RELIGION & SPIRITUALITY

God and the Brain

Eerdmans. Jul. 2019. 232p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780802876911. pap. $25. REL
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When asking whether it is rational to believe that God exists, one may argue whether such a belief violates some canon of reason or whether such belief is merely a cognitive artifact. By investigating what cognitive science calls agent-detecting devices (that trigger the belief that an object is acting purposefully) and theory of mind (that an agent enjoys mental events), Clark’s (philosophy, Grand Valley State Univ.; Evidence and Religious Belief) discussion falls into the latter. These cognitive devices produce beliefs that occur immediately and without inference or argument. Clark maintains that both intuition and inference produce generally reliable (albeit fallible) beliefs, and that cognitive artifact arguments discounting belief (or disbelief) in God often come down to suppressed intuitive biases. Clark concludes that, at least for now, belief or disbelief in God’s existence is rational.
VERDICT Those familiar with the epistemological works of Alvin Plantinga or Nicholas Walterstorff will find Clark’s use of cognitive science a useful extension to the idea of proper function. His willingness to hold open the possibility that theism is potentially irrational is refreshing. Anyone willing to question the warrant of beliefs on a serious, though not necessarily technical level, will enjoy what Clark has to offer.

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