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on 9 April 2012
Pascal Boyer has been writing within the field of the cognitive science of religion for some time - this revision of a lecture finds him at his most accessible and combative, not polemical (Boyer is no Dawkins) but challenging. If you have a problem with evolution, as evident in a highly unbalanced 1 star review that shows no understanding whatsoever of a now well-established field of scholarly endeavour, you are unlikely to take to Boyer's argument. If you do not have a problem with Darwin's dangerous idea, you may well find this extension of Darwinism fascinating. If, like this reviewer, you wholeheartedly agree with Boyer that 'all theocratic societies are versions of Hell on earth' you will definitely want a copy on your bookshelf.
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on 17 August 2011
In 1943, modern science took a huge step forward when Erwin Schrodinger, one of the pioneers of Quantum Physics, gave two lectures at Trinity College in Dublin on "What is Life?" and "Matter and Mind". This was the first time that a scientist would admit that his science had limitations and did not explain the whole of reality. He recognized, with surprise and regret, that the principles of Physics could not explain the new science of Molecular Biology and that his science had found a border that it could not cross and a natural barrier to applying the principles and conclusions of Quantum Physics to life forms.

What he recognized was that Quantum Physics was not a universal science, but a study of one aspect of reality and that its principles and laws could not explain the phenomena revealed by the life sciences, in particular, molecular biology, which at that time was in its infancy and has to await the discovery of DNA a decade later to reveal the inner workings of life forms.

This was true, even though atoms, protons, electrons, photons and other micromatter particles were part of the composition of living cells, but the cells themselves did not follow the laws of Physics. Here were two physical realities, joined together in a unity, each following its own laws, one the material subtratum of the other, and neither interfering with each other's activities or composition. What ir revealed to Schrodinger was a new worls of physical reality that in some respects contradicted the composition of matter, as he knew it, giving new forms to matter that he found startlingly strange and wonderful, for which, in his own science, there was no explanation. Nature itself had placed a barrier beyond which the laws of physics did not apply, even though the subatomic particles that were part of the composition of life forms still followed their own laws without interference.

Pascal Boyer has written a book with the title "The Fracture of Illusion", one of many he has authored in a similar genre. amd with this literary output he has become the high priest of evolutionary biology. But there is a streak of exaggeration in the text of his books and he uses mathematical and socioological terminology with abundance, as if the solution the religion were a mathemtical and sociological question.

The fact is that there is no hard, scientific, clearly demonstrable evidence that evolutionary biology is the etiology of religion, or of anything that is specifically human. In his summary of biological factors to support his view, he overlooks the fact that DNA reveals data in two directions: lines of inheritance going backward to ancestsors and lines of inheritance that immediately effect the human organism itself. The first does not extend beyond the immediate bearers of these lines of inheritance, the parents, and the second does not go beyond the somatic and psychsomatic structure of the human embryo. This is a fact thas has puzzled molecular biologists for a long time, with a hint that Erwin Schrodinger was right in recognizing that there are borders and barriers within nature itself that cannot be crossed by trying to apply the principles of one science with those of another. In this case, Dr. Boyer tries to apply principles that apply to the biologyh of non-human mammalian species to the somatic and psychomatic structure of Homo Sapiens. It simply does not work, and the dirty little secret in evolutionary studies at this time is that evolutionary science cannot demonstrate that Darwin's evolutionary principles of Natural Selection, Behavior Modification and Survival of the Fittest have any scienific bearing on human beings at all. Martin Nowak has demonstrated that the third principle, Survival of the Fittest, is erroneous and it may not be long before the other two are proven untenable as well. Supposition and presumption have replaced scientific investigation and the interpretations that have been given to the DNA sequences of human beings are all bsed on the presumption that the DNA sequences of Homo Sapiens are of the same order as the DNA sequences of non-human mammalian species.

The first hurdle in evolutionary science that could not be explained was that the biology of the human species had no effect upon human thought, human behavior, human judgment or religion. There is a barrier there that biology cannot cross, and this confirms the experience fo Erwin Schrodinger in regard to Physics and Molecular Biology. Molecular Biology in human beings has purely psychosomatic effects, the building up of cells, DNA structure and the organs of sense and feeling.

The parallel with the relationship of Quantum Physics to Molecular Biology is the same as the parallel of Microbiology to Homo Sapiens. There is a barrier in Molecular Biology that Molecular Biology cannot explain, and that is because the biological working and structure are part of a HUMAN organism and serves the purpose of a HUMAN life, leaving what is uniquely human in the organism totally unaffected by purely biological phenomena. This is not the first time that such a mistake has been made in evolutionary science. Generalizations do not work in the empirical sciences and without a knowledge of specifics, it is not true science we are talking about.

This book in particular is loaded with biological and evolutinary information that is true only of non-human mammalian species, and his attempt to demonstrate that human reason, behavor and religion are the products of evolution is nowhere demonstrated with scientific accuracy.

Religion is a cosmological question and is the result of human reason contemplating the Cosmos. It is an "emergence" from the senses, from DNA or from an invastion of evolutionary powers on the human psyche. It is an act of reason that looks to causes and is the recognition of a Primary Cause behind the multitude of Secondary Causes that make up the Cosmos. That Primary Cause cannot be reached by empirical science, evolutionary, biological, geological or asttonomical. It is reached by Dmonstrative Science, which is as old as Aristotle and is the science that is the rule and foundation of all other sciences.

Father Clifford Stevens
Boys Town, Nebraska
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