Anomalies From the Rooftop

Theology from Anomalies. One story a day from the world of Christianity that is just a little off-beat. Sometimes, in shouting the good news from the rooftop, Christians do some strange things.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Are We Programmed to See God?

The lead article in the Religion section of this weekend's Dallas Morning News reported on a recent scientific study that indicates people act better if they feel, even only subconsciously, that they are being watched. The premise of the article is that the major world religious we have today were successful because they were the most effective at getting people to feel as though they were being watched by a supernatural power. As Dan Fessler, an evolutionary anthropologist at UCLA put it succinctly (if slightly obtusely), the basic thesis is "that belief in supernatural beings is a side-effect of evolved agent-detector mechanisms."

The author, Jeffrey Weiss of the Dallas Morning News, noted correctly that
"a rabbi or priest might say it's because we're created in God's image." Several paragraphs after this statement, he sums up the scientific view: "our ancestors' brains may have been biologically inclined to believe in the supernatural."

I am still not clear what contrast he thinks he is drawing here. For any Christian who is inclined to accept any degree of evolutionary theory, those two statements--one by religious people, one by scientists, are really just two ways of saying the same thing. I wish I could understand what distinction Mr. Weiss thought he was making, but when I think about what it means to be created in God's image, I just assume there are biological implications. Maybe this is something that Christians need to do a better job of explaining in their discussion with the secular world about the imageo Dei. We need not be afraid of biology.


Blogger Jay said...

"when I think about what it means to be created in God's image, I just assume there are biological implications"

I'm glad to see that somebody understands it! I'm a Christian and a biology grad student interested in evolution and ecology. I agree with your reading and puzzlement of the article.

10:34 AM  
Blogger VK said...

jay...Thanks for the comment. Seems like maybe I should read Finding Darwin's God. I hope school is going well. Though I agree that Christianity and evolution are compatible, I imagine that being in that course of study could be hard at times, since people on both sides disagree.

11:09 AM  

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