I disagreed [Why don't people accept evolution? ]. Here's what I wrote last week ....
I don't believe that we evolved to favor religion over science any more than I believe we evolved to favor slavery, male superiority, castes, homophobia, and a host of other things that have disappeared or are about to disappear. Religion, especially the extreme versions, is soon going to disappear as well. I don't believe that those seven things are innate, hard-wired, ways of thinking. They are mostly learned behaviors. There's no reason to suspect than we can't teach our children different, and better, ways of thinking. There's no evidence that I know of that convinces me that essentialism, teleological thinking, dualism, and inability to understand vast time scales are more "natural" than other ways of thinking.I pointed out that millions of people in Europe, Japan, Canada, Australia, etc. don't seem to have a hard time accepting evolution and millions of non-believers don't fall for the god delusion. If Chris Mooney is correct then this evolved way of thinking seems to be remarkable easy to overcome. Maybe it doesn't exist?
Jerry Coyne had the same qualms as I did [Chris Mooney downplays religion as a cause of creationism]. Jerry emphasized the obvious—it's religious brainwashing that leads to stupid ways of thinking and rejection of evolution. You have to be taught that there's a magical being in the sky who doesn't want you to accept science. It's not the default position.
Jason Rosenhouse doesn't like this form of reasoning. He prefers to think that there's something in our genes that makes us believe in god(s). Here's what he said on his blog [Mooney on the Psychology of Evolution Denial] ...
Well, if Mooney is wrong about the science that’s one thing. My experience teaching mathematics suggests to me that careful, logical thinking is not something that comes naturally to most people, and the sheer ubiquity of religion in the world suggests that there is some underlying psychological basis for it. So I’m not sure why Larry regards Mooney’s hypothesis as obviously false.Jason, you teach in Virginia, if I remember correctly. It's not surprising to me that your students are unable to think logically.
Seriously, you don't know whether Americans have a genetic, psychological, basis for resisting science or whether their cultural upbringing is to blame. Your main argument is that the god delusion is pervasive so that must indicate a genetic predisposition to believing in mythical beings. That could be true but my point was whether there's any evidence of that when we look outside of the USA. Just because certain beliefs are ubiquitous (or nearly ubiquitous) does not mean they have a genetic basis.
If that were true then you have to argue that there was a genetic basis for accepting the subjugation of women because that was widely believed in the past (and is still practiced in some societies). Similarly for many other things.
Jason continues ...
The bigger problem, however, is that what Larry is railing against here is so far removed from anything Mooney is suggesting that it amounts to simple caricature. Mooney was talking about psychological dispositions, not hard-wired, unchangeable traits. We have a tendency to find sugary and fatty foods appealing, and that tendency probably has an evolutionary origin. But that doesn’t mean we cannot be educated to reject that tendency. The point is that education is necessary, and that was the basic point Mooney was making about our psychological dispositions. Religion comes naturally, he is arguing, but science has to be taught.I used the term "hard-wired" to emphasize that the traits were in our genes and not something cultural. You and Mooney claim that belief in god(s) comes naturally as part of our hardware and not our software.
I do not believe that genetic predispositions are "unchangeable." That would be silly. But what's equally silly, in my opinion, is to argue that certain beliefs have a genetic basis but it's very easy to overcome the hard-wiring. What's the point of such an argument if it's so easy?
I'm not saying children are born with an understanding of evolution and gravity. Of course science has to be taught. What I'm saying is that we are born with functioning brains and those brains are just as capable of thinking logically as thinking irrationally. You have to be taught that there's a magical being out there who wants you to worship her and you have to be taught that if humans don't behave they could be wiped out in another deluge. My children didn't grow up in a religious household and I didn't have to make a big effort to unteach them to think like IDiots.
Do you and Chris really think that the children in Denmark and China have to be specifically taught that gods don't exist? I don't.
Jason isn't quite finished ....
Larry tells us that religion is primarily about learned behavior. I’m sure that’s true, but why are so many people being taught religious modes of thought in the first place? And why do so many people find those modes of thought appealing? If I understand Mooney’s point, he would say that the specifics of religious belief and practice are learned and differ from culture to culture, but a general tendency to find something like religion to be appealing is innate.In answer to your first question, people are being taught religious modes of thought for a variety of reasons but mostly because that's what their parents and grandparents did. The answer to your second question is that these modes of thought seem appealing because they don't know any better—it's how they are supposed to behave in the culture they live in.
When I look at leading American politicians like Michele Bachmann and others of her ilk, I do not believe that their way of thinking represents the natural, default, mode of thinking that evolution has selected for. Do you? I think they've been brainwashed into thinking that way. It's not natural.
Like I said earlier, there may be an "innate" (e.g. hard-wired) tendency to believe silly things but, if so, it is remarkably easy to subvert. There are generations of European children who are growing up in the complete absence of religion and I don't think they are suffering from angst because what they are doing is "unnatural."
Jason raises two other issues. The first is ...
I get very annoyed when defenders of evolution pretend that virtually all Christians accept evolution and suggest that it is only a handful of extremists who believe otherwise. That is flatly untrue, and it trivializes very difficult issues.That's an accommodationist position and you won't find me making such a case in defense of compatibility. However, I wonder if this isn't another case of American myopia?
There are a heck of a lot of Christians in South America, Africa, and Europe and I believe that most of them don't have much of a problem with evolution.
The second issue is ...
But I also don’t like it when my fellow atheists say bluntly that science and religion are incompatible, as though that’s a statement of fact and not opinion.I have been arguing for years that science and religion are incompatible but I've always pointed out that there are differences of opinion. I find Jason's statement particularly annoying because it's usually the other side that ignores the controversy.
I'd be happy if the compatibilists would mention from time to time that they are only expressing a personal opinion and not a fact. For example, here's some of the testimony of John Haught at the Kiztmiller v Dover trial in 2005 [John Haught in Kitzmiller v Dover].
Q. Does this make science at odds with religion?Jason does this upset you because Haught "forgot" to mention that this was just his opinion?
A. By no means. Science and religion, as I've written in all of my books, are dealing with two completely different or distinct realms. They can be related, science and religion, but, first of all, they have to be distinguished. The medieval philosopher said, we distinguish in order to relate. And when we have a failure to distinguish science from religion, then confusion will follow.
So science deals with questions relating to natural causes, to efficient and material causes, if you want to use Aristotelian language. Religion and theology deal with questions about ultimate meaning and ultimate purpose. To put it very simply, science deals with causes, religion deals with meanings. Science asks "how" questions, religion asks "why" questions.
And it's because they're doing different things that they cannot logically stand in a competitive relationship with each other any more than, say, a baseball game or a baseball player or a good move in baseball can conflict with a good move in chess. They're different games, if you want to use that analogy, playing by different rules.
And what about this statement from the American National Academies?
Science and religion are based on different aspects of human experience. In science, explanations must be based on evidence drawn from examining the natural world. Scientifically based observations or experiments that conflict with an explanation eventually must lead to modification or even abandonment of that explanation. Religious faith, in contrast, does not depend only on empirical evidence, is not necessarily modified in the face of conflicting evidence, and typically involves supernatural forces or entities. Because they are not a part of nature, supernatural entities cannot be investigated by science. In this sense, science and religion are separate and address aspects of human understanding in different ways. Attempts to pit science and religion against each other create controversy where none needs to exist.Jason, did you chastise them for not saying that it was just an opinion?
I resent the fact that Jason Rosenhouse singles out atheists and incompatibilists for not mentioning the controversy and for not saying that there are different opinions about the compatibility of science and religion. It's the other side that's guilty of this, big time.
Note: Jason has in the past defended the idea that science and religion don't get along and he criticized acommodationists for blasting atheists but not theists [Moran, Myers, Brayton and Hayes].