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  • Well, religion is an interesting topic because religion is universal. All human societies

  • believe in the supernatural. All human societies have a religion one way or another. Which

  • for the biologists must mean that religion has some advantages -- offers some advantages

  • to a society. Otherwise we wouldn't have that strong tendency to develop it. And so for

  • me that's actually a far more interesting question of whether God exists or doesn't

  • exist. That sort of question I cannot answer. But the question of why we have religions

  • is an interesting question. And my view is that morality, our human morality, is older

  • than religion so instead of saying morality comes from God or religion gave us morality.

  • For me that's a big no-no.

  • Our current religions are just 2,000 or 3,000 years old which is very young. And our species

  • is much older and I cannot imagine that, for example, a hundred thousand years or two hundred

  • thousand years our ancestors did not have some type of morality. Of course they had

  • rules about how you should behave, what is fair, what is unfair, caring for others -- all

  • of these tendencies were in place already so they had a moral system and then at some

  • point we developed these present day religions which I think we're sort of tacked on to the

  • morality that we had. And maybe they served to codify them or to enforce them or to steer

  • morality in a particular direction that we prefer.

  • So religion comes in for me secondarily. I'm struggling with whether we need religion.

  • So personally I think we can be moral without religion because we probably had morality

  • long before the current religions came along. So I think we can be moral without religion

  • but in large scale societies where we are not all keeping an eye on each other because

  • we -- in societies with a thousand people or several thousand or millions of people

  • we cannot all keep an eye on each other. And that's maybe why we installed religions in

  • these large scale societies where a God kept watch over everybody.

  • And then the question becomes is this really needed? Now in northern Europe -- I'm from

  • the Netherlands -- there is basically an experiment going on. In northern Europe the majority

  • of people are not religious anymore. When you ask them they say they're nonbelievers.

  • And they still have a moral society as far as I can tell. And so there is a sort of experiment

  • going on there -- can we set up a society where religion is not dominant at least? It

  • may be present but it's not dominant anymore, there is still a moral society. And until

  • now I think that experiment is going pretty well. And so I am optimistic that religion

  • is not strictly needed. But I cannot be a hundred percent sure because we've never really

  • tried -- there is no human society where religion is totally absent so we really have never

  • tried this experiment.

Well, religion is an interesting topic because religion is universal. All human societies

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