De Cruz - A Taste for the Infinite: What Evolution can tell us about Belief in God

Additional Information

Category Lecture
Speakers De Cruz, Helen
Year 2021

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Belief in God is widespread. To explain how it arose, various philosophers and theologians have argued that it is due to some sort of sense or feeling. Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768–1834) sees religion as intuition and feeling (in his Speeches and Christian Faith), and identifies a sense of absolute dependence on God as the basis of our awareness (consciousness) of God. More specifically, Schleiermacher has a story of how this God-consciousness arose in evolutionary time. Though he wrote before Darwin published Origin of Species, Schleiermacher accepted an evolutionary picture for the origin of life and the universe. Drawing on recent insights in evolutionary biology and cognitive science, I provide an updated version of Schleiermacher’s god-consciousness, showing how our feelings are evolved, and give us a sense of the divine.

HELEN DE CRUZ holds the Danforth Chair in the Humanities at Saint Louis University. Her publications are mainly philosophy of cognitive science, philosophy of religion, social epistemology, and metaphilosophy. Her overarching research project is an investigation of how humans engage in thinking about abstract domains such as theology, mathematics, and science and what it means for embodied beings like us to think about these topics. Specifically, she investigates what conclusions we can draw about the metaphysics and our knowledge of these objects. For example, if animals across diverse species such as bees, dolphins, and monkeys can estimate numbers, what does this mean for the reality of numbers? Her publications include the monographs Disagreement (2019, Cambridge University Press) and A natural history of natural theology (2015, MIT Press, co-authored with Johan De Smedt), she has also recently co-edited Philosophy through science fiction stories (2021, Bloomsbury, co-edited with Johan De Smedt and Eric Schwitzgebel).