Paul Bloom has an article titled "Is God an Accident?" in the December
2005 issue of The Atlantic Monthly. You can read a tiny bit of it here.
The underlying thesis is (from Bloom's Yale Faculty web page): "that adults are natural dualists--we see the world as Descartes did, as containing physical things (or bodies) and social entities (or souls)." This is of course useful in one sense: it got us here, evolution-wise. But it also means:
… We have what the anthropologist Pascal Boyer has called a hypertrophy of social cognition. We see purpose, intention, design, even when it is not there.
Bloom uses this to explain the wide belief in supernatural beings across history and culture. Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek points out that the insight applies more broadly; to give you a hint, his article is entitled "Are Humans Genetically Disposed to Pray to the State?"
Bloom also inspired Arnold Kling to make similar generalizations in an essay at Tech Central Station.
… I am going to suggest that the same artifact that explains why people are instinctively anti-Darwin explains why they are instinctively anti-economic.
… and he does.
Finally, a more skeptical take on the Bloom thesis from Jonah Goldberg at Town Hall is also worth reading.
Scientists often fall into a fallacious tendency, after studying and describing something according to the methods of their discipline, to believe that their appraisal of it is somehow more real than the thing itself.
All good, thought-provoking stuff. But as of now, the Bloom article itself doesn't seem to be available for free on line.
- In case you didn't know, Michael Newdow is the litigious guy trying to get references to God expunged from currency, coin, and the Pledge of Allegiance. The Angry Clam at Patterico's Pontifications has a brief Newdow-related posting that's impossible to summarize, but very funny. Go read.
- And Bob Lonsberry (who, unlike the anthropologist Pascal Boyer, probably would not use the phrase "hypertrophy of social cognition" in his everyday writing) speaks out on guys who, um, sit, when they, um, should, well … stand.