Are we evolving away from belief in God? Why did thousands of intelligent people let themselves be deceived by investment fraud king Bernie Madoff? Is morality really in decline in the West and can it be reconstructed?
Such questions are in the air at a seminar on science, morality and the mind at Cambridge University, this weekend sponsored by the Templeton Foundation. I've participated in the Templeton-Cambridge Fellowships in Science & Religion since 2005. And for the next few days, I'd like to bring you along for a taste of the lectures and discussions.
Michael Reiss, Professor of Science at the Institute of Education University of London, a specialist in evolutionary biology (and an ordained Anglican priest) walked us through the history of theories on altruism as an evolutionary phenomenon (like vampire bats who support each other by offering up blood if a mate didn't succeed in his own hunting) and the advantages of being good at deception (think Bernie Madoff).
So understanding how the mind can evolve to do mathematics is separate from deciding if a particular theorem is good. Translated to evolution, biology and society, it means it might have been safer in some times and societies if you thought there were gods. "But that doesn't answer the question of whether there actually are Gods."
"Is God actually dying?" mused Barbara Bradley Hagerty of National Public Radio.
"I'm not a prophet," quipped Reiss. "I have absolutely no idea." Still, he observed, human conceptions of the divine are very different today than in the past, different often than their own parents, and that it would not be surprising if they continued to change.
Whose idea of God is the definitive one, the one that can be said to be living, dying or changing?Where do you think God came from and if our idea of God vanishes, does God?