Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason explains. (H/T Melissa)
As Greg often says, before you can show WHY a belief is false, you know to show THAT a belief is false.
For those of us who are stuck behind a firewall, you can read this article by Paul Copan instead.
Here’s the problem:
Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins suggests that our “extraordinary predisposition” to “insist on believing in God” is that we, like computers, tend to do what we’re told. Young minds are susceptible to “infection” and mental “viruses” especially when they latch on to the bad or worthless religious ideas of charismatic preachers and other adults.1 Anthropologist Pascal Boyer believes that the latest “scientific” developments reveal that our “central metaphysical urge”—an “irredeemable human propensity toward superstition, myth and faith, or a special emotion that only religion provides”2 stands at the root of all religion. Author Matthew Alper considers humans to be religious animals whose brains are hard-wired for “God,” though no God exists, and maintains that the “spiritual” is really the “scientific.”3
And here’s the solution:
To say God doesn’t exist because people believe for inferior reasons or motivations is to commit the genetic fallacy—to say that a view is true/false based on its origin. God’s existence, however, is logically independent of how people come to believe in Him.
Consider the strong reasons for God’s existence distinct from human hard-wiring and psychology. The existence of valuable, morally responsible, self-aware, reasoning, living human beings who inhabit a finely tuned universe that came to exist a finite time ago is not plausibly explained naturalistically—namely, as the result of disparate valueless, mindless, lifeless physical processes in a universe that came into existence uncaused out of nothing. The better unifying explanation is a supremely valuable, supremely aware, reasoning, truthful, powerful, intelligent, beautiful Being. Such a context robustly explains—and unifies—a wide range of factors where naturalism fails. If God exists and leaves clues of his existence, then CSR’s reductionistic claims about theistic belief lose their force.
There is a LOT more in the Paul Copan essay on cognitive science of religion (CSR).
And Michael Murray published a book with Oxford University Press on his solution to this problem.
Critics argue that belief in God is unwarranted because it arises from evolved, hard-wired cognitive mechanism. But, if these psychologists are right, so are many (if not all) of our other beliefs.
“Surely the critic doesn’t want to say that any belief that is the output of our mental tools—our cognitive tools—is unwarranted,” Murray notes, because “we can’t reasonably think that all of our beliefs are unreliable.” Further,
most of these critics think that our cognitive tools usually get things just right. To see this, just substitute the following words (or phrases) into the argument [above] and see if the critic would still find the underlying reasoning acceptable: human minds, rocks, rainbow, or science’s ability to discover the truth.
In other words, “Why do they think it’s fair to single out belief in the existence of God as the one thing that turns out to be unreliable or unwarranted?”
Hence, Murray notes, this sweeping argument is self-defeating. For if all brain-dependent beliefs are unwarranted, then the idea that “belief in God is unwarranted” is itself unwarranted.
Dawkins and many of his peers think this argument shows belief in God to be “merely” a “by-product” of human evolutionary development. Theistic intellectuals like Murray conclude that “God instead, designed us so that belief in him is easy and natural. The human mind is naturally constructed in such a way that we have a tendency to form beliefs in God concepts, and even of a somewhat specific sort.”
So if you believe Koukl, the argument commits the genetic fallacy. But even if you allow it to go through, like Michael Murray does, it’s self-refuting. (You can read more about Murray’s views in “Contending With Christianity’s Critics” and “Passionate Conviction” – and don’t worry about chastising him about his moderate views of intelligent design, I already wrote to him and beat him up about that, and he said it was just a bias / preference he had against intervening acts of fine-tuning subsequent to the moment of creation).
You may also be interested on the original “wish-fulfillment” objection, which Greg Koukl demolishes here. And another Greg Koukl article on whether you are your physical brain, or whether you are your non-physical mind and you have a brain.