November 9, 2009 | David F. Coppedge

Darwinizing of Religion Continues

In an ongoing series for the Year of Darwin in Science magazine,1 Elizabeth Culotta wrote an article with the Darwinesque title, “On the Origin of Religion.”2  The editor’s summary acknowledges that “No consensus yet exists among scientists,” but sought the only answer in Darwinian terms: “in the past 15 years, a growing number of researchers have followed Darwin’s lead and explored the hypothesis that religion springs naturally from the normal workings of the human mind.  This new field, the cognitive science of religion, draws on psychology, anthropology, and neuroscience to understand the mental building blocks of religious thought.”  Building blocks – there’s a suggestive phrase right out of origin-of-life labs.
    Culotta began with a Darwin imprimatur.  “To Charles Darwin, the origin of religious belief was no mystery.  ‘As soon as the important faculties of the imagination, wonder, and curiosity, together with some power of reasoning, had become partially developed, man would naturally crave to understand what was passing around him, and would have vaguely speculated on his own existence,’ he wrote in The Descent of Man.”  Culotta acknowledged that “Darwin’s scientific descendants” are not quite so sure,” but we can trust them, because “potential answers are emerging from both the archaeological record and studies of the mind itself.”
    Here’s a quick rundown on those potential answers.  Evolutionary sociologists are studying the propensity of humans to infer agents acting when things happen.  Evolutionary archaeologists are looking for clues of symbolic behavior.  Cognitive neuroscientists are looking for parts of the brain that tend toward “purpose-driven beliefs” that might be “a step on the way to religion.”  Evolutionary psychologists investigate “theory of mind” explanations that see people attributing mental states to others and to things.  Evolutionary anthropologists consider the social aspects of sharing beliefs in gods to develop social cohesion.  It’s Darwin’s game from start to finish.
    Each discipline seeks to explain their piece of the religion puzzle in adaptationist, progressive terms.  The psychologists, for instance, reason that if people from childhood onward develop a tendency to see the natural world acting in a purposeful way, “It’s a small step to suppose that the design has a designer.”  Stewart Guthrie sees the invisible hand of Darwin in primitive man’s thinking processes.  “Guthrie suggested that natural selection primed this system for false positives, because if the bump in the night is really a burglar—or a lion—you could be in danger, while if it’s just the wind, no harm done.”  The anthropologists find other ways to see religion as adaptive: “By encouraging helpful behavior, religious groups boost the biological survival and reproduction of their members.”
    Here, though, Culotta admitted others see such explanations as little more than just-so storytelling.  She quoted Pascal Boyer cautioning, “It is often said that religion encourages or prescribes solidarity within the group, but we need evidence that people actually follow [their religion’s] recommendations.”  Speaking of evidence, which is supposed to elevate science above other forms of explanation, she admitted to large gaps.  For instance, she said there is “a yawning gap between the material evidence of the archaeological record and the theoretical models of psychologists.”  The archaeologists have a hard time inferring beliefs from artifacts, and the psychologists are crying, “we need more evidence.”  What about the cognitive scientists?  They try to get at the roots of innate tendencies vs. learned beliefs, but they are crying for more evidence, too: “I haven’t seen lots of empirical evidence that you can get from there to religious beliefs,” said social psychologist Ara Norenzayan.  Culotta’s last sentence, quoting Norenzayan again, amounted to a promissory note admitting to gaps in evidence: “In the next 10 to 15 years there’s likely to be quite a transformation, with a lot more evidence, to give us a compelling story about how religion arose.”


1.  Intro, “On the Origin of Religion,” Science, 6 November 2009: Vol. 326. no. 5954, pp. 784-787, DOI: 10.1126/science.326_784
2.  Elizabeth Culotta, “Origins: On the Origin of Religion,” Science, 6 November 2009: Vol. 326. no. 5954, pp. 784-787, DOI: 10.1126/science.326_784.

What’s this?  You were told that science was science, and religion was religion, and never the twain shall meet.  What are the Darwinists doing putting your dear pastor, priest or rabbi in the test tube?  Didn’t Stephen Jay Gould promise that science would stay out of religion if religion stayed out of science?  What is this “evolution of religion” talk?
    As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, let us draw some parallels.  East Germany was one of the most tightly controlled ideological regimes in the communist sphere.  The thought police (Stasi) had informers everywhere and kept miles of files on everyone.  It was a crime to think outside the party doctrine.  As with all the communist dictatorships, religion was suppressed, although the regime allowed some puppet churches to operate for propaganda purposes (e.g., when U.S. diplomats visited, so that they could talk about all the religious freedom they witnessed).  What the puppet churches were allowed to say and not say, of course, was monitored and controlled.  Yet history surprised the dictators.  Their regime fell literally overnight, as thousands of freedom-starved East Germans rushed the gates at the first indication of hope, and Gorby refused to send in the tanks, stinging from Reagan’s challenge, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
    To communists, everything in the universe must be interpreted in the light of Marxist ideology.  Darwinians are cut from the same cloth; just substitute Darwin for Marx (who admired Darwin).  In fact, in the same issue of Science, the editors allowed Gretchen Vogel to call the fall of the Berlin wall a “mixed blessing” for East German science directors.  Are they feeling nostalgia for the good old days?  After all, Darwinists are dictators themselves with informers and thought police everywhere, looking for the slightest uprising in a classroom or school board that might challenge Dictator Darwin.  The Darwin Stasi (fronted by the ACLU, Americans United, PAW, NCSE) race into action to cut off any hint of the threat of “creationism.”  They court liberal theologians for propaganda purposes, allowing them to practice their faith as long as it is inside the science lab under the control of the white lab coated thought police.  All the pastors, priests and rabbis have to do to keep peace with the Stasi is pledge allegiance to Darwin.  See how tolerant they are?  Their captives, the renegade appeasers in theological garb, are in for a surprise that was expressed well by Brett Miller in this cartoon.
    Don’t fall for the Party line.  It should be crystal clear that Culotta’s own imprimatur-blessed propaganda piece is fluff.  How long are suckers going to wait for their promised “compelling story about how religion arose”?  Sounds like the promised utopia that never arrives.  It’s a story, all right.  Where’s the evidence?  How convenient that every discipline is moaning about the need for more evidence.  Folks, without evidence, they do not have science!  Ignore the fMRI blips; they are trading in ideologically-guided speculation.  And they want to tell YOU how you are supposed to think.  Love freedom!  Tear down this wall!
    As the Western democracies won by the human tide pouring through the opened gates, the creationists will win when freedom comes.  Jesus Christ said “You will know them by their fruits.”  Where laws have protected free expression of religion, the arts and sciences have flourished.  Where the Bible has been taken by missionaries, poverty and dictatorship has diminished.  And where informed and evidence-supported creation science is permitted, education will flourish, too.  Check the record; compare achievement of 19th century and early 20th century schools, where McGuffy Readers quoting the Bible were stock in trade and classes opened with prayer and science was done to the glory of God, with the awful record of dropouts and school shootings in today’s DODO schools (Darwin-only, Darwin-only).  Look at how home school students, often from Christian homes, are trouncing their politically-correct peers.  It’s the Christian schools that teach evidences for and against Darwinism.  They don’t fear losing their students.  The Darwin-only public schools rightly fear losing their students if the truth about the scientific evidence were allowed.  Forget creationism – the thought police don’t even allow scientific criticisms of Darwin to be heard.  This artificial selection imposed by Darwin-only breeders is producing monstrosities that could not survive in the wild.  You might even say it shows that the creationists are the fittest.
    But all this is unnecessary posturing, because the Darwinists have no case.  We know this, because if we applied their very same reasoning to themselves (i.e., the evolution of Darwinizing speculation), their argument would collapse into a recursive black hole.  So while Culotta and her interviewees are swimming around like little Darwin fish scooping up the detritus on the bottom (animism, cult figurines, fMRI scans, etc.), they have not yet realized their ocean is inside the Christian fish.  They are feeding on gifts the Christian fish is bringing them (see 11/05/2009 and 08/13/2007 commentaries).  Like captives pretending to be autonomous, everything they depend on—logic, reason, evidence—is not of their own making.  The Christian fish is the universe of which nature is a subset.  If the Darwin guppies want to repent and help build up the true fish, they can provide nourishment for the truth.  If not, they can keep swimming in circles a little while longer till they get pooped out.

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