Science Sez So: Man Made God
by Erik Manning
This week the L.A. Times ran an op-ed piece written by two atheists who use neuroscience to show us that God is a human invention. Cutting edge stuff, I know.
In recent years scientists specializing in the mind have begun to unravel religion’s “DNA.” They have produced robust theories, backed by empirical evidence (including “imaging” studies of the brain at work), that support the conclusion that it was humans who created God, not the other way around. And the better we understand the science, the closer we can come to “no heaven … no hell … and no religion too.”
Like our physiological DNA, the psychological mechanisms behind faith evolved over the eons through natural selection. They helped our ancestors work effectively in small groups and survive and reproduce, traits developed long before recorded history, from foundations deep in our mammalian, primate and African hunter-gatherer past.
Game over, right? As I gather it, their argument runs something like this:
- Psychological mechanisms are the byproduct of natural processes, viz. natural selection.
- Faith in God, religious experience, etc. is the result of these natural, psychological processes.
- Therefore, religious belief is invalid.
This all seems so groovy and scientific, but at bottom it is a bunch of fallacious hooey. (Hooey, I say! Fighting words!)
1. The argument commits the genetic fallacy. The genetic fallacy is based solely on something or someone’s origin and not its current meaning or context. The truth of a belief is independent of how we came to know it. I could believe that Des Moines is the capitol of Iowa from reading tea leaves. It doesn’t mean that Des Moines isn’t the capitol of Iowa; it just means I have some lousy justification for thinking that such is the case. Even if we grant that human beings have some fallible and possibly sketchy reasons for believing God might exist, it doesn’t follow that God doesn’t exist…
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