CPBD 014: Brian Hayden – Prehistoric Religion

by Luke Muehlhauser on January 20, 2010 in Podcast


(Listen to other episodes of Conversations from the Pale Blue Dot here.)

Today I interview Brian Hayden, an archaeologist and expert on prehistoric religion. Among other things, we discuss:

  • how archaeologists work
  • traditional religions vs. book religions
  • a comparison of theories of religion
  • Neanderthal religion
  • ecology and religion

haydenDownload CPBD episode 014 with Brian Hayden. Total time is 57:52.

Brian Hayden links:

Things we discussed:

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Bill Maher January 20, 2010 at 6:40 am

thanks for this. As someone studying to be a historian, I have deep respect for archaeologists. Where they end, historians begin.


Lee A. P. January 20, 2010 at 10:24 am

Boo-ya. This one looks like the mothafuckin’ shiznit.

You have a really good interview style fool.

Keep it up.


Ryan January 20, 2010 at 10:33 am

Hey Luke,

Are you going to respond to my latest response to you on Dawkins:



lukeprog January 20, 2010 at 10:59 am


You wrote: “What I was trying to point out is that one of the [responses] to Dawkins (God is not improbable because he is necessary) is a failure.”

Yes, and that’s a fine point to make, but it doesn’t mean I was missing the point or that I was just as wrong as before, because arguments against God’s necessity are a different topic than what I was discussing. Indeed, if you could make an argument against the possibility of a necessary God, then Dawkins’ complexity argument would be unnecessary, as I said earlier, because the God of theism would already be disproved.

You also wrote: “Luke was addressing an interpretation of the “Who designed the designer?” question which no one holds to.”

I simply disagree. I see “my” interpretation of that phrase all the freakin’ time. Atheists very often say that positing God as an explanation gets us nowhere precisely because God remains unexplained. And that’s just wrong. If you want to talk about another interpretation, that’s fine, but then DON’T use my response in an extended analogy as if what I said about Interpretation 1 was meant to be applied to Interpretation 2.

You are welcome to say that you think my interpretation of “Who designed the designer” is one that nobody holds, but it doesn’t make sense for you to transpose my response to interpretation #1 into an analogy about interpretation #2 in order to show that my response is a silly response to #2.

You also said Swinburne believes in a contingent God, not a necessary God.

If so, that’s news to me. For example, Swinburne spends all of chapter 14 in The Coherence of Theism defending the notion that God is a necessary being. See here.


Landon Hedrick January 20, 2010 at 10:51 pm


I haven’t read Swinburne’s book, but I have also been under the impression that he thinks God is contingent in the sense of only existing in some possible worlds. Craig reports this as Swinburne’s position here: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5603

I think perhaps that Swinburne, in the chapter you link to, is developing a different understanding of God’s necessity. I skimmed part of it and he says at one point something along the lines of “this is the kind of necessity that we really care about.”


lukeprog January 21, 2010 at 7:35 am


Then I stand corrected! Thanks.


Sabio Lantz January 22, 2010 at 3:38 am

My first Luke Podcast. Well done. I shall go back and listen to all the others.
So glad to hear others point out Dawkin’s overreach.
The evolution of religion as related to leisure society and inheritance was interesting.


Tshepang Lekhonkhobe March 21, 2010 at 6:41 pm

Thanks much Luke — this is quite a mouthful from that Bryan Hayden. I’ve for a long time been fascinated by anthropology, and this guy provides very revealing thoughts from an archaeological angle.

Brian Hayden helps one get a bit more tolerant of religion, “maybe religion is as much a part of us as art is”, even though I felt like he downplays its negative effects on society. I must however admit that that wasn’t even the focus of the talk. But I think this focus would help quite of a lot of believers start to question the truthfulness of their faith, since he doesn’t criticize any faith, but views it more as a mere cultural artefact, much like art is.


Tshepang Lekhonkhobe February 7, 2011 at 6:30 pm

I had another listen. I noticed that there’s too much of “religion is a part of us”, as if there’s isn’t much we can do about it. It feels like Hayden isn’t aware that there is hope: http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/paul07/paul07_index.html.


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