35 Years Ago in Free Inquiry — Vol.40, No.3

“[S]cientific materialism is currently posing a new challenge to religious belief because up to this time no one has thought through the full implications for religion of the Darwinian evolution of the mind. Consider, for example … ‘the epigenetic rules.’ These are the features by which the mind is assembled. In some instances they are very strict, narrow procedures, in others much more subtle and flexible; but all are nevertheless rules materialistically based on physical brain mechanisms. Very few people have thought carefully about the implications for religion of this conception of how the mind originated … . [B]efore very long we will have a much fuller, and maybe intellectually fully satisfying, account of the origin of religion in Darwinian terms.”

—E. O. Wilson, “An Interview with E. O. Wilson on Sociobiology and Religion,”
Free Inquiry, Volume 5, No. 2 (Spring 1985)

Editor’s Note: E. O. Wilson founded the scientific discipline of sociobiology, now known as evolutionary biology. Then the Frank B. Baird, Jr. Professor of Science at Harvard University, he is now Harvard’s Pellegrino University Research Professor, Emeritus in Entomology for the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology. Wilson was interviewed by Jeffrey Saver, then a student at Harvard Medical School. Saver is now a neurologist on the faculty of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.


“[S]cientific materialism is currently posing a new challenge to religious belief because up to this time no one has thought through the full implications for religion of the Darwinian evolution of the mind. Consider, for example … ‘the epigenetic rules.’ These are the features by which the mind is assembled. In some instances they are …

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