Friday, September 15, 2006

More on 'Breaking the Spell'
Gotta love some of the quotes the author uses to introduce his chapters and subchapters. It may be good proof that an education in the 'Humanities' is worthwhile after all. The third section of Chapter 2 is entitled, 'Might Music be Bad for You ?', and one of the the introductory quotes is from Shakespeare ie
"Is it not strange that sheep's guts should hale souls out of men's bodies ?"
The author compares the fact that music has been subjected to scientific study and the "magic" and the benefit of music have "survived such study. The author says,
"The comparison of religion to music is particularily useful here, since music is another natural phenomenum that has been ably studied by scholars for hundreds of years but is only just beginning to be the object of the sort of scientific study I am recommending"
Thus the author makes his case for the scientific study of religion by an analogy that may seem a little less painful to some. The author also says,
"I recognize that many people feel about religion the way I feel about music. They may be right. let's find out. That is, let's subject religion to the same sort of scientific enquiry that we have done with tobacco and alcohol (two other things that also make people feel quite good- Molly) and, for that matter, music. Let's find out why people love their religion, and what it's good for."
The author goes on about music,
"Music may be what Marx said religion is: the opiate of the masses, keeping working people in tranquillized subjugation, but it may also be the rallying song of revolution, closing up the ranks and giving heart to all. On this point, music and religion have quite similar profiles. in other regards music looks far less problematic than religion. Over the millenia, music has started a few riots, and charismatic musicians may have sexually abused a shocking number of susceptible young fans, and seduced many others to leave their families (and their wits) behind, but no crusades or jihads have been waged over differences in musical tradition, no pograms have been instituted against the lovers of waltzes or ragas or tangoes. Whole populations haven't been sunjected to obligatory scale-playing or kept in penury to furnish concert halls with the finest acoustics and instruments. No Musciians have had fatwas prounced against them by musical organizations, not even accordianists."
The comparison and contrast is very apt. Music is also , like religion, a biologically based substratum of human evolutionary psychology, but it seems to be a much more benign one. Religion no more deserves to escape scientific inquiry than music does, despite the fears that benefits may be lost.
More later

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