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March 28, 2008

Angels no longer fear – science & religion

by quaesitor

We shouldn’t really be that surprised. But people still are. Is that because of media bias and ‘a militantly atheist and secularist lobby’? According to Bishop Tom Wright it is. (See David Aaronovitch’s heat-filled counterpoint in yesterday’s Times).

 

You see, it is one of the facts of contemporary life that people have rejected modernist scientism, the worldview of ‘nothing buttery‘ which does what it says in the tin – it reduces everything to ‘nothing but…’ X Y or Z. And the modernists can’t stomach that… which goes a long way to explaining the vitriolic rants and insults from the so-called New Atheists.

 

The necessary rejection of the absurdities of nothing buttery has been getting an increasingly good press. A few weeks ago, it was the Templeton Prize (see earlier post). This month it’s the Economist’s fascinating article on a €2m scientific project called ‘Explaining Religion’. As the article notes, ‘Religion cries out for a biological explanation’. Now that might seem like a nothing buttery approach in itself. But what this article begins to show is that the more the psychological or physical affects of religious belief and community are analyzed, the less they conform to what an evolutionary biologist might expect. There is something more out there. Which is pretty humbling really … for the reductionists at least.

 

This means that the secularist finds him or herself stuck in rather a tight spot. That of course is a million miles from a scientific ‘proof’ for God – but it contains not a little irony. As the article concludes:

Dr Wilson quips that “secularism is very maladaptive biologically. We’re the ones who at best are having only two kids. Religious people are the ones who aren’t smoking and drinking, and are living longer and having the health benefits.”
That quip, though, makes an intriguing point. Evolutionary biologists tend to be atheists, and most would be surprised if the scientific investigation of religion did not end up supporting their point of view. But if a propensity to religious behaviour really is an evolved trait, then they have talked themselves into a position where they cannot benefit from it, much as a sceptic cannot benefit from the placebo effect of homeopathy. Maybe, therefore, it is God who will have the last laugh after all—whether He actually exists or not

 

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