God new evidence

GOD: new evidence


A Natural Explanation?

(Beyond Ourselves #32)

What's in the series?      Previous: Born Believers?       Next: Naturally Religious?

Is there a scientific explanation for human spirituality? There are growing efforts to find one.

For example, researcher Justin Barrett found that children are naturally inclined to see design and purpose in the world.  Barrett says this:

'We are on the lookout for agents that are nonhuman, unseen, and acting   on the world when we are not looking – secret agents. These abilities make it very easy to think about gods.'

Other researchers claim that we see purpose in the world even when there is none. Evolution has trained us this way: imagine you were an ancient hunter-gatherer, and you saw the long grass moving. If you thought there was a tiger there when there was none, no harm was done. But if you missed a tiger that really was there, you would end up dead. So natural selection would favour us being too quick to detect agency – to be ‘better safe than sorry.’

This is called hyperactive agency detection, and the suggestion is that it could also explain away why people started to believe in God or gods.

But even if this is true, sometimes there really was a tiger in the long grass. And God could still be there - there are other reasons for believing in God that have nothing to do with hyperactive agency detection – for example, the historical evidence for Jesus, or the fine tuning of the universe for life.

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‘We can't understand the Universe in any clear way without the supernatural.’
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