Identify one event or other phenomenon in the news or from your professional experience or civic engagement. Explain briefly (in about 250 words) how it illustrates or calls into question one of the key concepts from the reading. Be sure to explain the concept clearly as you are illustrating or criticizing it. I prefer if you would research and write something recent in the news.
The reading text are as follows:
Read McGrath, Chapters 22-24
Read Instructor Notes
McGrath, Alister. E. (2010) Science and Religion: A New Introduction. 2nd Edition. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-1-4051-8791-6
Recent years have witnessed the application of the Darwinian paradigm that we discussed in an earlier module to problems other than the origin of the species. Among other things, sociobiologists such as Edward O. Wilson have argued that altruistic behavior is, in fact, an evolutionary product, in that it offers communities advantages which outweigh its costs. A parent, for example, might forgo food so a child can eat. At the level of the genes, however, it appears quite ‘selfish’ in that the food would have it ensured their survival.
Evolutionary psychologists have suggested a similar origin for religious ideas. Some, such as David Sloan Wison, have suggested that religion confers a direct evolutionary advantage of some kind. Others, such as Stephen Jay Gould, have argued that religion is a by-product of genetic changes which conferred other advantages in the struggle for survival.
The Psychology of Religion
The psychology of religion is characterized by a number of competing perspectives. William James focused on analyzing the nature of religious experience. He concluded that such experiences are ineffable, defying expression; noetic, conferring insight into profound truths; transient, meaning that they cannot be sustained over long periods; and passive, so that if initiated by voluntary exaction, the person having the experience feels acted upon from the outside.
Sigmund Freud takes a much more negative approach to understanding religion, attributing it to excessive repression of underlying erotic and aggressive drives, so that it becomes for him, essentially, a neurosis. Freud’s pupil Carl Jung countered that religion, even if it is a projection of human images and desires, is not abnormal but an integral part of the collective unconscious shared by all human beings. Other approaches, such as transpersonal psychology, have gone even further in seeking a nonreductive approach to religious experience.
In recent years, a new discipline has emerged that studies religious ideas as arising through, rather than as a departure from, ordinary human reasoning. Particular attention has been focused on what Stewart Guthrie calls our ‘Agency Detection Device’ Our brains, he argued, evolved to respond to a dangerous environment to which they have fragmentary information at best. As a result, we developed a somewhat ‘hyperactive’ tendency to detect actors in that environment, including those which are supernatural in nature, even when the evidence to support their existence is minimal at best. Some theologians have responded to this suggestion by arguing that far from undercutting religion, cognitive science simply describes in a new way the quest for meaning which they have argued is at the heart of human nature all along.
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