May 2, 2008June 6, 2008Meeting Report

May 18, 2008

Yana Horton

The Human Disposition for Religiosity

Yana HortonThis well-attended meeting drew an audience of twenty people, who participated enthusiastically in a very interesting discussion.

As any seventh grader can tell you, the Earth revolves around our Sun, not the other way around. Actually, according to Yana Horton, who teaches science to seventh and eighth grade students, this is a new concept to many of them. Although not directly related to her presentation topic, this was one of the many interesting things passed on to those who attended this HAGSA meeting. This revelation should not be surprising to those who have taken in other recent presenters whose focus has been local and state-level education.

Yana was born in Leningrad which has since had its pre-Soviet name of St. Petersburg restored. After moving to Israel, then the United States, Yana was surprised by the level of religiosity she found here, especially the way a large number of people believed in a literal interpretation of the Bible.

This led Ms. Horton to explore why people believe in a supernatural. Nature or nurture? Or, as she put it, genetic predisposition or cultural training. After discussing various observations about the evolution of the human brain, neural biomechanics and studies into brain plasticity among others, Yana concluded that religious belief seems to be about five percent attributable to genetics and 95 percent to environmental influences.

Yana finished her presentation with the Steven Weinberg quotation, “Science does not make it impossible to believe in God; it makes it possible not to believe.” Steven Weinberg is a Nobel Laureate in physics and the recipient of the American Humanist Association’s 2002 Humanist of the Year Award.

Report prepared by Brian Jones, Recorder

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