‘Nuff Said Award Winner: Lord Robert May On Religion’s Connection To Authoritarianism, Its Past Uses, And Its Current Fundamentalist Risk

via Jerry Coyne come remarks from Oxford’s Lord Robert May, president of the British Science Festival and  former chief scientific adviser to the British government, expressing views which I think are in keeping with (while further developing) the broader philosophical pictures that I lay out here, here, herehere, here, and, most of all, here.

Lord May, a mathematical biologist, said in his presidential address to the conference, that co-operation between people globally will be needed more than ever in the coming decades but added he feared that to make sure it worked there had to be some kind of mechanism that punished those who cheated others. In the past, the ultimate punisher was God.

He said that punishment was much more effective if it came from “some all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful deity that controls the world”, rather than from an individual person.

“In such systems, there is unquestioning respect for authority. Faith trumps evidence. But if indeed this is broadly the explanation for how co-operative behavior has evolved and been maintained in human societies, it could be very bad news. Because although such authoritarian systems seem to be good at preserving social coherence and an orderly society, they are, by the same token, not good at adapting to change.”

The rise of fundamentalism, not just in the Muslim world but in the United States, and within the Catholic church, could actually make global co-operation more difficult at a time when an unprecedented level of teamwork was needed, Lord May said. “If you take the view that in times of stress, authoritarian hierarchies tend to resist change, what the history of religion has been has been towards a softening, less dogmatic values, but under stress you simplify complex problems to simple mantras,” he said.

‘Nuff Said.

Your Thoughts?

A Moral Philosopher on The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson
How To Criticize Religion. Part 3: Address The Question of “True Religion” With Nuance
Comparing Humanism and Religion and Exploring Their Relationships to Each Other
ISIS’s Iconoclasm, The Bible, and The Problem With Taking Literalism Literally
About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X