Re: Questions. Article in NATURE

David Campbell (
Thu, 6 May 1999 15:31:43 -0400

>Do you (theistic evolutionists) believe in the naturalistic evolution of
>religion or religious experiences, in particular the judeochristian

I am not sure exactly what naturalistic evolution is when applied to
cultural factors as opposed to organisms, but I think I would agree that
there are "natural" or cultural elements, in addition to spiritual ones
affecting their development. Although the key aspects of Christianity stem
from direct revelation, thinking about those issues has been greatly
influenced by the cultural setting and the issues that arose. There are
also broader cultural issues that have changed over time and affected at
least the practical outworking of Christianity (for example, the shift from
primarly rural to primarily urban population and increasing mobility affect
where to build a church, how large to make it, etc.). The claim that
Judaism arose by gradual development from some polytheistic religion and
rewriting of traditional texts does not seem plausible.

>Would it bother you if scientists find a naturalistic explanation for
>your faith to explain away your particular preference and devotion,

As another post discussed, finding some correlation between certain
biochemical conditions and some religiously-related tendencies is not
particualrly problemmatic. Claiming that all religious tendencies are
merely the product of a chemical imbalance, on the other hand, is hostile
to Christianity (and other religions, obviously), and unwarranted.

>Are they "wrong" for assuming a priori that there must be a
>naturalistic explanation for religious experiences (faith)?

Yes. They may be correct in thinking that some religious experiences have
a partial or complete naturalistic explanation, but to assume that
everything has a naturalistic explanation is an atheistic philosophical

>Is the Holy Spirit in you a chemical alteration that first took place
>at conversion/baptism?

No. He might (or might not) bring about some chemical alterations, but He
is the third Person of the Trinity, not chemicals.

>Did this alteration happen supernaturally or naturally,
>mechanistically, as a meme propagation/replication?

Which alteration? The spiritual changes involved in conversion happen
supernaturally by definition, although whether there may be "supernatural
law" versus a more flexible action of God is moot.

If chemical changes are involved, they happen supernaturally in the sense
that God was involved, but as to the means, who knows? He could have
designed me so that the right reactions would take place at the right time.

David Campbell