We have yet another example of the Discovery Institute’s doctrinal convergence with Answers in Genesis (ol’ Hambo’s online ministry). The latest item of dogma the two share in common is that atheists don’t exist.
AIG is always telling us — as we quoted in AIG Proves the Bible Is True:
All people already know God because He is clearly seen in His creation, and His moral law is also written on their hearts. But they “suppress,” or hold down, the truth in unrighteousness because their proud hearts are rebellious and they do not want to submit to the truth
As we shall now see, the Discoveroids are adopting AIG’s position, albeit in their own slippery way. The latest post at their creationist blog is Evolutionary Studies Suggest that Atheists, Whatever They Say to the Contrary, Really Do Believe in God. It’s written by Casey Luskin, our favorite creationist. Casey says, with bold font added by us:
Over the past few weeks, a theme of discussion on the Internet has been the proposal that atheists may not exist. Of course people who think they’re atheists exist, but a study discussed in Nature proposes that people really aren’t functionally atheists because we’re innately predisposed toward religion.
Casey’s talking about Being human: Religion: Bound to believe?. It’s by Pascal Boyer, who is in the Departments of Psychology and Anthropology, Washington University in St Louis, Missouri. All you can see without a subscription is the abstract (or introductory blurb, or something), which says:
Atheism will always be a harder sell than religion, Pascal Boyer explains, because a slew of cognitive traits predispose us to faith.
Casey purports to quote Boyer. We assume there are large gaps between the ellipses:
Religious thought and behaviour can be considered part of the natural human capacities, such as music, political systems, family relations or ethnic coalitions. … religious thoughts seem to be an emergent property of our standard cognitive capacities. … It is a small step from having this capacity to bond with non-physical agents to conceptualizing spirits, dead ancestors and gods, who are neither visible nor tangible, yet are socially involved.
Then Casey says:
Boyer gives every sign that he himself is an atheist, writing things like, “When people proclaim their adherence to a particular faith, they subscribe to claims for which there is no evidence,” or “Religious concepts and activities hijack our cognitive resources.” So it’s not surprising that he suggests evolution is the ultimate cause of our religiosity: [we’ll skip his next quote].
Uh huh — Boyer is an atheist, so he resorts to an evolutionary explanation. What’s the point of all this? Casey’s essay is terribly chaotic, but his message is coming. Let’s read on:
Here’s my take. Evolutionary explanations of the origin of religion typically have two things in common: First, they’re dreadfully predictable. They simply look at some aspect of religious life or faith and ask how that behavior (or belief) might aid survival by endowing us with a beneficial trait (we’ll call that “X”). Second, in doing so, they utterly fail to explain the totality of religious experience and belief.
Okay, we get the drift. Casey doesn’t like “evolutionary explanations” of religion because they don’t explain anything. (He should be careful, because relying on the magical activities of his intelligent designer doesn’t explain anything either.) Well then, what does Casey offer as the true explanation? He continues:
[W]hy should our being predisposed to faith somehow mean no religion is correct? That doesn’t follow at all. If anything, it [a predisposition to faith] would seem to support a key premise of theistic religion: that God gives us a capacity and desire to believe.
Aaaargh!! With that argument, one could claim that a widespread belief in alien abductions means that such tales are true. Casey quotes a philosopher (not necessarily rock-solid data) and then says:
If God exists then we would predict that humans should have this innate tendency toward religiosity. Critics of religion will forever chase inadequate explanations for these religious tendencies.
Yes, and if the Olympian gods exist, there will be an innate tendency to believe in them — as indeed there was for at least a millennium. Casey then quotes something else that claims religion evolved to help people who “suffer from deep existential dread.” We have no idea what that’s all about, but Casey latches onto it and announces:
So religion evolved to help us cope with the reality that we really live in a meaningless universe? How convenient that is for those who believe we live in a meaningless universe! But why should anyone feel “existential dread” in the first place, if not for the fact that we long for something greater and beyond our mortal lives?
Aaaargh!! Here’s more:
Why is that longing for greater purpose there in the first place? This argument reduces to “religion evolved to meet a need” without, however, bothering to explain where the need itself came from.
Uh, let us hazard a guess — the source of the “need” that religion meets is … the intelligent designer? Casey’s final paragraph is his attempt to provide an answer:
Well, where does it come from? Perhaps the answer was given by a different Pascal — not Pascal Boyer but Blaise Pascal. Centuries ago, he argued that if we find a “God-shaped vacuum” (a popular but apt paraphrase of his view) in the human heart, that is simply because God put it there.
The whole essay is so incoherent that we’re not certain what Casey was saying, but we think it boils down to this: The existence of religion can’t be explained by evolution; it can only be explained because Oogity Boogity is true.
To complete the linkage with AIG, Casey appears to be saying that those who attempt to explain it all away by resorting to evolution are desperately dodging the truth that is inherent in all of us, but they’re too stupid or wicked to recognize it.
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