Sunday, August 18, 2013

Rom 1 reply 38i: Will atheism overtake "religion" in Jamaica and the wider world, by 2038 - 2041?

I had thought my series in response to Patrick White's July 1 Gleaner article was sufficiently complete, but my attention has now been drawn to a Friday Aug 16th 2013 Gleaner article:

Goodbye, God? Irish Scientist Predicts Atheism Will Overtake Religion In Jamaica

Published: Friday | August 16, 201386 Comments

Martin Baxter, Gleaner Writer
By the year 2041, the majority of Jamaicans will not believe in the existence of God, says one Britain-based scientist who is arguing that the move towards atheism is a global trend.
Dr Nigel Barber says the correlation between development and atheism is significant enough to erode the deeply religious values that underpin the Jamaican society and cited his country of birth as an example of this.
"Ireland - where I spent my childhood - was equally religious but is now the 10th least religious country in the world, according to (pollsters) Gallup Organization. This rapid change may be attributed to very rapid economic growth," he explained.
"Affluence helps people feel more confident about the future so that there is less need for religion to cope with uncertainty and distress. In less-developed countries, people have more to worry about in terms of early death, accidents, violence, and so forth. One way of expressing this is to say that religion provides emotional comfort in the face of a dangerous, uncertain world."
Barber, who is a biopsychologist [--> more precisely, an evolutionary psychologist], based his conclusions on a study of people living in 137 countries, including Jamaica. Those conclusions are published in his book, Why Atheism Will Replace Religion.
"The basic motivation behind religious belief in the remote past was to gain a sense of control over important but uncertain outcomes," he said . . . .
Neil Barber (according to his blurb for his Psychology Today blog) is an Evolutionary Psychologist, who also blogs for the American Liberal political site, Huffington Post. He has recently published a book, Why Atheism Will Replace Religion, and the Amazon book description explains:
Why Atheism Will Replace Religion sees organized religion as a dodo. Religion evolved to help our ancestors cope with anxiety and insecurity. Supernatural belief is in decline everywhere that ordinary people enjoy a decent standard of living and are secure in their health and finances. The market for formal religion is also being squeezed by modern substitutes such as sports and entertainment. Even Facebook is killing religion because it provides answers for peculiarly modern narcissistic anxieties for which religion has no answer.

This book focuses on the emotional benefits of religion that favored its evolution amongst hunter gatherers. It links the cause of religion’s emergence with the reason for its terminal decline.
Immediately, we see several red flags: "religion" is a dangerously all-inclusive category that implies what is explicit in the book description -- religion "evolved" as an emotional crutch for our anxious and unsettled remote ancestors, and will fade away as people get comfortable. In short, the one thing that has not crossed the radar screen is any notion of the possibility that God is real, is the necessary being at the root of reality, and is the moral governor who speaks to us by conscience and authenticated scripture alike, who we can know is real and who we can form a living relationship with.
 That is, several major worldview grounding questions have been quietly begged here.

But, with the shiny aura of science and the authority of the academy to back it up, evolutionary materialist scientism in the guise of evolutionary psychology, can come across as very impressive.
Before specifically responding, let us as usual outline and link where we have been so far:
1: Exposed and rebutted the agenda of willful defiance of God, his creation order for sexuality and consequential sound principles of morality under false colours of law and "rights."

2: Corrected the misleading historical myth that Christian sexual ethics are part of an inevitably losing war of irrational religion against science and reason.

3: Addressed the issue of grounding ethics and morality in the teeth of the rise of evolutionary materialist scientism, which cloaks atheism and amorality in the lab coat, demanding genuflection.

4: Raised the question that the gospel naturally leads to reformation of lives, communities and nations.

5: Rebutted the "right wing Christofascist, theocratic tyrants" talking point.

6: Provided some pointers on building capacity for reformation.

7: Addressed the attempt to strawmannise and knock over the empirical evidence in our natural world that points to design as a pivotal cause of the observable universe and the world of life, including ourselves.

8: Addressed the attempt to undermine the credibility of the Bible based on assertions by minimalist archaeologists such as Israel Finkelstein et al.

9: Of origins, rights and creation-order rooted morality vs the inescapable IS-OUGHT gap of evolutionary materialist scientism and secular humanism
 Next, to take the shine off the ball, let's look at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, noting its brief outline of the school of thought and its comment on its controversial nature:
What distinguishes evolutionary psychologists from many cognitive psychologists is the proposal that the relevant internal mechanisms are adaptations—products of natural selection—that helped our ancestors get around the world, survive and reproduce . . .  There is a broad consensus among philosophers of science that evolutionary psychology is a deeply flawed enterprise . . . [Cf, a remark on Nagel's recent critique and responses to it, here.]
Why would that be so, and what relevance does this have to the prediction Dr Barber is making?

A lot.
Now, let us see how Tooby and Cosmides summarise the human brain/mind from an Evolutionary Psychology perspective:
  1. The brain is a computer designed by natural selection to extract information from the environment.
  2. Individual human behavior is generated by this evolved computer in response to information it extracts from the environment. Understanding behavior requires articulating the cognitive programs that generate the behavior.
  3. The cognitive programs of the human brain are adaptations. They exist because they produced behavior in our ancestors that enabled them to survive and reproduce.
  4. The cognitive programs of the human brain may not be adaptive now; they were adaptive in ancestral environments . . . [Tooby, J. and L. Cosmides, 2005, “Conceptual Foundations of Evolutionary Psychology”, in The Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology, D. Buss (ed.), Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, pp. 5–67.]
See the self-referential, self-undermining argument?
Tooby and Cosmides et al are themselves using these programs that allegedly delivered that widespread delusion that is dismissively termed religion. 
 But that would mean that we have a deep rooted globally widespread problem of malfunctioning programs in our brains and central nervous systems. Worse, the programs were designed -- or, more accurately are assumed to have been designed (Q: has anyone ever seen a significant computer program and its execution machinery designed, developed and delivered by a blind, unintelligent process? ANS: Nope) -- by a blind mechanism that is about chance variations giving rise to reproductive advantages. Where, that has nothing inherently to do with truth, reason, accuracy of knowledge or right.
That is, we are back in the same general sort of self referential incoherence typified by Sir Francis Crick when he wrote as follows in his 1994 The Astonishing Hypothesis:
 . . . that "You", your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. As Lewis Carroll's Alice might have phrased: "You're nothing but a pack of neurons." This hypothesis is so alien to the ideas of most people today that it can truly be called astonishing.
 Philip Johnson has aptly replied that Sir Francis should have therefore been willing to preface his works thusly: "I, Francis Crick, my opinions and my science, and even the thoughts expressed in this book, consist of nothing more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules."  Johnson then acidly commented:  “[[t]he plausibility of materialistic determinism requires that an implicit exception be made for the theorist.” [[Reason in the Balance, 1995.]
 In short, it is at least arguable that self-referential absurdity is the dagger pointing to the heart of all evolutionary materialistic models of mind and its origin; whether they are as naked as Crick's claim, or whether they speak in terms of emergence or programs incrementally written by blind chance and mechanical necessity. (Cf. more details here.)
 In effect, we are right back at the ideological materialism dressed up in a lab coat discussed by Lewontin in a well-known 1997 NYRB article, which he presents as the view of the late Carl Sagan and "all but a few other scientists":
. . .   the problem is to get [the general public] to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the world, the demons that exist only in their imaginations, and to accept a social and intellectual apparatus, Science, as the only begetter of truth [[--> NB: this is a knowledge claim about knowledge and its possible sources, i.e. it is a claim in philosophy not science; it is thus self-refuting]. . . .
It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes [[--> another major begging of the question . . . ] to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute [[--> i.e. here we see the fallacious, indoctrinated, ideological, closed mind . . . ], for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.  [From: “Billions and Billions of Demons,” NYRB, January 9, 1997. Bold emphasis and notes added. If you imagine that this has been quote-mined and distorted into a caricature, I suggest you cf the fuller cite and notes here.]
In short, we are here dealing with a deeply rooted, institutionally dominant ideology of evolutionary materialist secular humanism and scientism, duly dressed up in the prestigious lab coat. 
On such terms, of course, there is no question of a pre-scientific delusion such as "religion" having in it even a shadow of truth. Indeed, one point of science education would be to drive such to the fringes. And of course, because science is presented as "the only begetter of truth," the inherent limitations, and absurdities of an evolutionary materialist ideology dressed up in the lab coat will not be critically examined.
Where, immediately, we can see that a major unaccounted for factor in Dr Barber's argument is precisely the effect of immersion in and blatant indoctrination by an education system and media culture increasingly dominated by evolutionary materialism, scientism and dismissive open or veiled hostility to our civilisation's Judaeo-Christian heritage.
 Yes indeed, many are seduced by the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches to take little or no account of the state of their souls. Even more are led to exclude God from what they will acknowledge as knowledge, and will be indoctrinated into indifference or hostility.
But that has little or nothing to do with whether or not God is real, or what we should do with Jesus of Nazareth:

So, we come back full circle: there is a desperate need for effective, balancing education and for a powerful, easily accessible response to the blandishments of evolutionary materialist secular humanism and scientism.

So, will we be serious, or will we face the same old second generation apostasy problem that was first noted in the days after Joshua:
Judges 2:And the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work that the Lord had done for Israel. And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of 110 years. And they buried him within the boundaries of his inheritance in Timnath-heres, in the hill country of Ephraim, north of the mountain of Gaash. 10 And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel. [ESV]
Dr Barber has certainly documented that unchecked evolutionary materialist secular humanist scientism can sweep a region into apostasy in a generation. We have reason to see how that can happen, and to see that it is vital to take a stout and steadfast stand now.
So, we are back to the Mordecai question: why not now, why not here, why not us? END