The naturalness of religion and the unnaturalness of science


Authors
Robert N. McCauley
Emory University
Abstract
Aristotle's observation that all human beings by nature desire to know aptly captures the spirit of "intellectualist" research in psychology and anthropology. Intellectualists in these fields agree that humans' have fundamental explanatory interests (which reflect their rationality) and that the idioms in which their explanations are couched can differ considerably across places and times (both historical and developmental). Intellectualists in developmental psychology (e.g., Gopnik and Meltzoff, 1997) maintain that young children's conceptual structures, like those of scientists, are theories and that their conceptual development--like the development of science--is a process of theory formation and change. They speculate that our explanatory preoccupations result, at least in part, from a natural drive to develop theories. Intellectualists in the anthropology of religion (e.g., Horton, 1970 and 1993) hold that, although it may do many other things as well, religion is primarily concerned with providing explanatory theories. They maintain that religion and science have the same explanatory goals; only the idioms of their explanations differ. The connections between the concern for explanation, the pursuit of science, the persistence of religion, and the cognitive processes underlying each clearly merit further examination. By considering both their cultural manifestations and their cognitive foundations, I hope to clarify not only how science and religion are related but some of the ways their explanatory projects differ. I shall argue that, despite their centuries' old antagonisms, no development in science will ever seriously threaten the persistence of religion or the forms of explanation religion employs or the emergence of new religions. (I strongly suspect that science will never seriously threaten the persistence of particular religions either, but I only aim to defend the weaker, collective claim here.) In this paper's fourth section I shall show that religion and its characteristic forms of explanation 1 are a natural outgrowth of the character and content of human association and cognition..
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Exploring the Natural Foundations of Religion.Justin L. Barrett - 2000 - Trends in Cognitive Sciences 4 (1):29-34.
The Crazyist Metaphysics of Mind.Eric Schwitzgebel - 2014 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 92 (4):665-682.
The Cognitive and Evolutionary Psychology of Religion.Joseph Bulbulia - 2004 - Biology and Philosophy 19 (5):655-686.

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