Can a Scientific Worldview Deliver the Benefits of a Religious One?

Can a Scientific Worldview Deliver the Benefits of a Religious One? April 12, 2019

A scientific worldview may be able to provide the advantages of religious belief, but can it avoid the drawbacks?

In the Boston Review, an article explores the question “Can Science Deliver the Benefits of Religion?” The title is a little misleading, since author Tania Lombrozo (Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley) is only talking about the personal benefits to accepting the validity of a scientific construct over a religious approach. Specifically, Lombrozo focuses on the theory of evolution by natural selection as opposed to religious concepts like creationism or intelligent design.

Lombrozo points out that species evolution is one of the most firmly established scientific constructs we have. The common ancestry of life on Earth is supported by mountains of evidence from various scientific disciplines. She wonders, then, why there’s so much opposition to the idea of evolution, especially in the USA.

Why this resistance to human evolution? Religious commitments play a role, to be sure, but pointing to religion isn’t enough to explain why human evolution, in particular, engenders such a chilly reception in Americans’ hearts and minds. After all, a view of the solar system with humans at its center was eventually displaced (if ungracefully), and people aren’t nearly so troubled by the idea that plants evolve. There’s something special about human evolution—something that many find existentially upsetting, even untenable.

The psychological studies Lombrozo cites suggest that there are many personal biases that impede people’s acceptance of evolution. Ideas about purpose, agency and control come into play when we’re talking about the processes that characterize natural history. The notion that we’re no more special than bacteria or birds seems to grate on our assumption of human dominance.

The Personal and the Political

I have no problem with Lombrozo’s analyses, but they only seem to deal with people’s personal preferences. The elephant in the room is the way evolution has always been a battlefield in the culture wars. It’s not just that people don’t understand Darwin’s theory adequately—her studies indicate that students who accept evolution have nearly as many misconceptions about the theory as those who don’t—it’s also the way the idea of evolution by natural selection has been characterized in our culture.

Though Lombrozo quotes Dawkins in her article, she makes no mention of the way science communicators like Dawkins have weaponized evolution to make it sound like atheism with science words. Let’s be honest here. If we’re constantly touting the religion-crushing power of the theory of evolution, it’s sort of disingenuous to wonder why religious people have a hard time accepting the theory.

The main theme of the article is whether the scientific worldview, of which evolution is a major feature, can provide the benefits that religious belief offers:

Can science, with its systematic approach to understanding nature, offer a satisfying portrait of the natural world and our place within it? Can science provide the same existential benefits typically thought to be the sole province of religion?

Once again, Lombrozo examines studies that indicate that scientific knowledge can offer people the same sense of meaning and purpose as a belief in a God-controlled universe. This shouldn’t surprise the skeptics and humanists hereabouts.

However, I wonder whether the “existential benefits that parallel those of religion” include some that aren’t quite so praiseworthy.

Beware of Worldviews Bearing Gifts

Not to belabor the obvious, but religion doesn’t just offer believers things like meaning and purpose. It also frequently offers them opportunities to indulge their sense of superiority, their moral complacency, their intellectual laziness and their reluctance to assume responsibility for bad behavior. As far as these things go. science does just as good a job for us as religion does for believers.

Scientific thinking doesn’t make us immune to delusions of grandeur. It’s common to hear science fans tout their superiority to their benighted ancestors, even though they realize full well that we’re cognitively the exact same as our forebears on the savanna. Technological progress shouldn’t provide the illusion that we’re progressing intellectually or morally. There isn’t only one right way to approach knowledge and methods of inquiry.

We don’t just need a secular basis for our moral complacency, either. Science can also give us the mistaken impression that the social order develops because of genetic and neurological factors rather than power dynamics. Evolutionary psychology attempts to explain complex social and cultural phenomena as the legacy of differential mating strategies in our evolutionary past. Defining social problems and systemic inequities as the inevitable outcomes of algorithmic natural processes can make us apathetic about solving them. Believing that the universe is our cold home, characterized by blind, pitiless indifference, seems like the perfect way to excuse our own pitiless indifference.

A scientific mindset doesn’t prevent intellectual laziness. It’s an interesting irony that the students who affirm the validity of evolution in Lombrozo’s studies aren’t that much better informed about the theory as those who have qualms about it. It’s as if close enough is fine as long as we’re on the right side, and Science says is as much as we need to know about the theory. If a scientific worldview makes us just as averse to ambiguity, and as desperate for control over phenomena, as the average fundie, then that’s no improvement over a religious mindset.

We’re well within our rights to criticize the religious when they pass the buck for bad behavior by claiming they’re “just obeying God’s will.” But bad faith isn’t an exclusively religious phenomenon. When we say that we’re “just following the evidence,” maybe we’re really making the evidence go where we want. We should all use reason in our choices, but we have to acknowledge how easy it is to make premises lead to the conclusions we prefer.

The Light Is Better Here

The problem could be that science isn’t where we should be looking for meaning and purpose, or comfort in the face of mortality. Science is the perfect way to study natural history and the wonders of the universe, but maybe it’s not equipped to describe the best way to live, or the most just society.

What do you think? Can a scientific worldview fulfill our personal, cultural, and moral needs? Can it lead to the same cynicism, irresponsibility, and arrogance that we criticize in people with a religious worldview?

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  • Raging Bee

    Can a Scientific Worldview Deliver the Benefits of a Religious One?

    Depends…what are those benefits again…?

  • ephemerol

    Yes and no…

    History is replete with the creation of etiological myths to satisfy people’s “need” to have explanations of the mysterious, unknown, or inexplicable, often giving the credit—or the blame—to one or more deities. To that extent, the sciences can help. not with fictional etiologies, but with factual ones. Thunder could have been caused by Thor’s hammer, and lighting could have been Zeus’s bolts, but as it turns out, that’s not what it really is after all.

    History is also replete with peoples and rulers writing mythic propagandistic narratives to sugar coat an otherwise dull or perhaps also mysterious and unknown past—or future—which suited people’s “need” to feel either gloriously superior, or gloriously persecuted. Invariably, these myths frequently serve the purpose of denying or covering an unpleasant or unacceptable reality. To the extent that we, as a species have a “need” to lie to ourselves, and are not up to being able to handle the truth, the sciences are going to provide a benefit that, no matter how necessary, will frequently be somewhat less than appreciated.

  • Jim Jones

    At their core, all living things have two drives:

    1. Survive
    2. Reproduce.

    Many religions offer survival after death(!?!?) And they control and promote reproduction.

    Second, the differences between gangs and religions aren’t very strong nor are they numerous. This, ISTM, is telling, since humans really are programmed to live in groups.

    And of course religions offer easy answers. Science may offer true ones, but often they aren’t easy.

  • Mitchell Diamond

    Science and religion are not opposites of the same spectrum. We get caught up thinking that religion functions to explain the existential mysteries, and we assume this is a normal cognitive feature…except it isn’t, at least in other animals. People assume religion just happened out of the blue (kind of like how God created the world), but given that religion has been ubiquitous and everpresent for 10s of 1000s of years in tribes, we need to consider that religious behavior evolved and is therefore selected for. That is if we embrace evolution. It requires a deep dive into what changed in human cognition over the last couple million years, not an easy task. But this idea that religion originated to answer the big questions is secondary. The primary issue is what happened that humans could even ask these questions in the first place when other animals could not.

  • Daniel Dennett made an attempt to deal with religion as a natural phenomenon with selected-for features in Breaking the Spell, and the author of the Boston Review article covers a lot of the same ground with the psychological notion of a “hyperactive agency detector.” Like you said, if we affirm that humans (and our traits and behaviors) evolved over eons, it behooves us to examine the selective advantages that religion in its many forms provided our forebears.

    But if we’re trying to develop a perspective that isn’t religious and still fulfills the needs that religion does for believers, we need to make sure we don’t just create a mindset that panders—like a religious one—to our paranoia, cynicism, arrogance and moral complacency. That’s all I’m saying here.

  • Chuck Johnson

    At their core, all living things have three drives:

    1. Survive
    2. Reproduce.
    3. Evolve

    Number three is the invisible drive that the Darwin-Wallace discovery brought to light.
    This discovery delighted the world of science and scandalized the world of religion.

  • Chuck Johnson

    For thousands of years, religions provided law, education, entertainment, social cohesion and many other benefits. This benefited people living in tribes and people who were creating new civilizations.

    Modern societies now have new and improved ways of providing these kinds of benefits.
    That’s why modern societies can make religions obsolete with out creating much of a problem.

  • Chuck Johnson

    It’s common to hear science fans tout their superiority to their benighted ancestors, even though they realize full well that we’re cognitively the exact same as our forebears on the savanna.

    Shem, it’s obvious to me that we’re cognitively far ahead of our forbears on the savanna.

  • Chuck Johnson

    The notion that we’re no more special than bacteria or birds seems to grate on our assumption of human dominance.

    If you assume that “fitness to survive” is the criterion for specialness or dominance, then humans are the most special and dominant life-form on Earth.

    Human minds and collective human culture are the agents of the specialness and the dominance.

  • Chuck Johnson

    Science can also give us the mistaken impression that the social order develops because of genetic and neurological factors rather than power dynamics.

    Science has never given me that mistaken impression.
    Who are the people that are promoting this mistaken impression ?
    Only very poor quality science would lead to such an impression.

  • Jim Jones

    Your #3 comes out of #1. Evolution (and sexual reproduction) are ways to make a species more able to continue to exist.

  • Chuck Johnson

    No, within Darwinian evolution, neither #1 nor #3 takes precedence.
    I could just as easily say that #1 comes out of #3.

    For billions of years now, surviving has depended upon life’s ability to evolve and evolving has depended upon life’s ability to survive.
    This has been true since the very first self-replicating molecules came into existence.

    Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
    Neither. They both evolved simultaneously.
    New eggs were necessary to get new chickens and new chickens were necessary to get new eggs.

    Within a circle of mutual support, who provides the support and who receives the support ?
    The answer is “everybody”.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=grXDKcsv7KA

  • Shem, it’s obvious to me that we’re cognitively far ahead of our forbears on the savanna.

    Come now. Our brains are no different than those of our ancestors who lived in Africa hundreds of thousands of years back. We just have shinier gadgets and more efficient ways of oppressing and destroying each other. How are we “far ahead” of them cognitively?

    Science can also give us the mistaken impression that the social order develops because of genetic and neurological factors rather than power dynamics.
    Science has never given me that mistaken impression.

    You have to admit, evolutionary psychology tries hard to explain complex social phenomena in terms of the traits that supposedly gave our ancestors selective advantages. And the way DNA has become the basis of how we approach health and personality sounds like 21st century phrenology to me. It’s too complicated to talk about things on a cultural or systemic level, so we fixate on biology instead.

  • Jim Jones

    Read “Blind Injustice” by Mark Godsey.

  • normallen958@aol.com

    Why does science have to deliver the benefits of religion? We use science to help us describe the natural world and our place in it. My question is can PHILOSOPHY or HUMANISM deliver the benefits of religion?

  • SP1: Though Lombrozo quotes Dawkins in her article, she makes no mention of the way science communicators like Dawkins have weaponized evolution to make it sound like atheism with science words.

    GW1: Please explain and give some examples of what you mean by “weaponized evolution to make it sound like atheism with science words.” That doesn’t sound like anything I am familiar with.

    SP1: Scientific thinking doesn’t make us immune to delusions of grandeur.

    GW1: Straw man. Who has said that it does?

    SP1: It’s common to hear science fans tout their superiority to their benighted ancestors, even though they realize full well that we’re cognitively the exact same as our forebears on the savanna. Technological progress shouldn’t provide the illusion that we’re progressing intellectually or morally.

    GW1: We are not “cognitively the exact same as our forebears on the savanna.” How did you ever come to that conclusion? We are progressing intellectually and morally. There are several recent books documenting this, but try Steven Pinker, Michael Shermer, and Dan Barker for some enlightenment on this point of progress.

    SP1: Science can also give us the mistaken impression that the social order develops because of genetic and neurological factors rather than power dynamics.

    GW1: No, not when “science” is broadly conceived to include psychology, sociology, anthropology, and other social sciences.

    SP1: Defining social problems and systemic inequities as the inevitable outcomes of algorithmic natural processes can make us apathetic about solving them.

    GW1: Nonsense! We solve problems because we suffer.

    SP1: Believing that the universe is our cold home, characterized by blind, pitiless indifference, seems like the perfect way to excuse our own pitiless indifference.

    GW1: More nonsense! We solve problems because we suffer. There is no mind in the universe to care about us. We have to care about ourselves.

    SP1: A scientific mindset doesn’t prevent intellectual laziness.

    GW1: Another straw man. Who said that it did?

    SP1: If a scientific worldview makes us just as averse to ambiguity, and as desperate for control over phenomena, as the average fundie, then that’s no improvement over a religious mindset.

    GW1: But it doesn’t do any of those three things.

    SP1: But bad faith isn’t an exclusively religious phenomenon. When we say that we’re “just following the evidence,” maybe we’re really making the evidence go where we want.

    GW1: Or maybe we’re just following the evidence. Which is more likely, if you have a scientific worldview?

    SP1: Science is the perfect way to study natural history and the wonders of the universe, but maybe it’s not equipped to describe the best way to live, or the most just society.

    GW1: But maybe social engineering, using the findings of science, is best equipped to do this.

  • Secular humanism can.

  • “Our brains are no different than those of our ancestors who lived in Africa hundreds of thousands of years back.” Evidence please.

    “Our brains are no different than those of our ancestors who lived in Africa hundreds of thousands of years back” Evidence please.

  • Evolution just happens. There is no drive to evolve. You must be confusing this with something else.

  • Gary, I don’t know why you think you’re within your rights to swoop in and start barking orders at me. But you’re wrong.

    Bye.

  • normallen958@aol.com

    I believe that the one thing secular humanism cannot do is replace a belief in immortality, unless it is replaced with Trans-humanism.

  • Chuck Johnson

    You do not know much about evolution.

  • Chuck Johnson

    Gary, are you a creationist or a fan of Intelligent Design?
    You don’t seem to know the scientific version of evolution.

  • Chuck Johnson

    I looked it over on Amazon.
    It’s still obvious to me that we’re cognitively far ahead of our forbears on the savanna.

    As just one small example, our ancient forbears could never have researched and written a book the way Mark Godsey has done.

  • Chuck Johnson

    Come now. Our brains are no different than those of our ancestors who lived in Africa hundreds of thousands of years back.

    There is plenty of evidence that we have been evolving genetically so fast that a couple of hundred thousand years of evolution would make a noticeable, measurable difference in brain function. Check out PBS Nova “Becoming Human Parts 1,2, and 3.”

    But genetic adaptive evolution is the smaller part of human evolution over the last few hundreds of thousands of years.

    Cultural adaptive evolution makes us far ahead of our ancient ancestors cognitively.
    Our understanding of the universe that we live in is far ahead of the understanding that our ancestors had. Gaining better understandings and insights is a part of biological evolution.

  • Chuck Johnson

    It’s too complicated to talk about things on a cultural or systemic level, so we fixate on biology instead.

    Shem, I have a way for you to get past the dichotomy that you have created.

    Consider biological adaptive evolution to consist of two parts:
    (1) Genetic adaptive evolution.
    (2) Cultural adaptive evolution.

    Evolution (2) is a consequence of evolution (1).
    Brains and minds need to evolve for (2) to become a significant evolutionary force.

    Many animals are able to make use of evolution (2) but only humans are able to use evolution (2) to a spectacular degree.

    The fiber optic cable that connects your keyboard to mine is an example of evolution (2). No other species of animal has been able to grow such an amazing type of neuron-analog.

  • AnglesWithFlies

    Not only is the article thought provoking, the insights I garner from the 18 comments make me glad to have read this article and associated discussions. I came from a deeply religious family, and for 47 years so was I. I finally couldn’t continue to believe what I grew up believing, and ultimately ended up not believing at all. Science gave me the reason for no longer believing the religion I grew up with, and science gave me the courage to leave it. Science helped me learn to interpret myself and the world differently, and I am deeply thankful for the changes. But there was one part of religion that science hasn’t been able to replace; that is the intense beauty of so much of the religious music. I most assuredly appreciate most classical music, but it is the religious music that continues to stir me so deeply, even though I know the devotion it represents is misplaced. I don’t know if this is a common experience for those who have lost their religious beliefs, but it sure is my experience.

  • Mustafa Curtess

    Even if religious influence and power happened concurrently with social progress and we are brainwashed to credit religion for it – religion has only negative influence at the present degree of progress and is obsolete. Man is now learning that delusions and misplaced appreciation aren’t necessary or beneficial and are liabilities.
    Mankind seems to be wakening to the fact that nothing religion has to offer is relative, needed, benign, and certainly not free.
    Anything science may not offer is either fraudulent or negative, or both.
    Science isn’t the enemy pf religion. Religion is its own enemy and none of its failures can be blamed on science. Sience never set out to destroy religion – it is destroying itself by its refusal to progressn and inability to remain relevant.

  • Michael Rogers

    That article seems to miss the point for me, I’m a scientist the definition of that is : A PERSON THAT USES THE EMPIRICAL METHODOLOGY TO DETERMINE THE VALIDITY OF A HYPOTHESIS (MORE OR LESS) That means when any question appears, I use what hard information I have to assign a degree of validity to it.
    Is that person Honest? one can’t make a high probability judgement until you have some hard evidence but you can presume they probably are like most people that they seem to be like to create a low probability appraisal. With more evidence ie experience with them or maybe opinions of trusted others you can increase your estimated probability of them being honest or otherwise. You NEVER KNOW for sure that they are totally honest but can find they aren’t by clearly finding that they have engaged in an illegal activity. All this doesn’t require a statistical analysis of everything but does require that one not make choices for emotional reasons (other than those which have little or no rational reason such as preferences: Roses Vs marigolds, Blond hair Vs brunette, etc.) I find that this allows me to make choices that are almost always good and more importantly NOT make choices that create problems.

  • Michael Rogers

    –and to the ‘other side’ Religion IE superstitious ( definition: behavior that can’t be empirically supported) has a long history of laying bad trips on it’s adherents: How many millions have assured that they were doomed to eternal fire and brimstone because their sexual behavior was at odds with ancient dogma, How many indigenous peoples were enslaved, their lives destroyed, torchered, killed in the name of religion, One of the many despicable tenants of at least one big faith is: forgive me O Lord for I have sinned, believers were/are taught that we are intrinsically bad. parents STILL evict, abuse, sometimes kill their children that they feel have violated their religious dictates. the list goes on! Religion at best is a remnant of our thinking thousands of years ago when we behaved little differently than the so called LOWER animals, We STILL see vestiges of this thinking and behavior in our so called modern society!

  • I’m a scientist the definition of that is : A PERSON THAT USES THE EMPIRICAL METHODOLOGY TO DETERMINE THE VALIDITY OF A HYPOTHESIS (MORE OR LESS) That means when any question appears, I use what hard information I have to assign a degree of validity to it.

    I just consider this fetishizing science. If we’re on a jury or conducting a lab experiment, then we can define what evidence is relevant. But in our lives, we face a lot of questions where facts and evidence aren’t the be-all and end-all of the matter. The more value-laden a problem is, the less useful scientific methodology is going to be in solving it. No matter how rational and scientific we think we’re being, usually we’re just defining evidence and rigging the premises to lead to the conclusion we prefer.

  • Religion at best is a remnant etc.

    Yeah yeah yeah. Look, I’m not religious and no one else here is. But I find this trite sloganeering so tiresome I can’t tell you. We like to think of ourselves as being totally rational and objective, but the way we define religion demonstrates nothing but bias and self-congratulation. Blaming all the world’s problems on religion is just a way we try to evade responsibility for them.

    Like I’m saying in this post, we can’t consider our mindset superior to a religious one if it has all the blind spots and flaws of religious belief.

  • Phil Baldwin

    There certainly evolutionary pressures for altruism, and social behaviour. So not mistaken. And power dynamics could be expressed in evolutionary terms. So the sentence doesn’t make sense.

  • Chuck Johnson

    The primary issue is what happened that humans could even ask these questions in the first place when other animals could not.

    PBS Nova has videos showing how these abilities developed.
    Especially good is “Becoming Human Parts 1,2 and 3.”

    These videos give us the idea that rapidly the changing African climate hundreds of thousands of years ago provided selection pressure for human populations to develop larger brains with increasing intelligence.

    With higher intelligence, humans developed more sophisticated cultures. One of the most significant features of the sophisticated cultures was the evolution of languages.
    Evidently (in my view), the more sophisticated and functional languages created additional selection pressures. Those humans with the greatest intelligence (especially language skills) became the humans best able to survive and best able to pass their greater intelligence onto their offspring.

    If this conjecture of mine is true, then increasing intelligence in the human population produced increased selection pressure for more intelligence. This is a positive feedback mechanism.

    Positive feedback is an interesting phenomenon.
    I have a lot of experience in mixing epoxy resin.
    Large batches must be mixed with great caution. The hardening reaction causes heat to evolve. That increased temperature causes the reaction to proceed more rapidly. That increased reaction speed causes heat to be evolved more rapidly . . . . and so the heating process advances towards “thermal runaway”.

    In thermal runaway, the high temperatures cause the epoxy mixture to steam and then to smoke.
    The batch of epoxy will be ruined if precautions have not been taken to keep the temperature from getting too high.

  • Chuck Johnson

    The primary issue is what happened that humans could even ask these questions in the first place when other animals could not.

    The human invention of sophisticated spoken languages happened.

  • Dhammarato

    brains the same; skill sets are better now. example:learning to read.

  • Dhammarato

    at their core, all living things have 1 drive.
    1. Fuck
    Survival is not a drive, it is a instinct. Evolve is not a drive it is an accident.

  • Dhammarato

    there is not much to know, we just fuck and the rest will happen on its on in time, no drivers needed.

  • Dhammarato

    Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Eggs hands down, eggs have be around long before chickens, even older than dinosaurs, what a stupid 19th century joke of a question to ask a 9 years old. But you as an adult missed it!

  • Chuck Johnson

    You like to tell lies in the comment section.
    It makes you look like an idiot.

  • Play nice, Chuck.

  • Mitchell Diamond

    Chuck, you’re certainly right that language contributed greatly to the advancement of human intelligence and social/cultural progress. But as you say, language was just one of the cognitive developments that came with higher intelligence/larger brain size. Perhaps the biggest cognitive feature that enabled sophisticated language was the ability to grasp and process symbolism and metaphor. Language only works because we are able to associate consistent verbalized sounds with specific items and concepts. It’s so easy and natural for us, we don’t realize what it takes, but we can’t take this skill for granted. That’s where humans outpaced other apes who also have this skill to a far lesser degree, but this more rudimentary consequence of our evolved brain underlies many aspects of our extensive intelligence such as metarepresentation and a theory of mind.

  • Mitchell Diamond

    If fitness to survive is the criterion (and add produce fertile offspring), then humans are reasonably successful. Specialness and dominance are far too subjective and judgmental for agnostic evolution. Besides, arthropods are arguably far more successful based on number of total species as well as number of individuals. Humans have a severe anthropocentric bias precisely because we are human. Sure, our intelligence and culture is unique among species, but every species is unique in its way. And I’m 99% sure that humans as a species will be long gone relatively soon in evolutionary time while the invertebrates will still be thriving.

  • Chuck Johnson

    Yes.
    Our ancestors went beyond the simple ability to put a name to things.
    That simple language skill might have been around for hundreds of thousands of years and might have been used by Neanderthals and other humanoid species.

    “Becoming Human” tells us that the Neanderthals inhabited Europe for hundreds of thousands of years. During all of that time, they lived, hunted and ate the same way. The fossil record shows us their lack of innovation.
    My guess is that the Neanderthals might have been able to speak and represent what exists in the present by putting a name to things.

    But if they wanted to speak about and represent what was, what will be, what could be, what should be, what might be, etc. they were at a loss due to the simplicity of their language.

    Again, from “Becoming Human” we see that around 70,000 years ago, in the southern part of Africa, our ancestors began using cutting tools and other artifacts which were fancy, stylized, decorative and personalized. They were more than just careful copies of ancient patterns. – – – They were works of art.

    Also, around 70,000 years ago, our ancestors began to walk out of Africa and became very successful in displacing the other humanoid species in other parts of the world.

    To me, this degree of success implies that these tribes had a collective mind which shares the ideas of their fellow tribal members and also shares the ideas of tribal members who are no longer alive.
    The kind of collective mind which has no trouble thinking about past, present and future.

    Thought patterns which we now take for granted, but an amazing innovation back then.

  • Chuck Johnson

    “It’s so easy and natural for us, we don’t realize what it takes, but we can’t take this skill for granted. ”

    I am reminded that the Internet combined with the Google search engine comprise an enormous (and growing) knowledge base along with a system (Google) for making word associations, thought associations and image associations with rapidly increasing competence.

    I wonder what the folks at Google could tell us about their hopes and expectations for the future of Google’s thought-association capabilities.

  • Chuck Johnson

    “And I’m 99% sure that humans as a species will be long gone relatively soon in evolutionary time while the invertebrates will still be thriving.”

    That seems very unlikely to me.
    Humans have the ability to evolve very much faster than any other life-form on Earth.

    I am referring to cultural adaptive evolution.
    How long would it take a planetful of arthropods to create system to detect an incoming meteor, launch a series of rocket-ships, connect with the meteor, and then nudge that meteor into a course that misses the Earth ?
    In your estimation ?

    How long would it take a planetful of 21st century humans to pull off the same feat ?
    In your estimation ?

    Or 22nd or 23rd century humans ?

    But don’t tell me that we wouldn’t live that long anyway, because we are self-destructing and the End Is Near.

    The end has been “near” for many thousands of years, over and over.
    Such stories are just entertainment for people who love drama.

    The human race won’t go extinct anytime soon by just disappearing.
    The way to extinction would be by obsolescence.
    We might go extinct by being replaced by an even smarter and more capable species that is a result of further human evolution and innovation.

  • Mike Curnutt

    The one thing that religion provides that science doesn’t is the concept that humans are special; completely different from animal life. I don’t see science addressing that “benefit.”

  • Point well taken, Mike. The common ancestry of life on Earth is a big difference between the scientific and religious worldviews.

    However, a scientific mindset doesn’t automatically provide humility and perspective. The idea that empirical inquiry is our way of “taming Time and Space” and “decoding the Universe” * sounds like the same old Hómo Sap hubris that’s been around for millennia.

    *These are quotes from Dawkins and Krauss respectively.