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Is this the First Pro-Science Pope?
Why So Many Scientists Believe In God?
To say that religion and science are completely incompatible is somewhat of an overstatement-not to mention a useless way to bring what could be an interesting discussion to a grinding halt. Broadly speaking, religion and science are two frameworks for making sense of our place in the world. Furthermore, many devout people believe in science and plenty of scientists undoubtedly have some kind of faith in their lives.
Here, Julian poses a question: did humans evolve to believe in God? Can evolution help explain why religious faith has been such a constant in human history? There's some interesting research that has looked into these types of questions. A study recently published in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience looked at a small sample of college students, placing a small magnetic inhibitor on some of their brains. The subjects then engaged in a conversation about the afterlife, God, heaven and hell. Those with their brain inhibited said they believed in those religious principles almost a third less often than the students in the uninhibited group. The researchers concluded that religion could be a method of solving problems. In an extreme sense, death and human mortality is a fundamental challenge-an extremely difficult concept, if nothing else. These researchers wrote that religion is a means of addressing the problem-not unlike how we would utilize a fallen tree to cross a river.
Other scientists have had similar findings. Famed atheist Richard Dawkins once compared the role of religion in human evolution to a moth's relationship to a flame. Overtime, moths have come to utilize sources of light for survival and migration. His argument is that humankind's religious faith has some relation to areas of the brain that have become advanced with human evolution. However, religion can actually impede human progress today (we all know what happens when a moth hits a flame.
What do you think? Can religion and science peacefully co-exist? Let us know in the comments below.
Research that is simply beyond belief (Eurekalert)
"New research involving a psychologist from the University of York has revealed for the first time that both belief in God and prejudice towards immigrants can be reduced by directing magnetic energy into the brain."
Is Believing In God Evolutionarily Advantageous? (NPR)
"For decades, the intellectual descendants of Darwin have pored over ancient bones and bits of fossils, trying to piece together how fish evolved into man, theorizing about the evolutionary advantage conferred by each physical change. And over the past 10 years, a small group of academics have begun to look at religion in the same way: they've started to look at God and the supernatural through the lens of evolution."