Two types of “explaining away” arguments in the cognitive science of religion

Zygon 51 (4):966-982 (2016)
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This article discusses “explaining away” arguments in the cognitive science of religion. I distinguish two rather different ways of explaining away religion, one where religion is shown to be incompatible with scientific findings and one where supernatural entities are rendered superfluous by scientific explanations. After discussing possible objections to both varieties, I argue that the latter way offers better prospects for successfully explaining away religion but that some caveats must be made. In a second step, I spell out how CSR can be used to spell out an argument of the second kind. One argument renders religion superfluous by claiming that it results from a cognitive bias and one does the same by claiming religion was a useful evolutionary adaptation. I discuss some strengths and weaknesses of both arguments.



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Hans Van Eyghen
Catholic University of Louvain