Positive atheism makes the bolder and more grandiose claim that God definitely does not exist. Of course, it depends upon what the atheist means by "God." Generally speaking, nor do we believe in the atheist's conception of God, but we'll leave that to the side.
What? Have you been listening to the Bob's story? You have no frame of reference, do you?
I'll say it one more time: we are immersed in the unpleasant and thankless task of reconciling the pure Darwinism -- or evolutionary psychology, to be precise -- of The WEIRDest People in the World: How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous, with the pure Thomism of Introduction to the Science of Mental Health. Both of these cannot possibly be true, at least not in the same way.
By the way, which book is the more difficult? Which requires more brainpower, both to read and write? No contest: anyone with a room temperature IQ can comprehend the mechanism of natural selection. After all it has only three moving parts: genetic variation, differential reproduction, and survival. According to this view, every human trait is a consequence of this trinity.
Well, not exactly, for any number of traits slip through the net of natural selection. In other words, just because a trait survives and persists, we can't necessarily say it was adaptive to a particular environment. Noses weren't selected to hold up eyeglasses, and all that.
Anyway, the big black book of Thomism is much more challenging. The WEIRD book is just tedious and predictable. It very much brings to mind a number of apt observations by the Aphorist:
Science easily degrades into fools’ mythology.
To believe that science is enough is the most naïve of superstitions.
The natural sciences can be adequately cultivated by slaves; the cultivation of the social sciences requires free men.
Scientific ideas allow themselves to be easily depraved by coarse minds.
In this context, Henrich is like a child who wanders in in the middle of a movie and wants to know what it's about. He's out of his element!
Really, he wants to have it both ways; he wants to have his crock and eat it too. What I mean is that he acknowledges the centrality of Christianity in laying the groundwork for our WEIRDness -- our Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic civilization -- but wants to pretend it's all just a random genetic aberration. As Professor Backflap puts it,
Henrich reveals how the Roman Catholic Church unintentionally shifted people's psychology, and the trajectory of Western civilization, by transforming the most fundamental off human institutions: those related to marriage and kinship. It was these social and psychological changes in Europe that... [laid] the foundation for the modern world (emphasis mine).
Unintentionally? The Church was trying to make the world a worse place?
Bear in mind that biology cannot evaluate whether or not the changes wrought by the Church were Good Things. Rather, they're only Things. Biology is descriptive, not prescriptive. It describes what is, not what ought to be. Ought Henrich avoid such breathtakingly simplistic and anti-intellectual generalizations? Biology can't say.
A few years ago we wrote a series of posts on an excellent book called Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism. As I recall, it tills much of the same ground as does The WEIRDest, only without the fanciful attempt to squeeze it all into a scientistic bed of genetic reductionism.
What I want to ask is: who is the anti-intellectual here? Henrich? Or St. Thomas? Who is the more generous, the more curious, the more open-minded, the more humanistic? The less dogmatic, narrow-minded, and doctrinaire? The questions answer themselves.
Although Christianity is responsible for our progress from premodern anonymity to modern individuality, from tyranny to democracy, and from subsistence to abundance, here is the sum-total of what Henrich knows about religion and God (for if this is all he knows, this is all he can know, i.e., it is a frank confession of total ignorance):
Just to be clear, I'm not praising either world religions or big gods. To me, they are simply another interesting class of cultural phenomena that demands explanation.... These beliefs evolved not because they are accurate representations of reality but because they help communities, organizations, and societies beat their competitors.
Oh. I was wondering why sociobiology evolved. Henrich's ideas are so adaptive, he must have like a dozen children!
Back to one of our main points: which is the more capacious metaphysic? Which has more explanatory power? Well, by definition the theistic view does, since there can be nothing more capacious than God. My God is always larger than your godlessness.
I'm going to briefly switch gears to overdrive and see what Fr. Spitzer has to say about the subject:
At first glance there appears to be a conflict between the Bible and evolutionary theory. The Bible suggests that human beings are a special creation of God independent of other biological species....
However, the theory of evolution suggests that human beings did come from an evolutionary progression. Can the two be reconciled?
Not only can they be reconciled, they must be reconciled. It is only for us to understand how. In other words, the reconciliation already exists. It not only precedes us, but is a necessary condition for the very possibility of science. You are free to drain the world of transcendence, but doing so necessarily drains it of both immaterial knowledge and the transphysical knower. Spitzer:
The Bible is making the theological point in Genesis that human beings were created as distinct from the animals and “made in the image and likeness of God.” Can these two theological truths be consistent with the truth of evolution?
Yes -- so long as we hold that human beings are not only biological organisms (subject to an evolutionary process), but have a unique transphysical soul individually created by God.
Is the existence of the soul in any way inconsistent with natural selection? Of course not, any more than is the existence of music, poetry, painting, and science. Obviously, evolution does not "create" transcendence. And it certainly doesn't prevent it, or I'm not typing this sentence and you're not understanding it. Spitzer:
the soul cannot be reduced to any physical or biological structure or process.... Can Catholics believe that the physical-biological part of human beings evolved from other species? Yes. Can they believe that even the cerebral cortex came from an evolutionary process -- from homo-erectus to Neanderthal to homo-sapien? Yes.
Is there a problem? Not for us. The more truth, the merrier: "Catholics should always seek the truth, for there can be no contradiction between reason and faith. As St. Thomas Aquinas implied -- how can there be a contradiction?" There can only be a contradiction if we get things out of order. Beginning with our own minds.
To be continued....