- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: Wise Media Group; 1 edition (June 27, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1629671096
- ISBN-13: 978-1629671093
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
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The God Model: All From One and One From All Paperback – June 27, 2017
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About the Author
Phillip Shirvington has a M.Sc. from the University of Sydney, and was a research scientist in the nuclear field for 20 years, during which he published over 30 papers in scientific journals and conference proceedings. He is the author of “God in the Time of the Internet” (2014), and lives in San Francisco.
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The writing is decent and the approach is well thought-out, thus it pains me to only give this three stars. But, the fact is that this is my personal reaction and due to a lack of interest in the subject matter as well as little drive to find some god in science, I struggled to keep reading it to the end. It reminded me of the stage in my personal evolution where I thought perhaps god only intervened at points in evolution. This abandoned theory resulted from my attempts to hang on to some vestige of the god in my imagination. I recall, as a solitary child having an imaginary friend, Fred, but being aware at the time that I was forcing it and purposely imagining him. This learned facility came somewhat from my culturally-derived imaging "talking" to god and the experience was one and the same.
The book gives a good background on all the world's major religions, and summarizes them comparatively per six criteria. It would have been nice to see the comparisons in tabular form but in the end his conclusion is that there is overlap on only one of the criteria. My reaction is that if there were some universal truth that it would be consistent and thus the conclusion argues more that there is no common origin to spirituality. I can accept the author's theory that there may have been some evolutionary advantage to religiosity, but completely reject the idea that this was driven by any god force or even some universal truth or other god substitute. It just happened IMHO.
At the core of both of these issues lies DNA and the brains and chemistry it builds.
That belief in gods is so universal strongly suggests that the clue to that devotion lies in our commonality - our building blocks (DNA) and brain architecture.
This is territory that “The God Model” explores — and explores very competently indeed.
Every believer in every godly notion that has ever been proposed can see very precisely what is so laughably and dangerously wrong with the notions that others hold… notions that they too will kill and die for.
But, strangely, they cannot see what is wrong with their own equally delusional claims and fantasies.
How can this be?
To understand it, we have to plunge through culture and into that mechanism that makes us human — the brain and its underpinning matter, the DNA that makes it tick.
This is not simply a quaint curiosity we can ignore.
The importance for unpacking the topic… the whereabouts of one or another god in the human experience... has never been more critical than right now.
It is the topic that Shirvington takes on in his excellently crafted book.
Science has brought, and will bring, us untold power to do good and productive things; but alongside these positives march a destructive family of noxious poisons into the environment and killing capacity into the military.
Those dangerous things in the hands of masses and leaders who continue to be driven by ancient emotional and tribal responses are a threat to everyone and everything that will ever live.
Gods are of course very regional expressions, and therefore very tribal. Tribalism, by its nature, is suspicious of outsiders and hostile to them.
The stakes are rising as fundamentalism increases. Children are tomorrow’s cannon fodder, indoctrinated today into the local cult belief.
Right now, in the 21st Century, as populations move and mix, the competing tribal choruses are rising in volume and pitch.
The antidote to this is *not* cruise missiles and wars on terror… homegrown or otherwise… it is not to escalate “our” side of the war by convincing youngsters and the population at large that we are doing the work of some imagined deity.
It is not keeping religions out of schools.
Far from it.
It is learning and teaching the fundamentals of every religions equally — never favoring one over another. It is digging into what drives them.
This book takes a scientific look at this pressing issue of superstition by understanding its root cause.
Expect to see this book rise through the ranks of importance and become a household name. Don’t hesitate to buy it and give it as a gift, especially to believers.
In the Preface Shirvington writes that his book “makes a case” for the idea (the “interesting idea” in my title) that God comes to humans through their DNA. As far as I can tell Shirvington is not saying that God is somehow physically in human DNA but rather that for many people the DNA codes for human behaviors and experiences that reveal the presence of God at certain times in their lives.
I think that the problem with this is the terminology. What I would say (and Shirvington does say something similar near the end of the book) is that belief in God is adaptive in the Darwinian sense. Belief in God makes the tribe more cohesive and indeed inspires young men to die for the good of the tribe. Therefore, the tribe that has religion (has God) survives and the tribes without God die out. This is why religion and a belief in God is nearly universal throughout the world. The DNA of believers lives on, that of nonbelievers dies out.
As far as God as a module in the brain goes (which some people believe) I think we can dismiss that since brain science would have found it by now. (If it’s on the quantum level or otherwise too small for our poor powers to detect, it wouldn’t react with the relatively huge human cells anyway.) One way of looking at this is to realize that fear, for example, is not in the brain any more than God is. What is in the brain are modules of neurons multitudinously connected that evoke the experience of fear in parts of our brain when our senses detect something to be afraid of.
Shirvington writes, “Forgiveness is…unlikely to have had a genetic component…because it has only been a feature of religion since the time of Jesus.” (Loc 281) I strongly suspect that forgiveness in tribal ways and lays predates Jesus by thousands of years. At any rate forgiveness can be adaptive for the tribe. Forgive the bad boy because you might need him some day to take up arms against an enemy.
At Location 656 Shirvington offers, “Deists are thus creationists.” However, on the next page he implies that this “is not completely accurate” bringing in natural selection. Yes, deists typically have God setting the ball in motion but they don’t deny (most anyway) biological evolution.
Location 778: “To be called a religion, the subject must feel passionate about it, and it should lead to exultation and [be] uplifting.” I don’t think this is necessary. A religion can be a way of life. It can even be fatalistic.
Shirvington believes that the “beginning of life on earth must have been a unique event, because the genomes of all living things show such similarities as would point to a single source. If life could arise easily from inanimate matter, multiple sources would be expected, given the 3.5 billion year life of our planet.” (Loc 1735)
Another way of looking at this is to realize that there could have been multiple beginnings of life but over time only the most successful “source” survived so that today it looks like there was only one source.
Putting aside these minor differences I can say that I am in substantial agreement with the reality of Shirvington’s presentation. I even agree that “a competitive warlike nature towards rivals…” was part of what allowed “an intelligent species to ultimately emerge.” (Loc 677) However I have a friend who believes that intelligence was an evolutionary mistake. And judging from events in the 20th and 21st centuries, he might be right.
--Dennis Littrell, author of “Understanding Religion: Reviews, Essays and Commentary”
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