Religious naturalism: Humanistic versus theistic
|Abstract||We Americans put a lot of stock in ingenuity. We admire people who come up with better mousetraps or with better ways to predict economic cycles. William James, in his early essay "Great Men and Their Environment," was the first American pragmatist to suggest that there are interesting analogies between the roles that ingenious people play in social change and bearers of genetic variations play in biological evolution.(1) He proposed that the categories in terms of which we conduct various cultural activities start as idiosyncratic "brainstorms" in the heads of individual human beings, much as Darwin theorized that species start as genetic variations in ancestral organisms. When these mental variations occur in a suitable environment, they may end as new forms of science, morality, art, or religion. Such new ideas enable their bearers to cope with the world differently, and perhaps more profitably, than their ancestors did before them. Social progress when it occurs is a function of the meliorative power of this fortuitous human creativity, not of anything preprogrammed with its own logic or method.|
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