The relationship between Darwinian evolution and religion is a famously contentious, even hostile one. However, this popular model does not truly get to the heart of the evolution-religion issue. Today we have a well-developed scientific account of religion that sees belief in God arising naturally from mental tools that evolved to serve the survival needs of our earliest ancestors. This poses a much greater challenge for religion than simply having to re-interpret Genesis. This challenge, however, does not negate religion, nor undermine its significance. Evolutionary accounts of religion uncover a common human experience beneath the diversity of religious traditions. Despite the deep conflicts between religions, each gives expression to a deeper, and commonly shared moral impulse. From this view, religion is an attempt to bring out this common thread of our humanity. This humanistic conception of religion fits comfortably within a Darwinian worldview.

John Teehan, Professor and Chair of the Department of Religion, holds an M.A. in Psychology (Queens College, 1987) and a Doctorate in Philosophy (Graduate Center, CUNY, 1992). He joined the full time Hofstra Faculty in 1998. His main research focus is on the cognitive/evolutionary study of morality and religion, with a special interest in religious morality and religion’s role in conflict. He explored these topics in his book, In the Name of God: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Ethics and Violence (2010, Wiley-Blackwell). His work is also concerned with the interaction of cognitive-evolutionary theories and the philosophy of religion, particularly as this relates to the Problem of Evil and questions of religious belief. He writes and lectures widely on these topics. Dr. Teehan is also on the editorial board of Evolutionary Psychological Science, and Associate Editor of Science, Religion and Culture.

Video: Darwin’s Influence on Religion