Evolutionary Psychology Tries to Replace Religion
Anything a church can do, evolution can
do better, think evolutionary psychologists.
But is science on their side?
The “science vs religion” notion, the so-called “warfare myth” promulgated a century ago, is largely defunct except among certain New Atheists and their followers. Historians know warfare was never the case, because many of the greatest founders of modern science were Christians.
What evolutionists are likely to do now is not attack religion directly. Instead, they present psychological and theoretical approaches to attain personal peace, solve depression, and improve “prosociality” (positive behaviors for social good). Why go to church if “science” can give one all the benefits without the dogma? Evolutionists never use dogma, now, do they? They use logic, reason and the scientific method, don’t they? Let’s take a look at some of their explanations for mind and consciousness, and see if they can deliver the goods without miracles and the supernatural stuff that “enlightened” secular minds don’t want.
Supernatural beliefs have featured in every society throughout history. New research helps explain why (Jackson and Bastian, The Conversation, 3 April 2023). Why does religion persist in every society? Church fathers would say that human nature, lost in sin, has a vacuum in the heart that only our Creator God can fill. These two ‘scientific’ experts say, by contrast, that supernatural beliefs persist because they offer a tool for explanation. Religion gives unscientific people something to “rely” on.
A religious explanation doesn’t have to be true, they think, to be useful. They speak of their ‘findings’ (which they presume to be true, else why state them?). But could it be the case that research “findings” also might only be comforting to the listener, yet not true?
Their underlying presumption is that the supernatural is unreal. What is it that makes ‘findings’ real if not the presupposition of a rational world comprehensible by conscious, morally-aware minds?
Contemporary Christians rely on their religious beliefs as more of a social and moral compass, rather than a way to understand the weather. Similarly, the Bible seeks to explain a variety of social phenomena. The story of Cain and Abel explains the origin of murder, while the Book of Joshua explains the supernatural causes of the war that destroyed Jericho.
So how might we explain the contrast between supernatural explanations in modern-day Christianity, and supernatural explanations among traditional societies, as told through historical records? One of our findings could provide a clue.
We found societies develop more supernatural explanations for social phenomena as they get bigger and more complex.
Could it also be true that evolutionary societies in academia also develop increasingly abstruse explanations for social phenomena as the data of the mind get bigger and more complex? Do evolutionary stories converge on truth, or on more subjective just-so stories that seem plausible, even if physical causes cannot be ascribed or tested? Are secular psychologists immune from supernatural explanations? (Read this essay by Matthew Connally, “What are words?“)
The evolution of universal cooperation (Gross et al., Science Advances, 17 Feb 2023). With Yoda masks on, these European secularists do away with persuasion and moral teaching. Evolutionary game theory takes care of everything– even pandemics and climate change.
Humans work together in groups to tackle shared problems and contribute to local club goods that benefit other group members. Whereas benefits from club goods remain group bound, groups are often nested in overarching collectives that face shared problems like pandemics or climate change. Such challenges require individuals to cooperate across group boundaries, raising the question how cooperation can transcend beyond confined groups. Here, we show how frequent intergroup interactions allow groups to transition from group-bound to universal cooperation. With frequent intergroup interactions, reciprocity of cooperative acts permeates group boundaries and enables the evolution of universal cooperation. As soon as intergroup interactions take place frequently, people start to selectively reward cooperation aimed at benefitting everyone, irrespective of their group membership.
But is “cooperation” good? Is it always good? Who decides? Was cooperation with the communist dictatorships good? If the whole world became Marxist, would that be good, just because all dissenters were wiped out by the regime? Perish the thought.
For stressed-out grad students, mindfulness makes big difference (University of Wisconsin, 22 March 2023). “Mindfulness” is a trendy word these days. It means focusing on what you are doing and what is going on around you: ‘I am sitting at my computer. I feel warm. My brain is worrying about my homework.’ Using NSF funds, Crone et al., published in PLoS One results of a controlled experiment on mindfulness training for graduate students in engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Sounds good on paper:
In post-training surveys, students reported significantly improved emotional well-being, a more positive outlook, fewer negative emotions, and increased mindfulness. Over the same period, the control groups (which received training at a later date) noted steady or decreased well-being. Mindfulness participants also reported they were better able to manage stress and anxiety, deal positively with setbacks, work more effectively with colleagues, and focus on their research.
The researchers apparently did not control for investigator interference, subjectivity in definitions, or objectivity of testing measurements. They also did not test other variables, like which students achieved personal peace by other means, such as through their church.
For living well, behaviors and circumstances matter just as much as psychological traits (Hobbs and Ong, PNAS, 13 March 2023). This paper on “happiness research” tries to convince people that ‘you are not really as happy as you think you are.’ This would fit well into the grievance culture. But how objective are criteria like life satisfaction, general effect well being, psychological well being, day-to-day effect balance, and thriving/struggling/suffering?” Answers might depend on what they had for lunch, their last conversation with a friend or enemy, or how they did on a test. The look and manner of the interviewer could also affect the measurements. Did they have a Happiness-Meter to use? Did it come with an objective readout?
How to rewire your brain to feel good on Mondays (Reschke and Burke, The Conversation, 24 March 2023). These two women experts at the FutureNeuro Research Centre, RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences are the spiritual counselors for today’s secularists needing peace. A photo shows a young man practicing mindfulness, touching his fingers with eyes closed in front of a computer. Your brain and hormones, particularly cortisol, are stressing you out, according to these secular counselors. You need to trick your amygdala and give control to your cerebral cortex.
One of the best ways to achieve this and lower overall stress is through relaxation activities, especially on Mondays. One possibility is mindfulness, which is associated with a reduction in cortisol. Spending time in nature is another method – going outside first thing on Monday or even during your lunch hour can make a significant difference to how you perceive the beginning of the week.
Philosophical questions arise: is my mind controlling me, or am I controlling my mind? What is the nature of the “me” that can overcome the actions of the physical brain? If my neurons change as I grow, why can I remember things from my childhood?
The Evolution of Democratic Peace (Hunt, Patel et al., bioRxiv, 15 Feb 2023). This is another model based on evolutionary game theory. If animals achieve peaceful societies, why not just let evolution do its thing? Why debate foreign and domestic policy? Here’s another one from 15 March 2023, “Selection for altruistic defense in structured populations” (Jordan et al., bioRxiv). Natural selection achieves peace and national defense. Why labor at it? Why fight natural selection? Why write a scientific paper?
Elephants as a new model for understanding human evolution (Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, 4 April 2023). Make like an elephant, these researchers say.
Human culture and language may be the result of ‘self-domestication’: an evolutionary process that leads to less aggressive and more prosocial individuals. A research team led by the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen argues that elephants—like humans and bonobos—may also be self-domesticated. Elephants show many traits associated with self-domestication, such as prosocial behaviour, playfulness and complex communication skills. This makes elephants an interesting new animal model for the evolution of prosociality.
So why do research? Just let natural selection take care of everything. World history shows that people evolve in time to be prosocial, playful and reasonable, right? One doesn’t need church or religion. Just sit back and watch natural selection solve every human social malady through “self-domestication.” Fire the cops and let evolutionary game theory take care of crime.
“Our hypothesis of self-domestication in elephants has exciting potential for future research in other species”, concludes Raviv. “It can inform our understanding of the evolution of prosocial behaviour across evolutionarily distant species, providing important insights into convergent evolution.”
Nobody seemed concerned about defining understanding and insight in materialistic terms.
It’s Easter, and Christians around the world are celebrating the miracle of all miracles: the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Secularists and evolutionists, though, depend on miracles from the Christian smorgasbord. They help themselves to values, meaning, objective reality, truth and virtue. They presume that “facts are facts” which do not depend on the opinions of non-scientists. OK; does truth evolve? Do facts evolve? Does morality evolve? If so, bid farewell to all science and reasoning.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” —Jesus, John 14:27
Secularists try to offer solutions to visible human problems such as anxiety, depression, and anger. But they can’t do it out of their material brains, so they cheat and steal. They are already falsified scientifically (origin of the universe, origin of life, etc.). This makes them false teachers. They need to go to church and repent.
Christian counselors must work with human doctors who understand brain disorders when physical problems affect mental states; wise pastors and counselors know this. But they do so because their belief is grounded in the reality of Creation. Secular counselors stand on the quicksand of shifting human opinion, Darwin’s Stuff Happens Law. Their answers to subjective questions, to be rational, must presuppose the reliability of our God-given sense perceptions, the eternal nature of truth, and morality rooted in an unchanging Creator.
Christianity is far more than a “tool for explanation.” It is confidence rooted in historical, tangible, documented, rational proofs (see Habermas 1, Habermas 2, Sean McDowell, and Illustra short videos for samples). Because it is grounded in what is, it can be trusted. One must repent and believe on Christ to receive the benefits He bought for us on the cross: forgiveness of sin, eternal life and joy. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we also have access by faith into this grace in which we stand” (Romans 5:1-2). This is the solution to personal and world peace. “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,” an old Gaither song says; “Because He lives, all fear is gone; Because I know He holds the future, and life is worth the living, just because He lives.” Who could be anxious or depressed with joy like that?
Secular materialists and evolutionists, trusting in their own imaginations, lack the access those in Christ have to solutions. Our Creator knows are minds and bodies infinitely better than any scientist. And Christ followers can call on their Helper, the Great Physician, at any time for grace in time of need.
View again Illustra Media’s depiction of the promises of God for healing and comfort.