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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Is religion merely the product of evolution?

Today's Deseret News carries an article (pages E1 and E3) about a new science book. Written by a New York Times science writer, the book asserts that religion is a product of evolution. Nicholas Wade titles his book "The Faith Instinct: How Religion Evolved and Why It Endures." Amazon.com offers this insightful review from Publishers Weekly:

"Longtime New York Times science reporter Wade deftly explores the evolutionary basis of religion. He draws on archeology, social science and natural science as he vigorously shows that the instinct for religious behavior is an evolved part of human nature because, like other human social traits that have evolved over many thousands of years, the practice of religion conferred a decided survival advantage to those who practiced it. Natural selection operates according to principles of survival and reproduction of offspring with heritable traits. Many of the social aspects of religious behavior offer advantages—such as internal cohesion—that lead to a society's members having more surviving children. More importantly, since religions have evolved as their societies have developed, is it possible, Wade asks, for religions to be reworked so that as many people as possible can exercise their innate religious instincts to their own and society's benefits? Sure to be controversial for its reduction of religion to a product of natural selection, Wade's study compels us to reconsider the role of evolution in shaping even our most sacred human creations."

In the Deseret News article, we learn about a "God gene" that is a product of evolution. Mr. Wade believes "faith has a source — not God, but rather a 'God gene' in our physical makeup [and] the gods (assuming they exist) simply enforce what the 'God gene' demands."

According to Wade, "the actual existence or nonexistence of God is beside the point. We are powerless to resist the tug of faith because it is part of our genetic makeup."

2 Comments:

Blogger Jeff G said...

While I find all that stuff interesting and such, I see no reason why someone can't just reply:

"That's right, God directed evolution so as to incline us toward believing in Him."

Furthermore, I don't see how science could ever refute such a claim beyond the standard appeal to parsimony.

1/30/2010 05:27:00 PM  
Blogger Anthony E. Larson said...

Wade couldn't be more wrong. He is conclusions are the logical product of the orthodox science view of the past. He is completely ignorant of our true history. The study of all cultural traditions the world over reveals a commonality that Wade knows nothing of. www.mormonprophecy.blogspot.com

1/31/2010 05:16:00 PM  

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