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We are born to believe in God - Comments

David A Robertson's Avatar Comment 1 by David A Robertson

Hardwired to believe in God? Yep....thats what we have been telling you. Human beings naturally believe in God and it takes atheist brainwashing to convince us that our natural instincts are wrong. Rather than Christians needed to start schools in order to brainwash people to our way of thinking - it is atheists who need to take over schools in order to indoctrinate children against their natural instincts.

Hope you are all well - know its off topic but looking forward to reading Richard's latest book....

Sun, 06 Sep 2009 13:52:00 UTC | #394818

debunk's Avatar Comment 2 by debunk

Humans have been hardwired by evolution to be xenophobic too. I guess the authors would want to claim that this challenges the idea that xenophobia results from poor education and childhood indoctrination too then?

Sun, 06 Sep 2009 13:57:00 UTC | #394821

clunkclickeverytrip's Avatar Comment 3 by clunkclickeverytrip

DAR - why does this one report from a developmental psychology academic trump the vast body of scientific evidence in the field of evolutionary biology? You can't cherry pick from science and ignore the rest (unless you have no interest in the truth).

Sun, 06 Sep 2009 14:01:00 UTC | #394822

sgturner59's Avatar Comment 4 by sgturner59

Instinctual behavior is not always necessary, good, or correspondent with twenty-first century reality.

Sun, 06 Sep 2009 14:02:00 UTC | #394824

Robert Maynard's Avatar Comment 5 by Robert Maynard

I think you are being a little too optimistic there, David. The journalist says "hardwired by evolution to believe in God", but the actual scientist says "Our research shows children have a natural, intuitive way of reasoning that leads them to all kinds of supernatural beliefs about how the world works."
Your particular capital G god was not mentioned as being a default or esteemed choice people are born to believe. Nor does it say that specific concepts or gods are pre-planted. What it says is that children are equipped with methods of reasoning that lead to supernatural beliefs. This description could cover a broad range of incorrect, imaginary reasoning, such as rapidly coming to believe that clothes draped on chairs are actually the form of a monster in their bedroom.
What the study suggests is that human children are innately susceptible to any variety of supernatural claim that enters their mind, as this sense of credulity apparently has a survival advantage.
That includes belief in ancestral spirits, multitudes of deities, witches, curses, magic spells, frightening shadows and, of course, monsters under the bed.

Sleep tight! :)

Sun, 06 Sep 2009 14:05:00 UTC | #394826

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 6 by Steve Zara

Comment #412827 by David A Robertson

it is atheists who need to take over schools in order to indoctrinate children against their natural instincts.


The last thing we would want is to indoctrinate children against their natural instincts. Let them belch and fart and pick their noses freely. Let them poo on the lawn. Let them pick on the cripple in the playground. Why educate them at all? Who cares about speling and grammar, innit?

Perhaps we should try and control natural instincts. But not too much. Let's leave enough so that their natural arrogance and hatred of difference can be used by some twit to further his career as a minister, eh? Let him put forth his religious mind-farts and preach that they smell sweet to the few who will listen.

(Edited)

Sun, 06 Sep 2009 14:25:00 UTC | #394833

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 7 by Jos Gibbons

Comment #412827 by David A Robertson

"God" does not equal "Christianity". Indoctrination is required by your lot. End of.

The rest of this comment is just me commenting in general rather than responding to Robertson.

Aside from the fact that us being hardwired for religion is never actually proven in these things (thanks Maynard), and that lots of us clearly aren't affected by it and don't suffer for it, no-one ever provides any reason why we either can't or shouldn't reduce religiosity, just because of this alleged hard-wiring. None of our good ideas from the last 500 years are in line with our wiring.

Sun, 06 Sep 2009 14:30:00 UTC | #394838

amuck's Avatar Comment 9 by amuck

humans have been hardwired by evolution to believe in God, scientists have suggested


We may be hardwired to attribute actors to natural events, i.e. supernatural entities responsible for rain, thunder, lightening but that hardly equates to being hardwired to believe in God.

I like to think of religion as the human species first and worst attempt to explain the natural world.

We can do better now.

Sun, 06 Sep 2009 14:33:00 UTC | #394840

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 8 by Steve Zara

Comment #412848 by Jos Gibbons

None of our good ideas from the last 500 years are in line with our wiring.


There is a joke by Russell Howard.

Two gay men on a plane start kissing. Someone turns to them and says "That's Not Natural". One of the gay men responds: "excuse me, but you are flying".

Sun, 06 Sep 2009 14:33:00 UTC | #394839

chewedbarber's Avatar Comment 10 by chewedbarber


The findings challenge thrill campaigners against organised religion, such as Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion. He has long argued that religious beliefs have a natural origin and result persist even today because of poor education and childhood “indoctrination”.


..much better

Sun, 06 Sep 2009 14:35:00 UTC | #394841

epeeist's Avatar Comment 11 by epeeist

Comment #412827 by David A Robertson:

Hardwired to believe in God? Yep....thats what we have been telling you.
To follow up on Robert Maynard's excellent post.

Just because we are hardwired to be susceptible to a variety of supernatural beliefs does not make the subject of those beliefs true. Just because the ancient Greeks believed in Zeus, the Norse in Odin and the Jews in Yahweh doesn't mean to say that any of them exist.

Sun, 06 Sep 2009 14:36:00 UTC | #394842

amuck's Avatar Comment 12 by amuck

it is atheists who need to take over schools in order to indoctrinate children against their natural instincts.


It is funny in a pathetic sort of way that many of the arguments marshaled by faith heads is to take the excesses of the religious and attempt to pin them on the rational.

It's as if the worst insult they can think of is to accuse their opponents of acting exactly the way they do.

Sun, 06 Sep 2009 14:39:00 UTC | #394845

Mango's Avatar Comment 13 by Mango

I didn't think it was news that humans have brains that are predisposed to seek explanations for the world that go well beyond rationality. Lewis Wolpert in his excellent little book "Six Impossible things before Breakfast" hypothesizes along these lines, and many other scholars besides. Educated Westerners may become more secular, but still follow horoscopes and give credence to palmistry. Indeed, this is why I was very glad that Dawkins made "The Enemies of Reason" program because the lack of rational thinking is not just the domain of the religious, it's pervasive and, if this way of thinking is hardwired, then it will be very hard to curtail altogether.

EDIT: Having high school students be required to read Carl Sagan's "The Demon-Haunted World" will at least be a primer for young people who otherwise have no guide to *think about thinking.*

Sun, 06 Sep 2009 15:01:00 UTC | #394853

Baron Scarpia's Avatar Comment 14 by Baron Scarpia

Dear Mr Robertson,

have you any idea how badly our brains are constructed? Considering the number of times we fall for optical illusions, mishearings and badly made estimates, I'd be a tad worried about trusting any 'natural' inclination human beings might have, unless of course it was backed up by external evidence.

And there's the rub, isn't it?

Sun, 06 Sep 2009 15:02:00 UTC | #394854

IJM's Avatar Comment 15 by IJM

I think all this shows is that children have very vivid imaginations. I can't see how a childs' belief in the Supernatural, The Hogfather, Death, The Soul Cake Duck; or for that matter the ones our parents teach us about, Santa, The Tooth Fairy etc. can be taken as hard wired for God. It certainly wasn't for me.

Sun, 06 Sep 2009 15:04:00 UTC | #394857

Dr. Strangegod's Avatar Comment 16 by Dr. Strangegod

Yeah. Of course. Our lizard (hind, old, primitive) brains are hardwired with all kinds of behaviors that had evolutionary advantages to us in the past, but are no longer useful and are in fact now dangerous to us, or at least to those of us who support freedom, justice, and peace. The whole POINT is that we must use our ape (fore, new, advanced) brain, those 18 or so DNA code differences, in order to ESCAPE the trappings of our barbaric, animal brains. All humans are capable of this. The problem is that we have encoded these lizard brain behaviors into our cultures (traditions, religions, laws, etc.) to the degree that we must actively counter them. Only by eliminating barbaric influences and increasing access to enlightened educated knowledge can we hope to give any child the freedom to explore the advantages of their advanced ape brain.

None of this is new, right? It shouldn't be. Yes, emotion and belief are hardwired, and most people are unable because of indoctrination in their youth to escape this mental bondage. It takes effort and encouragement to think and act rationally. But this ability is hardwired too! It's just newer and has only been encoded into SOME of our cultures, and even then only for a couple hundred years. We must be ever vigilant about this, as it is easy to slip into belief and emotion as a way to deal with the world. It is what we do automatically, especially if we've never been taught otherwise or in fact taught to devalue logic itself, but it is not the best way for things to be done.

Oh, and please ignore the troll. Send him where he belongs, folks.

Sun, 06 Sep 2009 15:08:00 UTC | #394859

Dr. Strangegod's Avatar Comment 17 by Dr. Strangegod

amuck -

It is funny in a pathetic sort of way that many of the arguments marshaled by faith heads is to take the excesses of the religious and attempt to pin them on the rational.

It's as if the worst insult they can think of is to accuse their opponents of acting exactly the way they do.
This is neither funny, nor pathetic, nor an insult. It is a very well known and documented strategy of argumentation that seems to work fairly well for the moronic masses. Along with the "make shit up and scream the loudest" rule, the "accuse your opponent of exactly what you are doing while denying you are doing it" rule can make any of us insane with frustration. Which puts us off kilter a bit and forces us to argue with them on their terms. We have to explain why we are not doing what they are accusing us of, which distracts us from actually explaining that they are doing it themselves. Classic tactic. Not going to work here.

Steve - Very cute and clever of you, but those "avatars" are creepy as hell. I prefer just you, or even the invisible you.

Sun, 06 Sep 2009 15:23:00 UTC | #394862

Border Collie's Avatar Comment 18 by Border Collie

Wasn't it Richard, Dan Dennett and or others who say that we are pattern seeking critters? OK, we are, but it doesn't necessarily follow that we are hardwired for supernatural beliefs. I still think these hard-wired-for-God writers are overlooking the vast, vast amount of religious indoctrination perpetrated on very young children, at least in the US. Generally, from birth to maybe five or six years, children have extremely little formal education, but many do have enormouns amounts of emotion-laden religious indoctrination from parents who, themselves, probably have minimal rational education and who see goddidit explanations as easy, necessary and, unfortunately, sufficient. That is, I think there is a vast amount of learning at very young ages. This is nothing new, but to say that possibly or probably learned beliefs are genetic evidence for the belief in or existence or supernatural beings is stretching the point a bit.

Sun, 06 Sep 2009 15:32:00 UTC | #394863

Crazycharlie's Avatar Comment 19 by Crazycharlie

Whether humans are hardwired to believe in god or not doesn't make god a reality. The human brain probably is hardwired to hold on to the beliefs of the social group whether that group believes in Jesus, Yahweh, Mohamed, Zeus Etc. That would have enormous evolutionary value to our distant ancestors thousands of years ago if only for group cohesion. This doesn't "challenge" Richards argument. If this "hard-wiring" is so powerful why is it that there are millions of people who don't believe in god? What is more likely the brain is "soft- wired" and malleable, while in youth soaking up all the information in its social environment but still able to make its own assessment of how the world works, if that is, it gets the proper education and especially if that brain is in the head of a person living in the 21st century.

Sun, 06 Sep 2009 15:38:00 UTC | #394866

Oystein Elgaroy's Avatar Comment 20 by Oystein Elgaroy

Comment #412827 by David A Robertson

It has been claimed that our brains are hardwired for Aristotelian physics. Following your logic, I will stop brainwashing students with Newton's laws.

Sun, 06 Sep 2009 15:40:00 UTC | #394868

Crazycharlie's Avatar Comment 21 by Crazycharlie

From the article---- "It is a small step from this to conceptualizing spirits, dead ancestors and gods, who are neither visible nor tangible." Boyer holds out little hope for atheism. "Religious thinking seems to be the path of least resistance for our cognitive systems," he said. " By contrast, disbelief is generally the work of deliberate, effortful work against our natural cognitive dispositions- hardly the easiest ideology to propagate." ---- I want to stay here on RDnet. but, I can't , I have this uncontrollable desire to go worship at the church down the road from my house. I wonder what Richard or Sam Harris would have to say on this?

Sun, 06 Sep 2009 16:05:00 UTC | #394871

NewEnglandBob's Avatar Comment 22 by NewEnglandBob

Hey David Robinson, human males have been hardwired by evolution to rape women, but other than your priests, most have overcome that. Have you, David?

Your post is, as usual, offensive, malicious and wrong as can be.

Sun, 06 Sep 2009 16:09:00 UTC | #394874

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Comment 23 by Chrysippus_Maximus

Same mistake moral psychologists make... get your terminology straight before making claims!!! Gah...

We're no more "born to believe in God" than we are born to believe in turtles or apricots.

Sun, 06 Sep 2009 16:13:00 UTC | #394875

DamnDirtyApe's Avatar Comment 24 by DamnDirtyApe

1. Comment #412827 by David A Robertson on September 6, 2009 at 2:52 pm

Thank you for the entirely self-defeating argument.

Sun, 06 Sep 2009 16:34:00 UTC | #394882

irate_atheist's Avatar Comment 25 by irate_atheist

1. Comment #412827 by David A Robertson -

How strange then that only a minority of people on the planet believe in your particular god. And even then, only after they have been preached to by vicars, ministers, missionaries et al.

I don't hear of babies in Saudi Arabia being born with an innate knowledge of the Trinity, do you?

Mind you, it took your lot a few hundred years to decide that there even is a Trinity and with over 30,000 denominations between you, little evidence that you are all guided by the same puppet master.

Don't make me laugh any more than I have to, my sides are starting to hurt.

Further copies of this post can be obtained from the author for the sum of £87.50 inc. VAT and p&p. Cash and postal orders only, cheques are not accepted.

Sun, 06 Sep 2009 17:00:00 UTC | #394885

Mark Jones's Avatar Comment 26 by Mark Jones

Just to follow up on the poor standard of this report, with a title that misrepresents the science, and containing the fateful phrase, 'scientists have suggested' (one fears that journalists are about to mangle some science when one sees *that*). Two contradictory sentences from it:


The findings challenge campaigners against organised religion, such as Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion.
...
The Rev Michael Reiss, who is professor of science education at London University’s Institute of Education and also an Anglican priest, said he saw no reason why such research should undermine religious belief.

The findings *don't* challenge atheists, of course, but *do* undermine religious belief, as implied by Michael Reiss's comment. A natural history of religion would explain some of the mistakes we make, just as a natural history of homo sapiens explains some of the flaws in our biology.

Sun, 06 Sep 2009 17:01:00 UTC | #394886

Clootie's Avatar Comment 27 by Clootie

Comment #412827 by David A Robertson

Rather than Christians needed to start schools in order to brainwash people to our way of thinking - it is atheists who need to take over schools in order to indoctrinate children against their natural instincts.


Excellent; I assume therefore that you will be leading the charge to eliminate faith schools (which are clearly no longer needed) and divert the money into a useful cause instead?

Sun, 06 Sep 2009 17:21:00 UTC | #394892

russkid's Avatar Comment 28 by russkid

I dont think the idea that our brains have been wired to believe in god has much use. What god we believe in ( or dont) or that it may even be a god at all is incidental. More to the point I think is the notion that a group of people who share the same values are able to cooperate more effectively ... depending on the values perhaps.

Sun, 06 Sep 2009 17:36:00 UTC | #394896

Chayanov's Avatar Comment 29 by Chayanov

So religion is childish? I thought we already knew that.

Deplorable journalism. The author thinks we evolved to believe in God. By that reasoning, atheists have evolved beyond the need to believe, which makes us more developed. We're walking upright, while the religious are still on all fours.

We really do need better science journalists.

Sun, 06 Sep 2009 17:57:00 UTC | #394901

Nunbeliever's Avatar Comment 30 by Nunbeliever

Some researchers argue that humans’ innate tendency towards supernatural beliefs explains why many people become religious as adults, despite not having been brought up within any faith.


MANY??? Where does he get this information from? Yes, of course we all know about the "former atheists" who suddenly find god ;-) Personally I have not heard of ONE single adult person who has become religious without neither somekind of religious history or severe emotional crisis. I'm sure there are some of these. But to call them MANY without any evidence is just stupid.

And BTW. Why am I an atheist? I have not been a subject to "atheist brainwashing". I have never been religious in my whole life. Sure as a kid I probably believed in ghosts and Santa Claus like everybody else... But I have never been religious.

Sun, 06 Sep 2009 18:08:00 UTC | #394904