Naturalism Religion

If naturalism can explain religion, why does it get so many basic facts wrong?

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Here at Evolution News & Views:

Another claim we hear, from celebrity skeptic Michael Shermer for example, is that science — and he of course includes Darwinian mechanisms for evolution in that category — is objective knowledge that will save us from superstition. But in the United States, a 2007-2008 Baylor University survey reported that

traditional Christian religion greatly decreases credulity, as measured by beliefs in such things as dreams, Bigfoot, UFOs, haunted houses, communicating with the dead and astrology (Ch. 15, “Credulity: Who Believes in Bigfoot”).

They found that self-identified theological liberals and irreligious people were far more likely to believe in such things than other Americans. More.

20 Replies to “If naturalism can explain religion, why does it get so many basic facts wrong?

  1. 1
    Barry Arrington says:

    Hold the presses News Desk! In the comments to my prior post the materialist commenters all swore up and down that it must absolutely be the case that natural selection usually selects for behaviors resulting from holding true beliefs. Yet these same materialists also insist that the vast majority of humans throughout history have been motivated at a very basic level by false beliefs — i.e., religious beliefs and other superstitions.

    It cannot possibly be the case that they are trying to have it both ways. Can it?

  2. 2
    bFast says:

    B.A. You make a very interesting point.

  3. 3
    Piotr says:

    In the comments to my prior post the materialist commenters all swore up and down that it must absolutely be the case that natural selection usually selects for behaviors resulting from holding true beliefs.

    This is a complete misrepresentation. Behaviors resulting from beliefs (and beliefs themselves) cannot be selected for, since they are not heritable biochemically (via DNA). What can be shaped and affected by genetic factors is a well-functioning brain. In non-pathological cases its owner has a potential to develop individual beliefs and habits consistent with reality (as a bare minimum, the rules of “common sense”, which prevent you from being lethally stupid). Mind you, they are transmitted culturally, not biochemically, and they are rarely invented from scratch. We usually acquire them (already tested and accepted by other people before us) as we interact with our social and cultural environment.

    We may also acquire a lot of cultural junk — a ballast of irrational ideas, myths and superstitions accumulated in the course of history. They may linger on for millennia if their net effect is neither particularly positive nor outright destructive. People may even mistake them for “The Truth” just because they are old enough to look venerable.

    Of course you may have a perfectly normal brain but fail to use its full potential. It’s your private problem; natural selection doesn’t see it.

  4. 4
    bornagain77 says:

    Mr Arrington, when I presented Dr. Plantinga’s evolutionary argument against naturalism to an atheist, the atheist said the following in response to me:

    ‘Creatures inveterately wrong in their inductions have a pathetic but praiseworthy tendency to die before reproducing their kind.’

    In response to him, I pointed out that atheists have a much lower reproduction rate than Theists,,,

    ‘Believers’ gene’ will spread religion , says academic – January 2011
    Excerpt: The World Values Survey, which covered 82 nations from 1981 to 2004, found that adults who attended religious services more than once a week had 2.5 children on average; while those who went once a month had two; and those who never attended had 1.67.
    Prof Rowthorn wrote: “The more devout people are, the more children they are likely to have.”
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sci.....demic.html

    I also pointed out that atheists ‘have a pathetic but praiseworthy tendency to die before reproducing their kind’

    Atheism and health
    A meta-analysis of all studies, both published and unpublished, relating to religious involvement and longevity was carried out in 2000. Forty-two studies were included, involving some 126,000 subjects. Active religious involvement increased the chance of living longer by some 29%, and participation in public religious practices, such as church attendance, increased the chance of living longer by 43%.[4][5]
    http://www.conservapedia.com/Atheism_and_health

    Moreover, atheists have the lowest retention rate of any religion

    Why do atheists have such a low retention rate? – July 2012
    Excerpt: Only about 30 percent of those who grow up in an atheist household remain atheists as adults. This “retention rate” was the lowest among the 20 separate categories in the study.
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....tion-rate/

    After I cited those to him, I asked the atheist this:

    Thus either the you are right and evolution is producing a true belief, and that true belief is Theism, since atheists have a ‘praiseworthy tendency to die before reproducing their kind’, or Dr. Plantinga is right and there is no guarantee that the results of Darwinian evolution will produce true beliefs about the nature of reality! Which is it?

    He refused to answer the question and left the thread. And no wonder, either answer is a self defeater for the position of evolutionary naturalism!

    of note:

    Why No One (Can) Believe Atheism/Naturalism to be True (Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism) – video
    Excerpt: “Since we are creatures of natural selection, we cannot totally trust our senses. Evolution only passes on traits that help a species survive, and not concerned with preserving traits that tell a species what is actually true about life.”
    Richard Dawkins – quoted from “The God Delusion”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N4QFsKevTXs

  5. 5
    Piotr says:

    In response to him, I pointed out that atheists have a much lower reproduction rate than Theists

    … which doesn’t matter (see above), because religion is transmitted culturally, not genetically. There may be a temporary correlation between religiosity and reproduction rate, but it won’t be historically stable. My country is one of the most religious in Europe, but it’s also among those with the lowest reproduction rates.

  6. 6
    keith s says:

    Barry,

    Hold the presses News Desk! In the comments to my prior post the materialist commenters all swore up and down that it must absolutely be the case that natural selection usually selects for behaviors resulting from holding true beliefs.

    Here’s what I wrote:

    Well, what’s actually selected for is behavior, and behavior is a function both of beliefs and of the cognitive system that produces and acts on those beliefs.

    My point is that you can’t focus on a single belief in isolation. You have to consider all of the beliefs and capacities that are relevant for survival and reproduction.

    Others made similar statements.

    You continue:

    Yet these same materialists also insist that the vast majority of humans throughout history have been motivated at a very basic level by false beliefs — i.e., religious beliefs and other superstitions.

    Sure. Why do you think that is contradictory? We certainly don’t believe that human cognition is perfect, but we do argue that it is shaped by natural selection.

    By the way, you still haven’t responded to my comment in that thread:

    Barry,

    I’ve shown that Pearcey’s argument – if it were correct – would undermine an ID-based epistemology just as surely as it would undermine an evolutionary epistemology.

    If you have a viable counterargument, let’s hear it.

  7. 7
    bornagain77 says:

    Piotr, so you believe in Dawkin’s notion of the meme as opposed to the gene?!?

    The ultimate irony is that this philosophy implies that Darwinism itself is just another meme, competing in the infectivity sweepstakes by attaching itself to that seductive word “science.” Dawkins ceaselessly urges us to be rational, but he does so in the name of a philosophy that implies that no such thing as rationality exists because our thoughts are at the mercy of our genes and memes. The proper conclusion is that the Dawkins poor brain has been infected by the Darwin meme, a virus of the mind if ever there was one, and we wonder if he will ever be able to find the cure.
    ~ Phillip Johnson

    of related note:

    Self-refutation and the New Atheists: The Case of Jerry Coyne – Michael Egnor – September 12, 2013
    Excerpt: Their (the New Atheists) ideology is a morass of bizarre self-refuting claim. They assert that science is the only way to truth, yet take no note that scientism itself isn’t a scientific assertion. They assert a “skeptical” view that thoughts are only constructed artifacts of our neurological processing and have no sure contact with truth, ignoring the obvious inference that their skeptical assertion is thereby reduced to a constructed artifact with no sure contact with truth. They assert that Christianity has brought much immorality to the world, yet they deny the existence of objective morality. They assert that intelligent design is not testable, and (yet claim the counter proposition, that life is not designed, is testable).
    And they assert that we are determined entirely by our natural history and physical law and thereby have no free will, yet they assert this freely, claiming truth and personal exemption from determinism. Here is a case in point.,,,
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....76541.html

  8. 8
    Piotr says:

    #7

    Of course there are “cultural replicators”, whatever you call them. The reality of cultural inheritance is beyond dispute. We learn, remember, and make records, transmitting our knowledge, beliefs and ideas from generation to generation. You learn your mother tongue, social codes, religious tenets etc. from the community you are brought up in (and sometimes borrow them from other communities). Any problems with that?

  9. 9
    bornagain77 says:

    Piotr, as long as a purely material basis is involved in forming thoughts and beliefs, your atheistic position fails utterly to account for reason:

    As CS Lewis and Haldane put it:

    “Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It’s like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can’t trust my own thinking, of course I can’t trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.”
    – C.S. Lewis, The Case for Christianity, p. 32

    “It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. In order to escape from this necessity of sawing away the branch on which I am sitting, so to speak, I am compelled to believe that mind is not wholly conditioned by matter”.
    J. B. S. Haldane [“When I am dead,” in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209.

    Music:

    Phil Keaggy “Time” 1989
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgidEJmzaUc

  10. 10
    goodusername says:

    Barry,

    Hold the presses News Desk! In the comments to my prior post the materialist commenters all swore up and down that it must absolutely be the case that natural selection usually selects for behaviors resulting from holding true beliefs. Yet these same materialists also insist that the vast majority of humans throughout history have been motivated at a very basic level by false beliefs — i.e., religious beliefs and other superstitions.

    It cannot possibly be the case that they are trying to have it both ways. Can it?

    Do you believe a Creator designed our brains for recognizing the truth?
    Do you believe that with all the religions and superstitions that we have “been motivated at a very basic level by false beliefs”?
    Who’s trying to have it both ways?

    (Also, I’d hardly consider religious beliefs as beliefs at a “very basic level” – very far from it. I think the very basic level would be stuff like: rocks aren’t edible, lions are dangerous, falling from great heights is dangerous, you can’t run through tree in front of you, etc etc)

  11. 11
    Piotr says:

    LOL, Bornagain,

    C.S. Lewis & Jack Haldane: what an unlikely mix! Have you read anything else by Haldane, or only as much as you need for your quotemine/copypasta job?

  12. 12
    bornagain77 says:

    Piotr, your belief that religion is merely a “cultural replicator”, i.e. a ‘meme’, is contradicted by empirical evidence:

    Babies are born THEISTS – Dr. Olivera Petrovich – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rQKmye5_BQ

    Children are born believers in God, academic claims – Telegraph – November 2008
    Excerpt: “The preponderance of scientific evidence for the past 10 years or so has shown that a lot more seems to be built into the natural development of children’s minds than we once thought, including a predisposition to see the natural world as designed and purposeful and that some kind of intelligent being is behind that purpose,”
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/new.....laims.html

    More Studies Show Children Are Wired for Religious Belief: A Brief Literature Review – Casey Luskin August 7, 2014
    Excerpt: We see, then, multiple studies converging on a single conclusion: the innate predisposition of the human mind to believe that there is some kind of an intelligent creator God. Perhaps as we get older we may override this programming, but our fundamental constitution appears oriented to religious belief.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....88551.html

    Thus, my response to the atheist, which I cited at 4, holds:

    Thus either the you are right and evolution is producing a true belief, and that true belief is Theism, since atheists have a ‘praiseworthy tendency to die before reproducing their kind’, or Dr. Plantinga is right and there is no guarantee that the results of Darwinian evolution will produce true beliefs about the nature of reality! Which is it?

    He refused to answer the question and left the thread. And no wonder, either answer is a self defeater for the position of evolutionary naturalism!

    as to the Haldane quote, I consider Haldane a hostile witness to the point I was making. His quote is valuable precisely because he was such a staunch materialist and yet he concedes the very point I was making.

    Of note: the modern synthesis, of which Haldane had a part in forming, is now falsified.

  13. 13
    Piotr says:

    BA77

    Empirical evidence? Like the b.s. paraded as evidence by Justin L. Barrett?

    In one study, six and seven-year-olds who were asked why the first bird existed replied “to make nice music” and “because it makes the world look nice”.

    The tendentious wording of “Why the fist bird existed” already suggests that there was a “first bird” and that there was a “reason why”. Objection — a leading question!

    Another experiment on 12-month-old babies suggested that they were surprised by a film in which a rolling ball apparently created a neat stack of blocks from a disordered heap.

    Dr Barrett said there is evidence that even by the age of four, children understand that although some objects are made by humans, the natural world is different.

    He added that this means children are more likely to believe in creationism rather than evolution, despite what they may be told by parents or teachers.

    Ah, yes. Evolution = a disorderly heap of blocks becomes a neat stack when hit by a rolling ball. Objection — a straw man!

    Dr Barrett claimed anthropologists have found that in some cultures children believe in God even when religious teachings are withheld from them.

    From what we’ve already seen, Barret has a fertile imagination. Hearsay isn’t evidence.

    He forgot to explore other “facts”, such as wishful thinking. “Would you rather die or live forever?” Any child who prefers the latter would be classified as a “born believer”.

  14. 14
    News says:

    Barry Arrington at 1 and bFast at 2: One way of addressing the problem is to consider it like this (and I will do so in a later post): naturalism can consider any position other than that

    1) there is design in the universe and that
    2) humans may have discovered its nature

    – whether by our own efforts or because the designer(s) simply told us, because we could not otherwise figure it out (revelation)

    Design explains morality (and for that matter, art, music, mathematics, and philosophy) far better than natural selection does.

    People want to conform to a pattern more than they want to “succeed,” absent a pattern.

    Kim Jong Un has the power of life and death over his subjects, but is there a less envied ruler in the world?

    Elizabeth II, Queen of the Commonwealth, has no formal power but what reasonable, moral person would not prefer her state to his?

    The contrast is a window into the real human world. The world in which North Koreans die every year for professing Christianity (or any form of ethical monotheism), despite the risks.

    And elsewhere, people are free to profess any nonsense they wish, including new atheism. Ideally, the only teaching tool in this world is the consequences of their own foolish choices.

    I will shortly outline some nonsensical naturalist theories about religion.

  15. 15
    bornagain77 says:

    Of note: The Dr Olivera Petrovich video is no longer available, so I cite this reference to get the general drift of her lecture across:

    Infants ‘have natural belief in God’ – July 26, 2008
    Excerpt: INFANTS are hard-wired to believe in God, and atheism has to be learned, according to an Oxford University psychologist.
    Dr Olivera Petrovich told a University of Western Sydney conference on the psychology of religion that even preschool children constructed theological concepts as part of their understanding of the physical world.
    Pyschologists have debated whether belief in God or atheism was the natural human state. According to Dr Petrovich, an expert in psychology of religion, belief in God is not taught but develops naturally.
    She told The Age yesterday that belief in God emerged as a result of other psychological development connected with understanding causation.
    It was hard-wired into the human psyche, but it was important not to build too much into the concept of God. “It’s the concept of God as creator, primarily,” she said. Dr Petrovich said her findings were based on several studies, particularly one of Japanese children aged four to six, and another of 400 British children aged five to seven from seven different faiths.
    “Atheism is definitely an acquired position,” she said.
    http://www.theage.com.au/natio.....-3l3b.html

  16. 16
    bornagain77 says:

    Piotr, the trouble with your criticism of Barrett at 13 is that even atheists cannot escape the deep seeded belief that things exist for a purpose and are not an accident:

    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

    Thus atheists are in actuality suffering from the mental illness of denialism:

    Although there are various methods for scientifically detecting design, basically, at its most foundational level, ‘design detection’ is an inbuilt, ‘natural’, ability that humans possess because of the ‘image of God’ that they have within themselves.

    In the following video Dr. Behe quotes Richard Dawkins himself from his book ‘The Blind Watchmaker’, in noting that ‘design detection’ is a ‘natural’ for humans:

    “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose”
    Richard Dawkins – “The Blind Watchmaker” – 1986 – page 1

    “We may say that a living body or organ is well designed if it has attributes that an intelligent knowledgeable engineer might have built into it in order to achieve some sensible purpose… Any engineer can recognize an object that has been designed… simply by looking at the structure of the object.”
    Richard Dawkins – “The Blind Watchmaker” – 1986 – page 21

    “Yet the living results of natural selection overwhelmingly impress us with the appearance of design as if by a master watchmaker, impress us with the illusion of design and planning.”
    Richard Dawkins – “The Blind Watchmaker” – 1986 – page 21

    Michael Behe – Life Reeks Of Design – 2010 – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hdh-YcNYThY

    Moreover, Richards Dawkins is not the only atheist who seems to be afflicted with this mental illness of seeing the ‘illusion of design’ pervasively throughout life. And I note that they are seeing ‘the appearance of design’ even though they have never conducted any scientific experiments, or mathematical calculations, to scientifically ‘detect design’ in life, in anything man-made, or in anything otherwise:

    living organisms “appear to have been carefully and artfully designed”
    Lewontin

    “The appearance of purposefulness is pervasive in nature.”
    George Gaylord Simpson

    Indeed, the atheist Francis Crick, co-discoverer of DNA, seems to have been particularly haunted by this illusion of seeing design everywhere he looked in molecular biology:

    “Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved.”
    Francis Crick – What Mad Pursuit

    “Organisms appear as if they had been designed to perform in an astonishingly efficient way, and the human mind therefore finds it hard to accept that there need be no Designer to achieve this”
    Francis Crick – What Mad Pursuit – p. 30

    Thus, since these atheists are seeing the ‘illusion of design’, (seeing this illusion of design with what they claim to be to be the ‘illusion of mind’ I might add 🙂 ), without ever conducting any scientific experiments to ever rigorously ‘detect design’, then of course the ID advocate would be well justified in saying that these atheists are not really suffering from a mental illness at all but they are in fact ‘naturally detecting design’ because of the inherent ‘image of God’ that they have within themselves.

    Verse and Music:

    Romans 1:19
    since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.

    God You Reign – Lincoln Brewster (Lyrics)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8hYiN_0nxeE

  17. 17
    Seversky says:

    1) there is design in the universe and that
    2) humans may have discovered its nature

    Of course, there is design in the Universe.

    We do it!

    The real questions are:

    1) Do we have any evidence of the handiwork of advanced alien intelligences on Earth.

    2) Why would advanced alien design look like 20th/21st century human design?

  18. 18
    Mung says:

    Why does “religion” get so many basic facts wrong?

  19. 19
    tjguy says:

    If naturalism can explain religion, does that make it true?
    It’s strange, but this seems to be Darwin’s legacy! No longer is experimental evidence required for things to be accepted as scientific facts.

    Another question:

    If naturalism can explain religion, shouldn’t it also be able to explain naturalism as well?

    Does anyone else ever wonder why evolutionists apply their creative explanatory powers to everything but their own worldview?

  20. 20
    Jim Smith says:

    I think the logic in that article is somewhat muddled. Certain beliefs are used as evidence of credulity. However several of those beliefs are based on solid evidence even though they are not mainstream beliefs. You might as well add belief in ID to that list. The evidence I am referring to can be found here:

    Communication with spirits:
    http://sites.google.com/site/c.....f_evidence

    Sasquatch:
    http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/201.....eople.html

    UFOs
    Astronauts Say UFOs are Real
    http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/201.....-real.html

    High Ranking Government and Military Officials Say UFOs are Extraterrestrial Craft Visiting the Earth
    http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/201.....itary.html
    more: http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/p/6.....ubject_ufo

    Also, Carl Jung believed in astrology, he thought it worked by synchronicity.
    https://sites.google.com/site/chs4o8pt/eminent_researchers#researchers_jung

    Every scientific controversy shows that the best interpretation of the evidence is a matter of opinion. It is not helpful to call someone who interprets the evidence differently “credulous”. Particularly if you are not familiar with the evidence yourself.

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