Monday, August 26, 2013

Experiments and Religion

The Invention of Religion by Alexander Drake

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for a review. 

Summary: In this book, the author explores the question of whether religions were invented by humans or given to us by some other means. It is a scientific look at how ancient humans made sense of the world and the phenomena they encountered around them.

In the past, arguments against the existence of gods have mainly come in the form of scientific inquiries that attempt to show there is no evidence for their existence. The Invention of Religion, however, investigates the psychological mechanisms that cause religions to originate and it sets out to prove that when humans have neither science nor religion, these mechanisms cause them to invent new religions. It also investigates how the differences (like monotheism vs. pantheism) between religions arise and how probable these differences are.

Review: An intriguing thought experiment with science based experiments to back up the author’s theories.

As the summary states, most books I’ve read dealing with arguments against the existence of god focus on science, logic, and facts. I have never read a book before that uses science to try and explain why religion may have been formed in the past by uninformed humans. Uninformed is the key term here. Ancient man would have little to no idea about concepts that are common knowledge to us such as lightning being caused by electrons. These ancient humans aren’t lesser; they just didn’t know or have the ability to know.

It really is fascinating the number of experiments that Alexander Drake cites that can help to explain certain religious phenomena. The experiments mentioned were ones that I had never heard of before. Drake uses a Man on an Island as the basis of his thought experiment and creates plausible scenarios in which the Man (could be one or many) develops religion. Drake covers the basic aspects and tenets of a religion. While Drake argues that religion may have been developed by ancient man and is not god given, he never derides religion.


Recommendation: I would recommend this to those interested in early religions.

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