Advertisement

Does cognitive science show belief in god to be irrational? The epistemic consequences of the cognitive science of religion

  • Joshua C. ThurowEmail author
Article

Abstract

The last 15 years or so has seen the development of a fascinating new area of cognitive science: the cognitive science of religion (CSR). Scientists in this field aim to explain religious beliefs and various other religious human activities by appeal to basic cognitive structures that all humans possess. The CSR scientific theories raise an interesting philosophical question: do they somehow show that religious belief, more specifically belief in a god of some kind, is irrational? In this paper I investigate this question and argue that CSR does not show that belief in god is irrational.

Keywords

Religious epistemology Cognitive science Rationality Justification Religious skepticism 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Alston W. P. (1995) How to think about reliability. Philosophical Topics 23: 1–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Atran S. (2002) In Gods we trust. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  3. Atran S., Norenzyan A. (2004) Religion’s evolutionary landscape: Counterintuition, commitment, compassion, communion. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 27: 713–770Google Scholar
  4. Barrett J. L. (2004) Why would anyone believe in God?. AltaMira Press, Walnut Creek, CAGoogle Scholar
  5. Barrett, J. L. (2007a). Cognitive science of religion: What is it and why is it?. Religion Compass, 1.Google Scholar
  6. Barrett J. L. (2007b) Is the spell really broken? Bio-psychological explanations of religion and theistic belief. Theology and Science 5(1): 57–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Barrett, J., & Burdett, E. R. (2010). Empirical progress in the cognitive science of religion. The Psychologist.Google Scholar
  8. Bergmann M. (2004) Epistemic circularity: Malignant and benign. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 69(3): 709–727CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bergmann M. (2005) Defeaters and higher-level requirements. The Philosophical Quarterly 55(220): 419–436CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bering J. M. (2006) The cognitive psychology of belief in the supernatural. American Scientist 94: 142–149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bloom, P. (2005). Is God an accident? The Atlantic Monthly (December).Google Scholar
  12. Bulbulia J. (2007) Evolution of religion. In: Dunbar R. I., Barrett L. (eds) Oxford handbook of evolutionary psychology. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  13. Bulbulia, J. (2009). Religiosity as mental time-travel: Cognitive adaptations for religious behavior. In J. Schloss & M.J. Murray The believing primate (pp. 44–75). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Clark, K. J., & Barrett, J. (2010). Reformed epistemology and the cognitive science of religion. Faith and Philosophy.Google Scholar
  15. Cohen, E., Knight, N., & Barrett, J. (2009). An Assessment of the development of the cognitive science of religion and outline of evidential needs (manuscript).Google Scholar
  16. Conee, E., & Feldman, R. (2001). Internalism defended. In H. Kornblith (Ed.), Epistemology: Internalism and externalism (pp. 231–60). Oxford: Blackwell; Reprinted in E. Conee & R. Feldman (2004). Evidentialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Dennett D. C. (2006) Breaking the spell. Viking, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  18. Feldman, R. (1988). Having evidence. In D. Austin (Ed.), Philosophical analysis (pp. 83–104). Dordrecht: Kluwer; Reprinted in E. Conee & R. Feldman (2004). Evidentialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Feldman, R., & Conee, E. (1985). Evidentialism. Philosophical Studies, 48, 15–34; Reprinted in E. Conee & R. Feldman (2004). Evidentialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Goldman A. I. (1976) What is justified belief?. In: Pappas G. S. (Ed.) Justification and knowledge. D. Reidel, Dordrecht, pp 1–23Google Scholar
  21. Haldane, J. (2006). Philosophy, the restless heart and the meaning of theism. Ratio (new series), XIX 4.Google Scholar
  22. Harman G. (2001) Rational insight versus general foundations. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 63: 657–663CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Harman, G. (2003). The future of the a priori. In Philosophy in America at the turn of the century. APA centennial supplement to Journal of Philosophical Research, pp. 23–34. Charlottesville, VA: Philosophy Documentation Center).Google Scholar
  24. Henig, R. M. (2007). Darwin’s God. The New York Times (March 4).Google Scholar
  25. Huemer M. (2001) Skepticism and the veil of perception. Rowman and Littlefield, Lanham, MDGoogle Scholar
  26. Johnson, D., & Bering, J. (2009). Hand of God, mind of man: Punishment and cognition in the evolution of cooperation. In J. Schloss & M.J. Murray The believing primate (pp. 26–43). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Lewis C. S. (1960) Mere christianity. HarperCollins, LondonGoogle Scholar
  28. Meeker K. (2004) Justification and the social nature of knowledge. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 69(1): 156–172CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Moser P. K. (2008) The elusive God. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Murray, M. J. (2009). Scientific explanations of religion and the justification of religious belief. In J. Schloss & M.J. Murray The believing primate (pp. 168–178). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Nolan D. (1997) Impossible worlds: A modest approach. Notre Dame Journal for Formal Logic 38(4): 535–572CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Norenzyan A. (2010) Why we believe: Religion as a human universal. In: Hogh-Oleson H. (Ed.) Human morality and sociality: Evolutionary and comparative perspectives. Palgrave Macmillan, New York, pp 58–71Google Scholar
  33. Ruse M. (2007) The sociobiological account of religious belief. In: Meister C., Copan P. (eds) Routledge companion to philosophy of religion. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
  34. Schloss, J., & Murray M. J. (2010). Presentation at the 2010 Cognition, Religion, and Theology conference at Merton College, Oxford.Google Scholar
  35. Schloss, J. (2009). Introduction. In J. Schloss & M.J. Murray The believing primate (pp. 1–25). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Shariff A. F., Norenzyan A., Henrich J. (2010) The birth of high Gods. In: Schaller M., Norenzyan A., Heine S. J., Yamagishi T., Kameda T. (eds) Evolution, culture, and the human mind. Psychology Press/Taylore and Francis, New York, pp 119–136Google Scholar
  37. Vogel J. (1987) Tracking, closure, and inductive knowledge. In: Luper-Foy S. (Ed.) The possibility of knowledge: Nozick and his critics. Rowman & Littlefield, Totowa, NJGoogle Scholar
  38. Wielenberg E. J. (2008) God and the reach of reason. Cambridge University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  39. Wilson D. S. (2002) Darwin’s cathedral. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  40. Wilson D. S. (2005) Testing major evolutionary hypotheses about religion with a random sample. Human Nature 16(4): 419–446CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Zagzebski L. (1990) What if the impossible had been actual?. In: Beaty M. D. (Ed.) Christian theism and the problems of philosophy. University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, pp 165–183Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyMount Marty CollegeYanktonUSA

Personalised recommendations