Justin Barrett’s “Hyperactive Agency Detection Device” (HADD)

Justin Barrett’s “Hyperactive Agency Detection Device” (HADD) October 17, 2011

Another item for the “not new, but new for me” category. Justin Barrett is a cognitive scientist of religion and the author of Why Would Anyone Believe in God? In that book, Barrett advances an intriguing explanatory hypothesis for why most people believe in God: the Hyperactive Agency Detection Device (HADD) hypothesis.

I have to admit that, when I first heard about HADD, I considered it to be very plausible on the assumption that humans are the products of evolution. It reminds me of Stewart Guthrie’s important book, Faces in the Clouds. What is interesting about HADD is that it appears to provide a plausible explanation for the pervasiveness of theistic belief, even on the assumption that theism is false.

Of course, the truth of HADD, if it is true, does not in any way logically contradict theism. I think the significance of HADD is that, if true, it provides a defeater for an argument for God’s existence based on the fact of the pervasiveness of theistic belief. (I’ll have to think about this, but for the same reason it may also provide a defeater for C.S. Lewis’s argument from desire. Perhaps Victor Reppert or another Lewis scholar can comment on that.)

I haven’t yet researched what sort of critical responses, if any, have been offered to HADD. It will be most interesting to follow the debate and research on this topic.

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