The Darwinian Universe

Isn't there room for God?


Religious skeptics and critics of theology are increasingly turning to Charles Darwin. Freud and Marx have lost much of their former luster, and the remaining disciples of Nietzsche, Sartre, or Derrida are not interested in getting the seal of science anyway. But for those who still think that science is both authoritative and essentially ruinous to religion, Darwin has become more compelling than ever. A sensational example of this Darwinian turn is a new book by anthropologist Pascal Boyer immodestly titled Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought (Basic Books, 2001). Similar in tenor to Daniel Dennett’s materialist manifesto Consciousness Explained (Little Brown, 1992), Boyer’s book attempts to give a completely naturalistic-and for him this means Darwinian-account of religion. Not only does Boyer believe that we can dispense completely with ideas of God, revelation, and the sacred when trying to explain why people are religious, we can now also see that even cultural causes are secondary to biological factors in the genesis of our long affair with the gods. A convert to the ideas of evolutionary psychology, itself a derivative of sociobiology, Boyer judges the puzzling persistence of religion to be the consequence of natural selection designing brains that allowed our Pleistocene ancestors to adapt to a world of predators. A brain molded by evolution to be on the constant lookout for...

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About the Author

John F. Haught, author of God after Evolution and many other books, is a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center, Georgetown University.