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The Illusion of God’s Presence SYNOPSIS: Science has only begun to make sense of religion’s powerful grip on the human mind. Why do seven percent of members of the National Academy of Sciences believe in a personal god who answers prayer? The question is important because it probes the most irresistible essence of the appeal of religious and spiritual thinking. Using evidence from visual illusions, behavioral biology, and neuroscience, I offer an explanation in terms of a cognitively impenetrable illusion, one that science has largely overlooked. Pascal Gagneux is Associate Professor of Pathology and Anthropology, and Associate Director of the UCSD/Salk Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny (CARTA) at UC San Diego. Gagneux obtained a Master’s in Population Biology and a PhD in Zoology from Basel University, Switzerland. Gagneux was a Research Scientist at the Zoological Society of San Diego before joining UC San Diego. His research experience ranges from behavioral ecology of wild chimpanzees, to population genetics of west African chimpanzees and molecular differences between humans and other primates. Gagneux is interested in the evolutionary mechanisms responsible for generating primate molecular diversity. His laboratory explores the roles of molecular diversity in protecting populations from pathogens as well as implications for reproductive compatibility. Specifically, Gagneux studies how differences in sperm surface molecules reflect sexual selection (via sperm competition and cryptic female choice) and whether such differences might contribute to reproductive incompatibility and speciation. Gagneux coordinates the Graduate Specialization of Anthropogeny, a unique, trans-disciplinary program allowing UC San Diego PhD students from 8 different graduate programs to complement their PhD research with explorations of human origins. In the last six years, Gagneux has brought 28 graduate students on Field courses to East Africa to allow first-hand experience of important aspects of human origins research, including fossils, ecosystems, non-human primates and hunter-gatherer societies. His great concern is that the current surge in interest for comparative genomics is not being translated into direct support for t



Pascal Cagneux speaks at the 2018 LogiCal-LA conference
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