The Evolution of Religion, or the Religion of Evolution?
Evolutionists presume to explain how the rest of humanity got religion. But for their ideas to be consistent, they need to look in the mirror.
Studies on “the evolution of religion” are not new. Evolutionists have told their stories ever since Darwin, imagining how wandering hunter-gatherers hit upon religion for some kind of adaptive value, maybe for social cohesion or whatever. In one TV telling of this meme, a woman traveling with her tribe is struck by a beam of sunlight and begins babbling ecstatically as her travel mates look on in wonder. “Thus, religion is born,” the narrator states confidently.
The latest idea comes from University College London, “Storytellers promoted co-operation among hunter-gatherers before advent of religion.” That’s an ironic term for this Christmas season called Advent by many Christians. It’s not clear if that was an intentional swipe at Christians. Here’s the gist of what the UCL evolutionists call ‘research’ –
The research shows that hunter-gatherer storytellers were essential in promoting co-operative and egalitarian values before comparable mechanisms evolved in larger agricultural societies, such as moralising high-gods.
Storytellers were also more popular than even the best foragers, had greater reproductive success, and were more likely to be co-operated with by other members of the camp, according to the research published today in Nature Communications.
Daniel Smith from UCL, participant in the ‘research’, elaborates on this notion in The Conversation, “Why do we tell stories? Hunter-gatherers shed light on the evolutionary roots of fiction.” Along with an embedded video explaining the hypothesis, his article makes it clear he seeks a Darwinian explanation for everything in human society (not just religion):
Humans have evolved the capacity to create and believe in stories. Narratives can also transcend the “here and now” by introducing individuals to situations beyond their everyday experience, which may increase empathy and perspective-taking towards others, including strangers. These features may have evolved in hunter-gatherer societies as precursors to more elaborate forms of narrative fiction.
Such narratives include moralising gods, organised religion, nation states and other ideologies found in post-agricultural societies. Some are crucial parts of societies today, functioning to bond individuals into cohesive and cooperative communities. It’s fascinating to think that they could have all started with a humble story around the campfire.
Presumably the scientists distinguish themselves from the storytellers, but questions immediately come to mind. What are values? What are the morals of moralizing gods? Do the scientists have different values and morals? If so, did those evolve, too?
To a consistent Darwinian, yes they must have. After all, Science Daily tells us that everything humans value and trust came from a mutation in a CLOCK gene. The brain is just a material object evolving by mindless processes. That being their foundation, the only way Smith and the other UCL evolutionists can claim to have a better story is to distinguish themselves as having superior values and morals than those of hunter-gatherers. But how would that superiority be measured, except in terms of survival? Actually, hunter-gatherers and cooperative communities enjoyed many hundreds of thousands of years of success in the evolutionary time scale. Compared to the brief existence of UCL, we would have to conclude that the UCL scientists have drastically inferior values and morals in terms of Darwinian fitness. Evolutionists mustn’t be racist these days (even if they were, historically, to a fault—read CEH contributor Jerry Bergman’s book, The Darwin Effect). It would be very politically incorrect for them to look down on their snooty academic noses at the Filipino natives they ‘researched’ as if those members of Homo sapiens were inferior, when for all intents and purposes, they appear healthy and reproductively successful—and have been for at least thousands of years.
The UCL evolutionists try to be respectful of these hunter-gatherers, not laughing at their mythology. But actually, since they applied their theory to “nation states and other ideologies,” they have reduced their own theory to storytelling by inclusive fitness. In fact their paper speaks of ‘fitness’ all over the place, which can only be measured by survival in Darwinian terms (6/19/14). Their own story, therefore, has to be a product of evolution, too: chance, natural selection, and unguided natural law. It would be perfectly legitimate, therefore, for the Filipinos to begin a new campfire story about the origin of UCL mythology. One can hear it now: ‘One day, some strange white people came by and told us we all arose from the dirt over millions of years by chance.’ That would be surely be a good story for some rollicking laughs around the campfire, thereby increasing “empathy and perspective-taking towards others, including strangers.”
Once again, we see Darwinians completely blind to their Yoda Complex, They imagine it exempts them from their own theory and puts them on a higher plane than their fellow mortals. The farce is strong in them; you can feel it.
Instead of telling stories about the evolution of religion, how about stories of the religion of evolution? Even if the UCL evolutionists call foul, they have no grounds for striking down our story based on their own presuppositions. So we begin: ‘Once upon a time, there was a garden with a first human couple. A moralizing God, who had created the garden, told them not to eat of a certain tree, warning that they would die if they did. But they ate it anyway, being tempted by a snake possessed by an evil spirit. The God cast them out of the garden, cursed the ground, and that is why we die. But this God also had mercy on the humans, promising a male child would someday crush the snake’s head but would be wounded in the process. As time went on, the children of that pair became evil, and developed false campfire stories about how God did not exist. They told stories that people had evolved out of dirt by chance. But the male child did come, and offered himself as a sacrificial lamb that the humans who believed him could be saved from death in the afterlife.’ How’s that? Hey, all’s fair in love and evolutionary storytelling. Why, this story would look just fine in ‘nature communications’ if it got past the enemy censors who only want their campfire stories to be heard.
This activity can be fun when you get the hang of it. First you make them take off their fake Yoda costumes. Then, you merely turn the mirror back on the evolutionists and let them see themselves in light of their own theory. Since they don’t believe in absolute (i.e., non-evolving) morals and values, everything is fair, even Genesis. You might even say that Christians have more offspring than evolutionists, proving that they are more fit than stodgy academics who have no time for family matters. Survival of the fittest, you know. Stuff happens. Good luck.
Good read: “Religion without Dogma?” by C. S. Lewis, chapter 16 in God in the Dock (Erdmans, 1970, ed. by Walter Hooper). Lewis expounds on the argument from reason to utterly trounce a certain “Professor Price” about his theory of natural religion. Here is one man’s enthusiastic review of it.