Do modern, naturalist theories prove Nietzsche right?

Across several different scientific disciplines, it is proposed that with the development of the frontal cortex in humans, God is a human construct, invention or as Freud said, a wish fulfillment to shield us from existential despair and Nihilism.

If this is true and belief shields us from existential despair, then would those who choose to reject a meaningful belief in God and committing themselves to a Nihilistic worldview instead, ultimately be destroying the only protection they have against meaninglessness (sawing off the limb one is sitting on from the root of the tree) and consequentially reaping the negative consequences of such a decision (undermining their biological will to survive and thrive)?

Reference: A reason to believe

Reading the article, let me see if I can pick out some of the main ideas:

  1. most researchers don’t believe that the cognitive tendencies that bias us toward religious belief evolved specifically for thinking about religion. Rather, they likely served other adaptive purposes. For example, because people are quick to believe that someone or something is behind even the most benign experiences, they may perceive the sound of the wind rustling leaves as a potential predator. In evolutionary terms, says Atran, it was probably better for us to mistakenly assume that the wind was a lion than to ignore the rustling and risk death.
  2. These findings mesh with a large body of research and clinical reports that religious people are less prone to depression and anxiety, says Plante, editor of the book “Contemplative Practices in Action: Spirituality, Meditation, and Health” (APA, 2010). “Adaptive spiritual practices can be a foil to anxiety and depression,” Plante says.
  3. they suggest that religion co-evolved with morality as a way to bind people into large moral communities. Graham and Haidt argue that, through stories and rituals, religions have built on five basic moral foundations: Do no harm, play fairly, be loyal to your group, respect authority and live purely.

In other words, the development of religious/spirituality can be understood from a natural point of view where it helped people survive, behave morally, and less prone to depression and anxiety. I think that this is very consistent with the general theological teaching of the Bible as well as a Creator that used the process of evolution to create endless forms most beautiful so to speak.

I think that the perspective of:

is not really tenable based upon all the research that’s been done. I mean that in the sense that what led to the development of religious ideas even based solely on this article is much more complicated that just people not wanted to feel despair or nihilistic. I think your perspective is interesting in evaluating the whole process as ultimately leading to an embrace of nihilism but I think that most naturalists aren’t quite so legalistic if I may. For example Lawrence Krauss once said:

We make our own purpose, and it seems to me life is more precious because it’s temporary and accidental, and we should take advantage of that.

I don’t think most are in a place of despair, but these are interesting topics for sure.


This is the classic “nothing but” problem.

To illustrate, consider my marriage relationship. Is the love I feel for my wife:

  1. A genuine affection and commitment to her as a beautiful and wonderful person

  2. A movement of neurons that traces its evolutionary history from an urge to reproduce and thus pass on my genetic code to future generations.


See the problem here? There’s a big difference between “love is [x]”, and “love is nothing but [x]”. And you could apply that to many of the topics in the article you linked above.


@pevaquark, @David_Wood

In a sense I agree with Brad. This is a dichotomy based on a false dualism.

Do we love our spouses because God made them special people?

Do we love them because God gave us the urge to procreate and form a family?

Now the best answer is both, but atheism tries to make it only the second choice.

Similarly do we worship God because God is real and God is worthy?

Do we serve God because we want to be good and escape the penalties of sin?

The first reason is rational. If God is real and worthy of worship then we should praise God. The second is moral. We know that God is Good, because God is the Creator, we need to be good by serving God.

In one way we begin with Truth and go to Good, which is usually the way rational philosophy. In the other way we begin with Good and go to Truth, which ism usually the way of theology. The Third and best way is to unite Truth and Good through Love, which is the way of existential Christianity and good science.

In previous time before the New Atheism, the old atheism was built on it claim to rationality. If there is no God then it irrational to say and behave as if there is One. However the New Atheism has rejected rationality. As quoted above, he says it does not make any difference that the universe is not rational and has no meaning, because atheists will create our own meaning for life that we know is bogus. In other words, the New Atheists are irrational and dishonest where Nietzsche was honest and rational.

Coincidence or not, today non-believers see the foundations for the lack of belief eroding. At one time they could argue that science and philosophy maintained that the universe is eternal. Today that is not true. At one time humans were optimistic about the future of humankind because of science… Today that is not true. At one time many people could say that evolution “proves” that there is no God. Today we can say that evolution is the means that God used to create humanity and the rest of the biosphere.

It seems that the New Atheists have rejected the rationale approach of the old atheists. It would seem that this because they realized the rationality of the universe (i.d.) is strong evidence for the existence of a rational purposeful God.

However there is good evidence that the universe is rational and it comes from evolution. If rationality gives humans an evolutionary advantage and it clearly does, then it must be because the universe is rational, and if rational it has meaning.

Actually, you should amend that to say “gods are a human construct.” This is only a problem if you believe that God specifically revealed himself to a man named Adam, and the first religion was worship of YHWH. As far as I am concerned, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob did not reveal himself until he called Abram out of the darkness of idolatry. Joshua 24.2-3:

Joshua said to all the people, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Long ago your ancestors, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the Euphrates River and worshiped other gods. But I took your father Abraham from the land beyond the Euphrates and led him throughout Canaan and gave him many descendants.

@David_Wood, you mentioned Nietzsche in your title, but not in your post. Here’s a bit from Will to Power:

What I relate is the history of the next two centuries. I describe what is coming, what can no longer come differently: the advent of nihilism…
2. The end of Christianity-at the hands of its own morality (which cannot be replaced), which turns against the Christian God (the sense of truthfulness, developed highly by Christianity, is nauseated by the falseness and mendaciousness of all Christian interpretations of the world and of history; rebound from “God is truth” to the fanatical faith “All is false” …).
3. Skepticism regarding morality is what is decisive. The end of the moral interpretation of the world, which no longer has any sanction after it has tried to escape into some beyond, leads to nihilism. “Everything lacks meaning” (the untenability of one interpretation of the world, upon which a tremendous amount of energy has been lavished, awakens the suspicion that all interpretations of the world are false).

Now, I ask you: Isn’t this exactly the effect that the “false and mendacious” YEC interpretation of history has on the younger generation? As @pevaquark pointed out, this isn’t a full-blown philosophical embrace of nihilism, but it is a practical nihilism such as one finds in Ecclesiastes, where the meaninglessness of existence causes people to forget about the big picture and focus on enjoyment of life, rather than its purpose.

Interestingly, Nietzsche conceived of the “will to power” as an alternative to natural selection, which he passionately rejected. By a strange twist, Nietzsche and Ken Ham share the same anti-Darwinian bed. Our God truly is the ironic God.

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