Saturday, February 07, 2009

Brains 'are hardwired to believe in God'

As Billy Graham often said: "There is a God-shaped void in people"

Religion is part of human nature and our brains are hard wired to believe in God, scientists believe. The evidence includes studies of babies and children which have shown the brain is programmed to think of the mind as being separate from the body. This distinction allows us to believe in the supernatural, to conjure up imaginary friends - and to conceive of gods, this week's New Scientist reports.

Other studies suggest our minds come with an overdeveloped sense of cause and effect, which primes us to see purpose and design everywhere, even when there is none. Children as young as seven or eight believe that rocks, rivers and birds have been created for a specific purpose. Taken together, the two traits mean were are perfectly programmed to believe in god.

Professor Paul Bloom, a psychologist at Yale University in the US, said: 'There's now a lot of evidence that some of the foundations for our religious beliefs are hard-wired. 'All humans possess the brain circuitry and it never goes away.'

As we grow older, we concentrate more on the moral dimensions of faith and less on its supernatural side, studies show. Scientists also believe that when the going gets tough, we find it harder to resist the lure of the supernatural, perhaps explaining why so many turn to religion at times of crisis.

Richard Dawkins. Britain's most famous atheist, argues in his book the God Delusion that religion is propagated through indoctrination, especially of children. Evolution predisposes children to swallow whatever their parents and elders tell them, he argues, as trust and obedience are important for survival.

Asked about the idea of pre-programming, the Oxford University professor said: 'I am thoroughly happy with believing that children are predisposed to believe in invisible gods - I always was. 'But I also find that indoctrination hypothesis plausible. The two influences could, and I suspect do, reinforce one another.'

Others argue that religion spread because it aided the survival of our ancestors. Shared religious beliefs helped our forefathers form tightly knit groups that co-operated in hunting, foraging and childcare, enabling them to out-compete others, so the theory goes.

However, none of this necessarily means that the gods we believe in do not exist. New Scientist says: 'All of the researchers involved stress that none of this says anything about the existence or otherwise of gods: whether or not a belief is true is independent of why people believe it.'


Publicity shames the Leftist fanatics: Nurse suspended for offering to pray for patient now told she can return to work

The Christian nurse suspended for offering to pray for a patient has been asked to return to work. Her NHS bosses were forced into a humiliating climbdown last night after the case provoked a national outcry.

Caroline Petrie gave their offer a cautious welcome - but insisted she should not be forced to choose between her profession and her faith. Mrs Petrie was accused of failing to show a commitment to 'equality and diversity' after the incident and faced a disciplinary hearing. But her supporters claimed she was a victim of religious discrimination. The Daily Mail led the way in highlighting her plight.

NHS North Somerset issued a statement yesterday saying it had contacted Mrs Petrie and hoped she could return to work 'as soon as possible'. But it added: 'It is acceptable to offer spiritual support as part of care when the patient asks for it. 'But for nurses, whose principal role is giving nursing care, the initiative lies with the patient and not with the nurse. 'Nurses like Caroline do not have to set aside their faith, but personal beliefs and practices should be secondary to the needs and beliefs of the patient and the requirements of professional practice. 'We are glad to make this position clear so that Caroline and other staff who have a faith continue to offer high quality care for patients while remaining committed to their beliefs.'

Mrs Petrie, a mother of two from Weston-super-Mare in Somerset, added that she knew nothing of the offer to return to work until the Mail contacted her. 'They have not told me anything directly yet,' she said. 'I'm not too sure I would go back to work until I know what the implications of that would be. 'I would want to know what the terms were before I made a decision. 'On the issue of praying for my patients I'd want to continue and if they won't allow me that I don't think I would return. 'It's very difficult for me not to ask patients if they want me to pray for them when I feel that prayer works for the sick. It's a matter of conscience to me. I should not have to choose between being a Christian or being a nurse.'

Mrs Petrie was suspended by North Somerset Primary Care Trust on December 17 last year. Two days earlier she had asked her patient May Phippen, 79, if she wanted her to pray for her at the end of a home visit. Mrs Phippen was not offended and did not make a formal complaint. But she told another nurse that she found it strange and that it might be deemed upsetting or offensive by others if they were of different faiths or felt it implied they were so sick they needed praying for.

Yesterday in the Commons, senior Tory MP Sir Patrick Cormack described Mrs Petrie's suspension as one example of the 'utter absurdities' of political correctness.

NHS North Somerset's statement offering her a return to work continued: 'We have always been keen to bring this matter to a timely resolution. 'It has been a distressing and difficult time for Caroline and all staff involved. 'We recognise the concerns raised by the many people who have contacted us about this situation.' It pointed out that NHS North Somerset offers services such as chaplaincy and prayer rooms for use by followers of all faiths.

Mrs Petrie has always insisted that she has never forced her beliefs on anyone. The Baptist, who became a Christian ten years ago after her mother died, said her supplications had real effects on patients, including a Catholic woman whose urine infection cleared up days after she said a prayer. In October last year she was reprimanded for giving a home-made prayer card to an elderly patient.


Banish Big Brother: The state's surveillance powers must be curbed, say Lords

In an increasingly Stalinist Britain, the House of Lords has repeatedly been the last line of defence for traditional British liberties

Peers will today demand a drastic curtailing of `Big Brother' surveillance powers. They will call for reforms to stamp out abuses and to safeguard Britain's traditions of democracy and privacy. Their report highlights mounting fears over the growth of the DNA database and the proliferation of CCTV networks. According to the constitution committee, mass surveillance `risks undermining the fundamental relationship between the state and citizens, which is the cornerstone of democracy and good governance'.

The 130-page report claims privacy is at threat from pervasive and routine electronic spying and mass collection of personal information. The public `are often unaware of the vast amount of information about them that is kept and exchanged between organisations'. The report said successive governments have built up an advanced surveillance system in the name of improving efficiency and tackling crime and terrorism. This amounted to `one of the most significant changes in the life of the nation since the end of the Second World War'. Peers cited the fact that more than 7 per cent of citizens are on the national DNA database, by far the highest proportion in the world.

The report also condemned covert surveillance under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. Some councils have been using the secret spying powers to crack down on dog fouling, littering and families suspected of lying over school admissions. Among its 44 recommendations, the committee calls on the Government to `reconsider whether local authorities are the appropriate bodies to exercise RIPA powers'. And instead of the police and MI5 being allowed to authorise their own undercover operations, independent judges should be called in.

Any plans by the Government to collect or process personal data should undergo a `privacy impact assessment', the peers said. Full encryption of personal data stored on computers should become the norm, the report urges.

The committee - whose members include former Lord Chief Justice Lord Woolf - said the DNA database should be slimmed down and given a clearer legal framework. Those who volunteer their DNA to the police to help in an investigation should not have it added to the national database, they insisted. And suspects who are arrested but not convicted of a crime should not face having their genetic profile stored indefinitely

The Home Office is already under pressure to alter the rules following a high-profile defeat in European Court of Human Rights last year.

Peers also call for a new Parliamentary watchdog to stand up for the rights and privacy of citizens and a panel to supervise database and surveillance issues. The committee's chairman Lord Goodlad, a former Tory minister and high commissioner to Australia, said: `There can be no justification for this gradual but incessant creep toward every detail about us being recorded and pored over by the state. `If the public are to trust that information about them is not being improperly used there should be much more openness about what data is collected, by whom and how it is used.'

Dominic Grieve, Tory justice spokesman, said the report was `a damning indictment of the reckless approach of this government to personal privacy'. He added: `Ministers have sanctioned a massive increase in surveillance over the last decade, at great cost to the taxpayer, without properly assessing either its effectiveness or taking adequate steps to protect the privacy of perfectly innocent people.'

Today's report follows stark warnings from Information Commissioner Richard Thomas that Britain was `sleepwalking into a surveillance society'. Critics have seized on high-profile losses of personal files by the Government - including the entire child benefit database covering 25million people - as evidence that the state cannot be trusted to safeguard such material.

A Home Office spokesman said the Government was clear that surveillance and data collection `should only be used where it is necessary and proportionate'. She added: `The Home Secretary has already set out new common sense standards for use of investigatory powers and retention of DNA profiles, and has announced a consultation to open a reasoned debate about all these issues.


Homosexuality not so popular in Italy

Italian superstar Al Bano Carrisi is making headlines with his unequivocal denunciation of the homosexual rights movement. "I'm a practicing Catholic and I say only this to homosexuals: I'm not in favor of ghettos, but don't make such a show, do your things in private. I don't like gay pride demonstrations, where they parade undisguised," said Carrisi, a world-famous singer who has sold tens of millions of albums during his 40-year career. "To someone like me inoculated against [homosexual rights demonstrations], it might seem funny, unfortunately, but if I were to see it in my little daughter it would brother me. It seems to me to be an exposition of Sodom and Gomorrah."

"Gay Pride" parades, which are now routinely held in Europe, the United States, and other Western countries, often include displays of nudity and lewd behavior, including simulated and actual sex acts in full public view.

In his comments to the press, which were made today, Carrisi also opined that those who suffer from homosexual attractions should seek counseling. "If they question themselves thoroughly and want to be cured from this imperfection, they're doing well."

Carrisi's comments come in the wake of those of Giuseppe Povia, another famous Italian singer, who has composed a song about a homosexual who confronts his problem and is cured. The song, "Luca was Gay" will be performed for the first time at the Sanremo music festival this month. Carrisi will also be performing at the Sanremo Festival, adding a second voice to the event in favor of sexual morality.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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