Thursday, February 09, 2006
Evolution: The Horse Whisperer, Richard Dawkins, and Danish Cartoons
Brief notes from an evolutionary perspective:
In March 2005 'The Guardian' newspaper (UK) printed "The Horse Whisperer is called in to tame children" and said:
"Monty Roberts, the original whisperer who inspired the film and has tamed more than 70,000 wild horses, flew to Britain last week to hold a three-day workshop for Global Education Management Systems (Gems), one of the biggest operators of independent schools in the UK."
Further into the article Monty is quoted as saying:
"It takes a leap of faith because here's a cowboy with ways of working with horses, then he starts talking about children,' he said. 'It's a difficult leap for some people, but not for me.
'I am not for a moment suggesting that animals and humans are the same but, psychologically speaking, their behavioural patterns have more similarities than they have differences."
Why are there more "similarities than differences" - and how does Monty know this?
Monty Roberts has repeatedly spoken of the violence he was subjected to as a child and how his father employed the same brutality against horses. So far so good, but that's only the beginning of the answer - after all, people are people and horses, of course, are horses:
"The neurologist Paul MacLean has proposed that our skull holds not one brain, but three, each representing a distinct evolutionary stratum that has formed upon the older layer before it, like an archaeological site. He calls it the "triune brain." MacLean, now the director of the Laboratory of Brain Evolution and Behaviour in Poolesville, Maryland, says that three brains operate like "three interconnected biological computers, [each] with its own special intelligence, its own subjectivity, its own sense of time and space and its own memory". He refers to these three brains as the neocortex or neo-mammalian brain, the limbic or paleo-mammalian system, and the reptilian brain, the brainstem and cerebellum (see above diagram). Each of the three brains is connected by nerves to the other two, but each seems to operate as its own brain system with distinct capacities."
(From The Triune Brain)
As a rule of thumb, the disruption to internal integrity known as psychological trauma (not to be confused with the popular conception of trauma - see Note 1) gives every appearance of occurring somewhere within the limbic system. An indication of how trauma has been part of Man's heritage since 'before there were words' and the probable basis of Monty's non-intellectual empathy with other animals who have sustained a similar injury.
Like the background radiation from the 'Big Bang', psychological trauma pervades every aspect of human society and its characteristic signature can be found in many cultural institutions - and for the purpose of these notes, specifically Religion.
Scotland's Sunday Herald recently said:
CONTROVERSIAL scientist Richard Dawkins will assert tomorrow evening that religion is a 'virus' that amounts to child abuse.
The new two-part series, to be shown on Channel 4 (UK), will compare Moses to Hitler and claim that God is racist. It will also argue that religion is a 'backward belief system' responsible for terrorism.
The controversial films, which were produced by IWC creative director Alan Clements and written by Dawkins, are a polemic against faith and a stout defence of science.
More controversially, he states 'sectarian religious schools' have been 'deeply damaging to generations of children. 'It's time to question the abuse of childhood innocence with superstitious ideas of hellfire and damnation ,' he says. 'Isn't it weird the way we automatically label a tiny child with its parents' religion?'
While disagreeing with Dawkin's perception of how evolutionary changes occur, and aware of the fact that a 'deeply' held belief in aetheism/science can be the other side of the coin to fear of believing in a God of psychological origin (rather than any 'other kind' - if such exist), the above observations hold an uncomfortable truth.
From Channel 4's own page on the program:
In addition, though religions preach morality, peace and hope, in fact, says Dawkins, they bring intolerance, violence and destruction.
Again from a psychological perspective: 'morality' is needed to compensate for the ongoing presence of maladjustment to a compounded trauma within individuals so that they can then co-exist as a group, 'peace' means suppression and internal 'soothing' of the wound (hence the 'sing-song' voice often employed during church services), and 'hope' promises a future free from internal reactions with one's own wound (often caused by other people outwardly expressing the presence of theirs). Unfortunately the hope proferred can only be realized in some kind of 'afterlife'.
In short, and at best, Religion can be seen as an archaic form of therapy. At worst, the surface veneer may easily be broken down and lead to events like those which promped the writing of these notes: people have died over the publication of cartoons!
It is very telling that no God does its own killing...
There is more at issue with Islam here than with the cartoons published in Jyllands-Posten or with the principle of 'freedom of speech'. I for one feel an obligation to those people, who in the Society I live in, once suffered during the process of separating Church from State - the ugliness of the current pedophile scandal in the Roman Catholic Church is but an echo of how much worse things once were.
Finally, and in a related vein, an item from today's Daily Telegraph (UK):
Two hundred years after Anglican reformers helped to abolish the slave trade, the Church of England has apologised for profiting from it.
Last night the General Synod acknowledged complicity in the trade after hearing that the Church had run a slave plantation in the West Indies and that individual bishops had owned hundreds of slaves.
It voted unanimously to apologise to the descendents of the slaves after an emotional debate in which the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, urged the Church to share the "shame and sinfulness of our predecessors".
"In this interview with DJ Grothe, he [Dawkins] discusses his newest work, a two-part documentary series for British television entitled The Root of All Evil?, in which he challenges what he calls 'the process of non-thinking called faith.'"
This audio interview is available from here
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