Sunday, March 04, 2007

A Good Article Remembered; On Andrew Sullivan

I was thinking tonight about this article I read in Salon a while back, so I went and re-read it. From the article:

From a biological point of view, there are lots of different theories about why we have this extraordinary predisposition to believe in supernatural things. One suggestion is that the child mind is, for very good Darwinian reasons, susceptible to infection the same way a computer is. In order to be useful, a computer has to be programmable, to obey whatever it's told to do. That automatically makes it vulnerable to computer viruses, which are programs that say, "Spread me, copy me, pass me on." Once a viral program gets started, there is nothing to stop it.

Similarly, the child brain is preprogrammed by natural selection to obey and believe what parents and other adults tell it. In general, it's a good thing that child brains should be susceptible to being taught what to do and what to believe by adults. But this necessarily carries the down side that bad ideas, useless ideas, waste of time ideas like rain dances and other religious customs, will also be passed down the generations. The child brain is very susceptible to this kind of infection. And it also spreads sideways by cross infection when a charismatic preacher goes around infecting new minds that were previously uninfected.

What got me to thinking about that again was Andrew Sullivan's ongoing debate with atheist Sam Harris. I've read a few installments, and that's enough for me. I personally don't find it all that interesting or useful.

Andrew Sullivan, who was born in England (in 1963) and is gay, professes to be a good Catholic and a true conservative. He also has a lot of valuable education. (Wikipedia bio here.) While I think he's been bad for our country (and for gays) and at times wish he would return to England, I still find it interesting to watch him, to observe his "child brain"--infected with "bad ideas, useless ideas, waste of time ideas" emanating from his religion--in constant struggle with his homosexuality and intellect.

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