An Evidential Argument for Theism from the Cognitive Science of Religion

In Hans van Eyghen, Rik Peels & Gijsbert van den Brink (eds.), New Developments in the Cognitive Science of Religion: The Rationality of Religious Belief. Springer. pp. 171-198 (2018)


What are the epistemological implications of the cognitive science of religion (CSR)? The lion’s share of discussion fixates on whether CSR undermines (or debunks or explains away) theistic belief. But could the field offer positive support for theism? If so, how? That is our question. Our answer takes the form of an evidential argument for theism from standard models and research in the field. According to CSR, we are naturally disposed to believe in supernatural agents and these beliefs are constrained in certain ways. The three main theories of this supernatural disposition are byproduct theories, adaptationist theories, and hybrid theories. We argue that our supernatural disposition—as understood by any of the main theories—is more surprising and improbable given naturalism than theism and thus serves as evidence for theism over naturalism.

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