What bokononists whisper whenever they think of how complicated and unpredictable the machinery of life really is.

By Elton Beard

There are two kinds of people in the world, those who divide people into two kinds and those who don't. I don't.

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Technorati Profile


Saturday, February 12, 2005
8:30 PM PT

Shorter Nicholas D. Kristof:
God and Evolution
  • I am inclined to believe stuff for which there is no evidence but that's OK, it's a genetic thing.


#1Feb 12 2005, 09:54 pm


brendan [email]


#2Feb 12 2005, 10:48 pm

I hate to put you out of business, but I think we've arrived at a meta-busy-busy-busy moment.
Shortest EveryPundit:
"I am a clown."

Dick Durata [email]


#3Feb 13 2005, 01:17 am

God invented evolution to see if monkeys could hold a job.


MJS [email]


#4Feb 13 2005, 01:48 am

"Dopamine is very complex, but it appears linked to both spirituality and promiscuity, possibly explaining some church scandals."

Typical newspaper columnist version of 'science'

Baloney [email]


#5Feb 13 2005, 04:49 am

I'm about as atheistic as they come and think religion is hellaciously dangerous and stupid. Yet, I agree with the idea that religiousity could very well be an evolutionary artifact. Relgion makes people feel good. It gives them a sense that their lives have meaning. It's totally full of shit of course but the important thing is, it gives them the will to go on as death no longer seems to be the great stop sign.

As for me, the idea of death is actually sort of appealing. Just think of all the incredibly stupid conversations and people I'm gong to get to miss when it's all over. No more Tim Russesrts or Bill O'Lielys or people who are anxious to lynch Amy Sullivan because they want to show everyone how enlightened they are. It'll be a little piece of heaven.

hieronymus braintree [email]


#6Feb 13 2005, 06:17 am

Voices in your head
or chemicals in your brain
explains Bush policies

Satan luvvs Repugs [email]


#7Feb 13 2005, 07:51 am


I use to argue that viewpoint too.

And I once thought that watching football provided people with an outlet for violence.

Some recent scientific work has shown the latter to be false. Football increases social violence.

How does the latter relate to the former?

I suspect that religion increases violence too. For every 19 it pacifies there may be 1 it turns into a fundamentalist.

If so, religion may instead be thought of as a mental illness and fundamentalism its resultant psychosis.

The upshot: Religion is worse that rabbies.

We are fast becoming a diseased planet of psychotics. And I blame much of it on true believers.

koreyel [email] [homepage]


#8Feb 13 2005, 07:53 am

Um, I like bashing Kristof as much as the next guy, and for the most part I think this column is as full of it as his usual fair is.

However, as someone who believes in evolution, one is required to come up with an explanation for the universal presence of religion in humans.

Myself, I ascribe to the theories laid out in Darwin's Cathedral. Others may disagree.

But until people start coming to grips with what religion actually is, what role it plays in evolution and understanding of its mechanisms we're going to be constantly under it's ugly thumb.

Mocking it helps the pain and the innanity, but does absolutely nothing about the actual problem.

Hal [email] [homepage]


#9Feb 13 2005, 11:09 am

It seems to me far less of a cosmic joke, that humans may have "gradually evolved to leave many of us doubting evolution", than the idea that a loving god created reasoning beings, then left all those damn fossils and that background radiation laying around to fool us.

melior [email]


#10Feb 13 2005, 12:36 pm

"A propensity to faith in some form appears to be embedded within us as a profound part of human existence, as inextricable and perhaps inexplicable as the way we love and laugh." I suppose this explains the tendency for pundits to believe whatever George Bush says: faith in Dear Leader, inextricable ans perhaps inexplicable.

Dr BDH [email]


#11Feb 13 2005, 01:17 pm

I was almost silenced into awe by that pict! Wow! You caught him good. Since his right eye is open, I take it that this verbal spawning is his left brain experiencing some malfunction?

There's still plenty of reason to be skeptical because Dr. Hamer's work hasn't been replicated, and much of his analysis is speculative.

yeah, well, d’oh, yeah! So this opinion piece is nothing but speculative fiction. He says it. Then he continues on, baldly, saying It's not surprising that nature would favor genes that promote an inclination to faith. Many recent studies suggest that religious people may live longer than the less religious. Sociobiology again. Religion is an evolutionary advantage developed to maximize lifespan.

How would he explain hate’s close affiliation with religion? Is there a Hate gene? Is its close affiliation with religion also a gene thing? Is there a Fundamentalism gene? Is he saying that Born-Again myopia is a genetic thing?

Imagine if, as a cosmic joke, humans have gradually evolved to leave many of us doubting evolution. Isn’t this really a shitbag spewing on behalf of Intelligent Design? Is Kristof’s propensity for gullibility a genetic thing? Is his being a shill for hire to wingnutry perspectives a gene thing? Hey, just askin’. Is belief in Jesus a separate gene than belief in Mohammed's teachings?

Is this a precursor to someday isolate secular liberals as somehow genetically defective and a subject them to eradication?



#12Feb 13 2005, 01:33 pm

Hey, at the rate these genetic studies are going, the big discovery will be that people are what they are. Which is pretty much where we started. So can we go back to shoring up the crumbling infrastructure, feeding and sheltering the poor, tending to the sick, raising our young, and enjoying a good movie on a Saturday night?

Miss Authoritiva [email] [homepage]


#13Feb 13 2005, 02:39 pm

I put the link to my choice for the best explanation of the evolutionary origins of religious belief in the homepage link, so click on it if you're so inclined.

Hypatia's Revenge [homepage]


#14Feb 13 2005, 03:52 pm

Um, koreyel, you might want to reread my entry. I said nothing about religion not causing evil. It most certainly does cause evil. All I said was that, even so, the idea that there's an evolutionary benefit to it still makes a certain amount of sense, life being the insufferable and confusing ball o' pain that it is. Never forget, Charley, that we're made out of evolutionary spare parts. There's bound to be a few serious bugs. If it wasn't for jazz, bourbon and bawdy jokes, to say nothing about the magic of fellatio, I'd probably put a slug through my brain right now, praise Jesus.

hieronymus braintree [email]


#15Feb 13 2005, 04:32 pm

Not only would a gene explain organized religion, it would tend to explain why people might have a tendency to hold on to other irrational beliefs that aren't strictly considered religious.
Ideologies that have long since proven unviable, astrology, UFOs... even people who can't quite step on a sidewalk crack because of an old childhood chant... any of those could be 'religious impulses'.
The problem is that when we were evolving, conditions were different. What was once a survival factor may now (and I mean now in the sense of a recorded history, a very short time in evolutionary terms) be a detrimental factor.

Kathy K [email] [homepage]


#16Feb 13 2005, 07:29 pm

Well, now we're on the same page.

hieronymus braintree [email]


#17Feb 13 2005, 08:38 pm

"Not only would a gene explain organized religion, it would tend to explain why people might have a tendency to hold on to other irrational beliefs that aren't strictly considered religious."


Actually I've long argued that science, religion, and superstition are views from the same area of our brain case.

All three are all based on the input-output model of the universe.

Science tries to isolate just two variables--and then tease out causation between an input and an output with statistical arguments.

Religion's true believers think that they can get to heaven (output) by behaving a certain way on earth (input).

When we are superstitious we believe that following a certain algorithm (input) will cause favorable things to happen to us (output).

Obviously it makes evolutionary sense to build creatures with neural nets that perform this way.

If an animal walks to the left and finds food, it makes perfect sense for it to walk to the left again in the future.

In other words...what I am saying here is that religious belief isn't a single gene. It is a disease of our neural nets. Do you think religions would exist without the great carrot stick called heaven in the sky?

I doubt it.

It's a sick fantasy: all based on a lie about pie in the sky.

koreyel [email] [homepage]


#18Feb 14 2005, 06:22 am

I am genetically evolved to have bees sting me in my right eye when I write crap. Ow ow ow!

John Isbell [email]


#19Feb 15 2005, 12:47 pm

I believe in the Easter Bunny, Santa Clause, Bigfoot and WMD's -- how long will I live??????????????

Mr. Wee


#20Feb 16 2005, 02:56 am

Forever, if you're good.

My fellow intellects who refuse to believe in some big spook with a hammer may enjoy the following link:


hieronymus braintree [email]


#21Feb 16 2005, 05:33 am

look at the photo! lyle lovett, lyle lovett...



#22Feb 16 2005, 07:14 am

Shorter Gregg Easterbrook:"The alternative to the president's 'Clear Skies' policy is a better but more complicated idea that I won't discuss here."

Philboid Studge [email]


#23Feb 16 2005, 12:54 pm

Theresa Heinz told John he has to drop the “Kerry” from John Heinz-Kerry now that the campaign is over.
It is too much writing for her when she writes out his allowance checks.



#24Feb 16 2005, 03:55 pm

Great idea!!
I'm tellin' Laura to get little George his own checking account so he doesn't have to use mine anymore. I'll just send the checks in Hallmark cards from now on. He sure likes cards.

Bandar Bush


#25Feb 16 2005, 09:50 pm

Why use a Lawyer for Workers Compensation
What is Worker Compensation Law
These law vary from state to state, some workers who have been injured on their job where there are four or more employees may receive medical care and financial compensation without having to prove the employer was at fault in

LP [email] [homepage]


#26Feb 17 2005, 12:34 pm

Shorter Easterbrook: Progress is making something worse.



#27Feb 18 2005, 11:38 am

That's what I think too.

By the way, as long as we're mocking people for making reasonable remarks, I'd just like to remind everyone that Kristof is unique among Times columnists who are not Frank Rich for his willingness to question mainstream American religion. He pointed out, with a reasonable degree of alarm, that the happy ending of the "Left Behind" series is that everybody who isn't an asshole fundamentalist Christian gets to go to hell. Take that, Ghandi. He also pointed out with a degree of appropriate concern that more Americans, by a margin of 3-to-1, believe in the virgin birth of Jesus H. than do in evolution. Because, you know, that isn't exactly a testament to the voting public's rationality. See, he's skeptical of religion, but he's looking for an explanation as to why it remains popular, even among people who are supposed to be intelligent.

Funny, somehow this web site has given me a strong appetite for babies, especially if they're close relatives.

hieronymus braintree [email]


#28Feb 18 2005, 04:16 pm

people are scared.......that's all it really is....even if they don't believe, most people fall to the superstion....the whole "what if they are right" menatlity....that's the only way the myth continues......polls on religion are false....people say what they think they're supposed to say about Jesus and then sleep late on Sunday.

Agonal Respirations


#29Feb 18 2005, 07:18 pm

Before Peer Review
Religion _WAS_ Politics
Do "God's" Will Or Else

Josh Narins [email] [homepage]


#30Feb 18 2005, 07:28 pm

__The Stupid Gene__

DNA for the
Infinite, Invisible

Josh Narins [email] [homepage]


#31Feb 19 2005, 12:19 pm

I may not be able to hug an evangelical Christian (ewww!) but perhaps I can covet his impressive but unsubstantiated "God Gene" from afar? Uh, no thanks!

Vulgarian Genecentric Kristof’s photo does him justice. Congratulations. What was he doing? Excising his own God Gene or getting punched coveting someone else’s? Or perhaps he was experiencing a pleasant brain fart while exuberantly rolling around in the extremely reductionistic reasoning frame of sociobiology.

Nothing like rationalizing the irrational via pleading of involuntary predetermination, that way no one needs to take responsibility for their beliefs. Now nice. The hubris is stunning in Kristof’s ravings. He is claiming that in these dark times, there is an “instinct” for Republicanistas and rightwing dominance. Yet, not that long ago, there was (following his own logic) an “instinct” for Democrats and secular liberal dominance. How does he explain this transition? Evolutionary psychology and behavioral genetics? Or is he positing a silly confabulation whereby the Republicans have come out of the Political Pleistocene and the Democrats entered it for further purpose-driven-Evolution? And his proof of this is to be found in a non-replicated(!) study by Hamer. Kristof’s hubris, and very packed it is with irony, is most apparent when he makes a materialistic/nominalistic argument for belief in god. What is god? He spews a 19th century assertion, ripped, with a few purpose driven twitches, from the earliest pages of EB Tyler. Obviously, Kristof and many who support his puerile fabrications and sneers failed their basic History of Science 01 course.

The Phenotypically Shortsighted Kristof’s penultimate paragraph is an unwarranted political conclusion, blasted from under the cover of science. Fraud.

Shorter Nicked Kristof:

Purpose Driven Evolution, thy name is God and I feel thee and lo, I believe!



#32Feb 19 2005, 01:17 pm

Now, now, Melisand. There's no need for you to get all hysterical. I'll bet if you asked Mr. Kristof nicely, he'd help you untie your panties.

hieronymus braintree [email]


#33Feb 19 2005, 05:46 pm


Still carrying a grudge for the sound trouncing I gave you the last time, I see.




#34Feb 20 2005, 04:53 am

"Faith may be quiescent in many circles these days, or directed toward meditation or yoga, but it is not something that humans can easily cast off."

The same could be said of ignorance but of course there's a cure for that.... an education.



#35Feb 20 2005, 05:06 am

Um, "sound trouncing"? What planet are you living on, Sugar? I caught you misquoting Ms. Sullivan and changing the meaning of her words so you could act victimizated over stuff she didn't actually say and stopped bothering with you because, believe it or not, I simply got tired of arguing with an idiot. But, if you want to consider hysterical semicoherent ranting, as exemplified here in post # 31, a form of "trouncing," please do be my guest. After all, it's our dellusions that keep us sane, no?

But, I'll tell you what I'll do. You seem to think that Kristoff is an asshole for considering the idea that religiosity is part of our genome, correct? Yet, every part of the world that I know of has some kind of religious belief, has for thousands of years and that non-believers are a small minority, sort of like homosexuals. That being the case, I'd like to hear your explanation as to why religion is virtually ubiquitous if it's not a natural part of being human and why we can rule the possibility that it is genetic so thoroughly out that anyone who even suggest it is an incredible jerkweek deserving of our contempt.

Breakfast time. Pardon me while I enjoy a bowl of Christ Crispies.

hieronymus braintree [email]


#36Feb 20 2005, 10:06 am

*clears throat*

Before we get a full-blown squabble over a post from a couple of months ago breaking out, allow me to re-suggest an answer to the first part of H. Braintree's question, "That being the case, I'd like to hear your explanation as to why religion is virtually ubiquitous...

Hypatia's Revenge [homepage]


#37Feb 20 2005, 01:45 pm

Hypatia, you are a sensible woman indeed.

You realize of course that my good friend has been assigned an impossible task, but one she undoubtably asked for. In order to make her case that Kristof is deserving of contempt she now has to show that the idea that religion is part of genetic heritage is completely, utterly and irredeemably out of the question. Talk about a tough point to make.

Ah, well. It's her own fault. She did ask for it.

hieronymus braintree [email]


#38Feb 20 2005, 02:30 pm

only thing religion has that is genetic is the release of serotonin in the brain case. the same thing as basic happiness....to think there is a specific gene that is assigned to religion is absurd. you need to go camping or for a damn walk in the woods and get away from all the WalMart shit that's blocking your view of our place on this planet. i don't see any damn elk drinking the "blood" of some other elk thats been dead for 2000 years. i'm sure apes sense death and even fear it when confronted with it....they just haven't got to the point where they need some far out tale to calm themselves. if you must just read jesus and fuck saul/paul.....oh, and screw that genocidal prankster protag of the old testement. that guy is lame.

yeah, i know....


#39Feb 20 2005, 04:54 pm

They've cracked the code
And now it's plain to see
There's a gene for every behavior
And a behavior for every gene!

I myself have spotted
What looked at first most viral
A curious arrangement
Inside my little spiral:

The Blogging Gene
Called HTML N-O X
Laid dorment for millenia
But now its muscles flex

It sits just around the corner
From the genes that conjure reason
Pity hard their fall from grace
They are now quite out of season

Is there a hard drive setting
For belief, a kind of fate?
Determinism rules in Heaven?
It's just for us to take the bait?

(now back to our regular program)


MJS [email]


#40Feb 21 2005, 07:24 am

Now, now, yeah, i know. No need to get hysterical.

hieronymus braintree [email]


#41Feb 21 2005, 09:21 pm

Man, we've only scratched the surface here of what's wrong with NK's argument in this article. My contribution: Notice the language NK uses to express the behavioral result of supposed gene.

For my money, few have outdone Nietzsche or Marx for an explanation of religion.

HB, thanks for the albinoblacksheep link.

otto [email]


#42Feb 22 2005, 04:51 am

I'd like to propose two ideas. One, a tendency towards religiosity is a genetic tendency. Two, having made it a matter of genetics we can dismiss belief in the supernatural as an embarrassing artifact and tell those unscientific Jeebus heads who don't accept it to get with the program.

hieronymus braintree [email]


#43Feb 22 2005, 08:42 am

Not all Christians believe the supernatural events in the Bible (i.e. Virgin birth, Ressurection, the flood, etc.) are depictions of historical events. As a Christian, I don't believe ANY of the stories in the Bible (or any other religious text) have to be based on actual events to have deep spiritual meaning for me. For fundamentalists, the Bible is read like a science textbook. IMHO, it was never meant to be read that way.

Patrick Williams [email]


#44Feb 22 2005, 10:43 am

Not only is the Virgin Birth not a depiction of a historical event, it seems to only exist thanks to a faulty translation. The Hebrew word alma means "young woman". There's no virginity implied.

As Sam Harris notes: "It would appear that Western civilization has endured two millenia of consecrated sexual neurosis simply because the authors of Matthew and Luke could not read Hebrew."

One of those ironies that leave you unable to decide whether to laugh or cry...

Hypatia's Revenge [homepage]


#45Feb 22 2005, 03:02 pm

Luke is the only one of the Gang of Four who mentions the virgin birth: he was Greek, and this theme was familiar to most of his countrymen (and women). While many translations of ancient texts do commit a multitude of sins, my point would be that even if the translation is "spot on" the reference is Greek in nature, and says more about Luke than it does about an historical event. Just as "Christos" is the Greek word for "Messiah" so too is Virgin Birth a Greek mythological element that is ascribed to more than one local god or goddess.

Karen Armstrong (she made Horowitz's Evil Liberal list!) is currently writing on these particular subjects as they relate to Comparative Mythology. I read a ton of Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung and have come to the conclusion that synchronicity and diffusion are two dancers on the same dance floor.

Film at eleven.


MJS [email]


#46Feb 22 2005, 07:13 pm

Hypatia, I like you but I'm going to disagree with you. I don't buy the idea that western sexual neurosis is the result of the virgin birth myth (Muslims, for example, have been more than just a tad more virulent in this regard but, unless I've very much mistaken, no one says Mohammed popped out of the oven w/o a real-life Daddy-O).

On top of that, Jesus was very very specific about what utlimately happens to people with money - a fate which could be easily, if temporarilly, replicated with about a quart of kerosine and a kitchem match. But, it seems to me that greed has many Christian fans. So, I think there must be something more underlying the problem. In fact, aren't there many prudish societies that have almost nothing to do with Christianity? China for example. The old Soviet Union to use another. I think another explanation is needed.

hieronymus braintree [email]


#47Feb 23 2005, 04:50 pm

Hmmm. Well, I'm certainly no expert on the sexual mores of other nations, so there's not much I can say. I'm not sure, though, of any history of associating sexuality with "sinfulness" in China, and as for Russia - well, seventy years of official atheism under the USSR wouldn't be enough to undo centuries of Orthodox teachings.

But yes, I must confess that I don't think all of our neurosis can be attributed to mistranslations. I've seen lots of thought-provoking writing on the whole "Madonna/whore" dichotomy in the context of - dare I say it? - evolutionary psychology, so it could well be something preexisting, and our religious/cultural inheritance just adds some ornamentation.

Hypatia's Revenge [homepage]


#48Feb 23 2005, 08:56 pm

I have seen Karen Armstrong speak twice. She is one of the most spiritual indivduals I have ever encountered. Anyone interested in thoughtful, contemporary religious thought should check her out...as well as John Shelby Spong, Dominic Crossan, Marcus Borg and Elaine Pagels. Before I studied these great authors I had much difficulty reconciling my atheism and my Christianity. I still have difficulty, but I know now that I'm not the only one.

If Horowitz tags Karen as an evil liberal, I would love to read the works of the other people on his evil list. Where can I find his list?

Patrick Williams [email]


#49Feb 24 2005, 08:04 am

Discover the Network profile on Karen Armstrong is here:


Main page is here:


Joe McCarthy would be so proud.


MJS [email]


#50Feb 24 2005, 07:11 pm

Hm. Point taken on Russian Orthodoxy. However, I wonder. Isn't sin a particularly Judeo-Christian conceit? Yet sexual repression, especially of women, seems to be rather widespread beyond traditional western culture.

Humanity needs devoted mothers raising clean, non-infected babies. Humanity also needs an outlet for all that sexual tension our there. So, I presume we can count ourselves in agreement that the idea that the Madonna/whore syndrome is some sort of genetic heirloom is an idea worth exploring, though a long long ways from being proved?

hieronymus braintree [email]


#51Feb 26 2005, 05:14 pm

So, I presume we can count ourselves in agreement that the idea that the Madonna/whore syndrome is some sort of genetic heirloom is an idea worth exploring, though a long long ways from being proved?


Isn't sin a particularly Judeo-Christian conceit? Yet sexual repression, especially of women, seems to be rather widespread beyond traditional western culture.

We might be talkin' 'bout two different beasts here. There's no doubt that repression of women is widespread beyond Western culture, but I don't know that it carries with it the idea that sex itself is a filthy, disgusting act, which I think was the gist of the quote from Harris I mentioned above. That might be a result of the idea that one of the vital things that separated the Godman from us mere mortals was that he wasn't conceived through that abhorrent animal act. It's one thing to try and control how and when women give their bodies to men, it's another thing for men to swear off sex altogether, or to even go to the extreme of self-castration based on Matthew 19:12, as the church father Origen did. That kind of obsession with abstract concepts of purity seems to be a useful cognitive ability (conceptualization) gone completely haywire. If pure brute survival were the issue, it would be self-defeating (to say the least) for an animal to remove its own reproductive organs!

Hypatia's Revenge [homepage]


#52Mar 01 2005, 01:15 pm

Well, now I have to admit ignorance. I'm simply not in a position to know if sex is thought of as dirty in other cultures (though, as Woody Allen once noted well before he creeped everybody out with Soon-Yi, sex is dirty if you're doing it right). Still, if you're going to indulge in clitorectomies and other such draconian measures it would seem to this boy that a certain disgust with sex in and of itself would help put practitioners in the right frame of mind.

I never really got caught up in all the religio jazz when I was younger (any diety who would freak out over a harmless pastime such as masterbation was just some drama queen, as far as I was concerned), so I'll defer to you on that stuff — though it does sound fascinating in an ugly and perverted sort of way.

hieronymus braintree [email]


#53Mar 02 2005, 11:07 am

The Hebrew word "alma" means "young woman". The turkish word "alma" means "apple".

Coincidence? I think not.

John Emerson [email]


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