Monday, December 24, 2012

Stacking the deck on faith at Christmas, part two

Jonathan Sacks is worse, far worse, than Simon Critchley, who was the focus of my immediate prior blog post.

Sacks, in Britain, is chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, so his claims, overblown as they are, are not Christian-specific.

First are the obligatory nods, wrong ones, to neuroscience and behavioral psychology. Mirror neurons are overblown, Mr. Rabbi. And Kahnemann's fast-vs-slow thinking has little to do specifically with religion. (Indeed, in orthodox Christianity's past, many an alleged which was burned as the stake based on "fast" thinking; religion has no monopoly on slow thinking.)

That's why this is dreck:
If this is so, we are in a position to understand why religion helped us survive in the past — and why we will need it in the future. It strengthens and speeds up the slow track.  
Sachs, content to quote pop science when it suits his ends. But, when it comes to the empirical basis of science, not so fast! For these claims, and those that continue later in his paragraph, like this:
It reconfigures our neural pathways, turning altruism into instinct, through the rituals we perform, the texts we read and the prayers we pray.
He is perfectly content to make these claims without a shred of evidence, of course.

And, this is why I actually prefer fundamentalists at times compared to the more liberally religious, who will dip their toes into the waters into behavioral psychology, or biblical archaeology, then dive full in to a 2-inch-deep pool while pretending it's not a 2-inch-deep pool.

Related to this just above, while Robert Putnam has had some good sociological observations, he too is overblown. And, as for religious persons' contributions to charity, that one is way overblown. (For one thing, if church operations, etc., count as charity ...)

Beyond that is the dreck of claiming that all of these findings from evolution, about the nature of altruism, along with fast-vs-slow thinking, etc., find their "summa" in organized religion.

Nonsense. Given how fast organized religions have, in just the past two centuries, and within different liberal or conservative strains, stripped their gears on the morals of slavery, women's rights and gay and lesbian rights, to take three biggies, show that Sachs is, per Wolfgang Pauli, "not even wrong."

And beyond that, on slavery? In both UK and US, much of the push for abolition was from secular sources.

No comments: