Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Science and wasted money: Material source sought for spirituality

A British-led study, on which the Templeton Foundation was willing to waste L2 million pounds seeks to discover why people believe in God:
Justin Barrett, a psychologist who has been quoted in support of arguments by both the atheist Richard Dawkins and his critic, Alister McGrath, a Christian theologian, said: "We are interested in exploring exactly in what sense belief in God is natural. We think there is more on the nature side than a lot of people suppose."

He compared believers to three-year-olds who "assume that other people know almost everything there is to be known". Dr Barrett, who is a Christian, is the editor of the Journal of Cognition and Culture and author of the book Why Would Anyone Believe in God? He said that the childish tendency to believe in the omniscience of others was pared down by experience as people grew up. But this tendency, necessary to allow human beings to socialise and cooperate with each other in a productive way, continued when it came to belief in God.

[ ... ]

The research will feed into other areas, such as whether the conflicts associated with religion are a product of human nature. The project will also examine whether belief in the afterlife is something that needs to be taught or is a product of natural selection.

This stuff is a worthy companion to Evolution Sunday, which, this year, replaced the first Sunday in Lent with Darwinism, in any church that celebrated it. And here is what I think of the type of people who would sponsor it.

Fundamentally, there are only two options: Either

(1) people believe in God because of a glitch in their brains that is irrelevant to the way the universe actually works - and can be explained by the fact that they have children who inherit the glitch -


(2) they believe in God because there is a Mind behind the universe and their minds eventually contact that Mind.

The second proposition offers vastly more evidence than the first. But the first proposition is much more fashionable among elite atheists and their fellow travellers.

Montreal neuroscientist Mario Beauregard and I offer evidence for the second proposition in The Spiritual Brain.

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