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To Richard Dawkins: Fear of Death is Adaptive

Gene ExpressionBy Razib KhanApril 2, 2009 3:36 AM


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Richard Dawkins: 'There is something illogical about the fear of death':

The comfort of a dying soldier, the succour for a grieving mother or belief in the after-life of a widower - is it still possible to see the utility of certain psychological aspects in some religious beliefs or customs? [Interviewer - R] I do see a psychological value, if it does have a real value. I would not wish to be the person who destroys that person's psychological succour. I would not compromise with my public speaking out in the public forum and writing. But if I was visiting someone who was recently bereaved, I might dissemble somewhat in what I said, but would not do so when writing a newspaper article. It is also disputable whether it is that comforting, given that people are brought up to fear hell for example. They might actually be comforted by the lack of religion, depending on their upbringing. Although many of us fear death, I think there is something illogical about it. [Dawkins - R]

My answer to Dr. Dawkins is in the title. To paraphrase an old saying, I learned it from reading you! Granted, it's a short interview and I hope Dawkins is talking in the proximate sense of logic as opposed to ultimate evolutionary logic. But even then I'm having a hard time conceiving of why fear of death would be illogical, after all it often involves pain and there are plenty of "logical" reasons to fear pain.

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