Reason™ is not going to save the world

Should we be all rational, all the time? Not if we want the planet to survive. The human animal needs sacred boundaries to tell us in advance that some things are off-limits. Otherwise, economic rationalism will steamroll the earth. Read more

Newsflash: Elite universities are supposed to produce elites. That’s their job.

What is elite education for? Academics’ self-image as noble rebels – more prominent in Ivy League that backwater state schools – is actually enabling the increasing self-focus and self-absorption of the American ruling classes. Read more

The culture wars come for public higher education

The evangelical Christian governor of Wisconsin is about to enact a set of laws that will effectively gut the University of Wisconsin – my alma mater. This makes it a lot harder to be objective about the culture wars. Read more

Animals evolve. People evolve. Can groups evolve?

It seems as if, evolutionarily speaking, groups are real entities. Mathematical modeling and lab studies show that they don’t have to be discrete replicators, churning out unique copies of themselves, for for this to be true. What does this mean for the evolution of culture? Read more

Religion and evolution, part deux

Rollicking debates about evolutionary theory are crucial for understanding how religion evolved – because many of the most fertile hypotheses about religious behavior are directly related to questions of group cooperation. Read more

Anthropology, not demagoguery, is the way to understand ISIS

Blaming ISIS on generic religious irrationality makes us completely blind to the social processes that are actually happening. People really do have more needs than superficial prosperity. When these deeper needs aren’t met, things get ugly. Read more

Is religion evolutionarily adaptive?

Darwinian evolution is amoral. Evolutionary adaptations are often extremely nasty. Genetically maladaptive behavior can be subjectively wonderful. We should never get Darwinian success mixed up with objective goodness. Read more

Is belief in heaven good for you? No. Yes. Maybe.

Belief in hell is good for society – it frightens people into shaping up, toeing the line, and playing by the rules. But this fear of God isn’t so great for people at the individual level. A loving, forgiving God is psychologically better for you than believe in a punitive and angry one. Read more

Comments aren’t for atheist evangelism

Interreligious tensions in Europe are growing and American religious resistance to evolution slouches on intransigently. We’ll need to actually understand religion if we want to deal with these issues, and that’s why I’m moderating this comment board more strictly from now on. Read more

Why the religion-science dialogue needs secular religious studies

Secular religious studies could add vibrant insight to a dialogue whose main purpose is to achieve rapprochement between religion and science. Read more

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