How your brain creates God?
Evolution’s convolutions in avoiding the obvious
Published: 10 March 2009 (GMT+10)
The journal New Scientist has recently run an article called Born Believers: How your brain creates God (especially in hard financial times)1… Towards the latter end of the article is a disclaimer that ‘All the researchers involved stress that none of this says anything about the existence or otherwise of gods.’ However, the tenor of the article, including the title, militates strongly that the author’s preferred reality is that, yes folks, “your brain creates God.”
The article initially suggests that “God” is created in our brains as a result of “an evolutionary adaptation that makes people more likely to survive”. However it then points out that this theory is not accepted by many in the evolutionary community. Blithely over-riding this hiccup, it then launches into an alternate, conflicting theory that “religion emerges as a natural by-product of the way the human mind works”.
Bravely advanced as evidence for this alternative explanation is a study that has shown children can distinguish at a young age between a box and a moving person. From this rather astute observation follows the rapid and rather surreal assumption that our brains therefore have separate cognitive systems for dealing with a) living things and b) inanimate objects (Shared no doubt by your average alarm sensor?). The researcher labels this cerebral activity “common sense dualism”, which has apparently (over millions of years?) led to our brains creating God. Various other observations on human religious behavior are then also drawn on to support this thesis.
Well, if that was all perhaps a “no comment” would have been appropriate. But worthy of note is the inadvertent way this article erects an extremely strong case for the ubiquity of God-consciousness amongst all humanity. Some of these quotes are listed below:
- “It turns out that human beings have a natural inclination for religious belief, especially during hard times.”
- “It seems that our minds are finely tuned to believe in gods.”
- “Religious ideas are common to all cultures”
- “Children the world over have a strong natural receptivity to believing in gods”
- “Bering considers a belief in some form of life apart from that experienced in the body to be the default setting of the human brain”
- “Our predisposition to believe in a supernatural world stays with us as we get older”
- “Petrovich adds that even adults who describe themselves as atheists and agnostics are prone to supernatural thinking. Bering has seen this too.”
- “It does, however, suggest that god isn’t going away, and that atheism will always be a hard sell. Religious belief is the ‘path of least resistance’, says Boyer, while disbelief requires effort.”
So here, from the horse’s mouth, we have the bad news for secular humanism. The whole world believes in God: even atheists default to belief in God under stress and the evolutionary fraternity has to work very hard to “keep the faith”.
Leading the charge
The article then gives a classic example of “hard sell atheism” and the “effort it requires” by quoting our old friend and unwitting ally Dr Richard Dawkins—author of such sturdy truisms as:
Dawkins, a strong supporter in his book God Delusion of the theory that religion is propagated in children by indoctrination, was asked in the article: “If children have an innate belief in god, however, where does that leave the indoctrination hypothesis? “No problem,” says Richard (inventor of everlasting cake?) – “They must both be true”.
Kicking and Screaming
One cannot help wondering whether we haven’t been dealing with “ivory tower non-sense” rather than this “dualistic common-sense”. It will always be a big “ask” to convince thirsty people there is no such thing as water, yet here the evolutionary fraternity gamely sets about demonstrating that they are up to the task. Obviously, these researchers are very familiar with the old saying: “If it quacks, swims and walks like a duck — it must actually be a flying pig.”
The book of Romans, which tells us that even “unbelievers” have the law of God written on their hearts (2:15), sums up such “heroic” denial of God—it simply says, “Professing themselves to be wise they became fools”.4 What comes to mind is the incident where Jesus healed a man blind from birth.5 His opponents, fighting gamely against the obvious supernatural explanation, desperately kept asking the healed man, in effect, “But what did he do, what did he do?”
Verdict?…. None so blind as those who will not see.
- http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20126941.700-born-believers-how-your-brain-creates-god.html?full=true Return to text.
- Dawkins, R., The Blind Watchmaker, W.W. Norton & Company, New York, p. 1., 1986. He says: “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose”, then proceeds to argue that they are not. Return to text.
- December 2004 Interview Bill Moyers ‘Now’ Transcript at: www.pbs.org/now/transcript/transcript349_full.html#dawkins. Return to text.
- Romans 1:22 Return to text.
- John Chapter 9 Return to text.