13. Evolution of Belief?

Click here to hear episode #13.

Is religion merely a byproduct of evolutionary selection pressures and social phenomenon? Neuroscientists, biologists, and philosophers are offering a number of theories purporting to explain religious belief naturalistically. In this episode, I discuss whether these theories are successful. Moreover, I look at the impact these theories have on the justification for religious belief. Finally, I analyze the Argument from the Prevalence of Religion, which argues that the proliferation of religious belief around the globe and throughout history is evidence for God’s existence. For the book reviews, I take a look at Time and Eternity by William Lane Craig. For the audience questions, I take another look at Pascal’s Wager and the Argument from Design.

See the full transcript.

  1. I see your point, and I also see the point that naturalists invoking science attempt to make here. While I do not believe that our answer to this question in any capacity disproves the existence of God, or even marginalizes him, either way I must clarify there are a great number of fallacious assumptions that both camps make. If both the Christian apologist, and the “overtly” scientific naturalist/atheist, would have this discussion with social psychologists and anthropologists (“the true human sciences”) you would both do well ;)

    You cannot model human “religion” after your own intimate understanding of any one of the “capital R” religions, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, etc, their theology, sacred texts, or traditions only complicate matters. This is the primary incorrect assumption, that religion is defined as an archetype of these traditions.

    Human religion as opposed to “R”eligion, is very simply defined as: Any belief in what can be practical for the moment in your understanding of the environment. I use the term environment in the conceptual sense, meaning your world around you – your culture, society, relationships, your image of self, your natural and manmade surroundings. Humans evolve (socially, if one choses not to accept biologically) because we have a capacity for belief, and religion (a system of beliefs with self feedback). Even though we’re given these great, big brains to think rationally and process a larger set of inputs and outputs than ever conceivable by our plant and mammal neighbors. In spite of the additional computational power (rational, problem solving capacity), we still have the ability to act (pre-visualize a safe outcome in environment). If we had only the computational power, we would either remain petrified, or act overly defensive and aggressive, either way unable to make a single decision to survive. It is therefore by our creative capacity – our ability to construct reliable concepts based upon what we cannot rationalize given the amount of information about our environment at the moment – that we arrive at civilization.

    That’s it in a nutshell. So you cannot say that religion is only a hurdle in human evolution, and you cannot say that it isn’t. Belief in the unknown is a prerequisite for being practical, and practicality is how we survive. Stories, myths, tools, we fashion many things on our road to civilization. Proving the existence of the tool itself doesn’t verify or nullify the question of God.


    harpoonflyby    Jan 25, 10:22 AM    #
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