How ‘Evolution’ Fooled Us Into Believing In God (Wink, Wink)

By Tom Gilson Published on October 17, 2018

Discover magazine tells readers why people believe in God. It’s simple: Evolution fooled us! But in fact the article is a perfect case study in how a sweeping story of “evolution” gets credit for just about anything.

Bridget Alex wrote the article, titled, “How the Human Brain Evolved to Believe in Gods.” She points to three “evolved” tendencies: “We seek patterns, infer intentions and learn by imitation.”

Pattern-seeking is about seeing cause-and-effect relationships. There’s a connection between the shape of a lion’s paw-print and the existence of actual lions. Evolution produced that awareness in us so that (continuing the same example) we wouldn’t get gobbled by lions.

Inferring intentions has to do with recognizing “that others have beliefs, desires and goals, influencing their actions.” Evolution gave us that ability so we could have social relationships.

Then there’s learning by imitation, which is a great way to know what to eat and what not to eat, how to cook, how to hunt, how to find shelter and so on. Evolution obviously had to build that in us — there’d be no “us” without it.

A Case Study in How To Read Evolution Articles

There’s more to this than debunking just one article. This is the way evolution stories are written. Always. Everything I’ve read about “how evolution did this,” or “how evolution did that” depends on unproven, often unscientific assumptions like the five listed here. It’s especially a problem in popular writing, but it’s common in technical articles, too.

We need to keep our antennae up for these assumptions. We need to train our kids in how to spot them. It’s about thinking clearly and rationally, knowing the difference between demonstrated facts and unproven assumptions.

It isn’t just about fending off evolution, in other words. Still, it’s worth noticing how often good critical thinking can spot these kinds of deep holes in evolutionary explanations. People who want to prove evolution just don’t seem to be able to get anywhere without assuming they’re already there.

That’s the story, says Alex. Evolution wired all that into us; but it messed up, too. It didn’t include a “stop” switch to tell us where not to use those tendencies. We see patterns that aren’t real, and we conclude falsely that someone must have put them there on purpose. Some things we learn by imitation aren’t so good after all. So for example we see patterns in weather, and we attribute them to some kind of person. We call that person a god; then we imitate one another in worshiping that god. Voila, it’s religion!

Therefore, she concludes, “It doesn’t take supernatural beings to explain why so many people believe in them — just natural evolutionary processes.”

Five Necessary — But Bad — Assumptions

And it works — in a way. The problem is, you have to make a whole boatload of assumptions to make it work. Let me just list a few:

  1. You have to assume your thinking is rational, even while you’re building a theory of pervasive human irrationality.
  2. You have to assume that all religious belief is irrational. This requires ignoring or dismissing centuries of solid Christian thinking in support of the rational truth of Christianity.
  3. You have to assume we have useful abilities like pattern recognition only because evolution gave them to us. That means you must ignore the possibility that God could have given them for the same and perhaps other reasons.
  4. You have to assume “evolution” is true in its strongest, materialist, sense. (That’s key.) That is, that all of life is the product of an entirely blind process of natural selection and random variation, with no role left for a Creator. Now, the author is free to make that assumption (even though I don’t agree with it). Almost all of Discover’s readers believe in this type of evolution, so she’s not responsible in this article to prove it to them again. Still, the rest of us are free to take note that there’s plenty of evidence against this Grand Darwinian Story.
  5. You have to assume that because “evolution is true,” evolutionary answers must also be true.

Evidence-Free Conclusions

That last point is important. Let me quote a couple lines from the article:

In this way adaptive mental abilities could have led to religious beliefs.

Evolved features of our brains, such as Theory of Mind and over-imitation, likely caused the emergence of religions in human societies.

Could have.” “Likely caused.” Even granted the assumptions, she still can’t establish the conclusion. No scientist saw any of these things happen. No one has any direct evidence for them. Nothing is demonstrated; it all rests on layers and layers of assumptions. This isn’t science. It’s a pile of assumptions floating in mid-air.

The article claims (Darwinian) evolution fools us into believing in God. I’d say it’s the other way around: Disbelieving in God fools people into believing in evolution.

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  • ImaginaryDomain

    Love that last line!!

    This topic forever amuses me. Evolution has people convinced, evidence be damned, that the 2nd law of thermodynamics somehow magically doesn’t apply to exceedingly slow and steady random mutations and natural selection. Now that is believing in fairy tales!!

    • swordfish

      The second law of thermodynamics isn’t any kind of problem for evolution. It applies to closed systems, but the Earth isn’t a closed system as it receives energy from the Sun. This energy enables living things to maintain an ordered state even,while the total disorder of the Earth/Sun system increases.

      • Bryan

        To close a system, one only has to define the boundaries correctly.
        In other words, I don’t think your example is right for your argument to contradict what ImaginaryDomain argues above.

        • swordfish

          Are you suggesting the Earth doesn’t receive energy from the Sun?

          • Bryan

            Not at all. I’m saying a system can be open or closed depending on how you define the boundaries of the system.
            And if you define the boundaries of the system as the universe, then you do have a closed system and the second law of thermodynamics applies. Unless there is some sort of multiverse.

          • swordfish

            You’re really grasping at straws here. The only thing necessary for life to be able to sustain itself against the second law of thermodynamics is an external source of energy, which would be the Sun.

          • Bryan

            I think we’re talking past each other.

      • Trilemma

        An energy source does enable living things to maintain an ordered state. An energy source does drive chemical reactions. However, an energy source in itself does not drive the kind of order needed to start life and for life to evolve.

        • swordfish

          You agree that ID’s argument based on thermodynamics is wrong, but you’re inventing another handwaving objection with no substance. No one has said that energy alone creates order.

          • Trilemma

            I agree with ID’s argument based on thermodynamics. Introducing an energy source doesn’t change that.

          • swordfish

            “I agree with ID’s argument based on thermodynamics.”

            Perhaps you can explain exactly what it is then, as I’m not seeing anything other than the usual “thermodynamics means disorder should increase” argument which I’ve already refuted.

          • Trilemma

            An energy source can drive an increase in order on Earth by causing molecules to form, including molecules needed for life. The Miller-Urey experiment demonstrated that. But to get the increased level of order needed for the first cell to form certainly appears to be a violation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Then, the increased amount of order achieved by evolving that first cell into the animals of today also appears to be a violation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

          • swordfish

            The second law of thermodynamics is a statistical law which allows order to increase locally as long as the overall disorder in a system increases, so it isn’t any kind of magical barrier preventing order from forming spontaneously.

            The overall increase in complexity of living things is the result of selection operating on random variations – such variations include the addition of new DNA due to copying errors. These additional segments of DNA can be further altered by random variations and acted upon by selection. There isn’t any reason why this process cannot produce an arbitrary amount of complexity.

          • Trilemma

            I agree the second law of thermodynamics isn’t a barrier preventing order from forming spontaneously. But it can be a barrier for abiogenesis. If you dissolve a sugar cube in a large glass of water, the second law of thermodynamics says a sugar cube will never form at the bottom of the glass. If you take a gallon of bacteria and heat it up until all the cell walls break down and then let it cool down, the second law of thermodynamics says a bacteria cell will never reassemble itself. The second law of thermodynamics says the first cell will never assemble itself because all the necessary components will never come together but will stay dispersed like the sugar cube or the bacteria components.

            The problem with random variation is it can be very rare. For example, tardigrades have been around for over 500 million years without much variation. Getting extra DNA is not the problem, it’s getting new information into the extra DNA to code for complicated structures. Getting the DNA to code for complicated new structures is a huge increase in order that certainly looks like a violation of the second law of thermodynamics.

          • swordfish

            “I agree the second law of thermodynamics isn’t a barrier preventing order from forming spontaneously. But…”

            You agree that the SLoT doesn’t prevent order from forming spontaneously, but then present a series of analogies designed to establish the opposite! Abiogenesis isn’t undisolving a sugar cube, or forming a complete cell, it’s only necessary for it to form a single self-replicating molecule once in the entire universe. The issue of how the chemical components were prevented from dispersing is exactly the sort of thing that the molecular biologists working in this field study, and you’d be surprised how much is now known.

            “The problem with random variation is it can be very rare.”

            We each have about 60 mutations in our DNA. Some creatures, like tardigrades, haven’t changed much over very long periods of time, but that isn’t because of mutations being rare, it’s because they are simply very well adapted to survive, so there is little to no pressure from natural selection on them.

            “Getting extra DNA is not the problem, it’s getting new information into the extra DNA to code for complicated structures.”

            Randomly-copied extra DNA would contain copied information. Mutations can alter this to form new information. Complicated structures don’t form spontaneously, they form in millions of small steps.

  • “you have to make a whole boatload of assumptions to make it work.” Exactly. Evolutionists/materialists do this all the time. They are masters of begging the question: “You have to assume that because “evolution is true,” evolutionary answers must also be true.” That’s why we can teach our children that they have zero credibility, and that their worldview has zero explanatory power. It is as implausible as implausible gets. The only reason it has any credibility in our culture is because Western cultural elites are dominated by them, and the messaging machines they run. But they can’t fool us!

    • swordfish

      “The only reason it has any credibility in our culture is because Western cultural elites are dominated by them”

      Are you sure it hasn’t got anything to do with the fact that darwin’s theory of evolution is now supported by 159 years of research by thousands of scientists from all over the world and the collection of a mountain of fossil evidence, and many separate discoveries, from the mechanism of inheritance to the structure of DNA, to direct observation of evolution in the wild, which have only strengthened it?

      • I know this is an utter waste of time, but no it is not. RANDOM mutation (prove that something is random, you can’t) and natural selection are philosophical assumptions, not scientific facts. You can reply, but this is all you get.

        • swordfish

          You’re right, it is a waste of time arguing with reality. Natural selection isn’t a philosophical assumption, it’s an observed phenomenon.

  • Trilemma

    Evolution has a long rich tradition of scientism. If belief in god is the result of evolution, does that make Bridget Alex more or less evolved?

    Ironically, pattern recognition and learning by imitation could also be used to argue that evolution tricked people into believing in evolutionism.

    People who believe in a god also must assume they are thinking rationally. A person who is devout to a particular religion must also assume all other religions are irrational. What is, “the rational truth of Christianity?” Do people who are Catholic have it? Do people who are Jehovah’s Witnesses have it? Do people who are Mormon have it?

    Evolution is based on the big assumption that there is no god. As real science continues reveal the incredible complexity of life, that assumption becomes less tenable.

    • That is easy to answer:

      evolution is merely gnosticism pretending to be science. It is basically trying to claim people created themselves to make people pretend to “be like gods,”

      The rationality of the Church is inherent in the fact that rationality is not possible outside of the Church. Only the Church can explain everything and account for everything.

      Only Faith (founding onself in God) can make reason work, and there is only one way to God.

      That you fixate on mormons and jws is strange. you do have freemason views so you could be one of them, but I thought you pretended to be unitarian to cover your satanism.

      • Trilemma

        I have never heard a person who believes in evolution say that people created themselves.

        If the Church can explain everything, then why did God create us in such a way that sunlight makes us sick?

        You seem to be having trouble figuring out what I am. I’m’ a theistic rationalist.

        • That is the reason people latch onto evolution, because it assumes self-creation.

          sunlight helps people.

          you are a communist subversive, and you regularly espouse satanic things. Was the reason you have been offline for days you coming up with a new gimmick for trolling?

  • swordfish

    “1. You have to assume your thinking is rational, even while you’re building a theory of pervasive human irrationality.”

    Evolution doesn’t mean that we are irrational.

    “2. You have to assume that all religious belief is irrational.”

    Evolution doesn’t have anything to say about religion per se. Outside the USA, the majority of Christians accept evolution.

    “3. You have to assume we have useful abilities like pattern recognition only because evolution gave them to us. That means you must ignore the possibility that God could have given them for the same and perhaps other reasons.”

    If scientists started with “God did it” as an assumption, there’d be nothing to investigate. No question which science has investigated has turned out to require a supernatural explanation.

    “4. You have to assume “evolution” is true in its strongest, materialist, sense. […] there’s plenty of evidence against this Grand Darwinian Story.”

    Such as? You don’t provide any, nor do you link to any. I’m going to say that this claim is flat-out false. No evidence against evolution has been found.

    “5. You have to assume that because “evolution is true,” evolutionary answers must also be true.”

    You quote an article which is speculative. There’s nothing wrong with coming up with ideas which can be investigated further, but these ideas aren’t based on “layers and layers of assumptions”, I can see only one assumption: That our pattern recognition ability is overdone to prevent false negatives which would have serious implications from a survival point of view.

    • Bryan

      “Evolution doesn’t mean that we are irrational.”
      That wasn’t what the assumption was about. Ms. Alex is assuming that she is thinking rationally. However, she is claiming that humans in general think irrationally because of the evolutionary processes of pattern recognition and imitation. If she is human, how can she say that she is thinking rationally about a subject that every other human has evolved to think irrationally about?

      “Outside the USA, the majority of Christians accept evolution.”
      Would you happen to have a stat or article that provides some support for the claim? I’ve never seen this speculated before.

      • swordfish

        “Ms. Alex is assuming that she is thinking rationally. However, she is claiming that humans in general think irrationally because of the evolutionary processes of pattern recognition and imitation.”

        There isn’t any contradiction here. Being more aware of our inbuilt biases allows us to overcome them, and the whole approach of science is to minimise these influences to get a truer picture of the way reality works. In any case, overactive pattern recognition and agent-detection isn’t just ‘irrationality’ per se.

        As for the claim that the majority of Christians accept evolution, you could look anywhere – Wikipedia, for instance. The official position of the Catholic Church and the major Protestant denominations is to accept evolution.

        • Erwin Wild

          Define Christianity in the first place before making an argument on christians accepting evolution, next define evolution.
          Honestly I don’t give a toss about the official position of the Roman Catholic Church they can speak for themselves, same as the so called major Protestant denominations whomever they are.
          They are irrelevant for finding the truth.

          • swordfish

            The numbers available online come from opinion polling, so I assume that the Christians were self-identified. I agree that the official position of the Catholic or Protestant Churches is irrelevant for discovering the truth about reality – that’s why we invented the scientific method.

          • Erwin Wild

            The point I want to make is that if the RC claims Darwinian evolution is true, it is their opinion, it can’t be used as evidence of the truth, it is bringing an authority to the table to add weight to an argument.
            If the RC uses the scientific method, “put everything to the test and keep what is good” they should come to the conclusion that nothing supports Darwinian evolution.
            As a chemist I use the scientific method!

          • swordfish

            I’m not using the opinion of the Catholic Church to support evolution, I’m using it to support the idea that the majority of Christians accept evolution, at least outside the USA.

            If you think that anyone using the scientific method should “come to the conclusion that nothing supports Darwinian evolution”, you must have somehow missed 159 years of peer-reviewed research into it. There are tens of thousands of papers, a mountain of fossil evidence direct observational evidence of evolution in nature and in laboratory experiments, and evidence from analysis of DNA.

    • evolution is the deluded gnostic belief in self-creation. It is born out of gnosticism and its denial of God.

      All requires an uncreated, uncontingent Prime Mover. If you deny God, then that means everything down to the smallest atom is their own “god.” This may tickle your capital sin of pride, but it is absurd as causality and contingency totally refute it.

      The sciences were founded by the Church and can only exist within the Church. This foundation is:
      – the earth is not divine
      – all is intelligible

      All can only be intelligible if we have the same creator and same contingency, One cannot study the divine, so knowing who God actually is lets one know that all in creation is not divine.

      Similarly, nothing in creation can explain itself. This necessitates what is above creation.

      you have sinned, you are evil, and you know it to the point of insanity. All you have to do is admit this and you can be healed. Jumping into absurdity will not help you.

      • swordfish

        There’s no point in cut-n-pasting that same delusional nonsense in response to everything you don’t like.

        • Do you have an argument against me?

          • swordfish

            An argument against what? You’re just making a series of baseless, evidence-free claims.

          • Claiming that is not an argument. Answer and address me or cease to waste my time

          • swordfish

            LOL. You responded to me, so you’re wasting my time, and you can’t even be bothered to come up with a proper argument. Come up with some evidence which refutes evolution or go away.

          • I answered you, you dodged and deflected

          • swordfish

            “evolution is the deluded gnostic belief in self-creation”

            Isn’t an argument or evidence against evolution. The rest of your comment is just a failed attempt to prove that God exists. Even if God did exist, that wouldn’t disprove evolution. F-

          • It is a definition. I also wrote far more than that, dear intellectual coward.

          • swordfish

            “evolution is the deluded gnostic belief in self-creation.”

            False. Evolution is a scientific theory which explains how the variety and complexity of living things has developed. It has nothing at all to do with God.

            “All requires an uncreated, uncontingent Prime Mover.”

            Why?

            “If you deny God, then that means everything down to the smallest atom is their own “god.””

            Why?

            “This may tickle your capital sin of pride, but it is absurd as causality and contingency totally refute it.”

            There is no law of causality. We can only infer that it exists. The fact that pride is considered to be a sin only illustrates that Christianity doesn’t want people to think for themselves – I wonder why?

            “The sciences were founded by the Church and can only exist within the Church. This foundation is: the earth is not divine, all is intelligible”

            Did the Church found computer science, fluid dynamics, or evolutionary biology? As for everything being intelligible, if that’s true, what’s wrong with us using the scientific method to try and make sense of this ‘intelligible’ universe, which theories such as evolution?

            “All can only be intelligible if we have the same creator and same contingency,”

            Why would a naturalistic universe not be intelligible?

            “Similarly, nothing in creation can explain itself. This necessitates what is above creation.”

            What do you mean by ‘explain’? How can God be explained in your scenario?

            “you have sinned, you are evil, and you know it to the point of insanity. All you have to do is admit this and you can be healed. Jumping into absurdity will not help you.”

            I’m not evil, and this is just more of your pathetic amateur psychology. Now, please tell me how any of your confused nonsense refutes evolution? BE SPECIFIC. It should only require one piece of evidence.

          • “evolution” as you worship it is the deluded belief in self-creation. It is based on the assumption that you could create yourself if you had a long time and a “gnosis” life-force to personify into your servant.

            Repeating “why” like a 2 year old isn’t an argument.

            All continency must rely on the uncontingent. All causality must rely on the uncreated. Without this you have 2 options:
            1) you have yet to go far back enough to the Prime Mover
            2) you have an infinite regress, which is subhuman nonsense

            So nonsensical to deny this -in fact- that even you see the need for the uncreated, uncontingent Prime Mover. This is why you therefore claim that everything is its own uncreated, uncontingent Prime Mover.

            This is why you claim that God is not necessary, you believe yourself to be a suitable replacement for God as long as you have your “gnosis” life-force bs. This is the capital sin of pride: believing that you have usurped God, and your fallacy of evolution only exists to self-justify that.

            The Church did create all forms of the sciences in their original, rightly ordered forms. That is because the Divine cannot be studied, as the Divine is totally uncreated and uncontingent. Only the Church can justify that the Divine is nowhere in creation. Similarly, since all has the same creator, God is everywhere in creation.

            We call this a paradox.

          • swordfish

            “”evolution” as you worship it is the deluded belief in self-creation. It is based on the assumption that you could create yourself if you had a long time and a “gnosis” life-force to personify into your servant.”

            Where do I even begin to sort out this gibberish?

            1. I don’t “worship” evolution. It’s just a scientific fact that I accept.

            2. Evolution has got nothing to do with self-creation. Just to be clear, I don’t believe I can create myself.

            3. Evolution has got nothing to do with any “life force” – there is no evidence for any such thing.

            “Repeating “why” like a 2 year old isn’t an argument.”

            I know, it’s a question. You asserted something (“All requires an uncreated, uncontingent Prime Mover.”) without providing any evidence or any reasoned argument to support it. I’m not sure if it’s because you think it’s self-evident, or that you really haven’t got a clue what you’re going on about. In any case, I don’t have to provide a reasoned argument in response to a hollow assertion.

            “All continency must rely on the uncontingent. All causality must rely on the uncreated. Without this you have 2 options:
            1) you have yet to go far back enough to the Prime Mover
            2) you have an infinite regress, which is subhuman nonsense”

            There are several other options you haven’t considered. One is that the universe is a self-contained thing which simply exists, in the same way that you (probably) think numbers or logic exist in a Platonic sense. Another is that the universe is a small part of a much larger multiverse which exhausts all possible states of existence, thus removing contingency.

            “you believe yourself to be a suitable replacement for God as long as you have your “gnosis” life-force bs.”

            See above. There is no “life-force”.

          • you do worship it, as it is your bread/butter for self-justifying your gnosticism. That is why it was invented as you use it: to self-justify gnosticism.

            What I am saying is that it is wrong, no matter how convenient you find it for your position.

            you deny and affirm the same thing within the same sentence, a marxist specialty.

            you deny the necessity of God (uncreated, uncontingent Prime Mover) because you assert the only other option that of everything being its own uncreated, uncontingent Prime Mover. Therefore you thought the amateur misdirection would have thrown me off, but you aren’t smart enough to do that as shown by said amateur misdirection.

            So you say everything is its own uncreated, uncontingent Prime Mover, yet causality and contingency exists so you refute yourself.

            you could say that only the “universe” is uncreated and uncontingent, but then you are just asserting the idiotic “life-force” that I already admonished you for. This is also refuted by the universe being a created and contingent thing like yourself.

            you then claim a “multiverse” which is also a contingent and created thing. This one lets you also claim that you are a mere deterministic happening, but yet you can think and have free will which refutes you.

            Just look how hard you have to try to run from your sin, that you have become totally insane and absurd. This will end for you as it ended for neitzche.

          • swordfish

            (I actually had an hysterical laughing fit after reading this most recent effort – thanks for that, if nothing else.)

            “you do worship it, as it is your bread/butter for self-justifying your gnosticism.”

            YOU DO! Playground-level debating skills there, Mr. CRACKPOT.

            “What I am saying is that it is wrong, no matter how convenient you find it for your position.”

            It is wrong – isn’t an argument. Do try and come up with one.

            “you deny the necessity of God because you assert the only other option that of everything being its own uncreated, uncontingent Prime Mover.”

            I actually gave two options, not one, but in any case: where is your evidence or argument that demonstrates that everything needs to be created? This is pure assertion on your part so far.

            “you could say that only the “universe” is uncreated and uncontingent, but then you are just asserting the idiotic “life-force” that I already admonished you for.”

            ‘Admonished’ – LOL, (sorry, having another hysterical laughing fit here) I’ve already said twice that there is no such thing as a “life force” – what part of that don’t you understand?

            “you then claim a “multiverse” which is also a contingent and created thing.”

            If something consists of every logically possible state of existence, it can’t be contingent, and you’ve yet to demonstrate that anything has been created. The only evidence we have is that things exist, not that they were created.

            “This one lets you also claim that you are a mere deterministic happening, but yet you can think and have free will which refutes you.”

            I don’t think there is any such thing as free will.

          • I am well aware of your desperate attempts to deny your sin by denying free will and also causality and contingency. That specific illness you have posted about many times here before.

            you apparently also think denying and then affirming what you just denied is a refutation.

          • swordfish

            So, after all that pompous huffing and puffing, it appears that you haven’t got any argument against evolution after all. How incredibly surprising!

          • I have refuted many times over. your only defense was to fisk and deflect, all while denying anything resembling causality or contingency.

          • swordfish

            You didn’t refute it in any way, you barely even addressed it. In all your replies, you only used the word “evolution” 3 times. Your ‘arguments’ involving contingency and causality were about the creation of the universe, not evolution.

          • I answered you and refuted you. I explained and definined everything you promote without question.

          • swordfish

            I missed your refutation of evolution. Care to repeat it so I can write it up in a paper and win a Nobel prize?

          • Try reading my messages. you seem to think refusing to look makes my message go away. you also seem to think cherry picking sentences makes my message go away,

            I imagine you are just sad and alone, and this is only way to get attention at this point as you clearly have no interest or capability of discussing your own position.

          • swordfish

            Okay, so you resort to insults – surprising! There’s obviously no point in arguing about this further, so you can reply to this in any way you want and I won’t respond.

            It seems to me that you really haven’t got a clue what you’re talking about. As I pointed out, you’ve only used the word “evolution” 3 times, and you haven’t used any terms associated with evolution even once – forget mutation, the fossil record, natural selection, etc, because you’re either not interested in it or don’t understand it. Bye.

          • you never came up with an argument against me

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