The Mind: What is consciousness?

4 07 2011

I’ve spent the past few years reading and studying the topic of the mind, but I’ve barely scratched the surface on the topic. Some believe that the mind exists, others don’t. Of those who believe that the mind exists, some believe it to be merely an emergent property of the brain, while others see it as an immaterial substantial part of who we are as people. The mind is a fascinating subject and one worth thinking about, so I will be devoting a number of upcoming posts to the topic of the mind. If it is a real and immaterial part of who we are, as I believe it to be, then it gives indication that this world is not reducible to material stuff alone. If there is an immaterial aspect to our natures, it gives good indication that there is an immaterial nature to reality. I believe the mind gives us a clue to the existence of God and that will be the case that I build throughout these posts.

Let us begin by examining the question, what is consciousness? Although there is no definitive and exhaustive answer as to what consciousness is, we have some ideas as to what consciousness is like. Van Gulick1 describes several elements of consciousness, including:

  • Sentience – the capability to sense one’s environment.
  • Wakefulness – being awake and alert.
  • Self-consciousness – being self-aware.
  • What it is like – Thomas Nagel described this as “something it is like” to be who you are. The subjective aspect of being who you are.
  • Subject of conscious states – having conscious mental states
  • Transitive consciousness – the ability to be aware of many things at the same time or one thing over time.

Other aspects of consciousness include:

  • States one is aware of – the awareness of having states of awareness or of conscious states. These are also known as meta-mentality or meta-intentionality.
  • Qualitative states – otherwise known as qualia, these are states that have an experiential or sensory nature to them. Whenever we have a sensation (sight, sound, feel, taste, or smell), these are known as quale (kwal’ ee).
  • Phenomenal states – the totality of qualitative states forms the phenomenal state of consciousness.
  • Access consciousness – This concept was developed by Ned Block and describes not the phenomenal state, but whether the sensory information can be accessed to guide the organism.
  • Narrative consciousness – this is more commonly known as the stream of consciousness and refers to the ongoing serial of episodes that string together to the perspective of the self.

Philosopher, David Chalmers wrote:

Consciousness poses the most baffling problems in the science of the mind. There is nothing that we know more intimately than conscious experience, but there is nothing that is harder to explain. All sorts of mental phenomena have yielded to scientific investigation in recent years, but consciousness has stubbornly resisted. Many have tried to explain it, but the explanations always seem to fall short of the target. Some have been led to suppose that the problem is intractable, and that no good explanation can be given. 2

Chalmers breaks the problem of consciousness down into the “easy problem” and the “hard problem.” The easy problem is that part of consciousness that can easily be explained by cognitive science, while the hard problem “seem to resist those methods.”3 The easy problems are those of categorizing, discriminating, reporting mental states, attention, behavioral control and other like phenomena. The hard problem deals with issues that are more subjective, like qualitative experience, or as Thomas Nagel described, the what it is like phenomenon. In other words, there is something it is like to be me or a bat or a my dog. These are subjective experiences. We have others as well, including what it is like to listen to Bach, or to eat Jambalaya, or to watch the Packers win the Super Bowl. Each of us will have a different experience in each of these cases. In later posts, I will give more detail on this problem and some of its implications.

Consciousness is an intriguing study and often quite perplexing. Many philosophers over the years have attempted to explain consciousness or, at times, explain it away; at least, various aspects of it. In the coming weeks I will explore many of these aspects, describing how the many of the philosophers have attempted to fit them into their respective worldviews. I will look at what I believe to be the best explanation of consciousness and the phenomena associated with it. I hope you will read on and gain greater understanding of this fascinating field of study. Leave me comments and questions along the way.

—————

1. Robert Van Gulick, “Consciousness”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), available from http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2011/entries/consciousness/, Internet accessed on 22 June 2011.

2. David Chalmers, “Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness,” Journal of Consciousness Studies 2(3):200-19, 1995, 1.

3. ibid, 2.

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Are You a Practical Existentialist?

19 08 2010

For many years now I have spent a significant amount of time speaking to college students at campuses around the Chicagoland area. What I love about speaking with college students is they are in an environment of idea exchange and they enjoy engaging in thought provoking conversations. I often ask students where they find meaning for their lives and I often get answers in a similar vein; they usually tell me that meaning is wrapped up in what they will do with their lives or with whom they associate. That is the answer of a practical existentialist (whether they know it or not).

Some of you may be asking, what is existentialism? It is a philosophical system that has been attributed back as far as Søren Kierkegaard, a 19th century Danish philosopher. This system of belief can be boiled down in its core to the statement, existence precedes essence. The opposite view would be called essentialism and would hold that essence precedes existence. So, for the existentialist, what we do gives meaning to who we are. Our existence determines our essence. Friedrich Nietzsche was another famous existentialist as he pursued his “will to power,” his quest for the overman (sometimes referred to as the superman).

I often hear people say that they determine their own meaning; in fact, it has become a rather common mantra in our days. The question is, can we determine our own meaning and purpose? I obviously don’t think so as I believe that ultimate meaning and purpose always comes from the designer and creator. In our case, I believe that we are designed and created by God who gives us our ultimate purpose and meaning. However, what if we were merely the product of some blind process of natural selection. I say blind (which some evolutionists would dispute) as it is not guided by anything other than events which have no foresight as to what the end result will be (it is hoped it is survival). But, is survival a purpose for a person’s life? I think it can be an outcome, but as a purpose, I think it is a rather hollow one, if it is one at all.

One could always ask, is survival an end or a means to a further end? I don’t think that survival is an end, but merely a means to a greater end (child rearing, experiencing the world, etc.) Then we need to ask the same question of those, “are they ends or means to a greater end?” Let’s take child bearing and rearing. Is that an end or a means to an end? It seems that it is a means and not an end in itself Yes, we enjoy our children, but when we consider child bearing and rearing, we would then have to say that our children have that end as well, as will their children, and their children, ad infinitum. It seems to me to be a means and not an end in itself. We need to consider each of these supposed ends and question whether they are truly ends or simply means to a greater end.

A second question to ask is, what would happen if I lost that which gives life meaning and purpose, could I go on with life or would it all be over at that instance? Most people, when I ask them that question, will tell me that they would go on, which indicates to me that it is not a true purpose or source of ultimate meaning. True and ultimate meaning, when taken away, would and should mean that life is over for us – we have no purpose for living any longer. True, some people feel that at the loss of a loved one; however, even if for a little while, they continue to live and survive. I believe that if that source of ultimate meaning ceased to exist, then we would cease to exist. If we continue to exist after that thing ceases, then it means that we had some other hidden purpose that kept us going.

The Apostle Paul said it well, “If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” (1 Cor. 15:32) But, as he said earlier in that chapter, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (15:20) Paul concludes this chapter by writing, “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (15:57-58) Our labor is not in vain because God has created us for a purpose and with a mission, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27) Jesus said that on these depend all of the Law and the Prophets (Matt. 22:40).

Our purpose, as defined by our Creator, is to love him and to love our neighbor. These are ends in themselves rather than means to a greater end. Sure, loving God and our neighbors can produce benefits; however, that is not why we are to love them, we are to love them because that is the purpose for which we were designed and created and we are fulfilling that ultimate purpose. God is relational and he created us to be in that relationship with him and with others whom he has created. That is our purpose and that is what gives us ultimate meaning. So, are you an essentialist, who believes that God defines our meaning, or an existentialist, who believes that we define our own meaning through what we do? Something to think about…





What is True and Can We Tell? Reflections on Inception

12 08 2010

Which is more difficult, to awaken one who sleeps or to awaken one who, awake, dreams that he is awake?Søren Kierkegaard, Works of Love (1847)

These words, though written more than a century and a half ago, could have been written about Christopher Nolan’s latest movie, Inception. This movie, if you have not yet seen it, is a labyrinth of dream sequences of different levels into which the main character, Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) enters with his team to implant a thought into the head of Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy) so that he will break up the oil empire that his father is set to leave him upon his imminent death.

Cobb, an architect by training, left the world of designing buildings to enter the world of designing dreamscapes. He develops his skills to not only extract information from people by entering their dreams, but to also implant ideas, leaving no trace of his having done so. Cobb is approached by Fischer’s competitor and enticed by the offer of being able to return to his home and kids from whom he had been estranged due to legal troubles. To do this, he must go into the consciousness of Fischer through his dreams and continue going deeper and deeper into those levels of his consciousness until he can implant the thought without leaving evidence of his having been there.

The story combines elements of Dante with hints of Freud as the team delves lower and lower into the mind of Fischer, while at the same time, Cobb battles his own memories of his kids and his deceased wife for whom he carries the guilt of her death. The story is a parallel between what Cobb is trying to accomplish in the mind of Fischer and what is going on in his own consciousness. As he goes into the dreams of others and plunges deeper into their consciousness, he can’t help but bring along the memories that haunt his own.

Nolan uses different images to depict this Dante type going down in the life of Cobb as he tries to keep these memories caged up within him, only to have them escape at the most inopportune moments. In the end, Cobb appears to conquer these plaguing visions, but is it too late? That is where the audience is left questioning in the end. Has Cobb returned to reality? Can one distinguish between reality and a dream? Can one awaken a person who dreams that he is awake? Nolan leaves us wondering what is real and true and what is not. Does the spinning top tumble in the end or keep spinning? We may never know…

While this movie is a fun thought experiment, it is not indicative of the world in which we find ourselves. Yes, there are those who would have us believe, as Nolan hints at in this movie, that all expressions of reality that we experience are merely that which our minds produce. The real world, according to these solipsists (for that is what they are called) merely exists in the mind of the thinker and does not exist outside of the mind. To seriously pursue that line of thinking, I believe, would lead a person to madness. To doubt one’s intuitions is to question all of reality as we experience it and that is an endless pursuit downward into the abyss of nihilism.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life…” He spoke as if what Francis Schaeffer called “true truth” actually exists and the it was embodied in him. The reality toward which it pointed was the Father, for he said, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) In other words, our pursuit of truth should result in a restored relationship with our Creator, which makes sense. If we want to understand our meaning and purpose, who better to reveal that reality than the one who created us with a purpose in mind.

In the end, Cobb’s pursuit led him back to the relationship with his children (if you believe that, in the end, he was not still caught in a dream state), and that is a good pointer to the ultimate relationship to which we are called, but only a pointer. One of the benefits of human relationships is to point us to a still greater relationship, the relationship with God through Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul says, “now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (1 Cor. 13:12) That is the truth we are called to pursue.





The Fatal Flaw in Double Blind Prayer Experiments

16 07 2010

We have all likely seen the reports on these “double blind” prayer experiments. The idea is to test whether prayer “works”. Here is how these experiments work. First, a group of people with longer-term illnesses is identified, usually these people are hospitalized so that results can be tracked. Next, a group of people is identified to pray for these ailing people.

These types of studies, in addition to trying to determine whether prayer works, have been used as evidence for and against the existence of God. The U.K. radio program, Unbelievable?1, recently featured a discussion between U.S. atheist and professor of physics, Victor Stenger and British Christian and statistician, David Bartholomew on the issue of whether double-blind prayer studies prove or disprove the existence of God.

Bartholomew took the same position that C.S. Lewis took during his lifetime, that these studies prove nothing regarding prayer or the existence of God. Gregory and Christopher Fung quote Lewis as saying, “The trouble is that I do not see how any real prayer could go on under such conditions…Simply to say prayers is not to pray; otherwise a team of properly trained parrots would serve as well as men for our experiment.”2

One of the most recent of these studies, conducted by the Harvard Medical School, was The Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer (STEP). The study, conducted over 10 years, with the cost of $2.4 million, produced the kind of results that C.S. Lewis would not have been surprised to see. This study included over 1,800 patients with heart conditions requiring surgery. The patients were divided into three groups: one group knowingly received prayer from a group of Chrisitans; the second and third group were told that they may or may not receive prayer; with one receiving prayer and the other not. The first group for whom prayers were offered to their knowledge, actually did worst of all, followed by the group that didn’t know that they were receiving prayer but actually did. The group that did the best was the one for whom no prayers were offered by the research prayer group.

The researchers were actually not surprised by the results as they suspected that the first group might have felt pressure to get better knowing that prayers were being offered. Evangelicals have offered other reasons for the results, such as that many of those who didn’t receive prayer from the research prayer team probably did receive prayers from family members and friends. However, I would like to add another idea to the mix.

Even though these are double-blind experiments, there are actually three parties involved, and the third party cannot be blinded to the study. Of course, God is that third party and God is fully aware of what is going on in these experiments. Victor Stenger asserted on the radio program that God would want to answer prayers for those who are sincerely seeking him, he would want to make himself known. Stenger argues that a God who hides himself cannot exist. He says that a good God, a moral God would not deliberately hide himself from people who are open to the possibility of his existence. Stenger says that given positive results of this type of prayer study he would immediately return to the church of his youth, the Roman Catholic church.

I have a few things to say about this argument. First, I don’t believe that God hides himself from his creation. The Apostle Paul tells us in the first chapter of the Book of Romans that “what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.” (v. 19) Paul explains that God’s “invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they [we] are without excuse.” (v. 20) This hardly seems to be describing a God who “hides” himself. On the other hand, I do believe that God keeps an epistemic distance from his creation so as not to force us to believe, and this may be to what Stenger is actually referring.

The main issue is that God is not necessarily interested in our believing that he exists. What, you ask, God doesn’t want me to believe that he exists? That is not what I am saying. God could make it very clear to all creation that he exists in any number of ways. But, what would that accomplish? He would have a world of people at a point in history who know he exists; however, would that mean that he would necessarily have more people who trust in him? I don’t think so. In fact, many would come to resent God forcing himself upon his creation.

Suppose that the government came along and decided that they would choose who your spouse was going to be, do you think that the knowledge of your intended spouse’s existence and selection would cause you to love him or her? No, in fact, many would resent being told who to marry and many would resist that union. So why, given the irrefutable knowledge of God’s existence, would it lead Victor Stenger or anyone else to love and trust in him? People, especially Americans like Stenger, don’t like being bullied, and that is just how many would take this kind of imposition of God into the lives of his creation.

I, like the Apostle Paul, think that there is enough evidence for God’s existence for those who are open to honestly considering that evidence. I think that the evidence is quite good for God’s existence and am laying out some of those evidences this Summer in a class that I am teaching. However, this same evidence is rejected by people every day. In other words, God is not going to force the issue, but he is willing to make himself known to those who diligently seek him out.

So, let’s scrap these prayer experiments and remember that God is not a cosmic vending machine. We cannot simply put in our prayer token, push a button and look for that packaged answer to prayer. God is a person who is fully aware of what is going on with these studies and what impact would come from giving positive results. It is interesting that these studies sometimes do produce results that some interpret to show that prayer “works,” yet still, unbelievers make excuses as to why the study was flawed. So, I would beg to differ with Dr. Stenger and say that no matter what the results, it won’t change in what a person puts his or her trust. It may make them more likely to pray, but not more likely to trust in the God who hears those prayers.

1. Unbelievable? 3 Jul 2010 – Is God a failed hypothesis? Pr 2 – Victor Stenger vs. David Bartholomew
2. What Do Prayer Studies Prove? Gregory and Christopher Fung, Christianity Today, May 15, 2009





PZ Myers’ Morality

2 01 2010

You may not be familiar with PZ Myers; however, he is one of the vocal new atheists out there ranting against the existence of God, and Christianity in particular. Myers is an associate professor of biology at University of Minnesota, Morris and publishes a blog by the name of Pharyngula.

I recently came across a post by Myers entitled I’m so sorry for you, Indiana in which he comments about an interview given by Mitch Daniels, governor of Indiana where Daniels addresses the topic of morality and Christianity that Myers says was “embarrassingly bad.” Daniels makes the point:

To me, the core of the Christian faith is humility, which starts with recognizing that you’re as fallen as anyone else. And we’re all constantly trying to get better, but… so I’m sure I come up short on way too many occasions.

Myers responds that he believes the “core of Christianity has never been humility , but arrogance.” Why does he draw this assessment? Simply because Christianity claims that we can know and have a personal relationship with God. In fact, he believes that all this Christian talk about being fallen sinners is false modesty. What Myers is claiming is to know the minds of every single Christian living such that he knows that any claim of being a fallen sinner is really just the false modesty of an arrogant person! It seems that Myers, who denies the existence of an omniscient being, is somehow claiming to be one. I’ve often heard that those who deny the existence of God will find a replacement, oftentimes in their own mirror.

Yet, the point of this post is to discuss Myers claim that morality doesn’t need to be grounded in God, but can simply be grounded in man. In fact, Myers makes the audacious claim that there “is no eternal standard of right and wrong.” His claim is that standards change with time. Really what he is claiming is that there is no objective standard of right and wrong.

Myers has already, in his post, castigated the Bible for justifying slavery and God for ordering the slaughter of women and children. Even more, he claims that equality was an ideal of the Enlightenment rather than Christianity. He claims that a 1st century B.C. Judean priest would be calling for the wrath of Jehovah on the likes of Pat Robertson and James Dobson “who lead millions into a life antithetical to ancient Jewish custom.”

Myers, however, has a different answer from Daniels and other Christians when it comes to morality. He says,

I’d answer differently. In the absence of a god-given absolute morality, all that matters is how we treat one another in this one life we have. What flows naturally to me is not brutality, which requires an absence of awareness of the suffering of others, but recognition of the fact that my fellow human beings really are my equals: we’re all going to die, we only have these few brief decades of life, and who am I to deny someone else the same opportunities I’ve been given?

My question to Myers is if morality is not grounded in anything objective or eternal, then why is his answer any better than Daniels’ or Hitler’s for that matter (he also refers to Hitler in his post – for what would a discussion of morality be without invoking Hitler?) Who says that it matters how we treat one another? On what basis does he consider suffering to be bad? We would all agree that not all suffering is bad as many of us willingly expose ourselves to suffering when we go to the dentist or college or even to a football game in temperatures that are below zero (I grew up in Green Bay, WI and did this on a number of occasions). So, obviously suffering is not a universal wrong, on what basis does Myers determine some suffering to be wrong?

Now, I am not saying that these behaviors are right, simply saying that when Myers rejects objective standards, he must then defend why I should consider his standards to be binding on me or anyone else. If morality is not grounded objectively, then he is merely expressing his opinion, or maybe the opinions of a group with whom he happens to agree, but he is not expressing objective morality.

Myers is holds to what is known as hard atheism, in other words, he holds a belief that God does not exist. He says, “There are no gods, no objective enforcement of a benign morality on us.” Since there is no God (or as he says, gods), then that means that we need to figure out our own morality. Myers says that we “should build our morality on reason.” But how is this done? How do we figure out what is right or wrong based upon observation and reason alone without an objective basis against which to test our reason. It is like measuring without an objective standard by which to measure or reasoning without an objective truth by which to check our reason. Whose reason reigns supreme?

C.S. Lewis spoke about this in his book Abolition of Man when he speaks of the Innovator in values, the one who tries to arrive at moral values through reason alone. He explains that reason can be broken out into two categories. First is practical reason which “confess that judgements such as society ought to be preserved…are not mere sentiments but are rationality itself; or else we must give up at once, and for ever, the attempt to find a core of ‘rational’ value behind all the sentiments we have debunked.” He says that the Innovator will not take this alternative as it seems too much like objective morality. So, it seems that Myers must explain what he means by reason. Maybe he takes Lewis’ second alternative, which fits better with an evolutionary framework, that of instinct.

This seems to be the only alternative left for the naturalist as reason would require some sort of plumb line against which to assess our reason. There has to be an objective standard or reason will be left to the individual’s own judgment. However, instinct leaves us no better off, for we would ask, whose instinct should we trust? How do we know who is more highly evolved and therefore whose instincts are more trustworthy if we have no objective standard against which to measure?

You see, Lewis had it right 65 years ago when he wrote this Abolition of Man, yet, somehow the new atheists still haven’t figured out that reason alone cannot get one to objective morality. Unless we are all using the same external standard to measure weight, length, height or depth; unless we are using the same mathematics and rules of logic (which themselves are not arrived at by logic, but simply known to be true); unless we trust an objective external ground of logic which itself is eternal and to which we are bound, then morality is simply a matter of one’s tastes and preferences and nothing more.

One can deny the existence of God, as does Myers; yet at the same time, one also is denying the existence of objective morality, along with a host of other ideas and concepts which I don’t believe we can live without. Myers wants to give up God, but still retain all of the benefits of what God brings to us. It is time that he faces the reality that if he gives up God, he also gives up objective morality and has no right to say that anyone is wrong; at best, he can say that he simply doesn’t prefer their behavior and ideas. I will take his displeasure into consideration and go on trusting God and living with the reality of real objective morality.




Did Religion Merely Evolve?

18 08 2009

This week, the book discussion group of which I am a part considered the idea of whether religion and religious beliefs are merely the product of evolution. Of course the author, Paul Ehrlich, assumes that this is the case as he is a naturalist and committed to explaining everything in life and culture via the evolutionary model. However, Ehrlich is not the first to have come up with this idea, nor is he the most recent to make this claim.evolution_cartoon

On the way home from the book discussion, I happened to catch a radio conversation between a couple of authors on this very subject. The first was Robert Wright, author of The Evolution of God, a new book that takes that to which Ehrlich devoted one chapter and expands it out over 400 pages. I have not personally read this book; however, his counterpoint on this radio program was one of my own professors, John Mark Reynolds, from Biola University. Reynolds is a philosopher and the author of his latest book, When Athens Met Jerusalem: An Introduction to Classical and Christian Thought.  Reynolds’ critique of Wright covered a number of issues; however, one of his main critiques of Wright was his lack of interaction with some of the more recent philosophers of religion and his failure to cite references for many of his assertions. Again, I won’t comment further since I have not read Wright’s book.

I did read Ehrlich’s treatment of this topic and in reading some of the reviews of Wright’s book, it seems that they are arguing the same case, with Ehrlich doing it in a more summary fashion. So, back to the main question, did religion merely evolve?

Ehrlich’s contention regarding religion, as it is for many of his arguments regarding the development of human culture, is that we developed this trait or capacity due to the increasing size of our brains which resulted from the addition of meats and other proteins to our diets. Ehrlich argues that the capacity of our brains (not our minds) has given us awareness of the temporary nature of our lives and that there are places beyond where we live, potentially places that are up to this point, unknowable.

Religion to Ehrlich is a way of trying to reconcile the anxiety that we experience in life, as well as a way to create within us a certain emotion or exhilaration; the same type of exhilaration he says he gets when he sees his granddaughter, hears a well-drilled band, or pushes the throttle of an airplane. Ehrlich does see a difference between homo sapiens and Neanderthals in that we have more of a religious experience and ceremony when we bury our dead including the decoration of the body. Ehrlich also believes that seeing cause and effect patterns is hardwired into our systems and that we may also have invented causes for observed, yet currently unexplained effects in order to quell the anxiety of those unexplained events.

Ehrlich goes on to explain other behaviors and phenomena, all through a purely evolutionary paradigm, while not really giving an actual basis for drawing these conclusions. It seems that when one starts with evolutionary naturalism, one also has to try to fit all the pieces of the puzzle into that model, even if it means the person has to force the pieces to fit at times, and our group came to that conclusion about him in our discussion of this chapter. Although some of his explanations seem plausible, evolution still doesn’t explain how the universe (all matter, space, and time) came to be, why morality seems to be objective in nature (which it could not be given naturalism), the fine tuning of the universe, the existence of the mind, the resurrection of Jesus, and many other issues related to religion and science.

Ehrlich could be completely correct in his explanation of how religion came to be and yet, God could still actually exist. Yet, I find the whole explanation to be somewhat ad hoc. In other words, evolution is assumed to begin with and then religion is explained in light of the assumed evolutionary framework. I don’t see in these explanations such a slam dunk case being presented that it could not just as plausibly be explained via the Biblical model. To be more specific, if the biblical model is correct, which I think for many reasons it is, it tells us that man’s understanding of God has been corrupted by sin. Even though we have God’s written word, we still get things wrong. Now, go back to a time when people didn’t have a written revelation of God, nor regular direct interaction with God, and we can understand how so many different religious strains grew up over time.

Combine all of this with man’s autonomous nature and we can also understand how so many of these religions put man at the center and God at the periphery. It is man, in most religions (with the exception of Christianity and Judaism, before it was corrupted), who is responsible for working his way to God and earning heaven, paradise, or whatever form of eternal reward the religion describes.

I also think that most evolutionists underestimate how intelligent people were in past ages. When we think of the great classical thinkers of Homer, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, there are not many today that could probably produce the level of thinking that they produced without the benefit of our technological advances. When we look at engineering feats like the pyramids of Egypt and Central and South America which were produced without hydrolics and the heavy equipment that we have today, it is a marvel. I believe that we often look to the past with a chronological bias, thinking that we are somehow smarter because we have devices like computers, when what they produced in their day is technologically more amazing given their lack of the types of aids that we have today.

Did religion evolve to help us to answer those unanswered questions and deal with our anxieties? I find this explanation to lack explanatory scope. There are too many issues that remain unresolved by positing this explanation for religion and religious belief. Sure, it may address these issues like trying to explain the unknown or as a way to resolve anxiety. Yet, do we really think that morality is not objective as it would be if the concept of God merely evolved? Do we really think that the universe is either eternal, uncaused, or somehow self-caused as it must be if God really doesn’t exist? I don’t think that many, if any of us would be satisfied with these consequences that seem follow from the religious evolutionary hypothesis. I think when all the evidence is taken together, it is more reasonable to conclude that God exists, then to believe that he does not. If God exists, then it is also possible that he could have revealed himself to us and that is what is reported and recorded in the Bible. If Jesus existed, as history seems to indicate, then he isn’t a concoction of evolutionary thought as some would suggest. I find it more reasonable to suggest that the supernatural does exist and that God is a better explanation for the existence of matter, space and time, then to believe that it simply popped into being. The concept of religion as an evolved concept is simply too difficult for me to believe.