Saturday, March 9, 2013

An argument from the hiddenness of God against naturalistic evolution

As a number of authors have pointed out, there is good reason to think that evolutionary processes would instill in us a belief in a judge who can see what we do in secret, as a way of motivating our cooperation with one another. But if so, then why isn't belief in such a judge more universal than it is? Why is it possible for us to rid ourselves of that belief?

I don't really mean this as much of a serious argument against naturalistic evolution. But I do want to point out that the problem of divine hiddenness might not be a problem only for theists.


ah25 said...

Seems reasonable. We can also ask the opposite question with similar results: why do people feel guilty about things that are unqualified evolutionary benefits to them and their group (i.e. killing a dangerous/edible animal, removing a natural but historically or aesthetically valueless landscape feature), if our moral instincts are the product of natural selection alone?

Derrick said...

It doesn't strike me as that big of a problem for the naturalist. Unguided evolution doesn't necessarily produce ideal states of affairs, just states of affairs that give specific populations traits that benefit them enough to out compete competitor populations. That this beneficial belief isn't as widely held as it could be to maximize it's benefits doesn't seem especially problematic. Or am I missing something?

ah25 said...

It's not so much a problem for the naturalist per se as it is a problem for the naturalist claiming it as evidence for naturalism over theism via a best-explanation argument. Natural selection doesn't imply perfect population traits and theism doesn't imply perfect ethical traits (many versions imply the opposite), but the reality is quite consistent with either view, making it ill-suited to choose between them.

Alexander R Pruss said...

No, it's not a big problem for the naturalist. But it is a little surprising that it be this easy to get rid of a belief that allegedly has such significant evolutionary benefits.

Dagmara Lizlovs said...


It's not really that surprising that we can get rid of a belief in an ultimate judge. It is called free will. It is easy to get rid of this idea of an ultimate judge through several avenues:

1. Even though we say we believe in God and go to church on Sundays, we actually live as though God doesn't exist. This is what I have heard being referred to as a "practical atheism".

2. The idealism of "I am spiritual, but not religious." In this case "but" really cancels out all the words that come before it.

3. A dominant materialistic science/secularist-humanist culture that has pushed 99.9% of the supernatural/spiritual to the sidelines.

4. A very careless, sloppy, currently very popular view of a "Higher Power" that's all loving and doesn't really do too much "judging" if at all. If you tell a person who has this spiritual view, that God is also the Judge, you'll often recieve the reply "God isn't mean."

5. A syncretism of beliefs and practices from non-Christian religions into our culture and churches.

6. Self-centered worldview/"rugged individualism"/"If it feels good, do it."

7. An overall current social sensibility that believing in archaic things like an Ultimate Judge is ridiculous.

It is these 7 things acting together that make it easy to not have a belief in a judge who can see what we do in secret.

Alexander R Pruss said...

It's not surprising given a nonnaturalist view of human beings as having quite a lot of freedom. But given naturalism, it might be a bit surprising.

Dagmara Lizlovs said...

To address the "naturalist" aspects about whether or not an evolutionary process would instill in us a belief in a judge who can see what we do in secret, we need to ask ourselves do other species have some sense of justice, that is species lower than ourselves evolution wise. This is difficult for they can not talk like we do. However, relying on my experience with horses, cats and dogs. I can say that the animals do have an elementary sense of what is "fair". Here are some articles:

So in someway there is a hardwired basic moral order. Does it translate into an evolutionary process that instills a belief in a Universal Judge? I'd say yes. Even if people are atheists, they still retain a sense of "fair" and "just". It is possible to condition a hardwired brain to act in opposition to instinct. This is done when training a horse to carry a rider. This is a prey animal conditioned to accept a predator (human - our cave ancestors hunted horses) on its back. Horses (ordinarily inclined to run from danger) have been conditioned to participate in war. Operant conditioning can be done extensively in humans. The einsatzgruppen of Nazi Germany and the Cheka of Stalin both come to mine here. It was through ideology and operant conditioning that the natural moral hardwiring was either shorted out, or rather redirected. I don't think this moral hardwiring can be erased. I think it can be redirected though through operant conditioning as this article points out:

And Milgram's experiments also points this out: