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The science of belief

Sceptics increasingly seek to explain faith as a product of nature; Lewis Wolpert thinks it is down to tool-making. But maybe there is a problem with the word "origin"

By AS Byatt   May 2006

Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast by Lewis Wolpert (Faber and Faber, £14.99)

EO Wilson, comparing human and ant societies, observed that all human societies had some form of religion. Like Richard Dawkins, Wilson grew up in a believing society—in his autobiography he describes his conversion, and his overturning of it. As a young woman, I thought I lived in a sceptical, pragmatic society, and was shocked to be told the percentage of believing Christians in the US, and subsequently surprised and curious to meet believing Marxists and believing psychoanalytic patients. When I read Lewis Wolpert’s Unnatural Nature of Science, I…

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