Religion and evolution
Kasper Andersen is currently working on the anthology titled The Man of Vital Culture.
The anthology features contributions from various researchers in the humanities, including Jesper Sørensen.
It has to do with how different cultural/human phenomena, such as religion and literature, are explained from the theory of evolution
Religiosity is seen through evolutionary glasses
Since Charles Darwin published his theory of evolution in 1859, several attempts have been made to explain human religiosity as part of evolutionary development. Jesper Sørensen explains that those who explain religion on the basis of the theory of evolution operate with two different hypotheses.
- Religion is an evolutionary advantage: The premise is that it was an evolutionary advantage for people to believe in something and have religions. Supporters of the hypothesis say that religious people do better in life, in part because religion creates social cohesion.
- Religion as a byproduct of evolution: Humans have an evolutionary advantage in having intuitive senses. Among other things, it enables us to respond to any danger to life. But intuitive sensations have also given us a tendency to respond to and perceive things that are not there. Religious experiences, for example. So religion is not something we need. Debt is a byproduct – or side effect – of our ability to respond intuitively.
Whichever of the two theories you choose, religiosity is part of human nature.
We just celebrated the birthday of Jesus. At least if you believe what the Bible says. But one of our readers, Steen Fog Rahbek Nielsen, certainly doesn’t. At least he wants to eliminate religion, and science takes over.
“In the end, what does it take to bury any religion forever?” Nielsen asks.
Unfortunately we have to disappoint him.
The request cannot be granted. Three experts we spoke to said that religion is likely to survive no matter how much scientific insights we get.
There are no experiments to prove the non-existence of God. I’m sure religion will never be eradicated, at least not by science, says Helge Kraj, professor emeritus of the history of science at the Niels Bohr Institute.
Religion and science are not in conflict
Cragg believes that the assumption that science and religion are enemies is misunderstood. He says that they mostly coexist peacefully and complement each other.
While science makes laws, finds statistical connections and explains how the universe and biology are related, the disciplines of religion and the humanities as philosophy contribute something else. For example, a language that talks about all that science can’t make formulas for it.
Cragg says, for example, sadness, love and the meaning of life.
Scientific discoveries cannot cancel God, because the concept of God and the religious sphere gives us something different from natural science. Throughout history, there have not been many major conflicts between religion and science.
In the article videnskab.dk The greatest clash in history between religion and science, you can read that there were historical events that were interpreted retroactively as a clash between religion and science, but were not considered so at the time.
Religion gives one’s opinion
Jesper Sørensen, assistant professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Aarhus University, agrees that science cannot bury religion.
For starters, institutional religion – the church, for example – has become less powerful as science has progressed.
Another thing is people’s perception that there is more between heaven and earth than we can see with scientific methods. Sorensen predicts that belief in God and other paranormal phenomena will persist, no matter how many groundbreaking discoveries scientists make.
Some people find meaning in life in religion, even though they know it has no scientific meaning. He says it gives them some kind of peace of mind.
Sorensen believes that people turn to God or other forms of spirituality, especially in times of crisis.
People, even those who are scientifically trained, automatically turn to God in difficult situations. When you divorce, when children die or something, Sorensen says, a lot of people look for some form of meaning, for example in religion.
Science is like a cheese grater
However, especially since the 19th century, there has been a burgeoning idea that science and religion are in conflict.
There has been an assumption that science will eventually give way to faith, says Kasper Andersen, associate professor of the history of ideas in the department of culture and society at Aarhus University in Denmark.
– I call it the cheese grater model. Science is seen as a coward who drops debts until there is nothing left. Andersen says that with the victory of science religion will disappear as he thought, but this did not happen.
Newton wanted to prove the existence of God
Andersen explains that the idea that natural science would eventually eliminate religion arose in parallel with the Western world in the nineteenth century, which began to separate religious institutions from the natural sciences.
Until that time, theology and science were mixed, among other things, in the university and ecclesiastical colleges.
Scholars can preach in church on Sundays, and they often use religious arguments in their work, Andersen says.
Newton and Galileo are two examples of scientists who were deeply religious. They saw science as a means of emphasizing God’s creation, and in Newton’s work God occupies a great deal of space. Newton said that if his knowledge would convince people of the existence of God, that’s a good thing, he says.
Natural theology became a natural science
Throughout the eighteenth century, natural science was closely associated with natural theology, based on the idea that by studying nature scientifically, they also understood more of God’s creation.
The idea that science is anti-religion did not spread until the 19th century. Andersen explains that it was associated with the flourishing of a philosophical trend called positivism.
Positivists believe that religious dogmas and worldviews that cannot be scientifically proven should be removed.
Since then, numerous attempts have been made to explain why people tend to believe in something scientifically. Andersen says the theory of evolution was used to explain this.
Religion has a place in the world
But even if you can explain scientifically why people are religious, that doesn’t mean we stop being religious, says Jesper Sørensen.
Even those who believe that religion can be interpreted as an evolutionary benefit or as a result of evolution will say that it is unlikely that religion will ever disappear entirely, precisely because faith and religion are part of human nature.
300 years ago, many people took the words of the Bible literally and believed that it provided an explanation of how the world and man came into being. Then came the scientific explanations of the context of things, and today many do not take the story of the creation of the Bible literally.
But according to the researchers we spoke to, religion still has a place in the world.
Sorensen says that religion today is rooted in life forms and in everyday life, rather than speculation about how the world is formed and interconnected.
© Videnskab.dk. Translated by Lars Nygaard for forskning.no.