April 27, 2009

Why We Believe in Gods - Evolutionary Psychology and Religion

There was a lecture recently posted on richarddawkins.net (though I found out about it through pharyngula) that might be of interest for some of you.

It's a talk by Dr. Andy Thomson, (a psychiatrist from back home in Virginia!) concerning religion from the perspective of evolutionary psychology and cognitive neuroscience. It's quite a nice (and I think convincing) lecture. Essentially, his thesis is that religion is a cultural artifact or byproduct (like music) that has hijacked specific traits/modules in our brains that once provided a selective advantage for living in a social world (SCI anyone?). Of course, I cannot do his argument justice. You will have to watch it (if you haven't already) and decide for yourself. Though, remember, it's a normal academic talk . . . so it's about an hour long . . . but there's a brief Q&A near the end. The video is posted below, check it out and see what you think:


By the by, if you are not all video-ed out and you have some interest in that work by Simon Baron-Cohen, which Thomson mentioned, then check this video from the Edge website out! Besides being the brother of Sacha Baron-Cohen, Simon is a brilliant psychologist from the University of Cambridge. His work mostly concerns research on autism and theory of mind. The talk posted on the Edge site is about his experiments on how people can read the emotional expressions of others just by looking at their eyes. Specifically, he's examining sex differences on whether women can read emotional expressions from people's eyes quicker than men.

Well, that's about it. There's your two for one! Enjoy!

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