Skip to comments.Humans 'Predisposed' to Believe in Gods and Afterlife (3-year int'l research project concludes)
Posted on 07/19/2011 9:31:52 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
A three-year international research project, directed by two academics at the University of Oxford, finds that humans have natural tendencies to believe in gods and an afterlife.
The £1.9 million project involved 57 researchers who conducted over 40 separate studies in 20 countries representing a diverse range of cultures. The studies (both analytical and empirical) conclude that humans are predisposed to believe in gods and an afterlife, and that both theology and atheism are reasoned responses to what is a basic impulse of the human mind.
The researchers point out that the project was not setting out to prove the existence of god or otherwise, but sought to find out whether concepts such as gods and an afterlife appear to be entirely taught or basic expressions of human nature.
'The Cognition, Religion and Theology Project' led by Dr Justin Barrett, from the Centre for Anthropology and Mind at Oxford University, drew on research from a range of disciplines, including anthropology, psychology, philosophy, and theology. They directed an international body of researchers conducting studies in 20 different countries that represented both traditionally religious and atheist societies.
The findings are due to be published in two separate books by psychologist Dr Barrett in Cognitive Science, Religion and Theology and Born Believers: The Science of Childhood Religion.
Project Co-director Professor Roger Trigg, from the Ian Ramsey Centre in the Theology Faculty at Oxford University, has also written a forthcoming book, applying the wider implications of the research to issues about freedom of religion in Equality, Freedom and Religion (OUP).
(Excerpt) Read more at sciencedaily.com ...
“He has also set eternity in their heart...” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
All that time and money to come up with that conclusion...?
And then there are our amazing senses themselves.....
Maybe it takes a scientific project to get some of our misguided “brights” to think about the eternal order of things.
No society, absent a direct law AGAINST religion, has ever been atheistic.
The understanding that these could not exist on their own leads to God...It's called "Faith"...as per Kant's "A Critique of Pure Reason".
Everyone of us is amazed at the universe around us. It will always be so.
Even in Communist societies, it is virtually impossible to completely eliminate the influence of religion, especially in traditionally Christian countries.
It would be interesting if a bunch of atheists got together in some barren area and started a purely atheistic society from scratch to see what they came up with after a few generations. My guess is that it wouldn’t be pretty, or we’d have more examples in history.
Unfortunately, all we have as examples are those using the carcass of a forcefully gutted Christian society as a basis for atheistic societies to temporarily take over.
Sames verse came to my mind!
RE: Even in Communist societies, it is virtually impossible to completely eliminate the influence of religion, especially in traditionally Christian countries.
It has been observed that China has one of the fastest growing Christian population in the WORLD!
See here :
In Communist China, Protestant Christianity Becomes Fastest Growing Religion
Augustine, Confessions: Thou hast made us for thyself and our hearts are restless until the rest in Thee.
“predisposed”....why, to what end? and predisposed by Who? And what is the evolutionary explanation for this??? hmmm?
But I do find it interesting that EVERY society, absent a law against it, was largely religious. And, as you pointed out, even WITH a law against religion - people still believe in secret and are deeply influenced by their faith or the cultural history of their faith.
Most human evolution is driven by tribal warfare and religion provides a winning advantage. The first tribe that discovered religion was so successful they went on to populate the world and kill off the nonreligious humanoids such as the Neanderthals. It's why the only humans alive today are all the same species. Tribal warfare is an unnaturally high speed version of evolution and is why we evolved so fast.
Predisposed by that series of random mutations known as evolution.
The ability to recognize patterns (not just visual patterns, mind you, but patterns in the wider sense of the word - i.e., when making observations of natural phenomena) correlates closely with the power of abstract reasoning - to draw conclusions (deductive reasoning) and to formulate generalized rules (inductive reasoning).
This tendency (to look for patterns) represents a Darwinistic Advantage, and is so strong that humans will frequently see patterns even when there aren't actually any there. I.e., we are inclined to impose patterns on what is often actually a collection of random events, or to formulate invalid rules or to draw false conclusions.
This is the price we pay for this otherwise useful tendency. (Just as many other advantageous traits likewise carry with them certain unavoidable disadvantages.) However, for our ecological niche, this cluster of traits (inborn curiosity about our natural environment; the tendency to try to make observations and formulate generalizations, etc.) has, on the whole, proven to be more beneficial than detrimental.
However, such a trait can, at times (like when the environmental shifts) become distinctly disadvantageous.
The belief in magic and in supernatural beings - the (errant) belief that we can placate evil spirits or wrathful gods and/or induce them to do our bidding (bring rain, heal cancer, supply the winning lottery numbers, etc.) blinds the believer to an extent, and warps his sense of reality, but may provide him with a beneficial (if illusory) feeling of power over his own destiny.
Belief in "invisible friends" may have been a benign or even helpful thing in the olden days. It provided "peace of mind" and helped people accept the unavoidable at a time when primitive technology was unable to provide better solutions. But it has outlived its usefulness.
An additional explanation is that, at some point in his intellectual development, Man was suddenly able to conceive of his own mortality - to "counteract" the potentially adverse consequences of that (nihilism), belief in an afterlife was invented.
Funny thing I notice about all the atheists that I know (for instance - one of my brothers) - rather than simply dismiss the idea of (a) God, they all seem to be angry - hostile even - towards the very idea of God.
Methinks "thou doth protesteth too much..."
Chuckles - sounds like an opinion...
It’s all in Romans 1.
“All that time and money to come up with that conclusion...?”
Yeah, it’s not as if all of human history give us any clue.
“What are the atheist societies they studied?”
I could have saved them 1.9 million pounds and looked at an ancient history book to know that humans are “predisposed” to believing in a God, gods, and the afterlife. =.=
RE: I could have saved them 1.9 million pounds and looked at an ancient history book to know that humans are predisposed to believing in a God
Don’t you know? Someone has to spend the Stimulus Money to help the economy.
Did birds have to depend on their evolution to pass on from one generation to the next the knowledge of how to build a nest, unique to each species; or was it truly instinctive from the start?
Man, too, has instincts, although we sometimes labor to verbally explain them away, and thus lose contact with part of our true nature. This study is powerful evidence that the Creator intended the development of a Faith based quest to understand what was not visually or tactically determinable. The implications are as deep as will be the inclination of those who have a humanist need to pretend that we are capable of knowing all, to deny them.
Most of the evidence is long gone so most everything about the distant past is opinion. However war and human evolution are continuing and those with a sound religion have a competitive advantage. Religion also provides a competitive advantage in business, sports, and life in general. In some cases it can be measured, for example sports teams from religious schools often outscore teams from secular schools once other factors are adjusted for. Team sports such as American football are really practice tribal warfare. Religious families have more children and more successful marriages then secular families.
But your explanation introduces several new otherwise unsupported assumptions:
To begin with, you assume that there is a Creator.
Secondly, you assume that this alleged Creator has certain motivations. For example, you assume that He has the slightest interest in Humankind - specifically, you assume that He "wants" humans to seek Him - to embark upon a Faith-based quest (rather than, say attempting to logically deduce His existence).
You have as yet presented no evidence to support those conjectures.
Further, I suspect that you would NOT want to explain other human traits (the tendency to be vengeful, or to commit atrocities) with recourse to that same "Creator." In other words, you would tend to use this argument selectively.
In my view, humans are likewise predisposed to believe that they have "luck." Every week, millions of people buy lottery tickets, motivated partially by the irrational belief (so-called "magical thinking") that their wanting to win will somehow influence the outcome of the drawing.
Humans are likewise predisposed to, e.g., see animal shapes in the randomly positioned stars of the night sky.
Scientists have now shown that these predispositions could be based in part upon neuronal pathways, brain structures, innate errors of our thought processes, and the like. If I were to employ your fallacious thinking, I would counter the scientific explanation by saying that some hypothetical "being" obviously wants people to buy lottery tickets, or to see animal figures.
Isn't the simpler, more-elegant explanation that - like our tendency to be fooled by optical illusions - we are predisposed to deceive ourselves and to believe in an afterlife or a deity because it's the incidental by-product of our basic human nature to seek order? Belief in God is like our tendency to procrastinate, to believe that we won't get cancer even if we smoke, or that the bullet will strike the other guy in the foxhole and we'll be spared - it isn't rational.
Your points are good ones, which is why one cannot come to know God in any rational manner.
It is an experiential knowledge and therefore unable to be committed to paper.
It's not an incidental by-product, it's a winning feature. Tribes with irrational optimists out-compete tribes without, especially when the cost of failure is low. Over time failure costs are decreasing, so irrational optimists will dominate the future. Tribes benefit from some incredulous realists, but not many. Do you agree there are measurable real-world benefits from an irrational belief in God and an afterlife? Aren't the costs of being wrong low? Who will win the most in war, sports, business, and life, you or the irrational optimists?
Romans 1:18-20. 18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world Gods invisible qualitieshis eternal power and divine naturehave been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
The investigation reported here, tends to confirm the hypothesis that most theologians have adopted throughout the historic period--however they may have differed among themselves as to the nature of the God or Gods they assumed. Your suggestion that my "assumptions" are unconfirmed, simply ignores that we are discussing a major confirmation of thousands of years of acceptance of the underlying hypothesis, which no one has been able to refute.
When Sir Isaac Newton describe his proposed Law of Gravity, was he able to confirm it by any evidence half as great. Your comments suggests a harsher standard for the theological than the purely scientific branch of Philosophy. Why?
As for the same logic applying to human weaknesses? I would suggest you look more closely. Our survival traits--in common with most of the sapient species, and often to excess among other meat eating species--necessitates a certain combative tendency. Vengeance & atrocities grow out of the like. The recognition of something far greater than our own immediate needs, pique, likes or dislikes, is hardly comparable to venting our emotions in ways that you or I might feel are excessive.
Nor do the tendencies of some to procrastinate, to wish for the best rather than rationally approach it, evidence anything but personal weaknesses. As no two of us are alike, just what is your point, other than a need to deny that we finite beings are just that finite beings?
Again, the fact that we are too limited to know all in science or religion, does not mean that we should not pursue knowledge in science & religion; and that pursuit has usually started with working hypotheses.
See my reply to #33 to Mr. Busek.
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