Monday, November 6, 2017

Projection and the imago Dei

There is some pleasing initial symmetry between how a theist (or at least Jew, Christian or Muslim) can explain features of human nature by invoking the doctrine that we are in the image of God and using this explanatory schema:

  1. Humans are (actually, normally or ideally) F because God is actually F

and how an atheist can explain features attributed to God by projection:

  1. The concept of God includes being actually F because humans are (actually, normally or ideally) F.

Note, however, that while schemata (1) and (2) are formally on par, schema (1) has the advantage that it has a broader explanatory scope than (2) does. Schema (1) explains a number of features (whether actual or normative) of the nature of all human beings, while schema (2) only explains a number of features of the thinking of a modest majority (the 55% who are monotheists) of human beings.

There is also another interesting asymmetry between (1) and (2). Theist can without any damage to their intellectual system embrace both (1) and a number of the instances of (2) that the atheist embraces, since given the imago Dei doctrine, projection of normative or ideal human features onto God can be expected to track truth with some probability. On the other hand, the atheist cannot embrace any instances of (1).

Note, too, that evolutionary explanations do not undercut (1), since there can be multiple correct explanations of one phenomenon. (This phenomenon is known to people working on Bayesian inference.)

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