Sunday, May 25, 2008

On Jane Goodall, apes, human uniqueness, and God

As New Scientist has published yet another piece on why humans are supposedly not so special (about which more later maybe), a friend reminds me of a comment by primate specialist Jane Goodall, contemplating the Cathedral of Notre Dame:

"How could I believe it was the chance gyrations of bits of primeval dust that had led up to that moment in time-the cathedral soaring to the sky; the collective inspiration and faith of those who caused it to be built …and the mind that could, as mine did then, comprehend the whole inexorable progression of evolution? Since I cannot believe that this was the result of chance, I have to admit anti-chance. And so I must believe in a guiding power in the universe-in other words, I must believe in God" - Jane Goodall (1999) Reason for Hope: A Spiritual Journey Warner Books Inc, New York, NY

My own response to the sort of claims made in the New Scientist article is that I will take the claims seriously when I discover a primate ape (or wait, I will settle for a dolphin or an octopus) that is struggling with the question of what differentiates humans from their species. Even asking such questions or considering them important puts us clearly on one side of a great divide, however we came to be here and whatever it means. Consider the intelligent apes in Planet of the Apes. I don't know if they would build Notre Dame, but they would build something that embodied ideas in a way that the apes at the local sanctuary will not do, because they feel no inner need to do it.

You can read an excerpt on line.

Incidentally, she also says,
I was taught, as a scientist, to think logically and empirically, rather than intuitively or spiritually. When I was at Cambridge University in the early 1960s most of the scientists and science students working in the Department of Zoology, so far as I could tell, were agnostic or even atheist. Those who believed in a God kept it hidden from their peers.

Generally, people do not learn materialism from science, they interpret science in the darkness of materialism.

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