I am so good at being so wrong. For a long period of time, I was not persuaded by the argument from innate desire for the existence of the transcend beings. Even though I deserted atheistic worldview 6 years ago, I am incapable of completely breaking free from the philosophical ghosts of my past. The shekels of empiricism and positivism are still strongly intervened in my Christian worldview.
David Hume, whose philosophy I strongly followed, captured how I went about evaluating whether a particular argument was persuasive when he wrote,
When we run over libraries, persuaded of these principles, what havoc must we make? If we take in our hand any volume, of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, “Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number?” No. “Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence?” No. Commit it then to the flames. For it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion” (Hume 2000: 123)
I committed the arguments from desire to the flames. In Mere Christianity and The Weight of Glory, C. S. Lewis presented one of the versions of this argument that I rejected. Lewis contended that creatures possess innate desires that correspond to their satisfaction. Creatures possess some of innate desires that finds none of their satisfaction in this world. Therefore, it is probable that there is another world beyond this world. He argued,
Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.(Lewis 2001: 136-7)
I deemed Lewisian-like arguments as nothing but sophistry. Their crucial premise did not contain any experimental reasoning concerning its matter of fact or existence. That the transcendent beings (i.e. existence of God(s), life after death, dualism, absolute morality &c.,) are intuitive innate beliefs, and therein spring our desires, was lacking.
This picture changed with preponderance of scientific evidence emerging from the field of cognitive science. Cognitive science provides empirical data that appears to be pointing us towards a conclusion that humans are intuitive theists. We are wired to believe in transcendent beings. The works of Olivera Petrovich, Deborah Kelemen, Scott Atran, Jesse Bering, Pascal Boyer, Stewart Guthrie, Robert McCauley, Bradley Wigger, Justin L. Barrett, Nicola Knight and Ilkka Pyysiainen, among others, placed on the table empirical data showing that our beliefs in transcendent beings are innate.
My version of argument from desire, thus, could be outlined as follows:
1. Transcendent beings (existence of God, afterlife &c.,) are creaturely innate desires.
2. Every other creaturely innate desire, that we know of, there exists a corresponding object of its satisfaction.
3. It is mostly probable than not that the objects of creaturely innate desires of transcendent beings exist.
This argument, if sound, does not lead to the conclusion that a specific understanding of God is correct, but a general theistic worldviews. Is this a sound argument? I do not know. The opponent of this argument needs to show which premise(s) is false. Would it persuade an atheist to reconsider his/her position? No. It would not. But it is my hope that it will show him/her that one does not have to abandon reason to believe in transcendent beings.
Hume, David (2000) An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Lewis, C. S. (2001) Mere Christianity. San Francisco: Harper Collins.
40 thoughts on “Investigating God’s Existence from Innate Desires”
Many of us are good at being wrong, and it’s a rare quality to embrace it and work on it. Your qualities of investigation, critiquing, challenging your resources as well as your motivations are qualities that can inspire others. A Christian (or any theist) who doesn’t ask questions only weakens his or her position. Thank you, as always.
Thank you so much Crystal. You are the reason I blog and keep on blogging.
What is fiction if not a desire for things that don’t exist?
I believe you misunderstood this case. The idea is not about desires in general but innate desires. These are desires that are wired from birth, like hunger for food, hunger for sex at maturity, &c., they are desires that are transcultural both past and present. They are not learned but spring from our human nature from nativity.
You mean like the desire to feel safe? It’s that desire that leads us to jump when the wind rustles the leaves at night. It’s better to assume danger when there is none than it is to assume safety when there is danger. It’s not difficult to understand how people can create imaginary things using evolutionary survival skills. We see faces where there are none because we are hardwired to read faces. It’s a survival skill. In that case, it’s not so much that we innately desire god as it is that we innately see human tampering where there is none because it helped us survive.
Interesting food for thought
Great article because it provides food for thought. For me, this line in Ecclesiastes 3.11 says it all, “He has put eternity in their hearts…”
“Creatures possess some of innate desires that finds none of its satisfaction in this world. Therefore, it is probable that there is another world beyond this world.”
-This is a grossly juvenile statement. Long distance communication is desirable, yet man cannot transmit a message beyond earshot… unless he invents non-worldly technology like pen and paper and written language, radio transmitters, digital compression, and satellite receivers. Man desires to annihilate an entire city, but explosives are not found in nature… so he builds a bomb. Man desires to explore the surface of another planet, so he constructs rockets and robots. Do bird nests exist in nature, or does the bird who desires one have to construct it itself according to a plan not found in the naturally occurring world? Does highly desirable medicine exist in nature? Does monetary policy, combustion engines, and aeroplanes exist in nature? Does, Prayson, wonderful human fictional literature exist in nature?
The desire Lewis (and you) is pleading for is nothing but the desire for family and belonging… for safety and, perhaps, some grand Ah-ha! moment as experienced by characters in human stories.
“Cognitive science provides empirical data that appears to be pointing us towards a conclusion that humans are intuitive theists. We are wired to believe in transcendent beings.”
-Wrong, wrong, wrong. We’ve been through this before, and it appears you have simply ignored what was demonstrated to you. To repeat:
(Banerjee, K., and P. Bloom. 2013) “Drawing on evidence from developmental psychology, we argue here that the answer is no: children lack spontaneous theistic views and the emergence of religion is crucially dependent on culture…. However, there is no evidence that children spontaneously come to believe in one or more divine creators. It is one thing, after all, to think about natural entities as intentionally designed artifacts of a sort; it is quite another to generate an enduring belief in invisible agents who have created these artifacts. Indeed, other studies ﬁnd that young children are not committed creationists; they are equally likely to provide explanations of species origins that involve spontaneous generation .”
He goes on:
“Older children, by contrast, do exclusively endorse creationist explanations. This shift to a robust creation is preference arises in part because older children are more adept at grasping the existential themes invoked by the question of species origins (e.g., existence and ﬁnal cause) and also because the notion of a divine creator of nature meshes well with their early-emerging teleological biases . However, these older children do not spontaneously propose novel divine creators. Instead, they adopt the particular creationist account that their culture supplies.”
Let’s repeat that: “they adopt the particular creationist account that their culture supplies.” That’s pretty clear. Culture.
“Some, such as Barrett , take children’s readiness to reason about life after death as evidence that they are ‘born believers’ in an afterlife. This conclusion is probably too strong, however. There is no evidence that belief in the afterlife arises spontaneously in the absence of cultural support.”
Overall, the recent studies find that although a notion of mind-body dualism might be hardwired (it’s stressed there is no conclusive indication of this, yet it can be easily explained by the evolutionary benefits of seeing agency in nature), and this enables us to dream up imaginary friends, as much as fictional characters in literature. Theism is cultural. It is learnt behaviour, much like a person’s unique pallet, or dress sense.
To your Argument From Desire:
P1 is not only demonstrably wrong, it’s irrational special pleading. One merely has to replace “Transcendent Beings” with “Father/Authority Figures” and the premise becomes a rational articulation of the real world.
John, you probably have not read the article you are citing and most likely copy-pasting from another internet site(you copied their footnote number too ;)) In the paper your friends cited, Konika Banerjee and Paul Bloom(who seems to have abandon his earlier position) are arguing contrary to many cognitive science scholars, as they clearly states in very opening page of their paper.
Well, I will have to write a review of this article but for now I will direct my readers to the consensus view in cognitive science: http://www.is-there-a-god.info/blog/clues/is-it-natural-for-children-to-believe-in-god-or-do-they-have-to-be-taught-it/
Your objection of P1, thus, fails. 😉
LOL! You quote an Evangelical Christian site! Priceless 🙂
Again, you are purposefully confusing “agency” with “god.”
To quote Bloom again:
“Drawing on evidence from developmental psychology, we argue here that the answer is no: children lack spontaneous theistic views and the emergence of religion is crucially dependent on culture”
John, I have not quoted any one. I gave a link to a page which has a summary of the general position in CSR. Whether it is Evangelical or Atheistic, I care-less. He gave access to cited papers(PDF) for further and full reading(for those who care reading actual papers).
It is you John, who copy-pasted from another site including their footnotes numbers 🙂 that gave you away. You tend to echo secondary internet knowledge instead of actually reading the paper yourself. If you did then you would have noted that Bloom and college are going against many cognitive scientists.
An evangelical Christian site is hardly a reputable place to get an accurate assessment of current thinking.
Nice try, though 🙂
But don’t get me wrong. I agree with the consensus that “agency” is a bias humans (and chimps, and even pigeons) exhibit. It’s an evolutionary thing.
I care-less if it is Christian or none-Christian site. What I care is the PDFs links to original works to which he cited from. Unlike you, he used original works while you copy-pasted secondary internet information carelessly to also include footnotes’ numbers 😉
If you cared to actually know what is consensus cognitive scientists position you would have noticed as Bloom states in the opening pages that they are arguing against many scholars. Bloom himself, if you have read his works, prima facie appears to have abandon his earlier position.
Again, you are confusing (deliberately, i might add) “agency” with a “god.” Of course, this is understandable, and the reason why you cited an evangelical Christian site that has quote-mined experts.
But still, I don’t disagree with our natural, evolutionarily-prescribed bias to finding agency in nature. As I have previously written :
“We naked apes are however enormously inclined toward paranoia, and for very good reason. It served us extremely well at a time not that very long ago on the evolutionary scale when even the strongest of us were counted as snack items. A breeze bending blades of grass could easily be attributed, albeit incorrectly, to a stalking lioness and all the dangers that it implied. The causal associations between the unpredictable movement of grasses and the presence of danger was a good thing, a skill, and like all skills the better practiced and more highly trained the trick the better it is for the individual and, more importantly, the group at large.
We, as a species, erred on the side of caution. Our evolutionary path rewarded the lesser of two evils whereby the cost of paranoia was deemed lower than the cost of scepticism which, if wrong, extracts a painfully high price; namely death. The sceptical hominid might see the bending grass but take a moment to then survey surrounding trees and see if they too were bending. If they were then the probability of wind causing the movement of the grass increased but did not necessarily rule out the presence of a hungry lioness. Wrongly attributing the bending grass to an approaching lioness ninety-nine times out of a hundred was, it appears, less costly than being wrong once. The paranoid lived on to practice (or fend off ) increasingly bad pick-up lines whereas the brazen sceptic tired of jumping at the slightest rustle met a less than pleasant demise.
In a sentence, nature beatified the neurotic.
A tendency to make quick albeit mostly false associations was deemed more evolutionarily beneficial than more reliable but equally more time-consuming rational cynicism. There was a price to pay for this paranoia, anxiety, but the price was evidently considered tolerable in the face of the more costly alternatives. We are, as such, biologically attuned to this neurosis. It is, at a genetic level, our default setting; a physiological reality etched deep inside the genome of every highly strung naked ape.
Bending blades of grass are observed, synaptic nerve endings fire and the observation is linked to past events where the pattern of bending grass is followed by a blinding flash of sandy blonde fur, hazardously huge feline paws, and teeth-lined jaws that could ruin anyone’s day. What happens next is entirely involuntary. Up top there is a not-so mild biochemical explosion and norepinephrine floods the brain; the neurological equivalent of someone yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theatre. Adrenal glands go off like solid rocket fuel motors and adrenalin saturates the sympathetic nervous system. Neurons in the visual cortex spark off at triple normal speed and time appears to slow. Faster than thought the liver dumps its store of glucose into the blood. The heart and lungs snap into overdrive flooding muscles with oxygen, and with that the body is near-instantly prepared for Flight or Fight: a survival mechanism that has changed little, if at all, through the last 830,000 generations.”
John, it appears that you are unaware of literature in cognitive science of religion. Just read the first 9 pages of “The folk psychology of souls”(2006) by Jesse M.Bering which he argued that dualism and afterlife is innate beliefs. In that paper Bering also summarized that belief in superbeings is also innate 🙂 See also Bruce M. Hood(http://evolution.binghamton.edu/evos/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/IntuitiveMagician.pdf)
I am writing an article to silent the claims you echoed through secondary copy-pasting without actually reading the papers yourself 😉
Now you’re calling it “beliefs”? LOL! Assigning agency is a skill, Daniel… a cognitive trick, which was very useful, as I demonstrated quite clearly. The question to you is this:
Do you, yes or no, acknowledge the evolutionary benefit of finding agency in nature?
Now, why are you hyping on about my lazy copying? Is lazy copying worse than your deliberate lying when you were losing a debate on the Pentateuch? 😉
John, where is Pentateuch coming from? Let’s stay on topic. It appears that your bias and intelligence “laziness”, your words, misled you to think that Bloom current position is the consensus in cognitive science.
Reechoing a secondary quote to which you forgot to remove its footnotes numbers gave you out since you would have read clearly in the very first page that Bloom and college are arguing against majority of scholars in cognitive science.
Care to point to where i said Bloom represented a consensus?
Careful now Daniel, you’re drifting, again, in lying territory 😉
Now, you are completely, and purposefully, missing the point, which is: finding agency in nature is a natural bias. See that word: “agency.”
What I’d like you to answer is this: was it, or was it not, evolutionary beneficial to find agency in natural events?
You haven’t answered Tildeb below, who raises the exact same issue.
John, you presented Bloom as what is contemporary main position when it comes to what I presented in my article.
You seam to ignore even the work of Bruce Hood that stated what I contended, namely supernatural beings and Bering on dualism and afterlife. I drew you to a river of knowledge but would not force you to drink as you seem to enjoy copy-pasted quotes without context 😉
If Tildeb learn your kindness and respect I would answer his comments but until then I am not compelled to answer him. 🙂
I read the Hood article, and nowhere does he say “supernatural beings.” He uses the term “supernatural” by itself, and I agree with him completely. He is not supporting your position, rather Tildebs and mine. You really shouldn’t try and conflate what the author is saying to your own special pleading. A good quote:
“This tendency to attribute mental lives to nonhumans, or “anthropomorphism,”
explains why we get angry with our temperamental computers and talk nicely to our unreliable cars.”
This is almost precisely the example Tildeb gave. Again, this is assigning agency.
Now, you haven’t answered the question: Do you, yes or no, acknowledge the evolutionary benefit of finding agency in nature?
Just to prod you along, from Hoods article, under the heading “Why Supernatural Reasoning May be Beneficial”:
“Supernatural beliefs also give us a perception of control in situations where in fact we may have none.”
The quote you use, John, (“This tendency to attribute mental lives to nonhumans, or “anthropomorphism,” explains why we get angry with our temperamental computers and talk nicely to our unreliable cars.”) is standard fare in the research with which I am familiar. That’s not sociology and psychology but neuroscience.
What PD may not know is the compelling evidence from neuroscience that shows our agency attribution seems strongly correlated to the activation of our mirror neurons in a way that makes perfect sense: in order for us to evaluate something we encounter in our environment, we come with mirror neurons to activate a sympathetic response, namely, ‘experiencing’ the encounter from that other viewpoint. Many critters come so equipped (not surprisingly, these are generally those critter closer in our evolutionary family.) Our neural response with mirror neurons activates a rather intriguing chemical cascade we associate very strongly with our ability to empathize (which also shown to happen in various dream states… again, as if we were ‘experiencing’ first hand what we are encountering second hand).
Just as we do with sympathy and empathy and compassion, we first import ourselves (and our biases and preferences) to this other viewpoint to anthropomorphize it. We do this so that we can first experience and then evaluate its possible intentions towards us (regardless if the encounter involves real agency or not!). It makes good sense that we use ourselves as the baseline (as if to ‘experience’ the encounter by switching positions hypothetically and then seeing why we might do what the encountered ‘thing’ is doing). This is borne out with studies that indicate a very strong correlation between people who are, say, angry assuming the encountered agency is angry, people who are self centered presuming the encountered agency is equivalently self-centered… and so on. Our attribution of agency is highly reflective of ourselves.
Why does this matter in regards to the OP?
Well, for a religious person to assume the assigning of agency is evidence for that agency being not just real but in religious agreement with the religious person is not surprising. What should be surprising – shockingly so – is just how drastic is the religious diversion from trying one’s best to actually understand what is truly going on with such assigning (answer: causal effects from changes in the brain). Prayson would never, ever, seek a better understanding of neuroscience first to explain a religious assumption; he has trained his mind to look into the supernatural for causation that aligns with his religious beliefs and then assume that attribution he makes equates with knowledge he has extracted from reality! Hence, posts like this one that tries to argue there is ‘scientific evidence’ for the supernatural god he has invested with a very great deal not just of confidence but as part and parcel of his very identity!
This absorption of the effect of devout religious belief demonstrates better than any comments and criticisms I could ever make about the power of the religious meme to infect the workings of an otherwise functional, curious, intelligent mind like Prayson’s and lead him away from gaining real knowledge about reality as it is and substituting it with a feeling of piousness and righteousness and welcomed submission to align reality with his religious beliefs.
It would be shocking if not so prevalent.
“Prayson would never, ever, seek a better understanding of neuroscience first to explain a religious assumption; he has trained his mind to look into the supernatural for causation that aligns with his religious beliefs and then assume that attribution he makes equates with knowledge he has extracted from reality….. This absorption of the effect of devout religious belief demonstrates better than any comments and criticisms I could ever make about the power of the religious meme to infect the workings of an otherwise functional, curious, intelligent mind like Prayson’s and lead him away from gaining real knowledge about reality as it is and substituting it with a feeling of piousness and righteousness and welcomed submission to align reality with his religious beliefs.”
Yet again Tildeb, you have said it better than I ever could.
John, Hood noted the objects of supernatural belief. Would you be kind to state them? What are the objects of supernatural belief?
Moreover you have not answer Bering on innate afterlife beliefs and dualism. 🙂 I am writing an article that would show both that you are incorrect 😉
You wrongly claimed Hood used the words “supernatural beings,” which is a demonstration of what Tildeb notes: your brain, Daniel, is presently wired to delude yourself… to see what you “think” is there before you, but which isn’t.
Now, you have so far failed four requests to answer a very simple question. Shall we try a fifth time?
Do you, Daniel, acknowledge that the mental ability to find agency in nature has strong evolutionary benefits to survival?
Yes, or no….
John, you are morally way better than Tildeb and I hope you will not let his/her lack of respect enter you. Bruce N. Waller’s remark ought to be your guide: “Difficult as it may be, it is vitally important to separate argument sources and styles from argument content. In argument the medium is not the message”(Waller 1998:5).
John, I believe you misunderstood what I mean by “being”. I use “being” philosophically, namely “that is, the substance, nature, and essence of anything existent”(Gilson 1952:2). Thus supernatural, or more correct, transcendent beings are entities like “God(s),ghosts, dualism, absolute morality, afterlife, spirits &c.,” These are some of the objects of supernatural belief according to Hood. So do not join Tildeb in mixing the medium and the content. Address the content not the medium. 🙂
Now back to the 2 paged article by Konika Banerjee and Paul Bloom, to which you copy-pasted from a secondary source, and have not read it by yourself. Since you continue to stay in denial of what I presented, here is my take. Starting with the very first paragraph of Banerjee and Bloom’s article:
Note the contents of supernatural beliefs, namely in “God, an afterlife, and the divine creation of humans and other creature”. And second paragraph:
Banerjee and Bloom continued to quoted Justin Barrett, as an example, with Barrett contending that “‘it may even be that were children not provided with ideas about gods, they would discover gods for them- selves when combined with a tendency […] of finding design and purpose in the natural world’(Barrett 2012:42 as cited by Banerjee & Bloom 2013:7) This is the position many scholars, as they noted hold, to which they to a point argue against. They stated:
Now the last passage justify my position of saying that Bloom prima facie appears to have abandon his position. He has not. He agree up to a point. 🙂 For more of this, see my next article “Naturalness of Theism”.
I’m afraid to say, the Medium is indeed the Message. See Mcluhan 😉
I’d caution you against personal attacks on Tildeb. I have only found him to be astonishing forthright, truthful, and with a depth of understanding in matters (and ability to articulate that understanding) that I can only aspire to. You not addressing him is a sign, to me and all that read this blog, that you are fearful of engaging him because you know he’s right.
So “you” conflated the authors words, and now justify it by saying you’re using your “own personal definitions.” I hope you see the error in your works here, Daniel.
On Barrett, Bloom writes: “Some, such as Barrett, take children’s readiness to reason about life after death as evidence that they are ‘born believers’ in an afterlife. This conclusion is probably too strong, however. There is NO EVIDENCE that belief in the afterlife arises spontaneously in the absence of cultural support.”
You see, you’re taking what is written but only seeing what you want to see. You’re adding your own definitions, expounding on the terms used, and twisting the author’s words to fit your agenda. But again, I am in no way doubting that humans have a natural bias to finding agency in natural events.
As I wrote above, “Nature beatified the neurotic… A tendency to make quick albeit mostly false associations was deemed more evolutionarily beneficial than more reliable but equally more time-consuming rational cynicism. There was a price to pay for this paranoia, anxiety, but the price was evidently considered tolerable in the face of the more costly alternatives. We are, as such, biologically attuned to this neurosis. It is, at a genetic level, our default setting; a physiological reality etched deep inside the genome of every highly strung naked ape.”
And to repeat: “Drawing on evidence from developmental psychology, we argue here that the answer is no: children lack spontaneous theistic views and the emergence of religion is crucially dependent on culture…. However, there is no evidence that children spontaneously come to believe in one or more divine creators. It is one thing, after all, to think about natural entities as intentionally designed artifacts of a sort; it is quite another to generate an enduring belief in invisible agents who have created these artifacts. Indeed, other studies ﬁnd that young children are not committed creationists; they are equally likely to provide explanations of species origins that involve spontaneous generation (Banerjee, K., and P. Bloom. 2013).
Now, shall we try a sixth time to ask the same question?
Do you, Daniel, acknowledge that the mental ability to find agency in nature has strong evolutionary benefits to survival?
Yes, or no….
O yes mental ability to find agency in nature has strong natural selection’s benefits of survival of existence.
John, I did not attack Tildeb. I wrote that he/she morally lacks respect and does what you caution of me doing,ironically, while you joined him, in attacking my personal state of mind(medium) in order to explain what I presented(content).
John, have you read Banerjee and Bloom’s 2 paged article or do you still and only echoe quotations of what you wanted from a secondary source?
So, thank you, you have conceded that the mental ability to find agency in natural events is evolutionarily beneficial. It is a skill (albeit an erroneous one) that nature promoted through selection, and has, as such, become ingrained in the human genome. We are, like other complex species, naturally inclined to make blunders in causal relations because that speeds up our reaction times.
So, now that you’ve admitted the evolutionary explanation for why this skill exists, will you concede that you have drastically over reached in then trying to connect this useful survival skill as some sort of evidence for truth in religion? Will you admit that you’ve taken 2 & 2, and arrived at 10,000?
Now, if you don’t fear Tildeb, then address his concerns. Anyone who reads this blog can see his comments are lucid. And I certainly don’t think he (or I) have attacked you personally, rather identified the loose-games you’re playing with the research. If, however, you think I have attacked you personally, then I apologise.
John, I believe you are mixing data with explanation of that data.
Yes naturalists as Bloom, Bering and Hood for example would explain these as accidental byproduct of evolution. This is one of the explanation of that data. We should remember that explanation of data is though the area of philosophy. Science only present data, what is. Philosophy of science and metaphysics, then kicks in to explain that data, with “why is what is”. Another explanation as Barrett and Plantinga gave could be that this natural byproduct is wired by a transcendent deity such that we may naturally acquire transcendent knowledge through natural selection, namely that evolved primates would come to know their Maker, absolute morality, life after death &c.,
So, depending on your prior belief or lack of belief in God, the explanation of that data varies.
There is no disagreement though on the data, to which I presented, namely we are wired to hold supernatural belief. Whether these beliefs are correct or not is another story.
This marks the end of my contribution here but would continue under my next article “Naturalness of Theism”.
Thank you for all your comments John.
Why would a transcendent being, for which there is no evidence whatsoever outside the colourful and inventive canvas of human cultural fiction, trump the natural explanation… which, I remind you, you have already conceded wholly explains the existence of our bias to quick, but erroneous, blunders in causal relations? Special pleading is terribly weak apologetics, Daniel.
John, you are morally way better than Tildeb and I hope you will not let his/her lack of respect enter you.
My lack of respect for your religious beliefs is obvious but this is not a moral failure on my part; it’s a principled stand against a demonstrably failed epistemological approach you use to promote it that I find in great need of necessary criticism. In spite of what you believe, my tone in this regard does not reveal my moral character.
Like you, I hold John in great esteem… in my case for the clarity and persistence of his thinking and his ability to communicate these thoughts. But I am disappointed that you would judge my moral character against such stiff competition on this basis rather than a moral one. But I understand why having one’s beliefs (I have non-religious friends who have become deeply religious as a means to successfully courting their religious mates) constantly criticized can bring out the worst in some people and I forgive your premature, misguided, and harsh judgement of my moral character. I think you dos so because my moral character is an easier target to hit from such a distance (all it takes is a hand wave) than successfully addressing the actual criticisms I raise.
PD, once again you conflate assumptions of agency with ‘religious’ belief as if the former demonstrates the innateness of the latter. This is simply WRONG. It’s a MISTAKE. (I capitalize those words to try to draw your attention to this repeated error you continue to make.)
Look, quite simply, no child is born with an innate belief in Jesus, Thor or Quetzalcóatl. It’s just that simple. None of these equate with ‘hunger’ to use your analogy. And no one’s arguing that children (and the religious) continue to assume agency and purpose to natural and physical mechanisms of physics and chemistry. In fact, most of us assign agency even when we know perfectly well there is no agency! This is not evidence for a ‘desire’ that is not naturally present, which you then use to rationalize an explanation for how it ever came to be (therefore God).
This line of reasoning is skewed from the beginning but you seem unwilling or unable to grasp why. What memetic infection might be causing this, I wonder?
Now my article Naturalness of Theism is up. There is so much left out but I wish to be challenged that I may present more works from CSR showing that what I claimed above is true. 😉
Why bother? You’ve already conceded that there is a distinct and indisputable evolutionary benefit (and therefore explanation) for the human brain being hardwired to make quick, albeit erroneous, blunders in causal-relations. These blunders are driven by our innate paranoia and are the root of all latent superstitious behaviour, and this includes assigning “agency” to natural phenomena: the seed of all animistic expressions. The action is both neurological and physiological, but the prescriptions are uniquely cultural. Simply put: nature beatified the neurotic, and emerging cultural necessities coloured-in the imaginative commentaries. You’ve admitted this. You’ve surrendered to the natural explanation for why this trait (this once highly useful skill) exists, so there’s nothing further to add.
John, I agreed that HADD in our mind makes as form agents. It does not follow that therefore the agents do not exists. Example a Maasai in forest’s HADD makes him form a belief that there is a lion making a certain sound close to him. This could be true or false. At the same time, the silence following what that Maasai thought to be a lion ceases, the HADD also makes him form the belief that there is no lion after all.
I presented quite fascination contemporary researchs(from 2010 & 2013) that show that atheists are only explicit atheists but implicit theists. These finding confirm what I have constantly contended, belief in supernaturalism is innate.
We are wired to believe in transcendent beings..
Not quite; we are wired (so to speak) to assign agency.
You can’t just co-opt the object of this sentence ‘agency’ to mean a transcendent being (whatever that may be). The two are not synonyms.
Much of the research indicates a strong tendency to assign agency (especially when our most base emotions are involved) even when we know there is no agency involved. There’s a very good reason that brings us benefit and a reproductive advantage for doing this.
For example, when your car won’t start, you might plead with it, get angry at it, verbalize your frustration at its unwillingness to cooperate, barter with it, and so on. It’s just a machine and we know it’s just a machine but we don’t treat it that way. We treat it as an agent open (like we are) to our pleading and cajoling and threats and promises.
We personalize all kinds of input and attribute meaning and purpose to this fictional agency in order for us to ‘understand’ it, to see it from their side, so to speak. We might be (and usually are) completely wrong but this assigning and personalizing of the world and all it inhabits is a function of our activated mirror neurons.
Without these mirror neurons, we would have no ability to empathize and exercise compassion. I suspect an utter lack of these attributes would enhance our reproductive chances; in fact there’s good evidence such a lack is a significant detriment to mating.
Once again, and without any surprise, Oogity Boogity! has nothing whatsoever to do with these ‘desires’.
Woah! My daughter has always desired a unicorn. I’ll be so happy to tell her that you’ve now proved that unicorns exist!
What an amazingly logical argument! Simply desiring something strongly enough means that it exists! You know, all my life I’ve had a strong desire to have telepathic powers. I’m glad to now know that telepathy exists. But quick question – does it mean that I’m myself now telepathic, or does it just mean that other people have telepathy? Because I’ve been trying but not hearing anything so far.
It’s good to hear that you’re finally breaking free of the chains of rationality and logic that atheism brought you to.
I’ve got to agree. This is a really bad argument of Pascal’s Wager-like proportions. A desire can come from all sorts of places, even if it is innate (though the wording here stretches the claims of innateness). Even if a desire for a god were innate, as long as we accept evolution that would only mean that having such an idea helped the species reproduce in some way, implying nothing at all about truth value.
Thanks John for you comment. That objection fails because unicorns are not innate desire. An empirical evidence will show that unicorns are not transcultural just like fairies, Saint Nikolai(Santa Claus) &c. 🙂 This beings are indoctrinated while the innate desire are wired in our cognitive faculty from birth.
Btw: Rationalism, empiricism and positivism are not to be equated with being rational or logical 🙂 Do you know what these philosophical schools mean?
I wouldn’t be worried about atheists agreeing with you. I chuckle at the fact that C.S. Lewis is in the same boat as the Raelians…Happy rowing:
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