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I am writing as I juggle with a dilemma - do I listen to Radio 5 and keep up to date with West Brom's crucial game with Coventry or listen to the first part of my Radio 4 series on the evolutionary and neurological foundations of religious belief. Maybe I'll do what I hope some of my readers might do, and listen to the programme on iplayer.

There is a link between the programme and the fantastic discussion taking place in response to the posts about 21st century enlightenment. I will write a fuller post responding to some of these points tomorrow, but a point raised in a couple of comments is that I should be aware of threats to the principles of the original enlightenment, particularly in the form of religiously based attacks on secularism and science. 

As a non-believer, making the programme challenged any tendencies I had towards simplistic antipathy towards religion. The key points I took from the research and interviews were:

  • We appear to have an innate predisposition towards supernatural belief, with the most interesting explanations lying in how young children's thinking about themselves and the world develops.
  • In relation to the debate between adaptationists - who think religion played an important evolutionary role - and advocates of by-product theory - who say that religious belief is merely an accidental consequences of other aspects of our development, I tend to favour the former.
  • I found it interesting that most of those people who report having vivid religious experiences are (otherwise) perfectly rational, and they seem to live more effective and fulfilled lives after the experience.
  • Since I haven't heard the final version of the programmes it will be interesting to see whether these points feature in the final cut.

    It would be great if you listened and told me what you think


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