Friday, May 17, 2024

A Teenaged Thing to Say: The Farewell to One's Childhood Theism

At 14m30s here in an autobiographical story on The Moth podcast, cognitive neuroscientist Christof Koch says: "I'm saddened by the loss of my belief in a religion. It's like leaving forever the comfort of your childhood home... But I do believe we all have to grow up.” This announcement that one has left childhood behind is a teenaged thing to say. The farewell to childhood is the main theme of adolescence—not of adulthood. There is much to admire about Christof Koch, but this moment was not his finest hour. On the other hand, he has an interesting new book, Then I Am Myself the World (Basic Books, 2024), which I will be reviewing elsewhere soon.

The same maturational process that leads from naive theism to disillusioned physicalism does not end at that step, or not for everyone. It can continue far beyond that position. As his writing life unfolds, Koch's books move closer and closer to an escape from the disillusioned physicalism he learned from Francis Crick (1916-2004), but it seems to me Koch remains hidebound by a passionate loyalty to that lost mentor. I'm hoping he'll read Iain McGilchrist's book The Matter with Things (2021), as I'm very curious what sort of effect that author's work would have on him.