Theism/Religion simply a 'misuse' of some evolution-created capability?
[Menu created Jun
11/2006 : Last update: (none)]
At the time of writing this menu,
I am in the process of revising my "Long-winded, slow-moving,
argument for the faith..." (nextseat.html),
trying to adjust it
for some criticisms, rebuttals, and pushbacks--for which I am
VERY thankful, btw.
One of these I was alerted to was by my friend Brian Holtz, whose
writings I have enjoyed--and envied (smile) for their conciseness. I do
not know if his response is still posted (it is an older one from five
years ago), but one of his statements formed the impetus for this
series. In responding to my observation that the concept of a god was
embedded in our thinking, he agreed and referred to a selection from an
apparent book of his:
"(it is embedded) because of our nature
as intelligent social animals
who survive by detecting patterns and especially intentions in an
environment dominated by their social interactions. Humans appear
biased to see intentionality not only in friends, foes, predators, and
prey, but also in weather, the heavens, or the universe itself. This
bias is perhaps related to the general human tendency (known in
psychology as the Fundamental Attribution Error) to incorrectly
emphasize intentional explanations over situational or circumstantial
This reminded me of several books I consulted on a small, two-paragraph
email I wrote a while back on "Isn't
there a 'God' part of the
brain that proves all this Jesus stuff is untrue?' (godnbrain1.html). As
I started looking a little wider at this, I noticed that this thesis
(or closely related ones) formed an important part of several popular
Historically, the writer/work most referred to seems to be Stewart
Guthrie's Faces in the Clouds: A
New Theory of Religion [NS:FITC]. In the preface to the
paperback edition, Guthrie makes a masterfully succinct and clear
statement of his premise:
"Earlier writers who have seen
anthropomorphism as basic to religion have disagreed about its nature
and causes. Most have slighted its secular forms. My own claim is
simple. I hold that religion is best understood as anthropomorphism and
that anthropomorphism results from a strategy of perception.
The strategy is to interpret the world's ambiguities first as those
possibilities that matter most. Such possibilities usually include
living things and especially humans. Although the strategy leads to
mistakes, it also leads to vital discoveries that outweigh them. We see
shadows in alleys as persons and hear sounds as signals because if
these interpretations are right they are invaluable, and if not, they
are relatively harmless.
The strategy is involuntary, mostly unconscious, and shared by other
animals. Understanding it and the anthropomorphism to which it gives
rise illuminates secular as well as religious experience."
There are a number of works/writers which align closely with some
variant of this, and I would like to examine that group in this series.
I obviously believe SOMETHING is innate, which allows a relationship
with God, but I will have to analyze these works to see how/how much
My plan (loosely speaking, of course--sigh) is to deal with the works
(a) in chronological order--since some of them interact with earlier
ones; and (b) as written from different specialties (e.g. psychology
versus anthropology). So, here is the tentative list works I hope to
analyze in this series:
- Anthropologist (1993). Faces in the Clouds: A New Theory of
Religion (Stewart Guthrie).
(1996). Creation of the Sacred:
Tracks of Biology in Early Religions (Walter Burkert).
- Archaeologist (1996). The Prehistory of Mind: The Cognitive
Origins of Art and Science (Steven Mithen)--[only has a couple
of pages on the subject, though]
- Cognitive Psychologist
(1999). The Meme Machine
(2001). Why God Won't Go Away: Brain
Science and the Biology of Belief (Andrew Newberg, Eugene
Psychologist (2001). Religion
Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought.
- Philosopher (2006). Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural
Phenomenon (Daniel Dennett).
I have read a couple of these already, but with my schedule like it is,
this will take a long time--there is a good deal of ancillary research
required (e.g., animal cognition, developmental psych,
perception/sensation, etc). But hopefully it will be of value to
The Christian ThinkTank...[http://www.Christian-thinktank.com]