Newsweek: Evidence that religion is not a biological artifact in human beings

In Newsweek's August 31 issue, Sharon Begley, in "(Un)wired For God" argues that, "Religious beliefs may not be innate."

We do not understand the arguments or the debate.

It's troubling that Begley's evidence about this biological claim of innateness of a type of belief and behavior, is entirely sociological, not at all biological.

That's just bad research, isn't it?

We detect more difficulties here than the phase mismatch of using soft science to verify or falsify hard science.

We are just not sure whether either the soft or hard scientists have reached any consensus on what is "religion." We'd like to see the rigorous statement these folks use of what constitutes religious belief or practice. So far we've not seen such definitions. We have to take it on faith that these researchers know what they are seeking.

Perhaps these guys hope to find little crosses or Jewish stars embedded in human strands of DNA. We don't mean to be too glib. We just don't know what these folks are looking for or talking about.

Anyhow, if you "believe" that "religion" is "hard wired" into human nature, there is some new "evidence" that it is not.

No wonder magazines like Newsweek are going out of business.
...In brief, the number of American non-believers has doubled since 1990, a 2008 Pew survey found, and increased even more in some other advanced democracies. What's curious is not so much the overall decline of belief (which has caused the Vatican to lament the de-Christianization of Europe) as the pattern. In a paper last month in the online journal Evolutionary Psychology, Gregory Paul finds that countries with the lowest rates of social dysfunction—based on 25 measures, including rates of homicide, abortion, teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease, unemployment, and poverty—have become the most secular. Those with the most dysfunction, such as Portugal and the U.S., are the most religious, as measured by self-professed belief, church attendance, habits of prayer, and the like.

I'll leave to braver souls the question of whether religiosity leads to social dysfunction, as the new breed of public atheists contends. More interesting is the fact that if social progress can snuff out religious belief in millions of people, as Paul notes, then one must question "the idea that religiosity and belief in the supernatural is the default mode of the brain," he told me. As he wrote in his new paper, "The ease with which large populations abandon serious theism when conditions are sufficiently benign . . . refute[s] hypotheses that religious belief and practice are the normal, deeply set human mental state." He posits that, rather than being wired into the brain, religion is a way to cope with stress in a dysfunctional society—the opium-of-the-people argument...

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