Jonah Goldberg

Citing among other things some very clever experiments with babies and young children - don't worry, no babies were harmed in the process of writing his article - Bloom argues that we come into this world preprogrammed to divide the world into spirits and objects, or minds and bodies. This, argues Bloom, is an evolutionary adaptation designed for one thing - socialization - which has made us susceptible to another thing: religion.

We aren't "supposed" to believe in God. But in addition to our evolved tendency to split the world into spirit and object, our operating systems are also set up to want to believe that everything happens for a reason. Our brains don't like randomness, so we assume that there is an intelligence or purpose behind events, something that requires things to happen the way they do.

Bloom's argument is polite, informed, insightful - and annoying.

Scientists often fall into a fallacious tendency, after studying and describing something according to the methods of their discipline, to believe that their appraisal of it is somehow more real than the thing itself.

Evolutionary psychologists have explained almost every human interaction from grocery shopping to men throwing themselves on live grenades in clinical terms. But that doesn't make them clinical events. Marxists did the same thing - actually, they still do at some of our finer universities. They'd point to the class interests that supposedly compel this or that behavior and call it a day. But anybody not already converted to the faith understood that while Marxism might sometimes offer interesting insights, to mistake the Marxist story for the whole story would be no different than a lie. Science is wonderful at explaining what science is wonderful at explaining, but beyond that it tends to look for its car keys where the light is good.

For example, according to evolutionary totalitarians, I love my wife because I want to propagate my genes and attain an exemplary mother for my children. That may or may not be true, but that is hardly the whole truth. For whatever electrochemical signals my brain may be receiving, my awareness of their existence doesn't diminish the fact that I love my wife or that I think love is something more than mere electrochemical signals.

Some have defined God "as love." That's not my personal definition, but it's not a bad one. Both God and love defy science's attempts to define them. Whatever science tells us about either, we know that's not all there is to say. Scientists should be skeptical, but I would have found Bloom's article just as interesting and informative if "by accident" was changed to "on purpose."

Indeed, considering that religious belief has coincided with the fairly remarkable success of humans vis-a-vis the atheistic Dodo bird, perhaps religious insight isn't gratuitous programming after all?

Perhaps humans aren't so stupid for believing that turkey sandwich ended up on their belly for reasons more profound than mere electrochemical coincidences a billion years ago. Whatever those reasons are, Lord knows I'm grateful for them.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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