3quarksdaily: People reject chance and uncertainty. I don't buy this one, and neither does PZ Meyers. People love chance and pay money to experience it, and they recognize uncertainty. If you read further in this post it touches on "purposelessness", which I think is closer to the mark.
Majikthise posits "disenchantment", also touches on "purposelessness", and at the end says:
Evolution will continue to be controversial as long as people believe that naturalism threatens meaning. I don't know how proponents of evolution can begin to make people feel more comfortable with the naturalistic worldview.This is getting closer...people really do feel threatened by the naturalistic view, but there are good reasons for this. See below.
PZ Myers focuses on purposelessness, fear, and emptiness. Quoting Eric Hoffer:
Faith in a holy cause is to a considerable extent a substitute for the lost faith in ourselves.Which leads to the group psychology of religious crusades, yet another factor.
My own take on this is from a cognitive point of view.
First, it's a mistake to try to explain religion in terms of stupidity, fear, or group identity. No doubt these play a role, but aside from being snobby and dismissive, they don't explain religion specifically. People do lots of things out of stupidity and fear. People do lots of things out of group identity, like cheer for the Red Sox, but that doesn't make the Red Sox a religion.
So, let's start with purposelessness, and let's take the standpoint that people are right, in some sense, to be wary and reject the purposlessness of a naturalistic worldview. Look at it in terms of practical reason.
To make a long story short, let's assume a drastically simplified model of people's mental models, but not completely simplified. People have two different frameworks or stances (in Daniel Dennett's terms) for explaining phenomenon, the mechanical or naturalistic stance, and the intentional or animate stance. You can look at, say, a person as an intentional agent, with desires, feelings, ideas, etc, or you can look on him as a sort of chemical machine, with various mechanisms that work according to the causal laws of physics. In fact, of course, he's both, but the two frames of reference are rather disjoint and stiching them back together is the difficult work of cybernetics, psychology and other somewhat mushy fields of science.
In everyday thought, people can apply these frames of reference as needed and switch between them. If their car breaks, they might curse it out (as if it was an agent) and then proceed to open the hood and repair it (as if it were a machine). Doctors have an elaborate methodology of ministering to a patient's humanity while treating their body as if it was a defective machine.
So what does this have to do with religion and evolution? Science has a professional bias towards mechanical explanations, either eliminating agency altogether or finding ways to reduce it to naturalistic explanations. That's fine, that's what science does. But ordinary people with lives find this disturbing, for good reasons. They know that it's improper or immoral to apply the mechanical stance to people except in special circumstances (this I think is at the root of the Frankenstein mythos: those angry peasants have a point). Real scientists are not (usually) monsters, they have ways to reconcile their humanity with their dedication to the amoral and merciless mechanical viewpoint, but the peasants don't know that.
Religion, on the other hand, has a bias towards intentional explanations, seeing agency everywhere, in people (souls), in nature (animism) and the universe as a whole (God). Science's challenges to the intentionality of the universe are one thing, but evolution and brain sciences threaten the very soul. This scares people, and goes against their moral and practical intuitions.
What I'm trying to get at is that ordinary people, who may be ignorant of science and not inclined to philisipophy, still have a ideas about the consequences of different styles of thought. They know that the mechanistic worldview is in some sense incompatible with their intuitions. What they don't have is the sophistication to try to reconcile these worldviews. Scientists and intellectuals keep working at this problem, but nobody can pretend it's solved.
In short, fear is at the root of people's rejection of evolution, but it's not a groundless fear. People understand, albeit vaguely, the different systems of thought involved and the conflicts between them. They feel that much is at stake, and they are right about that. It's not that surprising if the issues are played out at Kansas school board meetings, in unenlightening ways. This is hard stuff.
There's a whole spate of books that purport to have some psychological or evolutionary explanation of religion. I own a bunch and have even read a couple. The one that clicked most for me, in that it concentrated on ascription of animacy, was Religion Explained by Pascal Boyer.
I addressed some of these issues in my dissertation, which was ostensibly about programming environments but wandered off quite a bit.