Monday, January 10, 2011

Darwinian explanations as truthmakers?

It is cognitively, and therefore metabolically, less taxing to disbelieve in gods than to believe in them. The cognitive effort needed to "keep straight" the celestial hierarchy, the byzantine code of taboos, commandments, the acrobatics of religious ritual, make it evolutionarily inefficient to believe in supernatural beings. Therefore, we can surmise that evolution favors the more economical use of cognitive metabolism in non-supernaturally inclined organisms. This is why secularism is spreading: evolution is enhancing the reproductive success of non-supernaturalist cognizers. As such, Darwinian natural selection indicates the truth of atheism as the metaphysically simpler explanation.

Now, class, please respond to the above argumentation.


One Brow said...

First, even if the argument were true, it would be a stronger case for theism. The more complex the religion, the less chosen it could be.

Second, evolution doesn't go about cutting waste like a cook trimming fat. Quite a bit of inefficiency get preserved.

Third, the notion that there no direct benefit to a religious belief is unproven.

Fourth, even if there were no direct benefit, religious beliefs could be a spandrel arising from some other benefits.

Crude said...

If it's so disadvantageous to 'believe in gods', it doesn't explain why "secularism" needs to 'spread' among an otherwise overwhelmingly religious population. Said population should already be atheist given the reasoning in that paragraph.

There are all sorts of problems there (the author things 'atheism' spreads by actual reproduction? He better hope not) (secularism != atheism, atheisms != !supernaturalism), but that's the principle one standing out to me.

D.J. Skull-Fog said...

It's easier to believe the world is flat. Or in Cartesian coordinates.

It's difficult "keep straight" a Relativity and Quantum Mechanics standard model.

Take home message: evolution only selects for breeding, not for truth.

"All's fair in love and war" + "All warfare is based on deception." Draw your own conclusions.

djr said...

The claims just seem intuitively false, and it's hard to know what kind of empirical evidence could be adduced to support them. Moreover, how stressful it is to believe in gods would seem to depend quite a bit on circumstances. For a highly educated person in the 21st century living among primarily secular people, it will be stressful because it goes against the grain; for a medieval peasant or a 6th century Greek living among people who take the existence of 'gods' for granted -- forget for a minute that it is at least arguably something of a category mistake to conflate these two very different sorts of 'gods' -- it would be hardly problematic. Moreover, not all religious require every adherent to 'keep straight' a vastly complex set of theological doctrines. Some religions don't even have complex theological doctrines; others create a division of labor whereby some members of the religious community are responsible for knowing the details and others are left free to practice rituals without worrying overmuch about the details. It would surely help if people who want to study religion 'scientifically' would bother to take note of just how vastly diverse 'religions' are -- so vast, in fact, that some more social-scientific and humanistic scholars of religion actually argue that we should abandon the category of 'religion' altogether and embrace a conceptual scheme that better reflects that diversity.

And yes, even if these claims were true, they would have no bearing whatsoever on the truth of any particular claims about the existence and nature of god(s).