New Scientist’s editorials can be very good but this one really irks me.
It starts by suggesting the Beyond Belief II conference went easy on religion. That’s not quite the impression I’ve got from other accounts, like PZ Myers’, though of course such things are very subjective.
It then mentions David Sloan Wilson‘s view that religions might have been an adaption that boosted group survival through, for instance, ensuring compliance with the group, and states:
To want to cleanse society of religion before understanding its evolutionary roots and purpose seems strangely unscientific.
Now I don’t think David would argue that just because religion might once have had an adaptive role, that the same is necessarily true in modern times. And I don’t think you need to understand religion’s evolutionary roots to see it is a) factually wrong, and b) often maladaptive in the modern world.
It may be true, as the article states, that replacing religion with science is fanciful. But what’s not fanciful is separating the state and religion. Prying the dying hands of the Anglican church from the British state is a long overdue move.
What’s also not fanciful is separating education and religion. I am appalled by the state funding of faith schools in Britain. It is child abuse, as Dawkins put it.
The point is that neither of these will be achieved as long as society continues to pay lip service to superstitious nonsense just because it’s old superstitious nonsense that lots of people still fall for, partly because of the links with the state and education. The “new atheists” should be feted for highlighting this insanity, not castigated for pointing out that the emperor has no clothes.