Jose Carillo's Forum


This section features wide-ranging, thought-provoking articles in English on any subject under the sun. Its objective is to present new, mind-changing ideas as well as to show to serious students of English how the various tools of the language can be felicitously harnessed to report a momentous or life-changing finding or event, to espouse or oppose an idea, or to express a deeply felt view about the world around us.

The outstanding English-language expositions to be featured here will mostly be presented through links to the websites that carry them. To put a particular work in better context, links to critiques, biographical sketches, and various other material about the author and his or her works will usually be also provided.

Humanity is evolutionarily hard-wired for God, says new book

After the heavy pounding that organized religion has been subjected to by scientists and atheists in recent years, notably by Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion, The Blind Watchmaker) and Christopher Hitchens (God is Not Great, The Portable Atheist), here comes a new provocative book, Jesse Bering’s The Belief Instinct: The Psychology of Souls, Destiny, and the Meaning of Life (W.W. Norton & Company, 252 pages), that contends that while belief in a personal God is evidently groundless, it actually serves a crucial evolutionary function. Using a wide range of findings in the cognitive sciences to back up this claim, Bering, a young psychologist who is the director of the Institute of Cognition and Culture at the Queen’s University in Belfast, explains that human beings are cognitively predisposed, often from early childhood, to detect signs of order, purpose, and justice in the world. He argues that contrary to what many atheists think, at least some form of religious belief and behavior would probably appear spontaneously on a desert island untouched by cultural transmission.

Belief Instinct

In the book, Bering postulates that in the course of their evolution, human beings developed what he calls a “theory of mind,” a unique ability to notice and reflect on the agency and intention of other minds. He says that this theory of mind and the linguistically based capacity of human minds for gossip, when combined with the genetically based imperative to reproduce, conspired to make the human species uniquely predisposed toward moralistic religious beliefs.

In a review of the book, the New Scientist describes The Belief Instinct as a “fascinating book [that] presents gentle, nuanced but convincing arguments for atheism,” one that “employs examples and analogies that make his arguments seem like common sense rather than the hard-earned scientific insights they really are.”

But in “God and Gossip,” a review of The Belief Instinct in the February 14, 2011 issue of, Damon Linker, commentary editor of Newsweek and The Daily Beast, says that while “marvelously informative,” Bering’s theory is “endlessly infuriating” and an example of evolutionary psychology at its very worst, “shifting abruptly between experimental data about modern civilized human beings and groundless speculation about our evolutionary ancestors; and reducing all human motivation to the desire to get laid; and presupposing what it seeks to prove.”

Read Damon Linker’s “God and Gossip” in now!

Jesse Bering is the director of the Institute of Cognition and Culture and a reader in the School of History and Anthropology at Queen’s University, Belfast, Northern Ireland. A research psychologist by training, he writes the popular weekly “Bering in Mind,” a featured blog/column for the Scientific American website. He has a PhD in developmental psychology from Florida Atlantic University, and his research interests include intuitive perceptions of the afterlife, folk psychologies of souls, and the concepts of meaning and destiny.

In “Wise Guy,” a review of Bettany Hughes’s The Hemlock Cup: Socrates, Athens and the Search for the Good Life (Alfred A. Knopf, 484 pages) in the February 18, 2011 issue of The New York Times, Walter Isaacson says Hughes “is able to piece together a surprisingly vivid portrait of the hairy, slovenly son of a stonemason and midwife, who spends a lot of time at the gymnasium and holds philosophical discourses at shoe shops.” He says that what the author provides is a life and times of Socrates “so richly textured, flavorful and atmospheric that it makes human this most enigmatic of all philosophers.”

Hemlock Cup

Read Walter Isaacson’s “Wise Guy” in The New York Times now!

Read an excerpt from Bettany Hughes’s The Hemlock Cup at now!

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