[asa] Where angels no longer fear to tread

From: Alexanian, Moorad <alexanian@uncw.edu>
Date: Mon Mar 24 2008 - 17:32:47 EDT

http://www.economist.com/science/displaystory.cfm?story_id=10875666

 

Where angels no longer fear to tread

 

Mar 19th 2008

 

From The Economist print edition

 

Science and religion have often been at loggerheads. Now the former has decided to resolve the problem by trying to explain the existence of the latter

 

Illustration by Stephen Jeffrey

 

BY THE standards of European scientific collaboration, EUR2m ($3.1m) is not a huge sum. But it might be the start of something that will challenge human perceptions of reality at least as much as the billions being spent by the European particle-physics laboratory (CERN) at Geneva. The first task of CERN's new machine, the Large Hadron Collider, which is due to open later this year, will be to search for the Higgs boson-an object that has been dubbed, with a certain amount of hyperbole, the God particle. The EUR2m, by contrast, will be spent on the search for God Himself-or, rather, for the biological reasons why so many people believe in God, gods and religion in general.

 

"Explaining Religion", as the project is known, is the largest-ever scientific study of the subject. It began last September, will run for three years, and involves scholars from 14 universities and a range of disciplines from psychology to economics. And it is merely the latest manifestation of a growing tendency for science to poke its nose into the God business.

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That quip, though, makes an intriguing point. Evolutionary biologists tend to be atheists, and most would be surprised if the scientific investigation of religion did not end up supporting their point of view. But if a propensity to religious behaviour really is an evolved trait, then they have talked themselves into a position where they cannot benefit from it, much as a sceptic cannot benefit from the placebo effect of homeopathy. Maybe, therefore, it is God who will have the last laugh after all-whether He actually exists or not.

 

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Received on Mon, 24 Mar 2008 17:32:47 -0400

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