September 8th, 2004

breaking bad

In the beginning

'The story so far: In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.' (First line of The Restaurant at the End of the Universe)

Once I start I'll want to quote them all.

This site has pulled together 500+ first lines of novels, which you can browse at your leisure, and vote for.

Some of my favourites are Slaughterhouse 5 (Billy Pilgrim Came Unstuck in Time) , Snowcrash, Neuromancer. I also like the beginning of classical children's novels: Alice in Wonderland, Wind in the Willows, Samuel Whiskers:
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On a slightly less edifying note, this site has pulled together references to big dicks from a range of classical and modern literature. Well, it saves time doesn't it? It even has a section on Shakespeare.
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breaking bad

God is not a primate

Richard Dawkins provides a Darwinian explanation for the existence of religion.

"Darwinian selection sets up childhood brains with a tendency to believe their elders. It sets up brains with a tendency to imitate, hence indirectly to spread rumors, spread urban legends, and believe religions. But given that genetic selection has set up brains of this kind, they then provide the equivalent of a new kind of nongenetic heredity, which might form the basis for a new kind of epidemiology, and perhaps even a new kind of nongenetic Darwinian selection. I believe that religion is one of a group of phenomena explained by this kind of nongenetic epidemiology, with the possible admixture of nongenetic Darwinian selection"

I find Dawkins amusing but irritating, and I think this explanation is unconvincing. The predisposition he describes may explain the conservatism of religious belief within a community, but in my opinion nothing else. He can not explain why these unsupported beliefs within human societies are similar enough to be identifiable as 'religions', and why such ideas as gods, spirits, totems, ghosts, prayers, sacrifices, emerge over and over again.

My explanation is based on Stephen Mithen's work, which I discussed before. Collapse )