Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Is religion maladaptive?


“Your premise is wrong. While true beliefs are generally adaptive and false beliefs are generally maladaptive, this is not a necessary connection.”

My premise wasn’t predicated on a necessary connection. Rather, if, according to the Darwininan, misbeliefs are maladaptive, and if, according to the Darwinian, the majority of human hominids suffer from a misbelief in the supernatural, then natural selection is an unreliable belief-forming mechanism. On this view, misbeliefs are not the exception to the rule. Rather, they are dominant.

“Based on the major suppositions of EP and evolutionary biology generally, it isn't the truth or falsity that evolution cares about…”

I never said evolution “cares” about anything. By definition, naturalistic evolution (which is the thesis under review) is indifferent.

“…it is whether the belief promotes the fitness of the individual who holds that belief.”

The question is whether true beliefs promote survival. Darwinians typically argue that they do.

“Your best bet for criticizing evolutionary approaches to understanding religion would be to emphasize the dearth of empirical work on how religious beliefs promotes the fitness of the individual. And not the direct you're currently taking.”

I don’t have to critique evolutionary psychology by documenting (if possible) that religious beliefs are adaptive.

It’s quite sufficient to note a dilemma in the Darwinian argument against religion. If misbeliefs are generally maladaptive, yet most human primates hold false beliefs about the supernatural, then natural selection is selecting for misbeliefs. And doing so on a massive scale. So how did we survive our maladaptive religious beliefs?


  1. I apologize because this question is very off-topic, but I would like to know if you have recommendations for books, videos, and/or readings on the topic of a Christian, biblical understanding of hell? The main question that I would like answered is: Why, from the point of view of a Bible-believing Christian, should an individual fear damnation by God and banishment to hell? (In other words, what is damnation and hell?)

    Kevin S.

  2. If you're asking for an exegetical treatment, here's the standard monograph:

  3. When it comes to non-Christian religions, Robert Morey's scholarship is sorely lacking. For example, his book on Islam is terrible. Nevertheless, some of his books on Christian doctrine can be helpful. That's why I HIGHLY recommend his book "Death and the Afterlife" when it comes to issues of hell and the intermediate state. I grew up being taught annihilationism, and after reading his book, it convinced me that the traditional Christian view of eternal punishment is solidly Biblical.

    Having said that, Edward Fudge, who's famous for his book "The Fire That Consumes", recognized some the exact same flaws I did in his review of Morey's book. But taking those flaws into consideration, Morey's book on the afterlife STILL presents a strong Biblical case for the traditional view of hell against Universalism and Annihilationism.

    Here's a link to a webpage where you can download Fudge's review of Morey's book (which I recommend you read first).

    And here's a link to Morey's book on

  4. Kevin S.,

    Here are links to two classic (and possibly outdated) books by Nathan Dow George. They're downloadable

    Annihilationism Not of the Bible

    Universalism Not of the Bible