Monday, December 15, 2008


This Explains a Lot

David Klinghoffer is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute. He has an Op-Ed piece in the Los Angeles Times that, among other things, makes this extraordinary statement:

The latest scientific theory holds that particular brain functions evolved for purposes suited to the survival of the species, but then got "hijacked" by religious and other supernatural beliefs. Maybe that's right, but explanations like that partake of a certain pat, naive quality reminiscent of a Rudyard Kipling "Just So Story" ("How the Leopard Got His Spots" ... "How the Human Got His Belief in Demons"). They are also suspiciously unfalsifiable. If people had over the centuries completely abandoned the supernatural, evolutionary psychologists could spin out an equally plausible tale to explain that.

Another possibility is that the human need to believe in the unseen world itself points to, while not proving, the reality of hidden dimensions. It could be that materialism -- the philosophical assumption that reality is nothing but physical stuff -- is a prejudice rather than a fact. Perhaps an unseen reality does exist, revealed in flashes that can be confusing or misleading, to which we sometimes give flaky designations. Like "Bigfoot."

Klinghoffer may well be right about current hypotheses (not "theories," which require much more support to reach that level) about the evolutionary origin of religion being "just-so stories." But on what rational basis can he level that criticism and then turn around and propose an even more unfalsifiable belief in a supernatural "unseen reality" inhabited by ghosties and ghoulies and long-leggedy beasties, and things that go bump in the night? The answer may well come later when he calls rationalism "pallid." I guess being able to make any old crap up you like could be described as more "vivid" than the boring ol' everyday real world.

But it's not just more vivid, it can be much more ... um ... exciting. It seems that Klinghoffer thinks that the "invisible world" that guided "Puritan witch-hunter Cotton Mather" was a good thing. Nothin' like a few burnings at the stake to spice life up.

This has me scratching my head, though:

... U.S. polling data from Gallup, reported by Baylor University researchers, shows that belief in the occult is more common among non- or infrequent churchgoers or those belonging to a liberal Protestant denomination than it is among frequent churchgoers and conservative evangelicals.

Is that supposed to be an argumentum ad populum or evidence that belief in the occult is functionally the same to the human psyche as conservative evangelicalism? Whatever it is supposed to be, it is spectacularly confused.

But it can't be denied that occultism is completely compatible with the notion that human existence must owe something to an unseen creator and that anti-rationalism is fully explanatory of support for ID.


Via Rationally Speaking

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