Sapolsky on Religion

At the end of The Cultural Desert, Sapolsky briefly mentions the biology of religious belief. This is always a topic I find fascinating to read about and I wanted to hear more of Sapolsky’s take on the matter. Turns out, Sapolsky has a history of giving a controversial lecture on religion every year to his Human Behavioral Biology class at Stanford. Back in 2002, someone filmed the lecture and it is available in it’s entirety online here. I have started watching some of it, and he presents the idea that the foundation of religion is linked to mild forms of psychiatric diseases such as schizophrenia and obsessive compulsive disorders. I don’t want to say too much until I get a chance to watch the entire thing (because we all know that he can present multiple and increasing elaborate arguments to make his point) however, the lecture seems to stir people up. Reading comments responding to the lecture is almost as interest as the lecture itself. A personal interview with Sapolsky also provides his own thoughts on the lecture and why he gives it. If you’re not interested in the entire lecture on religion, some highlights are provided here and here.


2 thoughts on “Sapolsky on Religion

  1. This was much less offensive than I had anticipated although I think his line of reasoning suffers from the same problems I’ve noticed throughout most of his writing, he takes valid, if limited data, and extrapolates to the extent that he begins to explain a fundamental aspect of human experience (not necessarily being religious as I realize many people are not) but general spirituality in a completely reductionist way. Is it possible that schizo-typal personality and OCD have associations with religion? Yes. Is it likely that millennia of religious experience can be explained via these disorders. not at all. Sometimes I think he really needs to take a step back and think about the logic of some of his thought processes.


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