Re: [asa] David S Wilson

From: Randy Isaac <>
Date: Sun May 06 2007 - 10:48:04 EDT

I fully agree, Merv. I think Wilson's approach is insidious and a greater
threat in the long run than the "religion is a parasite" community. Dawkins
& Co. are so overtly provocative that they induce all the anitbodies, even
from the secular world. Wilson, on the other hand, comes as a "friend of
religion" in the sense that he places a high value on it and thinks it is
very beneficial. Many of the defenses are skirted with this approach. In
fact, it resonates with many of the more liberal ends of the theological
spectrum where God's transcendence is downplayed almost to the point of
non-existence while the term "God" is redefined in some nebulous way. Wilson
sees the value of religion in its practical realism and means of exerting a
moral code for the benefit of society. Its basis, or lack thereof, in
objective reality is irrelevant. Thus, it's a kind of "wolf in sheep's
clothing" that undermines the core of Christian faith. It reminds me of one
of the talks given at the 2004 ASA annual meeting on faith and healing. The
talk described the health benefits of faith. But in response to a question
after the talk, admitted that these benefits were independent of the
objective existence of the object of that faith.

I think this is not an easy challenge for us to face. Much more difficult
than Dawkins. We can dismiss the validity of Wilson's research if we wish,
but I suspect a lot more work in this area will be coming along with similar
claims. We do need to articulate the significant difference between the
perception of God's existence and the reality of his existence. Is it only
philosophical or does it make a real difference in our lives?


----- Original Message -----
From: "Merv" <>
To: "Randy Isaac" <>; <>
Sent: Sunday, May 06, 2007 10:04 AM
Subject: Re: [asa] David S Wilson

> Randy Isaac wrote:
>> Religion. Wilson says there are six hypotheses of religion, 3 of them
>> non-adaptive and 3 adaptive. I didn't catch the non-adaptive ones but
>> the 3 adaptive ones are individual level, group level, and parasitic.
>> His own approach is group level adaptive and he strongly disagrees
>> with Dennett, Hitchens, Dawkins, Stenger, etc. who have focused on
>> the parasitic view of religion. Wilson believe the data strongly
>> favor a very positive role of religion in group survival.
> Some would then be tempted to see Wilson as an ally then against Dawkins &
> Co. But the question of whether or not Wilson is hostile to or friendly
> to religion is a good one. This would be a case where there is a choice:
> to analyze something from without, thereby denying yourself (and your
> followers) any participating role in the thing analyzed (religion). Or to
> participate in the thing accepted as good, thereby giving up one's status
> as an independent observer. In this regard, Wilson is coming to terms by
> doing what Dawkins refuses to do: instead of banishing religion, try to
> replace its foundation of a transcendent God with that of Science. Maybe
> this is splitting hairs, though, as I imagine Dawkins wouldn't have much
> problem with this. Wilson just doesn't seem to get so paranoid about the
> word "religion" and acknowledging a potentially religious direction one
> could take using science for a foundation. But his analysis, friendly
> though it seems at places, must remain an alien thing to a culture that
> participates in religion. As Lewis stated so well (in the "Abolition of
> Man" I think) It is a shame when a man ceases to smell the rose and
> becomes aware of himself smelling the rose. Or elsewhere he writes, that
> a man does not consider his religion when he is practicing it -- he is too
> busy being religious. He has no time to study himself being religious --
> or if he does, he has to temporarily step outside his own religion and
> stop being religious to do it. Wilson's denial of God is a denial of
> the very thing he wishes to see the good effects from. But for those who
> believe that the sole good purpose of religion lies in this world and this
> world only (which may include a great many liberal Christians today) ,
> Wilson's challenge may be insurmountable. I think it wise for us to
> consider how we can answer him.
> --Merv

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Received on Sun May 6 10:48:35 2007

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