A Crick in the Neck of Religion
Wikipedia has an entire section of his article titled “Views on Religion”. That section starts off with:
Crick once joked, “Christianity may be OK between consenting adults in private but should not be taught to young children.”
To which I ask: How do we know he was joking?
The article mentions his book Of Molecules and Men:
[H]e wondered: at what point during biological evolution did the first organism have a soul?
This is one of my problems with Christianity. It places humans apart from animals as distinct and special. This belief then affects how we treat the other species we share the world with.
More specifically, can anyone answer the question? Were souls just floating around out in the ether waiting for humans to evolve?
If they weren’t waiting specifically for humans to evolve, then they must also latch onto any other passing organism, just like all other generalized parasites do.
If they were waiting specifically for humans, that would imply directed evolution or foreknowledge of events. I suppose if you’re religious, you can wave your arms and say “That’s it!” That answer doesn’t work for the rest of us.
And if souls were waiting for humans specifically, when did they jump in? Were they sitting around the African savannah watching our ancestors? Cheering and jeering them on?
“No! Not behind the bush! That’s where the lion is! You’ll never pass on your genes if you do that!”
The waiting must have been tedious:
“Well how about that one? It’s called ‘Lucy’. That’s a good name.”
“Nah. It only has a cranial capacity of 400 cc. Where would I hang the Van Gogh?”
“Look! There’s a Homo!”
“They have as much right to marry as anyone else!”
“No! The others were Australopithecines. This one is more modern. Surely we can inhabit this one!”
“Maybe, but do you really want to live in something called Homo erectus?”
So if the souls were waiting specifically for Homo sapiens to evolve, when did they jump in? There are no sharp boundaries between species. The parents weren’t Homo erectus and their children Homo sapiens. It was a fluid and gradual transition. So how did the souls know when the species was ripe, and when did that happen?
Returning to the Wikipedia article, Crick wondered:
At what moment does a baby get a soul?
That, of course, seems to be the heart of the abortion debate. Fundies don’t seem to have a problem killing non-human life. They seem to use the alleged existence of the soul as the defining characteristic.
Crick stated his view that the idea of a non-material soul that could enter a body and then persist after death is just that, an imagined idea. For Crick, the mind is a product of physical brain activity and the brain had evolved by natural means over millions of years.
This view is held by many scientists, of course.
Crick felt that a new scientific world view was rapidly being established, and predicted that once the detailed workings of the brain were eventually revealed, erroneous Christian concepts about the nature of humans and the world would no longer be tenable; traditional conceptions of the “soul” would be replaced by a new understanding of the physical basis of mind.
The brain is amazingly complex. I’m not convinced we’ll ever have it completely figured out. Assume that we do. I know that won’t make “erroneous Christian concepts… [un]tenable”. We’ve known for quite a while that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old, but that hasn’t made young-Earth creationism go away.
Wikipedia also says:
Crick suggested that it might be possible to find chemical changes in the brain that were molecular correlates of the act of prayer. He speculated that there might be a detectable change in the level of some neurotransmitter or neurohormone when people pray.
This field of study is now known as neurotheology.
That Was All Foreplay
Anyway, all of the above is just background material to what I really wanted to write about: Sex!
I somehow came across a website called TheBestColleges.org. It’s an odd mix of useful info and trivia.
In the trivia department is an article titled “7 Generous College Donations (With Insane Strings Attached)”. I disagree. The strings aren’t insane, just a little quirky.
The last “generous” donation is by our old friend Francis Crick. They write:
Francis Crick, famed English molecular biologist and Nobel Prize winner for discovering the DNA molecule…
They have a factual error right out the gate. DNA was already known. He co-discovered its structure.
…was offered a fellowship (a senior office in British Universities) at the newly opened Churchill College, a constituent college of Cambridge University. However Crick, a staunch and rabid atheist…
Another error! People love to label any outspoken atheist as rabid. He was not. I happen to know he was vaccinated.
…only accepted the honor on the basis that a chapel would never be built at Churchill, a supposed center of science and technology. Much to his chagrin though, a donation was later made to the school for the sole purpose of establishing a place of worship on her campus which was accepted and Crick’s Nightmare was built.
That’s so typical. There’s always somebody out there who is so massively offended by the existence of a public institution that isn’t contaminated by religion that they have to do the infecting themselves. We need a vaccine for that.
Anticipating Crick’s tempter tantrum…
Don’t you love how they characterize his objections?
…Winston Churchill himself (the chairman) attempted to smooth things over by advising him that no one need enter the chapel unless they wished to do so and thus the building could simply be ignored. Crick replied to that letter with a donation to the school of 10 guineas for the establishment of a brothel to operate under the same logic which, sadly for future generations of Churchill’s students, was denied.
Seems logical to me.