Tuesday, January 23, 2007

David Byrne = Neville Chamberlain?   posted by amnestic @ 1/23/2007 05:55:00 PM

I like David Byrne. He makes interesting music and visual art, and now he's making an interesting journal.

This is why intelligent people can be religious. That's an arrogant statement - it presumes that religion and intelligence are incompatible, that anyone with any sense wouldn't believe in unproven supernatural faith-based scenarios. But of course that is not the case. I personally might believe (believe!) that many religious beliefs are irrational and verge on lunacy - but I can both see their efficacy - their attraction and usefulness - and sense their beauty. One does not have to be a Catholic to stand in awe of the Sistine Chapel ceiling; be Muslim to hear the lure of the soulful cry of the muezzin and sense the power of the mass dance of the faithful in prayer; be Hindu or Jewish to read and enjoy a text that is often chock full of amazing and surprising metaphors and analogies. These dances, music, images, metaphors are, I sense, deep-rooted - they are like the neural propensities for grammatical structures that Chomsky goes on about - and are therefore similarly genetically inheritable. The dance that is religion has evolved within us, to be released and expressed in a thousand different forms, none of which make logical sense, and all of which, if looked at literally, require a large helping of denial. God is in the wiring, bequeathed by the genes.

To me, this is why the current (tiny) wave of atheism - the recent books by Dawkins, Dennett and Harris, for example - are also in denial. They deny that this propensity for people to believe is innate. Yes, they admit that religion offers many comforts and assurances, security and community - very attractive and seductive - but they stop short at admitting that we are genetically predisposed to believe, that it is in our very nature, a part of what it means to be human. Maybe an illogical part, but that all our innate evolved characteristics are not practical forever (context changes, the world changes) or even rational, from some points of view (does the peacock's tail have to be THAT big? Isn't all that just a wee bit of a wasteful allocation of resources?)

More on GNXPy business:

Among recent evidence for continuing evolution are the Ashkenazi Jews. It seems that possibly as a result of being banned from many labor and work opportunities over the last 1000 years, this mainly Eastern European gene pool has evolved a higher than average intelligence (12-15 points higher than average). The blowback from repression is the creation of a super race. Poetic justice of a twisted sort.

Other evidence:

Gene CCR5-Δ32 a gene found in certain parts of Africa affords some protection against HIV.

Gene DRD4 is the dopamine receptor gene. It has become more common in the last few thousand years. It is positively selected for, so it will probably become even more common as time goes by. It is also associated with attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity. Why humans should evolve FAVORING those conditions is still a mystery. My guess is that those conditions are the flip side of a genetic coin whose face side offers a more obvious suitability and advantage and, being linked on the same gene, you unfortunately get the bad along with the good. Aren't the dopamine receptors also somehow related to the pleasure centers of the brain?

This could also be like the schizophrenia/creativity link mentioned in an earlier posting, or the genius-geek/autism link. A taste of Fugue gives a nice buzz, but too much and it's your last meal.

Super race? "Never yet has there been a superman. I have seen them both naked, the greatest and the smallest men:—and they are still all-too-similar to one another. Verily, even the greatest I found to be all-too-human."