The Evolution of Faith: A passionate rationalist explores the scientific roots of religious belief, superstition and plain old luck, TIME, Michael Brunton, Apr. 01, 2006 What's the first thing you do if the ground beneath you starts to rumble and the walls begin to shake? Grab the kids and run? Check your home-insurance policy? Fall on your knees and pray for deliverance? All logical enough reactions, but not your very first one. Instead, even when faced with imminent disaster, you'll spend precious time asking, "What was that?" It's called the cognitive imperative, the uniquely human, hardwired instinct to link cause with effect that gave us a vital evolutionary advantage over other animal species. After all, the noise could be just a passing truck and nothing to lose precious sleep over. Delineating how we react to an earthquake is just one example of the cognitive imperative described in Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast, British scientist Lewis Wolpert's enquiry into the evolutionary origins of belief. If the theme sounds familiar, that's because the search for scientific roots of religious faith is a hot, and heatedly debated, issue of the day. In his 2004 book The God Gene, U.S. molecular biologist Dean Hamer claimed to have located one of the genes he said was responsible for spirituality. Last month, the American philosopher and evolutionary theorist Daniel Dennett provoked more controversy with Breaking the Spell, in which he cast religion in terms of memes - cultural ideas that can spread, mutate and survive in our minds, whether or not they are good for us. ... Wolpert, 76, was prompted to write the book by the shock of a conversation with his son Matthew, who had joined a fundamentalist Christian church. the parent in him now accepts that the church was a great benefit to his son. Religious beliefs will endure, Wolpert writes, "not only because mysticism is in our brains, but also because it gives enormous comfort and meaning to life." ... [For a "passionate rationalist" Wolpert (along with Hamer and Dennett) is an irrationalist! He has here written a book-length example of the Genetic Fallacy, confusing the origin of a belief with its truth. Consider the two propositions: 1) Christianity is true (which it is); and 2) humans have a "hardwired instinct to link cause with effect." Propositions 2) does not contradict 1).
Only by tacitly assuming that an "evolutionary" (i.e. `blind watchmaker') explanation of the mind renders it false, would there be a necessary contradiction. But then we could not trust our minds to know that "evolutionary" explanations are true. This is another example of Darwin's "horrid doubt" (see my "Problems Of Evolution" book outline, PE 220.127.116.11. "Problems of materialism Self-refuting").
There is another fallacy here by Wolpert (but I don't have time to check up what its name is), confusing "belief" with its content. As G.K. Chesterton pointed out, it is their different inner content that distinguishes religious beliefs (including Wolpert's atheism) from their similar outer form:
"There is a phrase of facile liberality uttered again and again at ethical societies and parliaments of religion: `the religions of the earth differ in rites and forms, but they are the same in what they teach.' It is false; it is the opposite of the fact. The religions of the earth do not greatly differ in rites and forms; they do greatly differ in what they teach. It is as if a man were to say, ` Do not be misled by the fact that the Church Times and the Freethinker look utterly different, that one is painted on vellum and the other carved on marble that one is triangular and the other hectagonal; read them and you will see that they say the same thing.' The truth is, of course, that they are alike in everything except in the fact that they don't say the same thing. An atheist stockbroker in Surbiton looks exactly like a Swedenborgian stockbroker in Wimbledon. You may walk round and round them and subject them to the most personal and offensive study without seeing anything Swedenborgian in the hat or anything particularly godless in the umbrella. It is exactly in their souls that they are divided. So the truth is that the difficulty of all the creeds of the earth is not as alleged in this cheap maxim: that they agree in meaning, but differ in machinery. It is exactly the opposite. They agree in machinery; almost every great religion on earth works with the same external methods, with priests, scriptures, altars, sworn brotherhoods, special feasts. They agree in the mode of teaching; what they differ about is the thing to be taught." (Chesterton G.K., "Orthodoxy," , Fontana: London, 1961, reprint, pp.127-128. Emphasis original)
I have added an excerpt of the above article to my "Problems of Evolution" book outline, PE 2.8.9. "Fallacies used to support evolution Genetic fallacy.
The problem for Wolpert (et al.) was well stated by our senior pastor in his sermon on Romans 8:35-38 this morning, that when we Christians are attacked, we should remember that we have read the end of the book and we win! Which seems to be a paraphrase from this song, "End of the Book" by a Christian, Michael W. Smith:
"When things get bad and you can't stand to look
It's time to read to the end of the book
Don't put it down 'til you get to the end
When Jesus come and His Kingdom begins
... we win ..." (my emphasis)!
PS: I will take a break from posting `tagline' quotes from Mivart's "Genesis of Species," to post some quotes by South African pioneer paleoanthropologist Robert Broom, who was an evolutionist but regarded Darwin's theory as inadequate to explain the origin of man. He makes the point below (albeit not clearly) that survival of the fittest is not the same thing as the origin of the fittest.
Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).
"Problems of Evolution"
"THOUGH we can say with complete confidence that man has evolved from an Old World primate, and can even come very near to the ancestor that gave rise to the human line, we cannot say what has brought about the evolution. Darwin will always live as the scientist who first convinced the thinking world that man has evolved from some type of ape; but the main theory which he proposed has by no means been universally accepted. In his Origin of Species he argued in favour of Evolution having been brought about by Nature favouring the fittest varieties. He called his theory, `Natural Selection ` or `The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.' Cope, the great American palaeontologist, wanted to know what was the origin of the fittest. And this is still our trouble." (Broom R., "Finding the Missing Link," , Greenwood Press: Westport CT, Second edition, 1951, Reprinted, 1975, p.98)
I appreciate that you do the hard work of retrieving, analysing and commenting in an informed manner on the evolution debate. Once I had settled in my own mind that the science I had been taught was deeply flawed, not technically but theoretically, I stopped searching the literature, but I do like to be aware of what is going on. I met an old man the other day who told me he could not believe in the bible because evolution had disproved it. It is an important issue.
Thanks for your comment.
I appreciate that you do the hard work of retrieving, analysing and commenting in an informed manner on the evolution debate.
Thanks for your appreciation, which is much appreciated!
>Once I had settled in my own mind that the science I had been taught was deeply flawed, not technically but theoretically, I stopped searching the literature, but I do like to be aware of what is going on.
Not everyone has the time, inclination, or opportunity, to keep up with the relevant literature. Not that I (or anyone) can totally. But I consider this to be my area of ministry and calling, so if I consider it a privilege to serve in this way.
>I met an old man the other day who told me he could not believe in the bible because evolution had disproved it.
The flip side of that is if the Bible is true that there is a God and He has supernaturally intervened in history (which it *is* and He *has* - http://tinyurl.com/fsugr), then evolution's twin philosophical pillars: materialism (matter is all there is = there is no God) and naturalism (nature is all there is = there is no supernatural = there is no God) is *false*.
Then evolution could still be true in some sense (since God *could* have chosen to created 100% through natural processes) but that would have to be decided on the *evidence*, not on question-begging (and *false*) materialistic and naturalistic philosophical grounds.
>It is an important issue.
Agreed. Perhaps even *the* most important for our advanced Western, science-based, `post-Christian' culture?
Thanks again for your comment.
Stephen E. Jones
Post a Comment