“I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:” Deut 30:19
A Michigan evolutionary anthropologist has done some computer simulations examining the evolution of the concept of God.
I know that this may be troubling to some who have a hard time with the whole concept of evolution.
I think that the premise and conclusion are both fascinating regardless of your view of evolution. That’s because it suggests something special about us as a species.
There are two contending theories regarding the evolution of the concept of God. One says that it is an artifact of a previous brain function that originally had a far more tangible use. The other is that it is an adaptation. In other words, the concept of God developed because those who believed in God benefited in some way compared to those who didn’t.
The premise to prove that God is an adaptation is fairly simple. There are things that you can prove and things that you can’t prove. For primitive people, you can prove things like gravity by throwing a rock in the air. Every time you throw it up, it comes back down. This is verifiable information. No similar proof exists for the existence of God. So any claims about God are largely unverified.
The question then is, what benefit would accrue to those who shared unverifiable information compared to those who only share verifiable information?
What the researcher found is that there was only one simulation which explains the current state of widespread belief in God.
The factor was that those who didn’t believe were somehow attracted to those that did. So those who did believe were benefited by getting more support from the community that those that didn’t. This made it easier for believers to survive in greater numbers than non-believers.
In other words, we may be hardwired at a very basic level to respect and admire the beliefs of others, even if we don’t share those beliefs.
The researchers didn’t go into the concept of free will, but this seems a plausible and natural explanation for it. All of us discover God in our own way based on our experience and our traditions. God loved us so much that He gave us the ability to choose or reject Him. But He also gave us a very simple appreciation for those who have already chosen so that this idea would have the opportunity spread and grow – one believer to another.
We’re currently in a period of fanaticism and fundamentalism. If the research is accurate, this period will pass. Our normal and natural state is to cherish all believers.