Dienstag, 12. Juni 2007

The population genetics of inborn religious traits

At Gene Expression I cannot find anything about this (Medicalnewstoday). Are they sleeping?

What Makes A Racist? And Other Provocative Questions
At The Institute Of Advanced Study Debate, Durham University, April 26, 2007

Some of the world's finest scientists, writers and evolutionary thinkers are converging on Durham for a major event which will examine provocative questions relating to fundamental human beliefs and spirituality.

The debate, to be hosted by the University's pioneering think tank, the Institute of Advanced Study, will debate two key issues: 'Are we born racist or do we become racist?', and 'Is religion inherited or acquired?'.

The event will be chaired by Durham University's new Vice Chancellor, world-renowned scientist and evolutionary geneticist, Professor Chris Higgins, and discussions will be stimulated by a round table of leading experts in their field.

Professor Ash Amin, Director of the Institute of Advanced Study, outlined the inspiration for the event:

"9/11, the wider war on terror, and the intensifying clash of world civilizations are reinforcing essentialist understandings of human difference and recognition. We are seeing the resurgence of biological readings of race and racial difference, the rise and rise of religious fundamentalism, and growing skepticism towards secularist and socially negotiated principles of living with difference.

"These shifts, as well as possible solutions relating to religious and racial tolerance and understanding, hinge around the unresolved problem of whether differences of behaviour, disposition, and affect are inherited, and, if they are, through what evolutionary mechanism?"

Prof Amin added: "The panel aims to confront thinking in genetics and evolutionary psychology on the carriers and nature of inherited traits and on the speed with which beliefs become part of the inherited human hardwiring."

The April 26 event is part of a programme organised by the Institute of Advanced Study, whose theme for 2007 is the Legacy of Charles Darwin. On the same day, the eminent Darwin scholar Professor Michael Ruse from Florida State University will give a public lecture that will take on the various critics of evolutionary theory and will argue that 'Darwinism' remains the jewel in the crown of science.

The IAS, which opened last October, is becoming one of the major global centres of interdisciplinary study. It gathers together world-class scholars, intellectuals and public figures from around the globe and across all disciplines, to address topics of major intellectual, scientific or public and policy interest. Future annual topics will include Modelling, and Being Human.

One of the panel members at the April 26 event, Professor John Brooke, a science historian at Oxford University and an IAS fellow, will be contending the notion that our religious beliefs are 'hard-wired'. He said: "We should not seek to isolate some peculiar religious susceptibility and try to account for it in terms of the latest voguish science.

"Rather I would see the capacity for a religious response to the world as simply an extension of the perfectly normal capacities that make us human. I am thinking of our capacity for fellowship with others, of our ability to express a sense of gratitude for the fact that we exist at all, and a capacity to empathise with those who suffer."

Other panellists are the Guardian columnist, Madeline Bunting; Professor Robin Dunbar, an evolutionary psychologist at Liverpool University; John Dupre, Professor of the Philosophy of Science at Exeter University; Professor Anthony Monaco, Director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics at Oxford University.

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