etc. until it has the theories, ability, and methodology to do so. Scientists can expound on what they believe to be the case or lack of case for God, but at this juncture it is conjecture and speculation more than actual testing. Knowing the limitations of science is as valuable as knowing what it can teach, and teach well. The same could be said of religion.
Obviously my short but to the point comment did exactly what it was meant to do...It got yours and others attention. Yes, it was a short and some what immature comment as it was mean to be. However, your long drawn out comment went absolutely no where other than to scold me. Religions are special to people and I understand this but there comes a point when societies need to keep myth and spirituality personal. This is not the case in America and yes it does bother me. As long as we continue ACT as if religion is somehow equal to science or should be considered an alternate to the scientific method society will suffer. One has proven beyond a shadow of doubt to have advanced society, saved billions of lives while the other has done niether. One is personal and should be kept personal while the other should be what guides societies.
I will be more than willing to discuss why I made my comment if so needed...Otherwise I accept your motherly scolding for what it is.
Repression of "academic freedom." That's the new thing. The Flying Spaghetti Monster argument still applies. Ever since Galileo (and Newton really spelled it out) science has been a naturalistic enterprise; of course, those two were devout Christians, but they understood that you can't study the world with all that religious baggage. A hypothesis that includes an invisible, intelligent agency isn't a scientific hypothesis. The "freedom" that they want is the "freedom" to eat potato chips and call it caviar. Ben Stein's "Expelled" was all about it. On top of being intellectually deficient, it was also really poorly film-making.
Most of the panel discussion was really painful. Dennett objected to "scienticism," and then defined "naturalism" in almost exactly the same terms Hott (I think was his name) used. And there's the real problem. There never was any need for this term "scienticism." The terms "naturalism" and "materialism" cover all the ground that needs to be covered. The popularizers of that term as well as "fundamentalist atheist" were trying to invent straw men to burn, as Dennett suggested but really should have said more about.
Dennett let both of the other panelists get away with calling science a religion that people believe by faith. He never even called them to task about it. For what it's worth, Joseph Campbell, recognized as one of the world's foremost religious scholars during his life, said that every culture ever discovered had a series of stories that included two key features: a creator god and an afterlife. That was his definition of "religion." That is *exactly* what naturalism does not have. Hott's definition of "faith" wasn't clear enough for me to say that it was wrong, and no one seems to be able to define this term in any sensible way. Let me just say that if, by faith, people know to a certainty that halfway around the world two thousand years ago that there was this one particular guy who walked on water, faith is something that I do not have and do not understand how anyone could have it. Mark Twain once said, "faith means believing things that you know aren't true." That's better than any other definition that I've ever heard.
The moderator didn't want Dennett to talk about creationists for fear of making a "distorted argument" that doesn't deal with reality. Meanwhile, 40% of the American population doesn't believe in evolution (Conservapedia claims that it's 60% and growing and includes 2/3 of medical doctors). The "distorted argument" that doesn't deal with reality is having the only religious individual on the panel being this theologian who's hanging onto the idea that that book of fairy tales is kind-of-sort-of-in-a-way-almost-something-like-truth, a belief that is condemnable in its own right but is not representative of what we mean when we say "religious people in America."
In my view, the concept of fundamentalism is wrongly attributed with Islam/Islamic teachings.The veritable truth is that the socio,politico, strategic/economic thinking which come under the cover of protecting the interests of a particular group/ nation/ community may be linked with the core/centripetalisation of fundamental attitude or deportment.Given this conceptual spectrum,One may better discern the ongoing ideological/hypothetical perils that the international community seems to have been facing.