Approaches to Traditional Spiritual Truths

There are three different approaches to ancient awakenings: whether it is Gnosticism, Sufism, Advaita, Zen, Vaishnavism, Cabala, or whatever classical school of spirituality.

One may take them literally as the original teachers and preachers had taught them, and derive therefrom whatever spiritual fulfillment one can. It is a fact that the mutually competing schools are divergent in their formulation of Ultimate Truths, but this should not bother the committed devotee who has made a decision as to which path is the best, perhaps even the only one.

The second approach is to carefully look into the traditional systems and re-formulate them in a framework that is meaningful and helpful in the modern context. Many have done this and many have benefited from such re-interpretations.

Those who are wedded to traditionalism (a variant of which is religious fundamentalism) will have nothing of this. They will always protest that the purity of the revealed truths is sullied and its content distorted by modern thinkers who simply don’t have the spiritual wherewithal or the Divine grace to even understand, let alone handle subtle spiritual truths. Spokespeople for Eastern religions would say that the West is too materialistic and therefore quite incapable of grasping the higher truths; and their counterparts in the West would say that the people in the East are drenched in mystical mumble-jumble, and are missing out on the opportunity to save their souls by embracing this prophet or that.

And modern interpreters simply can’t escape the criticism, condemnation, even wrath of the faithful followers of the charismatic gurus and the upholders of the sacred Scriptures of recorded history.

The third approach would be to simply ignore all these ancient modes as irrelevant, quarrelsome, and utterly useless in coping with the problems and challenges of the modern world which range from racism and inter-religious bickering to AIDS and global warming. The ancient systems may be interesting and even helpful to many people, and they may have it as long as they don’t beat dissenters on the head. But there are newer worldviews relying on newer knowledge and understanding of the world which can bring one as much peace of mind and harmony as the time-honored mystical modes.

People choose one or another of these approaches, depending on their background, upbringing, knowledge base, philosophical inclination, cultural affiliation, and a variety of other personal factors. What is most important, however, is the freedom to choose from among these approaches: a freedom that is sadly not yet the precious possession of all human beings on the planet. There are forces that are striving to snatch away that freedom from whose who have.

If and wherever the members of the first group gain political power, that freedom of choice and mind will be lost. This is one of the major challenges of our time, irrespective of what Advaita, Gnosticism, Sufism,  Cabala, or Ch’I may really mean.

On Religious Conversions

Every religion, no matter what its historical roots, has forged a world view of the Beyond in the context of the Ultimate Mystery. Over the ages the different visions have elaborated meaningful rites and rituals and sacraments which answer to the spiritual needs of its practitioners.
The doctrinal basis of every religion is that its own particular vision of the transcendental is the appropriate one. But, in some instances, it goes on to proclaim that those of other traditions are mistaken, primitive, or worse, and that it is incumbent upon them to bring light to the misguided. This is the instigation of evangelism which, I concede, is paved with good intentions. Unfortunately, from the point of view of the outsiders, such a view is the theological equivalent of racism.
As a result, when the Holy Father goes to India and proclaims on the day of Divali (the festive equivalent of Christmas) that missionaries, while respecting the local faith, should not stop in their efforts to bring true religious light to more than half a billion Hindus, or when another group resolves to convert all those unfortunate Hindus into Baptists rather than Catholics, the worst passions of Hindu fundamentalism are unleashed. The burning of the Pope’s effigy by so-called Hindu patriots is regrettable, but understandable.
As to demanding an apology from the Pope for past misdeeds of the Christian Church in India (which some people did), Hindu leaders should also acknowledge gratefully all the good done by the scores of schools and colleges from which generations of India’s scientists, intellectuals, and leaders have come, and hospitals and asylums for victims of tuberculosis and leprosy which were established by Christian missionaries.
We live in an age wrought with conflicts and confrontations. We have enough problems staring us in the face: problems ranging from political turmoil, economic competitions, resource limitations, racial injustices, gender oppression, and such. There is no urgency to add to this long list with proclamations of religious superiority and demands for apologies.
It is the responsibility of enlightened religious leaders to preach understanding and tolerance among faiths, rather than assert one’s monopoly as to the nature of the Divine or create unpleasantness by taunting the leaders of other religions. We need to form Interfaith Forums to inform and be informed about whatever is best in the various religious traditions of the human family.
There is a verse to which I was initiated many long years ago, and which I am freely rendering from Sanskrit into English as follows:
As waters falling from the clouds,
All return to the self-same sea;
So do prayers to different gods
Go back to the same Divinity.
I cannot think of a more appropriate verse to inspire religious harmony in this world of rich diversity, for it reminds us that every religion is but a partial glimpse of the infinite splendor. The value of a religious vision lies in the inner light that the pious experience, not in the number of converts that it has won among others.
Whether Christians or Jews, Muslims, Hindus or Buddhists, or whatever, let us invite ardent practitioners of other faiths to tell us about their meaningful traditions and religious ecstasies in a spirit of sharing, rather than with the presumptuousness of one who declares that his or hers is the only right mode of gaining a vision of the Unfathomable or the sole path to lead us to the glorious Beyond.

On Christopher’s Patridge’s “Introduction to World Religions.”

We live in a global village, enriched by many cultures and religions. Whereas the arts, the music, and the literatures of the world add to the overall aesthetic quilt that is human culture, religions are often in conflict, sometimes even within their respective sectarian subdivisions. Based on the conviction that one’s own affiliation is the best of all, some religious leaders inspire their devotees to harvest the souls of others; others urge them to decimate those whose faith does not conform to their own holy book. Yet others dehumanize some members of their own fath.
In this mutually hurtful cacophony in the name God, it is good that there are also efforts to build bridges of appreciation and mutual respect. The book under review is one such. It will certainly serve to foster understanding. It clarifies its academic framework by an introductory chapter on Understanding Religion which, though incomplete in its references to only a few philosophers and psychologists, can be a useful guide to those who wish to know about religions from boarder perspectives.
Written mostly by specialists, the chapters cover every major religion and many less known ones too. The nineteenth century notion of the Near East being the Cradle of Civilization, though seriously questoned by many, is emphasized in one chapter. The personal stories of some practitioners are interesting, but may be irrelevant in a book of this kind because they are like efforts to grasp vast panoramas through peeping holes that reveal a snapshot or two here and there. The goal of the book could have been better served if scholars from the traditions had been asked to contribute instead. Like in most other books, Hinduism is presented from its purely Sanskritic perspective, with not a word on its rich, meaningful, and influential Tamil component. There is no mention of Tirumular or Saiva Siddhanta even in the glossary, if only because not many Western scholars have published extensively on these.
With all that, the presentations are all informative and non-judgmental, the pictures are colorful and interesting, and the language readable and concise. The book is encyclopedic without being overwhelming, and will certainly serve, however imperfectly, a very important need in today’s world.

A Thought on Religions

Religions – leaving aside their ontological claims – are magnificent expressions of the human spirit, deep visions on the human condition, and sublime poetic expressions provoked by the mystery of existence and of cosmogenesis. Like literature and music they have a hundred manifestations, each presenting another facet of the elusive Ultimate Truth. To say that there are many religions, but only one science, need not imply that it is somehow less than science. Rather, it is to say that religions are  glimpses of the rich and complex presence of human experience in the vast stretch of space and time, in all its historical, geographical, and cultural  splendor. These can’t be reduced to a set of logically incontrovertible Euclidean propositions. The goal of religions is not to solve the riddles of the physical universe or to fill in the blanks in the Cosmic Crossword puzzle using the clues of observed data (as science does), but to make us establish and appreciate the magical link between the spark of individual consciousness and the Cosmic Whole.

Impact of Science on Religion

Science has helped alleviate and eradicate a good many of our physical ailments, and continues to do so. It has been of considerable help in unhealthy psychological contexts as well. A scientific understanding of the ideas and worldviews associated with religion could, in principle, help us exercise the nobler aspects of religion and diminish its more unsavory dimensions on which Dawkins and company are justifiably, if exaggeratedly, harping.

I say in principle because in the past  50 and odd years science has made enormous strides, but our religious expressions have not exactly made proportional positive advances. On occasions they have regressed. If anything, more science and technology have led to more belligerence and vaunting of power, if only because they have endowed fanatics with the wherewithal to bully the world or their opponents. The next religious Hitler will be armed with nuclear weapons.

In other words, as of now, aside from the knowledge that too many people will spoil the planet, too much gas-burning will cause planet-fever, and the like – which are recognitions of enormous import – I am not convinced that  precious scientific information has enhanced the virtues of love, compassion, consoling the afflicted, charity and choir singing –  that religions try to foster – in measurable ways .

So I hesitate to give science a hearty pat on the back for its positive contributions to the practice of religion or of  science’s therapeutic role in refining religion. Gandhi, Martin Luther King and many  ministers of minor repute have perhaps been playing this role in various contexts in more effective ways than the best neuroscientists, astrophysicists, evolutionary biologists and their other scientific cousins.

None of this is to diminish the value, significance and mind-expanding role of science but only to remind ourselves that every human effort  and institution is limited in scope: even the most glorious music or sublime prayer cannot serve all our needs as human beings. That’s why we have different disciplines and a variety of institutions. And let’s not expect science to serve us in every way.

August 23, 2007

On Stephen Wolfram’s “A New Kind of Science.”

By now, thanks to Newsweek, Time Magazine, the New York Times, and such, we have all heard about Stephen Wolfram and his new kind of book. It is a new kind of book in that a work of major scientific significance first finds its way through a book rather than via scientific journals, to the public rather than to peers. It is a new kind of book in that its author, a brilliant physicist with impeccable credentials, was already a millionaire by virtue of his contributions to computation and educational technology (Mathematica) when the book was launched. It is a new kind of book in being a work on science with no references to other works in a bibliography. Like “A Brief History of Time” by another Stephen, this book has also become a best-seller, this too has received immense attention from the popular press. Like the other book that sold more than a million copies, this too will be bought and cherished by a greater number than will read and assimilate it from cover to cover. I am quite sure translators are working round the clock to bring out the book in other idioms also.
No one can deny that Wolfram has made a crucial discovery in the context of computer programming. One of his major discoveries is that starting from a few simple rules, one can generate an amazing variety of complexity. It is well known that there is a fascinating interconnection between a Fibonacci sequence and the symmetry in pea-pods or sea-shells. Wolfram’s recognition is a far richer generalization in the sophisticated language of computer programming of a very similar idea. This interesting discovery is repeated several times throughout his book, because this indeed is Wolfram’s eureka! He has successfully applied this principle in countless instances to show how everything from snowflakes to living organisms, from visual perception to freewill and more, emerge at the qualitative level from a set of fairly simply rules.
Another important thesis of the book hinges on the Principle of Computational Equivalence (p. 5): The sophistication in the behavior of a system is a reflection of the sophistication of the computation that is involved in it. The complexity we observe is in fact the result of the computational rules followed by the system. So, if we find simple behavior, the corresponding computation was simple, and likewise for complex behavior. Complex computation does not mean that the underlying rules are not simple.
This principle implies that it is just not possible to make predictions about fairly complex systems using the usual mathematics. In fact, “almost any system whose behavior is not obviously simple performs computations that are in the end exactly equivalent in their sophistication.” (p. 741) Thus, we are able to predict the orbit of a comet because the corresponding computation is simple, and we cannot predict how a species will evolve because the computation here is complex..
Thus Wolfram’s investigations have thrown a whole new light on the phenomenon of complexity. He has uncovered the larger implications of the power and potential of cellular automata in our efforts to unscramble the roots of complexity: a theme that is going to be one of the major foci of scientific interest in the new century. And for this, his new methodology is certainly interesting, impressive, fascinating, and deserving of loud applause and admiring recognition. It will certainly instigate serious further investigation by the scientific community. There is every reason to believe that Wolfram’s approach will lead to many more significant and meaningful results. Indeed, his book could have been more appropriately entitled: A New Approach to Complexity, for this is what the book is all about.
Anyone who is familiar with Wolfram’s previous contributions to fundamental physics will know that this is the work of an prodigious mind. The author has published richly on particle physics, cosmology, computational theory, cellular automata and more.
With all that, not everyone may fully agree with some of the assertions in the book which begins with an outline of the Foundations for a New Kind of Science. Wolfram reveals that it took him “the better part of twenty years to build the intellectual structure that is needed” (p.1) to complete his work. In this introductory chapter, he makes some general observations about the scientific enterprise. It is difficult to accept some of these without qualifications. For example, according to Wolfram (p.1), “in the past throughout the exact sciences it has usually been assumed that these rules (which systems follow) must be ones based on traditional mathematics.” But there is more to science than the exact sciences. He himself includes biology and much more. For example, in the theory of evolution, of tectonic plates, of rock formation, in archaeology, etc., one is not really dependent on traditional mathematics for their validity.
He notes that (p. 2) “our everyday experience of building things tends to give us the intuition that creating complexity is somehow difficult, and requires rules or plans that are themselves difficult.” This is not necessarily always so. From a few simple definitions and postulates, all the complexity of Euclidean geometry arises; from a few sounds and their combinations all the myriad words and rhythms of languages emerge; from a few simple strokes can result in a magnificent painting; and from just eight octaves countless complex melodies have been composed.
Further on, Wolfram makes the incomplete statement (p. 4) “When mathematics was introduced into science it provided for the first time an abstract framework in which scientific conclusions could be drawn without direct reference to physical reality.” I am sure Wolfram doesn’t mean what this statement says. For, while it is true that one can draw predictive conclusions from the mathematization of a physical situation, this can never be done without incorporating some aspects physical reality into the equations.
Wolfram claims that (p.8) “it has become almost universally assumed that any serious physical theory must be based on mathematical equations.” He should perhaps say mathematical concepts rather than equations. There are not too many equations in many sections of crystallography, geology, and organic chemistry. More importantly, the mathematical framework is a necessary, but not a sufficient condition for a physical theory. We need concepts and data of observation which must be tied into that framework: elements that simply cannot be extracted from programming rules alone.
Almost 350 pages of the almost 1200 pages of the book are devoted to General Notes. These contain brief explanatory and historical statements on the numerous technical terms used in the course of the book, from Abelian groups to zeta functions, with lambda calculus, quantum computers, the three body problem, and a good deal more thrown in between. Arranged alphabetically, this could be used as a good glossary of modern scientific jargon, somewhat like what one finds in the book, Who’s afraid of Schroedinger’s cat? Yet, I am not sure how many of his lay readers will decipher all the complex and technical ideas that he has so succinctly packed into dense little paragraphs.
Wolfram talks about the “popularity” of systems based on numbers, rather than their effectiveness, and goes on to say that the standard mathematical physics has been ineffective to describe complex systems (p. 115). To some, this might seem an unfair assessment of the record of applied mathematical physics to a variety of fairly complex systems, using computational techniques in many instances, but preserving the same conceptual framework.
Wolfram also expresses the not-uncommon view which divides worldviews into Eastern and Western thinking, claiming rationality for the West and relegating mysticism to the East. It is a matter of historical record that in both traditions there are rich instances of rationality as well as mysticism. The two ways of looking at the world, if one wishes to make such a dichotomy, are the following: One grants only purely rationalistic-materialistic-empirical elements in science; the other incorporates spiritual-mystical-transcendental elements in our apprehension of Reality. This is not an Eastern-Western contrast, since there have been and still are eloquent spokespersons for both views in both Western and Eastern civilizations. Wolfram is quick to distance himself from Buddhist and Taoist modes, and he points out that though he rejects reductionism his book is based on the rational tradition (p. 1196).
Wolfram informs us that he has made far more discoveries than he had expected (p. 22), and is confident his approach will lead to many new discoveries. He certainly seems to have opened a new door to comprehend complexity. But to suggest that all the science of the past four centuries was on the wrong track, and will soon be replaced by sets of programming rules sounds a bit much. Clearly, the New Kind of Science could not have led to the discovery of, for example, helium, UV radiation, bacteria, chromosomes, or any of the thousands of other revelations which traditional science has made, including the construction of computers on which Wolfram’s rules can be imposed. It is not at all clear how he can derive the space-time physics of relativity without invoking the speed of light which no computer programming can reveal.
His needlessly grandiose claims dilute the merit of an otherwise fruitful and provocative work. He would probably say that anyone who regards his discoveries as just another bunch of fruits from interesting research is missing the whole point: The mission of A New Kind of Science is to make standard science chart an altogether new course. Only the future will tell if this is a prophet’s call or aught else. Wolfram admits (p. 849) to an uncommon lack of humility in book, but feels that if he had displayed more modesty, “the cost would be a drastic reduction in clarity.” One wonders.
An attack on reductionism is not something new. In fact, it is one of the important ingredients in the post-modernist brew. Yet, it may be premature to compose requiems for reductionist research. While critics of the classical scientific mode are writing books and presenting papers which have been proclaiming that reductionism is dead, thousands of dedicated scientists are still working away in laboratories, observatories, universities and research centers, dissecting, weighing, splitting protons, measuring, analyzing, computing, hypothesizing, and engaging in other unabashedly reductionist activities. What’s more, they continue to produce interesting results in the process. The question is not whether reductionism works, but where it does. From the fact the sweetness of a succulent fruit cannot be explained in terms of the seed’s chemical composition, it does not follow that chemists have been on the wrong track for two hundred and fifty years.
To repeat: Wolfram’s book offers new and exciting insights on the origins of complexity, and impresses the reader by its revelation of sheer simplicity at the foundation of some complex phenomena in computer language terms. But not all may be inclined to see eye-to-eye with the totalizing claims of his book. As a new chapter in science, or as an important insight into a variety of observed effects, this book will certainly be welcome. As a new kind of science, it may be suspect. There sure will be more advances in the years to come in the theory of cellular automata.
But one may seriously doubt that, even with the clarion call for A New Kind of Science, beakers and Bessel functions, microscopes and mass-spectrographs will disappear from the arena of serious science in the foreseeable future. NKS is not the TOE it claims to be.

On David Sloan Wilson’s “Darwin’s Cathedral

Cosmologists explain how the universe came to be; astrophysicists tell us how stars were born; geologists explore how rocks were formed; and biologists figure out how the variety of species arose. Philosophers, psychologists, historians, anthropologists, and others try to explain how religion emerged in human societies.

In this book, an eloquent professor and ardent practitioner of biology offers a cogent and insightful path-breaking theory to account for the powerful institution of religion which has done, and continues to do, much good and great harm to human civilization. Examining through the probing microscope of evolutionary biology, David Sloan Wilson presents a compelling case to explain religion in terms of an “organismic concept.” He takes inspiration from Darwin’s scientific analysis of adaptation at the biological level, and extends it to the more complex cultural phenomenon of religion.

Normally when we think of an organism, a bacterium, an insect or an animal comes to mind. Wilson extends the notion and defines an organism as any “group of elements that behaves adaptively with respect to many traits.” From this perspective, a society may be regarded as organism, and so can the adherents of a religion. Just as individual organisms (creatures) adapt themselves to the environment for their own good and propagation, so does a group of people, such as the players in a football team, or the members of a religious community, for the constituting members are organically interconnected.

Wilson does not accept the old notion that “groups always function as adaptive units.” But this does not make him reject group selection altogether. Rather, he explores in depth the notion of multilevel selection theory which is a more sophisticated version in which groups evolve into adaptive units only when special conditions are met.

Using this powerful paradigm Wilson offers reasonable explanations for many of the apparent inconsistent features of religions, such as preaching peace and fighting wars, extolling the Golden Rule and encouraging genocide. In other words, rather than condemn hurtful religious doctrines, he explains them as natural consequences of multilevel selection techniques for group adaptation.

Any objective analysis of religion reveals elements of irrationality which are ingrained in it. This often perplexes the external observer who is unable to figure out how rational beings can actually function under blatantly unreasonable belief-systems. Wilson reminds us that the gold standard we should use to measure religious behavior is not rational thought but adaptation.

He recognizes that human beings, whether as individuals or as groups, often do behave in ways that are not really biologically adaptive. And he sets up an adaptationist program for systematically and scientifically analyzing such behavior so as to provide a framework in terms of which one can better understand religion and other group characteristics. In this context, he considers two separates aspects in the study of religion: the predictive and the productive. The first tries to explain religious groups simply in terms of their basic biology: survival and reproduction. The second is related to mechanisms which are unnecessary for the prediction of adaptive behavior, and yet underlie that behavior.

He considers functionalism to be too limiting, noting that “dysfunction can be as complex and locally stable as function.” He goes at length to argue that it is useful to separate functional and intentional explanations.

Wilson draws striking parallels between bees building hives, ants procuring food, and humans gathering in groups to adapt. This is not like tracing our ancestors to apes, as Darwin did, but revealing how all creatures great and small, conform in their different ways to certain basic biological laws.

Often one wonders how religion survives in a scientific age: after all, there is a great body of evidence that shows that some of the tenets of religions contradict the basic results of science, while others are blatantly false. This paradox may be cleared, explains Wilson, if we recognize that knowledge and correct understanding of the environment aren’t the only requirements for adaptation: sometimes irrational beliefs may also serve this purpose. In other words, illusions can sometimes be helpful.

Wilson applies his organismic concept of religion to a detailed examination of Calvinism. His is certainly one of the first scientific analyses of a well-founded religious system from an evolutionary perspective. In the course of this analysis, he suggests that the religious tolerance that came much later in European history “may itself have been an important factor in the evolution of still larger adaptive social organizations.” One wonders why this has not occurred in many other religious societies. In any event, he concludes from his examination that the development of Calvinism “provides powerful support for the organismic view of religion.” I will admit that I did not find some of the arguments presented here as adding much weight to the general thesis of the book. Perhaps a more general analysis of Islam or Hinduism would have been more helpful here. Indeed, the absence of any serious reference to these major religious traditions or to Buddhism is a glaring lacuna in the book.

On the other hand, he analyses Balinese religion in terms of its adaptation factors with respect to water, and feels that this provides another convincing example of group adaptation, though he does not refer to the Hindu metaphysical roots of that religion. Indeed, it would be interesting to see a more detailed application of his framework to the problem of explaining the origins of transcendence in religious systems, although he does this tangentially here and there. But there is no explicit reference to, let alone explanation of, the thirst for transcendence which characterizes many religions.

Wilson applies his theory to the exclusivity (non-proselytizing nature) of Judaism without considering the possibility that it could have arisen from a chosen-people conviction. But then, he would argue that such a conviction may also be explained within the adaptation framework. In this touchy context Wilson articulates a non-scientific, but enlightened moral injunction: “Most of us, perhaps all of us, are capable of restricting our moral conduct to a subset of the human race and of behaving instrumentally towards outsiders. This generalization applies to all human groups and should never be used as a tool of aggression against members of a given religion such as Judaism.”

Though, like most scientists, he is categorical in saying that William Harvey was wrong in imagining God as the designing agent for the circulatory system, by and large Wilson is respectful of religions: after all, how can a biologist be disrespectful of something that has evolved in nature? His goal in this book is certainly not to expose the faults and flaws of religion, but to understand and explain them from an evolutionary perspective. And he does this remarkably well.

Wilson’s claim that the origin of the word religion reflects “the essence of the thesis of the book” is a needless, and also inaccurate, additional support he seeks for the ideas he has effectively expounded from purely scientific considerations. His etymology of the word religion is not quite accurate: By translating only the ligare (to bind) part, he argues that the goal of religion, as per the thesis of his book, is to bind people together. In fact, the re (back) prefix in the word is what characterizes religion. As per one popular etymology, religion is an enterprise to bind us back (revert) to the gods, while its opposite is necligens: not binding to the gods, whence the word negligence. Some have also suggested that the word legere: to read, is what gave rise to the word. In this context, he also mentions the non-existent word religate; the actual word is relegate which comes from Latin words meaning, to send back, and it has nothing to do with binding. Furthermore, the etymological significance of religion is relevant only in the Romance-Christian languages. The words for religion in Hebrew, Arabic, and Sanskrit, for example, have nothing to do with binding or binding back.

Wilson recognizes that he is talking about “science in motion,” admits that there are “inconsistencies and loose ends” in what he has developed and proposes, acknowledges that his own ideas are as yet only tentative in that they need further exploration for firmer grounding. In all of this he speaks like a true scientist, and with the wisdom and modesty of one who is launching a major new vision. In the process of presenting that vision, he takes the reader through many significant developments in current evolutionary literature, agreeing with some, challenging others, and developing yet others. This, by itself, is a worthy contribution to general science literature because, by his readable style and clarity, Wilson brings within reach of non-specialists some very important developments in technical evolutionary biology, and makes them fascinating and relevant in a context that should be of interest to a great many educated people. And for this alone he is to be commended. But, of greater scientific import is the fact that he has marshaled so many facts and arguments, and presented them with such lucidity, erudition, and scientific solidity that the core of his thesis is very persuasive. This is not to say that other experts will not quibble, or even seriously disagree, with his provocative thesis here and there. That is in the nature of scientific progress.

David Sloan Wilson already enjoys the respect of his colleagues in the field, and a good reputation as a no-nonsense scientist for his significant contributions to the field of evolutionary biology. This book will certainly win him more accolades. It is also likely to provoke further investigation along a new line of research for the elucidation of one of the most complex, intriguing, and important dimensions of human civilization, namely religion. And the same analysis may be extended to other institutions as well, such as science and politics.