Hardwired to believe in God

Interesting article in today’s (7 Sept.) Daily Telegraph.


Read and comment.

I think I’ve found an answer to this question by Dr William Lane Craig:


The Genetic fallacy tries to discredit a belief by showing how it originated. For example if someone tries to discredit your belief in democracy by saying that You only believe in democracy because you were raised in a democratic society, even if that is true, that does nothing to show that your belief in democracy is either false or unjustified.

This a common fallacy that atheists make i.e. People are Religious because they feel better and that is why they believe in God, or alternatively it is because of the human concept of causality that leads them to believe in God or in may in fact be hardwired into their brain.

The problem with this sort of argument is that if you say belief in God is contingent or caused in this way therefore that belief is false, you commit an elementary logical fallacy, known to every intro to philosophy student called the Genetic Fallacy. The Genetic Fallacy is trying to invalidate a point of view by showing how that view originated. And the fact that beliefs arise by through peoples wanting to feel better, perhaps through causality, or perhaps being hardwired in the brain does NOTHING to prove that those beliefs are false, which is what you must prove if you want to show God is a delusion.

For example it has been shown by child psychologists that children have hardwired into them the belief that when an object they se disappears behind a screen and then reappears they believe that the object continues to exist when it goes out of sight. It doesn’t disappear from being and then pop back into being. This is a hardwired belief in children and yet I don’t think anyone would say that belief is false. Now the fact is is that some child psychology studies do indicate that children have a an instinctive belief in God, and I’m inclined to view this as God’s provision. Now a skeptic like Dr Wolpert thinks that this a delusion. But then if he is to justify his view he has to show an argument that the belief is false, otherwise he’s committing the Genetic Fallacy. So, the argument should be not how Religious beliefs originated, but are those beliefs true or false.

Michael Murray who works on evolutionary accounts of religious beliefs says, ‘‘These accounts merely aim to explain the origin of religious beliefs, and as we all learned in our intro to philosophy courses, an account of a beliefs origins tells us NOTHING about its truth, to think otherwise is to commit the notorious GENETIC FALLACY, nothing we say or discover about the origins of our religious beliefs is going to make any difference to our assessment of the truth of your beliefs.’’

Video of Dr Craig: youtube.com/watch?v=c0zD0bQbkwE

Is this scientist in the Original posted article committing the Genetic Fallacy?


Interesting article.

I got the impression from the article in the Telegraph that they were trying to avoid this fallacy. However, this is my impression and since my wiring has gone through a few permutations over the decades…

There are activities and events that release dopamine, serotonin and endorphins among other brain chemicals which make us feel good. Other activities make use of these receptors to produce a false sense of well-being, e.g. various recreational drugs.

If art, music, and faith release brain chemicals that re-enforce feelings of well being and that these are shown to be “hardwired” by whatever process we became human; it stands to reason that this is no accident and that we are created to respond to truth and beauty with thankfulness.

Gratia Deo!

I have more questions:

  1. Even if God is hardwired into the brain, how does that make the belief false?

  2. If God is hardwired into the brain, why are there atheists?

I have heard of children who from a very young age have no belief in God!

Excellent question and a good response from William Lane Craig.

Catholic theology is consistent with the idea that God created humans with a natural belief in Him – since He is our creator, we share his being and design.

This item does not answer “why are humans hardwired that way”? Supposedly, by trial and error through accidental mutations we all developed belief in God? How did nature create this being that we believe in, if He doesn’t exist? Where is the physical substance that is this “collective imagination” located? What is it made out of?

God constantly tells us throughout salvation history that He wants His law written not on stone tablets but in our hearts. Atheists and skeptics will likely see this and claim that belief in God is just a biological instinct of some kind – but I see it as God wanting His law dwelling in our hearts so much that He wrote it into the very fabric of our bodies, our DNA!

My thoughts exactly! From the Catechism:

[quote=Catechism of the Catholic Church]27 The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself.

Since we were made in the image and likeness of God, it only makes sense that we would be “hardwired” to desire Him.

You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You. – Saint Augustine (Confessions 1.1.1)

Maybe we should modernize that translation based on this study to, “You have hardwired us for Yourself, and our brains are restless until they rest in You.”:smiley:

Atheists are proof of God’s Existence, and furthermore they are proof of God being hardwired into our brains.

Every atheist I have met is extremely concerned with this God. This God that they can’t seem to shake out of their heads. I mean they constantly bring this subject up, sort of like, well sort of like God is hardwired in their brains, and it gives them a problem.

In the same way my foot always gives me problems. Just because my foot gives me a problem, this is not proof that my foot does not exist. Furthermore one cannot deny that my foot is hardwired to my brain.

My thoughts are: “Well of course we’re hardwired to believe in God, He created us to worship Him. Atheists aren’t just going against God but their own biology as well.”

I’ll second this. I remember being 3 or 4 years old, and arguing with my best friend because he was talking about some God person, and for the life of me I couldn’t understand what he was going on about or why I should believe him.

My parents never told me there was or wasn’t a God, the subject just never came up. We celebrated Hanukkah and Christmas, but purely as cultural celebrations, not religious, and at that age I had no interest in the why, I was just happy with the food and presents. My natural belief structure had no place for a God.

That being said, I don’t doubt that there are plenty of people, perhaps even the majority, who are hardwired to believe in a higher power of some kind, and have that general desire directed by their parents toward a particular belief structure.

One thing that makes a difference is how old you are and what kind of life-experiences you’ve had. If you’ve never taken a good amount of time to meditate about your own death, for example, and your relationship to those you love (or if you love anyone) and what the term “moral responsiblity” means (responsible to what or whom?) … then it’s difficult to understand the meaning or need for a higher power.

Usually, a younger person (teens or perhaps twenties) doesn’t think about their own death very much. But it’s a very strange thing that people do not think about the inevitability of death and what it really means. They live as if they have some meaning in life – but their life is just passing by in a succession of events.

Then again, for many their foot is hardwired into their mouth. :smiley:

Paul Bettany, who plays Charles Darwin in that new film Creation which is coming out soon said in a recent interview:

*’‘I’m of the opinion that God is part of evolution, and that religion moved us all from nomadic lifestyles to living in small communities and gave people rules to live by. That’s my opinion, and I have no problem with somebody who has a different opinion. But please, don’t get furious with me. And if you’re a Christian getting furious with me, then please forgive me, because that’s one of the main tenets of your religion.’’

*Read more: dailymail.co.uk/home/moslive/article-1212496/American-evolution-The-recreation-Paul-Bettany.html#ixzz0RBhsRRZE

But even if God is part of evolution, how does that make the belief in GOD false/not true?

I’d propose that our brains are hard wired to understand the world around us and that need to understand leads people to God or not depending on what they accept to be true.

If a group of people were somehow isolated since birth somewhere on this planet and survived somehow they’d probably go about trying to figure things out. More than likely they’d come up with the idea of some supernatural being(s) just as our ancestors did. The chances of them “discovering” the traditional abrahamic god that most people here believe in is virtually non-existant since they would have no concept of it and have never had the stories drilled into their heads. So hard wired to believe in God? Not likely, hard wired to try to come up with a reason for why things are they way they are? Probably.

If there is no God, what evolutionary purpose could a belief in God serve?

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.