The Genius in My Basement

I had my entrance interview at the Seattle University School of Theology and Ministry today, and my expectation is that I'll be heading there in the Fall to read thousands and thousands of pages of seminary stuff so I can earn my backwards collar.

In the meantime I'm trying to take advantage of my last few months of intellectual freedom by reading a few books written by a nice old lady who lives on the first floor of my building who, it turns out, is an absolute groundbreaking revolutionary intellectual dynamo! Her name is Ellen Dissanayake, and she's answering religious questions that no one is asking yet, but will be soon.

Stop me if I've told you this already, but when I was working on my Masters in New Zealand I noticed resonances between the traditional Christian notion of original sin, which suggests that there is something corrupt in us such that we cannot control our own behavior (Romans 7:15: "I don't understand what I am doing. For I don't practice what I want to do, but instead do what I hate.") and a field of science called Sociobiology or Evolutionary Psychology which suggests that evolution has given us instincts towards certain behaviors which cannot be totally suppressed. In both instances, there is a suggestion that there is something in us that compels us to behave in certain ways, no matter what our wishes may be.

As I read up on Evolutionary Psychology, I frequently came across the suggestion that religious behavior should be seen as adaptive - that is, contributing to evolutionary 'fitness' - and I wanted to deal with the theological implications of such an idea in my thesis. I couldn't find anyone who had written on that topic extensively, and I didn't think I would be able to find the appropriate resources in order to write a thesis on it, so I went a different, less interesting route (Evolution in the Theology of Jurgen Moltmann). Turns out Ellen did exactly the work I was looking for in science. I'm not sure anyone's done anything with the idea theologically, and I really wish I had. It's incredibly important work, and I'm probably not going to have time or energy to put into any sort of writing project until post-seminary. And she's in my building as a resource and is extremely accessible. Doh!

I don't think she's religious herself, but her work makes an incredible argument for much of what religion provides as an essential for human existence and fulfillment and health. You should really read it.

Comments

ROBERTA said…
let's here it for all the nice old ladies in the world who are not seen but shall be heard!
Tim Mathis said…
Yeah - there are lots of them around!

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