Does this piece of news correspond to
the findings of the studies?
Belief in God is part of human nature - The Telegraph
Religious belief is human nature, huge new study claims - CNN
All correspond to the findings of a press release...
Humans 'predisposed' to believe in gods and the afterlife - University of Oxford
...and to any interviews given by the two academics from Oxford University that led the studies.
Are the studies scientific or are they
The Cognition, Religion, and Theology Project
Funding source: John Templeton Foundation
Grant Amount: $3,876,247
Start Date: October 2007
Our Philosophy Grantmaking
The division of labor and increasing
specialization in most fields mean
that some of the most interesting,
difficult, and profound questions do
not get addressed. We try to give
great minds the space and resources to
stretch their imaginations. We want to
work with contrarians, with
intellectual entrepreneurs. -
The overarching goal of the project is
to support scientific research that
promises to yield new evidence
regarding how the structures of human
minds inform and constrain religious
expression. The project will conduct
research on the cognitive
underpinnings of religious concepts
and practices – for example, ideas
about gods and spirits, the afterlife,
spirit possession, prayer, ritual,
religious expertise, and connections
between religious thought and morality
and pro-social behavior. - source
Cognitive Science of Religion (CSR)
...CSR’s ability to bridge the gap
between strictly evolutionary or
biological treatments of religion and
strictly social approaches. Evidently,
however, the issues addressed by this
field are gaining momentum in the
public sphere in part because of the
anti-religious rhetoric that has come
to parasitize the field. We aim to
harness this momentum and attention to
maximize the scientific potential of
CSR, and to engage theological and
philosophical perspectives in a
potentially mutually productive,
instead of antagonistic, manner,
pursuing truth wherever the evidence
leads. - Project website
Main findings of the Cognition, Religion and Theology Project
Studies by Emily Reed Burdett
and Justin Barrett...press release text.
Deborah Kelemen from Boston
University finds...press release text.
adults...press release text.
The Cognition, Religion and Theology Project's interpretation of the main findings
From the press release...
The studies (both analytical and
empirical) conclude that humans are
predisposed to believe in gods and an
afterlife, and that both theology and
atheism are reasoned responses to what
is a basic impulse of the human mind.
‘This project does not set out to
prove god or gods exist. Just because
we find it easier to think in a
particular way does not mean that it
is true in fact. If we look at why
religious beliefs and practices
persist in societies across the world,
we conclude that individuals bound by
religious ties might be more likely to
cooperate as societies. Interestingly,
we found that religion is less likely
to thrive in populations living in
cities in developed nations where
there is already a strong social
- Project Director Justin Barrett, Ph.D.
‘This project suggests that religion
is not just something for a peculiar
few to do on Sundays instead of
playing golf. We have gathered a body
of evidence that suggests that
religion is a common fact of human
nature across different societies.
This suggests that attempts to
suppress religion are likely to be
short-lived as human thought seems to
be rooted to religious concepts, such
as the existence of supernatural
agents or gods, and the possibility of
an afterlife or pre-life.’
Co-Director Professor Roger Trigg
The science does not support the conclusion.
Given Dr. Barrett knows he is...
...an observant Christian who
believes in “an all-knowing,
all-powerful, perfectly good God who
brought the universe into being,” as
he wrote in an e-mail message. “I
believe that the purpose for people is
to love God and love each other.” -
He must also know this increases the chances his research could be skewed by
These intriguing findings would
certainly be strengthened by
replications with additional stimuli
sets, alternative methods, and with
different cultural populations. As
they stand, they suggest one possible
cognitive reason for the culturally
widespread existence of religious
beliefs in deities that either order
or create the natural world: such
ideas resonate with an early
developing and persistent intuition
natural world looks
designer (or designers) fits with our
intuitions. - Barrett
There is also the problem of
We are moral realists. Gods, by virtue
of having access to the facts of any
matter, also know the moral facts of
the matter, and (perhaps not
surprisingly) tend to see things the
way we do. Theists, then, can glibly
accept moral realism. Not so for the
atheist. Atheists may have
approximately the same moral
intuitions and behave just as morally
as theists, but have some intellectual
work to do that the theist has managed
to avoid by relying on the authority
of the gods. Atheists have this extra
work to do in the moral domain, but
that does not mean that it cannot be
done. - Barrett
And good old fashioned
Refusing to accept that, in principle,
science could ever allow space for
non-material, even theistic,
explanations demands philosophical
argument, not an assertion of the
supremacy of science. The obscurantist
refusal to allow the theory of
Intelligent Design to be even
discussed in a scientific context can
only be the product of a
deeply-ingrained materialism, even
- The Religious Roots of Science, Roger Trigg.
The Bottom Line...
The Essence of the Skeptical Position*. (edited for brevity)
- Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence.
- The burden of proof lies with the claimant.
- The claim stands or falls on the quality of the evidence the proponent
- To be taken seriously, claims must be testable, at least in principle.
- Claims must be falsifiable.
- The evidence must be public and accessible to all competent critics.
- Science is a public activity based on trust.
Failed on all counts.
*Distinguishing Science from Pseudoscience, Beyerstein
Journal of Cognition and Culture, ED: E. Lawson and Pascal Boyer. Book editor: Justin L. Barrett.
Cognitive science gaining ground in U.S. academic religion studies