Casey Proves the Validity of Religion

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.

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

add to del.icio.usAdd to Blinkslistadd to furlDigg itadd to ma.gnoliaStumble It!add to simpyseed the vineTailRankpost to facebook

. AddThis Social Bookmark Button . Permalink for this article

20 responses to “Casey Proves the Validity of Religion

  1. Damn!! The know that I do prayers to THOR!!!! or was it Vishnu??

  2. Our Curmudgeon didn’t begin this post with our favorite picture of the gorilla showing us his estimate of Casey’s I.Q. 😦

    Obviously, our Curmudgeon has a strong innate belief in Athena, who frowns upon disparaging a Gerbil’s intelligence with naughty hand signs.

  3. I have a predisposition for cancer … doesn’t mean I already have it. I started out as a Christian but was cured. I overcame my predisposition, you can too!

  4. Humans are born with a liking for salty, sweet and fatty foods. One may be forgiven for thinking of an evolutionary “just so story” to account for that.

    But some of us have decided not to give in to that predisposition about food.

  5. Again, I see progress. They are simply a religious outfit and they don’t really take any of their previous efforts to disguise this fact in carefully chosen words.

  6. I prefer my gods warm and fuzzy like Quetzalcoatl.

  7. Having a predisposition for belief might explain why it is so easy for religious leaders to gain control over large numbers of people. Some people have a predisposition for conspiracy theories too, and other counter-factual beliefs.

    However, reality is independent of what one believes. It doesn’t change to suit our predispositions. Gods will not come into existence no matter how fervently we might believe in them, or sacrifice to them, or kill for them.

  8. Our Curmudgeon indicates this latest babble from the DI is

    written by Casey Luskin, our favorite creationist

    Hear, hear! Luskin is stellar, an absolute treasure! I say he deserves an IG-Nobel for Insane Sophistry Below and Beneath the Call of Duty!

  9. 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?

    True, it is the fear of death that gives rise to religion, promises of the “afterlife” so that our existence continues forever as we refuse to accept our own mortality and finiteness. This “religious” feeling permeates and is the basis of every deity based religions, and others as well, and is a question that noone can answer, but religion makes up stories and people accept one or the other. Even the ancient Egyptians, et. al, recognized this and built huge pyramids for the afterlife. Today people are buried so that their bodies will one day rise again, just like Pharaoh’s ka and be in the heavens with the gods. The idea of cremation was/is a no-no because of this resurection notion. Muslims who blow themselves up even get 72 virgins for their efforts. If the god/s are powerful enough to create the winds, skies, earths, etc., then surely these same god/s would welcome us in their heavenly nirvana and we can die in peace “knowing,” or rather deluding ourselves, that we’ll somehow live beyond this life. Yes, Casey, there really are atheists in foxholes.

  10. DavidK says: “Yes, Casey, there really are atheists in foxholes.”

    Indeed. They have a website: Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers.

  11. Hey, Casey, good sciencing! You really scienced the heck out of that piece!

  12. If indeed humans have a predisposition to believe in religious dogma, it is just more proof of evolution.

    Non-believers have been systematically put to death for as long as there have been shamans, witchdoctors, priests, imams, rabbis, Inquisitors, etc., etc. It’s a wonder that anyone today has the capacity for free thought.

    Our ancestors survived by not asking too many questions.

  13. If God exists then we would predict that humans should have this innate tendency toward religiosity.

    Yes, but the reverse isn’t necessarily true. If the tendency exists, it could be a product of human efforts to explain the universe in familiar terms whether or not the resulting explanation is true, so long as its consequences aren’t actually harmful in a (dare I use the word?) Darwinian sense–that is, as long as they don’t result in reduced propagation of the species over the long term.

  14. Surely any ‘innate tendency’ we possess is one to construct explanations for natural phenomena, as such explanations can be the sound basis for appropriate decisions about what actions to take that further survival.

    And in earlier times, ascribing many observable activities in nature to unseen and supernatural agents was–arguably–perfectly rational; e.g., having observed that only living things had the power of locomotion, and that the sun daily ‘moves’ across the sky, it was at the time a reasonable supposition that the sun was an animate being, but one of a ‘higher’ order. But also one subject to fluctuating behaviour on which life depended, and hence needful of propitiation by some means.

    In other words, our ‘innate tendency’ renders us vulnerable to accepting even an unproven explanation in preference to no explanation at all.

  15. Curmy, I think you’re correct: Bluffkin does appear to be rolling out the steadfast cretinist’s favourite mode of argumentation here, namely question-begging. We have a predisposition to believe in (a, any) god because this god blessed us with it, and therefore our predisposition proves this god exists.

    Bluffkin bloviates—

    “[P]eople really aren’t functionally atheists because we’re innately predisposed toward religion.”

    Yes, and people also really aren’t functionally impartial because we’re innately predisposed toward ourselves.

    Bluffkin paraprattles Pascal—

    “[I]f we find a ‘God-shaped vacuum’ … in the human heart, that is simply because God put it there.”

    By the same token, if we find a ‘purse-shaped vacuum’ in a person’s heart, that is simply because Mammon put it there. If we find a ‘wine-barrel-shaped vacuum’ in a person’s heart, that is simply because Bacchus put it there. And if we find a ‘surfboard-shaped vacuum’ in a person’s heart, that is simply because Neptune put it there.

  16. Ugh, broken HTML. Please, O Great Booming Voice from above, do your thing. Ta.

    [*Voice from above*] You fallible humans will never outgrow your need for my benevolent supervision.

  17. There has been this suggestion:

    It is better to make the mistake of seeing a threatening animal where there is none, than to make the mistake of seeing just a random pattern where there is a threat.

    This is the basis for apophenia (see the Wikipedia entry).

  18. While we may not have a predisposition to believe in mystical entities, I doubt you can find a culture that doesn’t have a rich story telling tradition. Another important tradition comes in the form of the timeless used car salesperson who dreams of selling you that old clunker and extracting as much of your money as possible at the same time.

    Combine the two traditions and suddenly your standing in the middle of a broken down car lot with Ken Ham threatening you with a lake of burning tires and demanding an explanation concerning your hesitation to buy one of his smoking wrecks.

  19. 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.

    Pufkin is saying that religious beliefs are testable by the scientific method. If relugion is testable, isn’t religion falsifiable?

    Of course the IDiots also say that Intelligent Design can’t identify the Designer because science can’t prove the Designer is supernatural. Here Pufkin says the opposite, that science can prove God exists, or at least test the idea.

  20. As for “innate tendencies”:

    All parents think their kids are above average.

    Half of them must be wrong.