As noted already, the Los Angeles Times published a startlingly asinine op-ed by University of Virginia psychiatrist J. Anderson Thomson who “serves as a trustee of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.” (“Science and Religion: God Didn’t Make Man, Man Made Gods,” July 18.) Writing with medical author Clare Aukofer and citing John Lennon’s “Imagine,” Dr. Thomson summarizes:
In recent years scientists specializing in the mind have begun to unravel religion’s “DNA.” They have produced robust theories, backed by empirical evidence (including “imaging” studies of the brain at work), that support the conclusion that it was humans who created God, not the other way around. And the better we understand the science, the closer we can come to “no heaven … no hell … and no religion too.”
Like our physiological DNA, the psychological mechanisms behind faith evolved over the eons through natural selection. They helped our ancestors work effectively in small groups and survive and reproduce, traits developed long before recorded history, from foundations deep in our mammalian, primate and African hunter-gatherer past.
The article doesn’t mention the irony that John Lennon himself mocked and disbelieved in precisely this picture of evolution.
Read the whole thing if you’ve got time to spare. The logic seems to be that because our nature provides us with a physiological and psychological infrastructure needed for religious life, therefore it’s an “easy leap” — as the authors put it — to the conclusion that nature itself created religion, that human beings invented God. The leap sails right over the much less tortured supposition that the same Agent who made us also gave us a nature allowing us to interact with Him.
It follows from the thinking of Dr. Thomson and Ms. Aukofer that religious ideas could be true only if we were incapable of appreciating them. Religion itself could be true only if we were totally unfitted to engage with it. That is, if it didn’t exist.