“Religion evolved as a process analogous to the natural selection that produced us and every other living species. Religious belief may now be deeply programmed in our DNA. This may have happened because, at one time, such beliefs provided a survival advantage for the people who had such coded information in their genes.
”In the early days of the human race, we were few in number and struggled in competition with other species to survive. In that precarious situation, special advantage would accrue to those people living in communities with strong tribal rules forbidding behavior patterns threatening to the survival of the community. These ranged from taboos against incest and murder to special dietary prohibitions.
”By attributing these taboos to supernatural command, the leaders and their priests could enforce them more effectively. Individuals with a genetic disposition to question or disobey the rules would be suppressed, ostracized, or even killed. So they were less likely to pass their skeptical genes on to the next generation. As William Bainbridge has put it: “The human mind did not evolve in order to create a race of philosophers or scientists.”
”The genetic programming in favor of supernatural belief does not have the value for survival that it once had – in fact, quite the contrary. Where once human tribes needed as many members as they could produce in order to survive, the global human tribe today finds its own survival threatened by too many members. And most of these members still hold to the outmoded beliefs that may have helped their ancestors, but hinder us today. These beliefs threaten our survival rather than aid it, as they mitigate against birth control and other measures needed to halt the exponential increase in our population.
”Believing despite the overwhelming evidence from biology and astronomy, that humans were made in the image of God and given dominion over the earth, we in the Western World have also found it easy to pollute the earth and wantonly destroy many of its life forms.
”Evolution does not guarantee the survival of a species. In fact, it dooms most species. Most of the species that existed on this planet are now extinct. And our natural instincts, if left to themselves, will probably result in the extinction of our species before too long.
“Fortunately, by the same process of evolution, we humans have developed a unique quality that gives us the power to overcome our instincts. This power resides in our intellect. Only through the application of intellect to overcome the dangerous behaviors programmed in our genes can we expect to survive. And our intellect is pointing the way for us to reprogram our own genes to rid them of the transcendental temptations that now threaten our very existence.” – Victor J. Stenger, physicist and astronomer, Physics and Psychics