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What’s wrong with a popular theory of the evolution of religion


Casey Luskin reflects on Yuval Noah Harari’s thesis that religion evolved through stages because humans needed it in order to co-operate in larger groups: But it’s not that simple:

For the most part, monotheism did not “develop”; In most known instances (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, for example), it began as — and is certainly treated as — a “revelation from above.” This also seems to have been true of the short-lived monotheistic religion of the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten (1352–1336 BC). “Amenhotep IV changed his name to Akhenaten and defied tradition by establishing a new religion that believed that there is but one god; the sun god Aten.” – Discovering Egypt.

Generally, monotheism is favorable to a high level of organization, including complex theologies that don’t just morph a lot but are only changed with much deliberation or controversy. But did that state of affairs evolve so as to foster “cohesive unity,” as Harari suggests? Hard to say. Religion — especially propositional religion, like the monotheisms — can foster either unity or disunity. Monotheism has not been a force for unity in Northern Ireland or the Middle East.

But what makes the problem even more complex is that not all disunity is bad. Many social reformers who were motivated by religion created considerable disunity in their lifetimes (William Wilberforce and Martin Luther King come to mind) but they are honored today for the changes they brought about.

Denyse O’Leary, “Religion is far too complex to have a single evolution story” at Mind Matters News (August 2, 2021)

Takehome: We can certainly find support for Harari’s thesis about the evolution of religion — but we can find support for many other theses as well.

You may also wish to read: is free will a dangerous myth? The denial of free will is a much more dangerous myth (Michael Egnor takes issue with Harari on the issue of free will.)


Can plants be as smart as animals? Seeking to thrive and grow, plants communicate extensively, without a mind or a brain

Perhaps the two most famous quotes of atheists suppressing their innate ‘design inference’ are the following two quotes:
“Biology is the study of complicated things that have the appearance of having been designed with a purpose.” Richard Dawkins – “The Blind Watchmaker” – 1986 – page 1 “Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved. It might be thought, therefore, that evolutionary arguments would play a large part in guiding biological research, but this is far from the case”,,, - Francis Crick (co-discover of DNA helix) – What Mad Pursuit - 1988 https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Francis_Crick#What_Mad_Pursuit_(1988)
Just looking at a cross section of DNA, it is easy to see why Crick was constantly haunted by the thought that life may be purposely designed rather than accidentally evolved,
Cross section of DNA compared to the Rose window at York Minster (the largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe) - picture https://reflectionsfrommyporchswing.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/dna-2.jpg DNA spiral as a Golden Section Excerpt: The DNA molecule, the program for all life, is based on the golden section. It measures 34 angstroms long by 21 angstroms wide for each full cycle of its double helix spiral. 34 and 21, of course, are numbers in the Fibonacci series and their ratio, 1.6190476 closely approximates phi, 1.6180339. DNA in the cell appears as a double-stranded helix referred to as B-DNA.This form of DNA has a two groove in its spirals, with a ratio of phi in the proportion of the major groove to the minor groove, or roughly 21 angstroms to 13 angstroms. ,,, a cross-sectional view from the top of the DNA double helix forms a decagon: A decagon is in essence two pentagons, with one rotated by 36 degrees from the other, so each spiral of the double helix must trace out the shape of a pentagon. The ratio of the diagonal of a pentagon to its side is Phi to 1. So, no matter which way you look at it, even in its smallest element, DNA, and life, is constructed using phi and the golden section! http://www.goldennumber.net/dna/
Seeing as Darwinists have no clue how DNA, especially the genetic code within DNA, could have possibly accidentally evolved, I certainly see no reason to deny the Intelligent Design that is clear for all, even leading atheists, to see in DNA.
On the efficiency of the genetic code after frameshift mutations. - 2018 Excerpt: In other words, our result demonstrates that the SGC appears to be much more than just “one in a million”. Abstract: (open access) – Geyer R, Madany Mamlouk A. (2018) On the efficiency of the genetic code after frameshift mutations. PeerJ 6:e4825 https://uncommondesc.wpengine.com/intelligent-design/the-standard-genetic-code-is-optimized-to-reduce-costly-errors/
Romans 1:20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
Of semi-related note to the origin of religion, belief in God is found to be 'hardwired' into us.
Children are born believers in God, academic claims - 24 Nov 2008 Excerpt: "Dr Justin Barrett, a senior researcher at the University of Oxford's Centre for Anthropology and Mind, claims that young people have a predisposition to believe in a supreme being because they assume that everything in the world was created with a purpose." http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/3512686/Children-are-born-believers-in-God-academic-claims.html Humans 'predisposed' to believe in gods and the afterlife - July 14, 2011 - University of Oxford Excerpt: A three-year international research project, directed by two academics at the University of Oxford, finds that humans have natural tendencies to believe in gods and an afterlife. The £1.9 million project involved 57 researchers who conducted over 40 separate studies in 20 countries representing a diverse range of cultures. The studies (both analytical and empirical) conclude that humans are predisposed to believe in gods and an afterlife,,, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110714103828.htm
In fact, studies now establish that the design inference is ‘knee jerk’ inference that is built into everyone, especially including atheists, and that atheists have to mentally work suppressing their “knee jerk” design inference!
Is Atheism a Delusion? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Ii-bsrHB0o Design Thinking Is Hardwired in the Human Brain. How Come? - October 17, 2012 Excerpt: "Even Professional Scientists Are Compelled to See Purpose in Nature, Psychologists Find." The article describes a test by Boston University's psychology department, in which researchers found that "despite years of scientific training, even professional chemists, geologists, and physicists from major universities such as Harvard, MIT, and Yale cannot escape a deep-seated belief that natural phenomena exist for a purpose" ,,, Most interesting, though, are the questions begged by this research. One is whether it is even possible to purge teleology from explanation. http://www.evolutionnews.org/2012/10/design_thinking065381.html Richard Dawkins take heed: Even atheists instinctively believe in a creator says study - Mary Papenfuss - June 12, 2015 Excerpt: Three studies at Boston University found that even among atheists, the "knee jerk" reaction to natural phenomenon is the belief that they're purposefully designed by some intelligence, according to a report on the research in Cognition entitled the "Divided Mind of a disbeliever." The findings "suggest that there is a deeply rooted natural tendency to view nature as designed," writes a research team led by Elisa Järnefelt of Newman University. They also provide evidence that, in the researchers' words, "religious non-belief is cognitively effortful." Researchers attempted to plug into the automatic or "default" human brain by showing subjects images of natural landscapes and things made by human beings, then requiring lightning-fast responses to the question on whether "any being purposefully made the thing in the picture," notes Pacific-Standard. "Religious participants' baseline tendency to endorse nature as purposefully created was higher" than that of atheists, the study found. But non-religious participants "increasingly defaulted to understanding natural phenomena as purposefully made" when "they did not have time to censor their thinking," wrote the researchers. The results suggest that "the tendency to construe both living and non-living nature as intentionally made derives from automatic cognitive processes, not just practised explicit beliefs," the report concluded. The results were similar even among subjects from Finland, where atheism is not a controversial issue as it can be in the US. "Design-based intuitions run deep," the researchers conclude, "persisting even in those with no explicit religious commitment and, indeed, even among those with an active aversion to them." http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/richard-dawkins-take-heed-even-atheists-instinctively-believe-creator-says-study-1505712
i.e. It is not that Atheists do not see purpose and/or Design in nature and biology, it is that Atheists, for whatever severely misguided reason, live in denial of the purpose and/or Design that they themselves see in nature. bornagain77

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