Natural selection doesn’t mean truth-selection…

“Biologists discover the evolutionary roots of religion!”

“Biologists discover the evolutionary roots of food!”

In the second case, we uncontroversially see that food meets a need integral to vital human nature. In the first case, we see a similar instance of integral satisfaction. If God is an illusion generated by natural selection, then so is caloric consumption. In the order of analogy, God meets a need integral to human nature, just as everyday food does. Just as the need for food is integral to grasping the evolution of humans up to this point as metabolizers, so the need for God is integral to grasping the emergence of human beings as worshipers.

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Only brains that responded to the objective fact that 2 objects combined with 2 objects make 4 objects were selected for by prior selection pressures and reproductive opportunities. It takes special effort to overcome that mathematical illusion with the advanced powers of abstraction. We all ‘know’ that 2 things placed adjacent to 2 other things still only make for a pair of two arbitrarily juxtaposed objects.

Only brains that responded to the objective fact that God exists were selected for by prior selection pressures and reproductive opportunity. It takes special effort to overcome that illusion with the advanced powers of abstraction. We all ‘know’ that theology is just a hyped-up version of the natural cognitive assumption that agents lie behind motion and order.

If natural selection doesn’t consistently and profoundly yield truth-bearing cognitive apparati, why look to it for a consistent and fundamental explanation of truth as we perceive it?

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2 Responses

  1. Discovering evolutionary roots of religion would be interesting. It would not prove there is no God. It would make it harder to argue that man has a soul that is infused by a supernatural act of God. That is Catholic dogma. It rejects the idea that the soul is an epiphenomenon of the evolution of the human mind. So we would not expect the evidence to show religion evolving. It should show all the human characteristics related to the soul coming into history quite suddenly. What marks the difference between the historic and the prehistoric. Suddenly there are records kept. Suddenly there are objects of art. Suddenly graves are marked. Suddenly religion shows up.

  2. Randy:

    Thanks for the interesting points. I must demur, however, here and there. I assume you are playing a kind of advocatio diaboli, so…

    Merely because something has a natural, ‘pragmatic’ origin in time does not mean it has a purely natural, evolutionary basis in reality. Consider geometry: it was discovered in root form by the Egyptians in order for them to harness and thrive from the Nile, as an evolutionary pressure. That does not, however, mean geometry is nothing greater in reality than primitive hydrodynamics (hat tip to M. Eliade). Moreover (now drawing on K. Popper), a complex reality need not “show up” all at once. Mathematics has developed from basic axioms, which are as true today as they were back when; their timeless origin nonetheless allows for historical progress. Indeed, precisely because mathematics exists as a subsistent reality independent of us, we can therefore delve into over time.

    As for your second, closing point, that religion suddenly “pops up”, it sounds reminiscent of Chesterton in The Everlasting Man (Cave section) or Lewis in Mere Xnity. There is indeed a seemingly analogous infusion of divine consciousness in human history as there is in human ontogeny.

    Best,

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