Study Shows Our Minds Are Tuned to Believe


“It seems that our minds are finely tuned to believe in gods,” according to a new report appearing in the journal New Scientist.1 A group of scientists undertook the task of studying the “science” of religion, which they suggested “probably evolved for survival.” Or did it?

The researchers studied cognition patterns in children to test their capacity for belief in the supernatural. According to anthropologist Justin Barrett from the University of Oxford, children “have a strong natural receptivity to believing in gods because of the way their minds work.” Paul Bloom, a Yale University psychologist, noted that humans of an early age have an “innate assumption that mind and matter are distinct.”1 This assumption provides some of the basic framework for mankind to be able to consider the divine.

They also found that people possess a sense that “primes us to see purpose and design everywhere.” This tendency, also required for religion, is supposedly an “over-attribution of cause and effect.” And the researchers also discovered that “education and experience teach us to override…the default setting of the human brain.”1

Studies of both children and adults, near and far, atheists and theists, led the researchers to conclude that “religion is an inescapable artefact of the wiring in our brain.”1 Psychologist Pascal Boyer concluded that “disbelief requires effort,” for a man must willfully reprogram these innate assumptions if he intends to disbelieve in God. But this sounds like something the apostle Peter knew long ago: “For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old.”2

There is thus strong empirical evidence that human brains were “finely tuned” to believe in the supernatural, with confirmation that extra labor and “education” is required to override that basic programming. Since humans were made for God’s good pleasure,3 these observations are exactly consistent with the creation message of the Bible. It seems clear now that only willing, purposeful ignorance would cause people to not believe.

References

  1. Brooks, M. 2009. Born believers: How your brain creates God. New Scientist. 2694: 30-33.
  2. 2 Peter 3:5.
  3. Revelation 4:11.

* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer.

Article posted on February 18, 2009.