Friday, November 09, 2007

Theories of brain evolution: Evolving brain or revolving door?

At the end of a long discussion of useless theorizing about how the brain might have evolved, Creation-Evolution Headlines kindly says of The Spiritual Brain:
Given the standoff in evolutionary explanations, how about a radical alternative? It’s not really radical; in fact, it is time-tested, logically coherent and self-evident. It enjoyed epistemic priority throughout the classical, medieval and Enlightenment periods. It is the non-reductionist position that the mind is non-material; the brain is an instrument of a spiritual reality that, while constrained by matter, cannot be reduced to its material components. A new book has dusted off this long-accepted truism and explored it within the findings of modern neurobiology. Written by neuroscientist Mario Beauregard and journalist Denyse O’Leary, The Spiritual Brain is getting lively and enthusiastic reviews on

Obviously, the brain evolved. We have brains. Stromatolites didn't. But I suspect that many people who are currently enquiring into brain evolution are looking for something that isn't actually there: How intelligence arose without any order, meaning, or purpose in the universe. They will not get real answers because they put all their energy into protecting their kludges.

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Theocracy, theocracy, a theme for thee but not for me ...

In New English Review, Theodore Dalrymple takes on the recent spate of atheist books:
The new atheists are quite right to see the threat of theocracy in Islamism. But in attacking all religion, they are like the French government which banned not only the wearing of the headscarf in schools, but the wearing of all religious insignia whatsoever, despite the fact that wearing a Star of David or a crucifix has and had a completely different social signification from wearing a headscarf. In the name of non-discrimination, the French government failed to discriminate properly: and proper discrimination is, or ought to be, practically the whole business of life. If there were large numbers of Christians or Jews who were in favour of establishing a theocracy in France, who had a recent record of terrorism, and who terrorised each other into the wearing of crucifixes and Stars of David, then the banning of those insignia would have been justified too. The wearing of the headscarf should be permitted again when Islam has become merely one personal confession among others, without the political significance that it has now.

In attacking all religion so indiscriminately, the atheist authors are, I am sure inadvertently and unintentionally, strengthening the hand of the Islamists. In arguing, for example, that for parents to bring up a child in any religious tradition, even the mildest of Anglicanism, is to abuse a child, with the natural corollary that the law should forbid it (for how can the law permit child abuse?), some of the authors are giving ammunition to the Islamists, who will be able with justice to say to their fellow-religionists, See, it is all or nothing. If you give the secularists an inch, they will take a mile. No compromise with secularism is possible, therefore; cleave unto us.

And I will spoil no more for you.

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Sure, I love praise from people I respect - who doesn't?

Someone I respect writes to say about The Spiritual Brain:
"Wow, what a story. I want to let you know that I was sick at the end of last week and spent most of my sick-day reading your book. Wow. Excellent. Since I know your 'voice,' I could hear it loud and clear through the pages. I was absolutely captivated by the book and I learned a ton and found it thoroughly enjoyable. Great work, and thanks for all the time you put in. I can imagine recommending it to various friends in the future."

As long as they find it as much fun as you do ...

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