Is Belief in God Just a Natural Phenomenon?
- Wednesday, April 09, 2008
What are we to make of this? The Economist argues that belief in God "cries out for a biological explanation." The evidence for this "crying out" is that religion, the magazine explains, "is a ubiquitous phenomenon" like language. It even asserts that religion may be a "species marker" for homo sapiens. But, the magazine then suggests that language has "obvious benefits" that religion lacks.
On the one hand, this separation of language from other aspects of culture flies in the face of what anthropologists like Clifford Geertz have been arguing for decades -- that societies are grouped around "cultural-linguistic systems." Language does not exist on its own.
On the other hand, The Economist argues that religion, "unlike language," often leads to violence. Language never leads to violence? Do the authors of this report really mean that? Talk to the Basque separatists or visit Catalonia -- or look even closer at Quebec.
The magazine then looks at some of the challenges belief in God poses for those committed to an evolutionary worldview. In the end, if belief in God has survived the evolutionary process, it must serve some purpose. As the magazine concludes:
Evolutionary biologists tend to be atheists, and most would be surprised if the scientific investigation of religion did not end up supporting their point of view. But if a propensity to religious behaviour really is an evolved trait, then they have talked themselves into a position where they cannot benefit from it, much as a sceptic cannot benefit from the placebo effect of homeopathy. Maybe, therefore, it is God who will have the last laugh after all--whether He actually exists or not.
Well, to believe in God is indeed to believe that He will "have the last laugh after all," so to speak. Even some of those committed to the evolutionary worldview have to admit that, as David Sloan Wilson puts it, "secularism is very maladaptive biologically. We're the ones who at best are having only two kids. Religious people are the ones who aren't smoking and drinking, and are living longer and having the health benefits."
Count on this study to gain a great deal of media attention. "Explaining Religion" is yet more evidence that naturalism just doesn't work as a worldview. The "natural" order is just not self-explanatory. Do we really believe that morality is just a matter of brain chemistry? If so, why lock up criminals? Thankfully, most people have sufficient sense to realize that a biochemical explanation of morality means the end of personal responsibility. Want to live in that world?
The attempt to forge a completely natural explanation for belief in God is even more implausible. But, for those committed to evolutionary naturalism, this is a mountain they just must climb. It will be fascinating to watch. Keep your brain chemistry on alert.
© All rights reserved, www.AlbertMohler.com. Used with permission.
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