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An NPR pundit explains the evolution of religion

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Barbara J. King:

Crespi and Summers define religion as “a sociocultural belief and behavior system involving both supernatural ideas and morality.” Definitions of institutions as complex as religiosity are always arguable; I’d have preferred a more explicit emphasis on practice, on specifically what people do. In fact I think Crespi and Summers do, as they lay out their hypothesis, rely heavily on practice rather than only beliefs, more so than their definition suggests. …

When, seven years ago, my book Evolving God was published and I gave interviews based on it such as this one at Salon, I grappled with the same basic questions that preoccupy Crespi and Summers. I went in a different direction by emphasizing that human religiosity was primed by the meaning-making, imagination, empathy and rule-following of other primates (primates with whom we shared a common ancestor in the past, or those common ancestors themselves). Religious imagination flowered later, in the hominin lineage, as our brains were increasingly selected over time to think beyond the here-and-now.

My framework back then focused more on preconditions for human religiosity than Crespi and Summers’ does, and also on attempting to pinpoint the roots of religion in the archaeologically visible behavior of Neanderthals and early Homo sapiens. But I see the two core sets of ideas as basically complementary.

Blah. Blah. Blah.

Feeling better informed yet?

Evolutionary psychologists will front any thesis, no matter how unlikely or ridiculous, except that religion is a response to a message from a divine source.  And evidence is irrelevant. It’s not actually a science, it is a branch of naturalism.

In other news, the beard trend is guided by evolution:

The ebb and flow of men’s beard fashions may be guided by Darwinian selection, according to a new study.

The more beards there are, the less attractive they become – giving clean-shaven men a competitive advantage, say scientists in Sydney, Australia.

When “peak beard” frequency is reached, the pendulum swings back toward lesser-bristled chins – a trend we may be witnessing now, the scientists say.

This is “science,” you understand. Show proper respect.

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17 Replies to “An NPR pundit explains the evolution of religion

  1. 1
    Optimus says:

    NPR never passes up an opportunity to promote shallow popscience narratives that explain away anything pertaining to God. Their 13.7 blog is so ridiculously one-sided that I hardly ever bother to read it anymore. Interestingly, while that particular blog bills itself as a exploration of the intersection of science, culture, and religion, none of the contributors describe themselves as conventionally religious. They are all atheists or agnostics, which is, of course, their prerogative. However, to have such intellectual uniformity on a blog that is explicitly intended to delve into the intersection of science and religion is incredibly unsettling (especially when such a blog is hosted by a major news organization). I once sent them an email asking if they thought it would be acceptable to have their CodeSwitch blog (which addresses issues of race and ethnicity) written entirely by white people. Crickets….

  2. 2
    Mung says:

    I eagerly await their explanation of the evolution of science.

  3. 3
    Robert Byers says:

    If NPR doesn’t give equal time for rebuttal then its not persuasive to intelligent reflective people. Its just left wing propaganda taking advantage on the peoples trust in their intellectual integrity.

    I understand beards left the Anglospere when Puritanism took over in the south and east of england back in the 1600.s.
    Nothing to do with sexual selection and all about being roundheads with rebellion against the Anglican upper class dudes.
    Do girls dig.not dig beards.
    Any chicks around here to inform us guys!!

  4. 4
    bornagain77 says:

    Evolution Vs. The Christian Experience – video
    http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=CEJ2CNNU

    C.S. Lewis – Evolution and The Christian Experience – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/7060815/

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    of interest:

    What happened 5000 years ago? – Dinesh D’Souza
    Excerpt: The Population Reference Bureau estimates that the number of people who have ever been born is approximately 105 billion. Of this number, about 2 percent were born before Christ came to earth. “So in a sense,” Kreps notes, “God’s timing couldn’t have been more perfect. If He’d come earlier in human history, how reliable would the records of his relationship with man be? But He showed up just before the exponential explosion in the world’s population, so even though 98 percent of humanity’s timeline had passed, only 2 percent of humanity had previously been born, so 98 percent of us have walked the earth since the Redemption.”
    http://www.estatevaults.com/bo.....ned_5.html

    World Population Growth Through History – Graph
    http://cdn.physorg.com/newman/.....opulat.gif

    Stone Age Temple May Be Birthplace of Civilization
    Excerpt: The elaborate temple at Gobelki Tepe in southeastern Turkey, near the Syrian border, is staggeringly ancient: 11,500 years old, from a time just before humans learned to farm grains and domesticate animals. According to the German archaeologist in charge of excavations at the site, it might be the birthplace of agriculture, of organized religion — of civilization itself.
    http://www.freerepublic.com/tag/gobeklitepe/index

  6. 6
    tjguy says:

    Mung wants an explanation for the evolution of science. I want an evolutionary explanation for an evolution of Materialism.

    If religion evolved, then so did the mindset of the materialist.

  7. 7
    bornagain77 says:

    Darwinists can’t even offer an explanation of consciousness that does not implode into absurdity:

    The following interview is sadly comical as a evolutionary psychologist realizes that neo-Darwinism can offer no guarantee that our faculties of reasoning will correspond to the truth, not even for the truth that he is purporting to give in the interview, (which begs the question of how was he able to come to that particular truthful realization, in the first place, if neo-Darwinian evolution were actually true?);

    Evolutionary guru: Don’t believe everything you think – October 2011
    Interviewer: You could be deceiving yourself about that.(?)
    Evolutionary Psychologist: Absolutely.
    http://www.newscientist.com/ar.....think.html

    Evolutionists Are Now Saying Their Thinking is Flawed (But Evolution is Still a Fact) – Cornelius Hunter – May 2012
    Excerpt: But the point here is that these “researchers” are making an assertion (human reasoning evolved and is flawed) which undermines their very argument. If human reasoning evolved and is flawed, then how can we know that evolution is a fact, much less any particular details of said evolutionary process that they think they understand via their “research”?
    http://darwins-god.blogspot.co.....their.html

    Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism by Alvin Plantinga – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r34AIo-xBh8

    Scientific Peer Review is in Trouble: From Medical Science to Darwinism – Mike Keas – October 10, 2012
    Excerpt: Survival is all that matters on evolutionary naturalism. Our evolving brains are more likely to give us useful fictions that promote survival rather than the truth about reality. Thus evolutionary naturalism undermines all rationality (including confidence in science itself). Renown philosopher Alvin Plantinga has argued against naturalism in this way (summary of that argument is linked on the site:).
    Or, if your short on time and patience to grasp Plantinga’s nuanced argument, see if you can digest this thought from evolutionary cognitive psychologist Steve Pinker, who baldly states:
    “Our brains are shaped for fitness, not for truth; sometimes the truth is adaptive, sometimes it is not.”
    Steven Pinker, evolutionary cognitive psychologist, How the Mind Works (W.W. Norton, 1997), p. 305.
    http://blogs.christianpost.com.....ism-12421/

    The Heretic – Who is Thomas Nagel and why are so many of his fellow academics condemning him? – March 25, 2013
    Excerpt: Neo-Darwinism insists that every phenomenon, every species, every trait of every species, is the consequence of random chance, as natural selection requires. And yet, Nagel says, “certain things are so remarkable that they have to be explained as non-accidental if we are to pretend to a real understanding of the world.”
    Among these remarkable, nonaccidental things are many of the features of the manifest image. Consciousness itself, for example: You can’t explain consciousness in evolutionary terms, Nagel says, without undermining the explanation itself. Evolution easily accounts for rudimentary kinds of awareness. Hundreds of thousands of years ago on the African savannah, where the earliest humans evolved the unique characteristics of our species, the ability to sense danger or to read signals from a potential mate would clearly help an organism survive.
    So far, so good. But the human brain can do much more than this. It can perform calculus, hypothesize metaphysics, compose music—even develop a theory of evolution. None of these higher capacities has any evident survival value, certainly not hundreds of thousands of years ago when the chief aim of mental life was to avoid getting eaten. Could our brain have developed and sustained such nonadaptive abilities by the trial and error of natural selection, as neo-Darwinism insists? It’s possible, but the odds, Nagel says, are “vanishingly small.” If Nagel is right, the materialist is in a pickle. The conscious brain that is able to come up with neo-Darwinism as a universal explanation simultaneously makes neo-Darwinism, as a universal explanation, exceedingly unlikely.,,,
    ,,,Fortunately, materialism is never translated into life as it’s lived. As colleagues and friends, husbands and mothers, wives and fathers, sons and daughters, materialists never put their money where their mouth is. Nobody thinks his daughter is just molecules in motion and nothing but; nobody thinks the Holocaust was evil, but only in a relative, provisional sense. A materialist who lived his life according to his professed convictions—understanding himself to have no moral agency at all, seeing his friends and enemies and family as genetically determined robots—wouldn’t just be a materialist: He’d be a psychopath.
    http://www.weeklystandard.com/.....tml?page=3

    Is Metaphysical Naturalism Viable? – William Lane Craig – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzS_CQnmoLQ

    The Atheist’s Guide to Intellectual Suicide – James N. Anderson PhD. – video
    https://vimeo.com/75897668

    In fact, it could be forcefully argued that atheists suffer from the mental illness of denialism

    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/2.....65381.html

  8. 8
    Henry Crun says:

    News:

    “except that religion is a response to a message from a divine source.”

    Two problems with this. Firstly, there is no objective evidence whatsoever for any divine source. Secondly, given the enormous number of religions throughout human history-and even just today-giving conflicting and contradictory messages, your idea would suggest that there were a vast number of divine sources.

    “And evidence is irrelevant. It’s not actually a science, it is a branch of naturalism.”

    If that was true, we ought to just empty all the prisons.

  9. 9
    bornagain77 says:

    as to: “there is no objective evidence whatsoever for any divine source.”

    It might surprise you to know:

    Kurt Godel and Alan Turing – Incompleteness Theorem and Human Intuition – video
    https://vimeo.com/92387854

    It is interesting to note that although Alan Turing believed humans were merely machines, much like the computers he had envisioned, failed to realize that his idea for computers came to him suddenly, ‘in a vision’, thus confirming Godel’s contention that humans had access to the ‘divine spark of intuition’. A divine spark which enables humans to transcend the limits he, and Turing, had found in his incompleteness theorem for computers, mathematics, and even for all material reality generally (S. Jaki).

    The following graph is far more direct in establishing the ‘spiritual’ link to man’s ability to learn new information, in that it shows that the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) scores for students showed a steady decline, for seventeen years from the top spot or near the top spot in the world, after the removal of prayer from the public classroom by the Supreme Court, not by public decree, in 1963. Whereas the SAT scores for private Christian schools have consistently remained at the top, or near the top, spot in the world:

    AMERICA: To Pray Or Not To Pray – David Barton – graphs corrected for population growth
    http://www.whatyouknowmightnotbeso.com/graphs.html

    Removal Of Prayer From School – The Devastating Effect – Barton – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/6063727/

    United States Crime Rates 1960 – 2010 (Please note the skyrocketing crime rate from 1963, the year prayer was removed from school, thru 1980, the year the steep climb in crime rate finally leveled off.) of note: The slight decline in crime rate from the mid 90s until now is attributed in large part to tougher enforcement on minor crimes. (a nip it in the bud policy)
    http://www.disastercenter.com/crime/uscrime.htm

    Moreover,

    Bruce Charlton’s Miscellany – October 2011
    Excerpt: I had discovered that over the same period of the twentieth century that the US had risen to scientific eminence it had undergone a significant Christian revival. ,,,The point I put to (Richard) Dawkins was that the USA was simultaneously by-far the most dominant scientific nation in the world (I knew this from various scientometic studies I was doing at the time) and by-far the most religious (Christian) nation in the world. How, I asked, could this be – if Christianity was culturally inimical to science?
    http://charltonteaching.blogsp.....-wife.html

    In the Air – Who says big ideas are rare? by Malcolm Gladwell
    Excerpt: This phenomenon of simultaneous discovery—what science historians call “multiples”—turns out to be extremely common. One of the first comprehensive lists of multiples was put together by William Ogburn and Dorothy Thomas, in 1922, and they found a hundred and forty-eight major scientific discoveries that fit the multiple pattern. Newton and Leibniz both discovered calculus. Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace both discovered evolution. Three mathematicians “invented” decimal fractions. Oxygen was discovered by Joseph Priestley, in Wiltshire, in 1774, and by Carl Wilhelm Scheele, in Uppsala, a year earlier. Color photography was invented at the same time by Charles Cros and by Louis Ducos du Hauron, in France. Logarithms were invented by John Napier and Henry Briggs in Britain, and by Joost Bürgi in Switzerland. ,,, For Ogburn and Thomas, the sheer number of multiples could mean only one thing: scientific discoveries must, in some sense, be inevitable.
    http://www.newyorker.com/repor.....ntPage=all

    Then, of course, Sir Isaac Newton stated this:

    I have a fundamental belief in the Bible as the Word of God, written by men who were inspired. I study the Bible daily…. All my discoveries have been made in an answer to prayer.
    Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727), considered by many to be the greatest scientist of all time

    George Washington Carver was a bit more blunt:

    Inventors – George Washington Carver
    Excerpt: “God gave them to me” he (Carver) would say about his ideas, “How can I sell them to someone else?”
    http://inventors.about.com/od/...../a/GWC.htm

    And let’s not forget modern science itself was born in the matrix of Christian Theism:

    In The Happy Atheist, PZ Myers Offers One Lousy Bargain – Casey Luskin – October 21, 2013
    Excerpt: what PZ is really saying comes down to this (again, my characterization): “I won’t make the crazy claim that Christianity is compatible with serial killing, if you won’t make the reasonable and justified claim that Christianity is compatible with science since, after all, it (Christianity) pretty much gave birth to science.” That seems like a pretty lousy bargain.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....78121.html

    Founders of Modern Science Who Believe in GOD – Tihomir Dimitrov – (pg. 222)
    http://www.academia.edu/273960.....OD_Journal

  10. 10
    Mung says:

    ok, i’ll have a go at it. In the past, before we knew better, belief in a God or gods provided a reproductive advantage and thus was a favored trait, so the belief spread.

    But now that we are enlightened, it is belief in science that provides a reproductive advantage, and thus belief in science spreads.

    Science, just a more modern form of religion.

  11. 11
    Henry Crun says:

    BA77@9,

    Interesting personal opinions, but not objective evidence.

  12. 12
    bornagain77 says:

    Henry Crun, actually the birth of modern science out of the Judeo-Christian culture is not a personal opinion but is a stone cold hard fact. I hold that the ‘religion’, (if it is proper to call a personal relationship with God a religion), which gave birth and led to the success of modern science is indeed solid testimony to the trustworthiness and truthfulness inherent in that religion. Just as I hold that the antagonistic hindrance that atheistic materialism places on science is solid testimony against the trustworthiness and truthfulness inherent in that religion. If it is a ‘personal opinion’ in your judgment to rightly note the Judeo-Christian foundation of modern science as proof for that religion, then in my ‘personal opinion’ that says far more about your personal bias against Christianity than it does about the facts as they stand:

    Science and Theism: Concord, not Conflict* – Robert C. Koons
    IV. The Dependency of Science Upon Theism (Page 21)
    Excerpt: Far from undermining the credibility of theism, the remarkable success of science in modern times is a remarkable confirmation of the truth of theism. It was from the perspective of Judeo-Christian theism—and from the perspective alone—that it was predictable that science would have succeeded as it has. Without the faith in the rational intelligibility of the world and the divine vocation of human beings to master it, modern science would never have been possible, and, even today, the continued rationality of the enterprise of science depends on convictions that can be reasonably grounded only in theistic metaphysics.
    http://www.robkoons.net/media/.....ffd524.pdf

  13. 13
    Henry Crun says:

    BA77@12,

    Regardless, it’s still not objective evidence for a divine source, which was my point.

  14. 14
    Barb says:

    The problem with “objective evidence” is that it’s a vague term. What objective evidence for a divine source would convince Henry Crun? Or any other atheist, for that matter?

  15. 15
    Barb says:

    I think that their definition of religion is too vague. Here is a more concrete one: Religion is a form of worship including a system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices. This system may be personal or organizational, and usually involves belief in God (meaning the Judeo-Christian God) or gods (as in the Shinto and Hindu religions), or it treats humans, objects, or forces of nature as objects of worship.

  16. 16
    bornagain77 says:

    A Heavyweight Look at the Negative Impact of Modern and Postmodern Philosophies – Casey Luskin April 22, 2014
    Excerpt: “Not only divine Scripture, but also sound reason teaches us that we must look with amazement on the machine of the universe produced and created by the hand of the infinite Artist. … Neither art, nor genius, can even imitate a single fibre of the endless tissues that make up each body. The smallest filament, in fact, shows the Finger of God and the Artist’s signature.” (p. 120)
    Carl Linneaus, inventor of our modern system of biological classification
    (Paul Gosselin, Flight from the Absolute: Cynical Observations on the Postmodern West)
    Gosselin observes that “we have discovered further levels of complexity that Linneaus, or even Darwin, could not have imagined.” (p. 121) He concludes: “Before the twentieth-century, this symbiotic relationship between science and Christianity was the norm, but since then the Enlightenment and modern propaganda have ‘buried’ it, keeping such facts out of view.” (p. 122) According to Gosselin, this is just another way that modernist philosophy has engaged in a form of intellectual fracking, trying to destroy the theological, philosophical, and other intellectual foundations that built the West.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....84581.html

  17. 17
    Barb says:

    My philosophy professor gave me a handout explaining various theories of postmodernism. This is what he wrote:

    The second trend within postmodernism is a philosophical one. In the 1970s, the group of French philosophers, I have already mentioned, mainly on the Left, had become disillusioned with the heady days of the late 1960s when Western Europe and the United States were in political turmoil. For a short period in 1968, there seemed a strong possibility that major political changes could take place throughout the Western world as a result of action by students, trade unionists, anti-Vietnam war protesters, liberal Communists and militant Socialists.

    This was not to be and in France where the struggle was arguably the most intense, this led to a waning of the huge influence previously wielded by the large Communist Party (to which most of these intellectuals owed allegiance). This disillusionment led to their disengagement with politics and their distrust of grand theories, such as Marxism, which they felt attempted but failed to explain the reality of social life and began to form ideas that slotted in to the themes explored by contemporary artists. Despite their many disagreements, they stressed the fragmentary and plural character of reality. They denied human thought the ability to arrive at any objective account of that reality. Any ideology or social theory that justified human action as a means to progress or order was condemned as meaningless. The grand social theory or narrative that justified human activity, whether it was Marxism, liberalism or Fascism is no longer credible, they argued. There are no universal truths. All they have done in the past is legitimate the power of those who know and deny power to those who do not know.

    I came away from this class with the feeling that postmodernism is simply a way of remaking reality to suit oneself. I then realized that my kids knew better than that.

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