There are periodic complaints about "fundamentalists" in relation to public acceptance of evolutionary theory. I read someplace that the United States is one remaining western nation where Special Creation is still accepted.
If there's public apathy or ignorance about evolution, I think we need to blame ourselves, if there is such a need for blame, rather than older belief systems that occupied the territory first.
Christianity seems one more event in which a hunter and gatherer species created H&G tools. Christianity must be evolutionarily correct; it meets adaptive needs for a range of current environmental conditions, otherwise, it would have crashed. Unfortunately, it also has its alphas who are determined to hold or to expand territory for its own sake. Some of them may have flickering traits of bipolar disorder ... driven, determined, hypersexual, delusional, dominance goals, hyperactive, high rates of speech, feuding, high self-esteem, and intense religiosity in the midst of other, miscellaneous delusional beliefs.(1)
Some of the followers likely have their own manic traits and bask in the emotional surges elicited by a charismatic leader. Others may have their share of anxiety disorders and some may have a need for alliances and boundaries in order to rear the children (probably a good aspect!).
I attended a Healing Mass some 15 years ago; it was disquieting to see the blend of Catholic ritual with commands to "HEAL" and handclaps over someone's ears. There were three allegations that night of coronary arteries cleared in people in the back row. I thought the priest was crazy but didn't tell my obsessive compulsive date that evening who was the child of an alcoholic and, in retrospect, not dissimilar to the priest.(2) Yet, De Waal tells us that our clade sibs also display attempts to heal one another; Sagan & Druyan (3) quote descriptions of chimps being calmed by "touching" the alpha.
I'm an agnostic, perhaps because I'm missing some adaptation for affiliating with alphas. While I will have obsessions about some hero or heroine for a while, the zeal effervesces after a couple of months and I put things into a different perspective. However, I generally like religion because it has its adaptive functions for a hunter and gatherer people. Because of the heightened use of symbols and rituals (supernormal stimuli!), religion perhaps does a superior job to psychology for many anxious people.(4)
Religion can do much good for people in crises, for people with chronic anxiety disorder, and for people who need some limits because of deficient self-management. (It can also hurt any of them.) For example, there are probably buckets of alcoholics whose separation anxiety is abated by the notion of an ever-present deity as well as their incarnate, always available, sponsor. There is likely an equal number of manics who, because of church guidelines, commit less adultery and are more likely to stick with their kids and original spouse.
Likewise, the capacity to do science is a peculiar adaptation or mix of them; or perhaps it's an elaboration of cumulative trial and error and partial reinforcement effects on top of an adaptation to tinker. Scientists, too, are H&G people and apt to perform behaviors similar to other religions. Thus, science is its own religion (5) and, like other religions, has some checks on the bounding manics who have a personal vision of being Right despite flaws in the data. Peer review, publication delays, and gossip alliances can inhibit unrestrained gusto for cold fusion or the Baldwin Effect. Replication, preferably by a hostile lab, is one rigorous test for Truth. Nonetheless, there has been responsible comment that there are two reliable traits of Nobel Prize winners. The first is that they generally sought early affiliation with Nobel Laureates; the second is that of extreme persistence ... of doing science to prove a point, to beat the crowd, to be the best, to be Right, rather than to find a truth.
My dilemma is that I am a scientist and also a psychologist in a semi-rural area seeded with fundamentalist traditions. People are generally well-behaved and attend to their children; nonetheless, members of one flock or another regularly appear in my office. Given that people often do better when they have some alliances, I refuse to erode other alliances they have in order to form one with me. Thus, I've encouraged traditional Catholics to use their Rosary for stress management because they believe in the content of the vocalizations more than if they said "Ommm" repetitively. Sitting in a quiet cathedral will calm many of them and allows more orderly thought about family or jobs. For others, the urge to sit and pray evaporates along with their mild OCD when treated with a low dose of an SSRI.
One gentle lady, who's chief symptom now is that she is too gentle, asked "Why do I need medicine, why doesn't God fix my depression?" I gave her choices, not an answer. The possibilities included, "Your depression is a test," "It's a tool from above so that your husband also gets help," "Perhaps your God wants you to learn from this trial," "God wants you to gain independence and responsibility," or "You can believe that depression is a biological event that occurs with many in your family and in similar ways such that there is no blame for God or for your parents or yourself."
She and her fundamentalist husband still come to me for advice because my EP/SB insights have already been helpful. She originally arrived with postpartum depression, convinced that her newborn did not like her, that the baby sensed that she was an inadequate mother. I cited data from the Adapted Mind about infant responses to maternal vocalizations and had mom "emote" and "squeal" when she spoke to her daughter. The kid made immediate eye contact and smiled as did mom. (See postings on Maternal Vocalizations and Depression; I'm still not sure if her Prozac or the behavioral tricks made the larger difference.)
This anecdote is perhaps the nub, the key. To the extent that we give useful information about problems that matter to mothers, to children, and to fathers, then we will be sought. The same erratic adaptations for child rearing, mating, property management, food procurement, forming alliances, and managing reciprocity, the same ones that religion now aids, will also respond to our information regardless of whether Darwin or Christ are on the office wall.(6)
1) One of my older clients quips, "Whenever someone starts quoting the Bible, don't turn your back on them and keep an eye on your purse."
2) The same girl later invited me to a healing vigil in a hospital for a high school friend who was in a coma with a broken neck, incurred by turning a cartwheel in traffic during a school march. There were some 50 adolescents at an earlier high scthem; or perhaps it's an elaboration of cumulative trial and error and partial reinforcement effects on top of an adaptation to tinker. Scientists, too, are H&G people and apt to perform behaviors similar to other religions. Thus, science is its own religion (5) and, like other religions, has some checks on the bounding manics who have a personal vision of being Right despite flaws in the data. Peer review, publication delays, and gossip alliances can inhibit unrestrained gusto for cold fusion or the Baldwin Effect. Replication, preferably by a hostile lab, is one rigorous test for Truth. Nonetheless, there has been responsible comment that there are two reliable traits of Nobel Prize winners. The first is that theyMA: Harvard Univ. Press. Sagan C & Druyan A (1992) Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors. NY: Ballentine
4) It's not unreasonable that a clergy would be an effective part of a sociobiology treatment team in the future, but not in the plug-in role assigned now to many health care professionals.
5) See Lewontin RC, (1991) Biology as Ideology: The Doctrine of DNA. NY: Harper. He reminds us that science, like religion, has an esoteric language, a set of ordained practitioners, and a claim to truths that transcend the moment and the person. He also reminds us that we, too, oversell ideas.
6) There are some aspects of our lives that EP theory actually explains better than Christianity. Reasons why old guys usually should not marry young girls is one example. More later.