British physicist David Tyler discusses recent evolutionary psychology speculations about the origin of religion:
… the “potential answers” Culotta mentions at the outset have the word potential in bold and the rest is in the imagination. What is strikingly lacking in these studies is any questioning of the materialist mindset of the researchers. The most significant way they follow Darwin is in excluding any thought that intelligent design issues need to be addressed before we can properly understand humanity. Indeed, the researchers set up a culture that portrays teleology as anti-science. Culotta reports on the findings of cognitive psychologists working with some undergraduate students: “When the undergrads had to respond under time pressure, they were likely to agree with nonscientific statements such as “The sun radiates heat because warmth nurtures life.” “It’s hard work to overcome these teleological explanations,” says Kelemen, who adds that the data also suggest an uphill battle for scientific literacy. “When you speed people up, their hard work goes by the wayside.” She’s now investigating how professional scientists perform on her tests. Such purpose-driven beliefs are a step on the way to religion, she says. “Things exist for purposes, things are intentionally caused, things are intentionally caused for a purpose by some agent. … You begin to see that a god is a likely thing for a human mind to construct.””
These attitudes are deeply worrying, because the researchers have started with the premise of philosophical naturalism. If a teleological perspective is correct, these researchers have no way of discovering the truth. When we look at the radiation that life needs to be sustained, and then look at the radiation emitted by the sun, the match is superb. It is perfectly reasonable to make design inferences and to test teleological hypotheses.
Yes, but that doesn’t lead to a society in which a scientific elite can emit any piffle or bafflegab and be both supported by the taxpayer and wholeheartedly believed – even if the piffle or bafflegab changes next year, in which case we all need to evolve a universal swivel joint in our necks.