Thursday, July 28, 2016

Belief in God explained by Genetics?

(Adapted almost wholesale from John C Wrights blog)

...A friend argues that all religious belief and non belief could be explained and had to be explained through genetics. He stated that some people just had that religious inkling ingrained in them purely through genetics and others did not.

Any glaring or subtle flaws can be found in his process of reasoning?

Ironically, in asking his question this points out the very flaws in the argument that genetic predispositions, not facts, evidence, experience or reasoning, explains why men come to the conclusions they reach.

Listed in order logical links involved. The genetic fallacy is a specific type of ad hominem, where an assertion is made that a man’s origins, genes, astrological influences, upbringing, culture determine his conclusions and therefore the conclusion may be dismissed without being addressed.

All postmodern, leftwing... logic is an attempt to evade, elude, flee and cower from any arguments without addressing any points actually raised.

The utility of the genetic fallacy is that it makes no sense whatsoever, hence it can be used for all circumstances. One can say, ‘You are a man, and men commit most violent crimes, and therefore cannot be objective about the question of capital punishment’ with just as much ease one can say, ‘you are a women, and women commit few violent crimes, and therefore you cannot be objective about the question of capital punishment.’ It does not matter what term is substituted for ‘man’ or ‘woman’ or what topic is substituted for ‘capital punishment.’

In this case, there is just as much evidence, namely zero, and it would be just as irrelevant if any evidence did exist, which it does not, to say that theism is explained by genetics as to say belief in capital punishment is explained by genetics.

Here are the problems.

1) First, if your friend has a genetic predisposition to disbelieve in God, then  his disbelief is not based on reality, not based on evidence, it is merely a  chemical in his bloodstream effecting his thought. By that logic, no evidence  on this topic or any other is trustworthy.
He saws off the branch on which he is sitting. If beliefs are genetic, no  belief is based on evidence, not even the belief that beliefs are genetic. If  your friend truly believed beliefs were genetic, he would never argue about  it. You cannot argue a man into changing his genes.

2) Second, believers lose their faith and atheists convert every day of every  week of the year. Hence, the genetic predisposition for faith does not  actually control anything.
This is a classic example of a simple logical  fallacy of irrelevance. If you say the sunrise causes the rooster crow, or you say the  rooster crow causes the sunrise, both arguments are made nonsense once you see  sunrises without roosters calls and hear rooster calls without sunsets.

3) Third, Darwinian evolution presupposes that there is a variation with the  species, and that the trait is carried on genetically. In this case, there is  no variation: there is no race of man that lacks religious belief.

And, if the most successful race of man is the one with the religious belief,  then Darwinian logic says your friend is lowering his survival chances and the  survival chance of his posterity by embracing any other belief. If belief in  God is a genetic survival trait, disbelief is anti-survival.

4) Fourth, if belief were genetic, then whatever race of man had the trait, let  us say the Jews, would be entirely immune to religious belief, and another  race, let us say the Chinese, would be entirely vulnerable to religious  belief. Does this fit any observed facts?
Likewise, if belief were genetic, it should run in certain families and be  absent in others. Does this match with even a casual observation of the world  around him?

5) Fifth, you can tell him that the belief that Darwinian genetics can explain  human thought is a belief caused by a defective gene he inherited from his  ancestor, like colorblindness.

Tell him that, due to an unfortunate combination of genes, he is unable to  perceive the spiritual reality and moral reality all healthy minded humans  from the dawn of time have felt. Ask him to propose an argument against this position. Then, whatever argument  he uses, adopt it yourself to show that belief in God is not genetic.

6) Sixth, ask him whether or not real scientific theories can be disproved? For  example, Relativity would be disproved if light was measured to travel at  different speeds based on the speed of the observer. Newton would be disproved  if two objects dropping in a vacuum were pulled by gravity at different rates  of acceleration. Whereas a witchdoctor who does a rain dance, when the rain  does not come, merely assumes that more dancing in a better spirit is needed,  and he keeps dancing until eventually it rains. His theory of causes and  effects cannot be disproved, hence it is witchdoctory, not science.

Ask your friend to provide you with an experiment or observation that would  disprove his theory of the genetic basis of religious belief.

7) Seventh, if religion were proved to have a genetic basis, it has no bearing on  whether the issue is true or false. Colorbindness is genetic. Just because  some people can see colors and others cannot does not mean that all visible  light is of the same wavelength. The genes controlling the function of the eye  do not make light exist or cease to exist. Likewise, here. If some people are  genetically predisposed to see ghosts, or see whales, it does not mean that  one is real and the other is not real. There is no logical connection between  the assumption and the conclusion at all.

8) Eighth, if the genetic predisposition for religion did exist, how would it be  different from, for example, a genetic predisposition for a skill at math, or  an ear for music? Some people think more clearly than others about  metaphysical matters, and some people are better at math or composing operas  than others. Sometimes musical skill seems to run in a family, like the Bach  family. Other times it does not. Again, even if it were proved that an ability  to perceive spiritual reality were genetic, it would say nothing about the  reality of what was being perceived. It would not prove the perception were  accurate, nor would it prove the perception were inaccurate.

9) Ninth, ask him how precisely his belief that some men are prone to religion  due to genetics differs from the belief in astrology? I have heard that Libras  are all religious, due to being born in October. Is there even one observation  or experiment your friend can name which makes his theory more sound than the  theory of an astrologer?

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