God - It's Just Your Brain

geirj
geirj's picture
Posts: 719
Joined: 2007-06-19
User is offlineOffline
God - It's Just Your Brain

Did anyone catch this story on NPR last week?

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=101617951

 

Health & Science

To The Brain, God Is Just Another Guy

The human brain, it appears, responds to God as if he were just another person, according to a team at the National Institutes of Health.

A study of 40 people — some religious, some nonreligious — found that phrases such as "I believe God is with me throughout the day and watches over me" lit up the same areas of the brain we use to decipher the emotions and intentions of other people.

"There was no difference," says Jordan Grafman, who runs the cognitive neuroscience section at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Grafman says the finding, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that there is no special circuitry in the brain that deals with religious belief. It also suggests that religion developed as the human brain evolved its capacity for complex social interactions.

Studying Religion In The Brain

Grafman was part of a team that used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study the brains of 40 people as they read statements that either supported or challenged religious belief. Participants were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with statements such as, "God is angry at human behavior," or "There is no higher purpose."

The statements caused heightened activity in areas of the brain involved in empathy, and in deciphering what other people might be thinking. Scientists often refer to this ability as "theory of mind" or "theory of other minds." Humans are extremely good at it. Some other species, including great apes, appear to have a less advanced theory of mind.

When a person encounters a statement about God's presence, Grafman believes, "That's making an inference about God as a being of some kind, so you're making an inference about an entity and their relationship with you. That would activate the same areas in the brain as if you were making an inference about a friend's intentions."

Beliefs Produce Emotional Reaction

Grafman says there were some differences between religious and nonreligious people.

Those who said they believed in God had a negative emotional response to statements like, "There is no higher purpose." Nonbelievers had the same reaction to statements that assumed God exists.

Grafman says the results show that, to the brain, religious belief is a lot like political belief.

"If you're very conservative and you have to make a judgment about what looks like a liberal statement and you disagree with that, you might find this very same brain system being activated," he says.

Grafman says the new study says nothing about whether God exists. But it does suggest that religious belief uses a brain system that evolved quite recently.

"Some of the same underlying abilities that support other sorts of complex human social behavior also support the behavior that we're terming 'religious belief,' " he says.

The Origins Of Religion

Grafman says that probably means religions appeared as humans evolved the ability to handle complicated social interactions during the past 60,000 years or so.

Joseph Bulbulia, an expert on the cognitive psychology of religion at Victoria University in New Zealand, says most evidence of religious behavior only dates back about 10,000 years, raising questions about why humans didn't become religious sooner.

But he agrees that religious belief probably had a role in human evolution because it has helped societies survive and thrive for thousands of years.

Religion As A Social Behavior

Without religion, Bulbulia says, "large scale cooperation, which now spans the world, would be impossible. He adds that humans differ from other species in their ability to cooperate in very large groups.

Religion can help foster cooperation because it ensures that people share the same set of rules about behavior, and think they'll be punished if they don't follow them, Bulbulia says. Religion also unites people, especially in times of great uncertainty.

Bulbulia says that's probably why President Obama's inaugural address contained phrases such as, "With eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations."

Bulbulia says much of that speech was about how people have survived hard times in the past by working together.

The president's message, says Bulbulia, is that "We got through it by being committed to each other.... And we'll do it again, but only by being committed to each other through these old values."

And that means using the areas of the brain involved in empathy and understanding.

 


Hambydammit
High Level DonorModeratorRRS Core Member
Hambydammit's picture
Posts: 8657
Joined: 2006-10-22
User is offlineOffline
 Oooh.. neato.  Thanks,

 Oooh.. neato.  Thanks, Gierj

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/
Books about atheism


Brian37
atheistSuperfan
Brian37's picture
Posts: 13689
Joined: 2006-02-14
User is offlineOffline
"It is all in your head" is

"It is all in your head" is a "No Duh" to scientists.

Myth lovers simply conflate their pet whims as being outside themselves magically interacting with them, when all it is is a "warm fuzzy feeling".

It is nothing but a placebo effect. If you want to "feel" that someting helps you, you will have that feeling, even if in reality, that feeling may be false, or detrimental.

"God is your brain" in terms of accepting myth conflating it to fact is allready in the dictionary, "Imagination".

Our brains are not wired with scientific method. Our brains are wired with seeking out patterns, but far to often, when a gap hits us, we defalt to filling it in wrather than obstain from bad guesses.

"We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers."Obama
Check out my poetry here on Rational Responders Like my poetry thread on Facebook under BrianJames Rational Poet also on twitter under Brianrrs37


Brian37
atheistSuperfan
Brian37's picture
Posts: 13689
Joined: 2006-02-14
User is offlineOffline
"It is all in your head" is

"It is all in your head" is a "No Duh" to scientists.

Myth lovers simply conflate their pet whims as being outside themselves magically interacting with them, when all it is is a "warm fuzzy feeling".

It is nothing but a placebo effect. If you want to "feel" that someting helps you, you will have that feeling, even if in reality, that feeling may be false, or detrimental.

"God is your brain" in terms of accepting myth conflating it to fact is allready in the dictionary, "Imagination".

Our brains are not wired with scientific method. Our brains are wired with seeking out patterns, but far to often, when a gap hits us, we defalt to filling it in wrather than obstain from bad guesses.

"We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers."Obama
Check out my poetry here on Rational Responders Like my poetry thread on Facebook under BrianJames Rational Poet also on twitter under Brianrrs37


BobSpence
High Level DonorRational VIP!ScientistWebsite Admin
BobSpence's picture
Posts: 5863
Joined: 2006-02-14
User is offlineOffline
I would have been happier if

I would have been happier if at the end it was pointed out that the flip side of binding a large group together, religious beliefs also tend to define an outgroup, ie, all those in some other group or groups not sharing the same set of beliefs, so setting up stronger excuses for conflict between the separate groups.

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology


Cpt_pineapple
atheist
Cpt_pineapple's picture
Posts: 5487
Joined: 2007-04-12
User is offlineOffline
I find it interesting that

I find it interesting that non-believers had the same reaction to pro-religious quotes as believers to anti-religious quotes.

 

 

 

 


BobSpence
High Level DonorRational VIP!ScientistWebsite Admin
BobSpence's picture
Posts: 5863
Joined: 2006-02-14
User is offlineOffline
Cpt_pineapple wrote:I find

Cpt_pineapple wrote:

I find it interesting that non-believers had the same reaction to pro-religious quotes as believers to anti-religious quotes.

Hardly surprising.

Would have been more surprising if they both reacted to pro-religious quotes the same way. That could have been used as some support for the 'reality' of God, supporting the common Theist accusation we get, that we all in our hearts 'know' that God exists...

As it is, that is just a reaction to a proposition that conflicts with our particular world-view. D'uh.

It shows there is nothing special about belief in God vs. any other view.

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology


Vastet
atheistBloggerHigh Level ModeratorSuperfan
Vastet's picture
Posts: 10688
Joined: 2006-12-25
User is offlineOffline
While there is nothing to

While there is nothing to surprise me here, it still feels good to have ones suspicions confirmed. Smiling

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.


OrdinaryClay
Theist
Posts: 440
Joined: 2009-04-19
User is offlineOffline
 The fact that we

 The fact that we anthropomorphize should hardly seem surprising or even news worthy. Humans treat animals as people also. Would it surprise anyone that the same area of the brain were activated when we deal with close pets, or even inanimate objects given the right emotional projection. This would not mean animals don't exist.

 

 


OrdinaryClay
Theist
Posts: 440
Joined: 2009-04-19
User is offlineOffline
BobSpence1 wrote:I would

BobSpence1 wrote:

I would have been happier if at the end it was pointed out that the flip side of binding a large group together, religious beliefs also tend to define an outgroup, ie, all those in some other group or groups not sharing the same set of beliefs, so setting up stronger excuses for conflict between the separate groups.

This could just as easily be explained due to tribalism as our religious inclinations. Resource competition predated shrines. Just ask the chimps.


Balkoth
Posts: 118
Joined: 2008-11-25
User is offlineOffline
Of course resource

Of course resource competition and in/out groups predated religion.  We didn't invent the idea of religion until basically yesterday in terms of the timeline of life on Earth (and if one of the science freaks cares to correct that statement to be more accurate, take it away).

So you'd agree that people often use religion as a tool to create in/out groups and thus religions are not significant because they are true, but merely significant in the same way as we use racism?


OrdinaryClay
Theist
Posts: 440
Joined: 2009-04-19
User is offlineOffline
Balkoth wrote:So you'd agree

Balkoth wrote:

So you'd agree that people often use religion as a tool to create in/out groups ...

Agreed.

 

Balkoth wrote:

... and thus religions are not significant because they are true, but merely significant in the same way as we use racism?

Disagree. I'm a Christian afterall.


BobSpence
High Level DonorRational VIP!ScientistWebsite Admin
BobSpence's picture
Posts: 5863
Joined: 2006-02-14
User is offlineOffline
OrdinaryClay

OrdinaryClay wrote:

BobSpence1 wrote:

I would have been happier if at the end it was pointed out that the flip side of binding a large group together, religious beliefs also tend to define an outgroup, ie, all those in some other group or groups not sharing the same set of beliefs, so setting up stronger excuses for conflict between the separate groups.

This could just as easily be explained due to tribalism as our religious inclinations. Resource competition predated shrines. Just ask the chimps.

Both are probably true. Religion incorporates and reinforces pre-existing ideas and attitudes.

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology


OrdinaryClay
Theist
Posts: 440
Joined: 2009-04-19
User is offlineOffline
BobSpence1

BobSpence1 wrote:

OrdinaryClay wrote:

BobSpence1 wrote:

I would have been happier if at the end it was pointed out that the flip side of binding a large group together, religious beliefs also tend to define an outgroup, ie, all those in some other group or groups not sharing the same set of beliefs, so setting up stronger excuses for conflict between the separate groups.

This could just as easily be explained due to tribalism as our religious inclinations. Resource competition predated shrines. Just ask the chimps.

Both are probably true. Religion incorporates and reinforces pre-existing ideas and attitudes.

Or maybe it can act as an antidote to our base inclinations. Self sacrifice is not always so easy to explain. I know some attempt to explain altruism via the notion that it may be advantageous for gene survival, but there is no denying that more genes survive if I produce more offspring then if I sacrifice myself for the survival of existing offspring or worse a non-genetic relative.

 


BobSpence
High Level DonorRational VIP!ScientistWebsite Admin
BobSpence's picture
Posts: 5863
Joined: 2006-02-14
User is offlineOffline
OrdinaryClay

OrdinaryClay wrote:

BobSpence1 wrote:

OrdinaryClay wrote:

BobSpence1 wrote:

I would have been happier if at the end it was pointed out that the flip side of binding a large group together, religious beliefs also tend to define an outgroup, ie, all those in some other group or groups not sharing the same set of beliefs, so setting up stronger excuses for conflict between the separate groups.

This could just as easily be explained due to tribalism as our religious inclinations. Resource competition predated shrines. Just ask the chimps.

Both are probably true. Religion incorporates and reinforces pre-existing ideas and attitudes.

 

Or maybe it can act as an antidote to our base inclinations. Self sacrifice is not always so easy to explain. I know some attempt to explain altruism via the notion that it may be advantageous for gene survival, but there is no denying that more genes survive if I produce more offspring then if I sacrifice myself for the survival of existing offspring or worse a non-genetic relative.

 

There are some problems fully explaining altruism, it may originate in ways similar to the way religious ideas can emerge. It occurs in many species in various forms. There are many examples of altruistic behavior in chimpanzees. At the lower end of the scale, there are extreme examples of self-sacrifice in ants. It does seem, unsurprisingly, to be common to social species, which rely on cooperation to enhance collective survival. It is probably another pre-existing aspect of behavior which was incorporated into religious ideas.

Not perfectly explained, but its not a fundamental problem for evolutionary theory. Its demonstration in chimps is more of a problem for anyone trying to use it to cast doubt on naturalistic explanations for human morality.

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology


HisWillness
atheistRational VIP!
HisWillness's picture
Posts: 4100
Joined: 2008-02-21
User is offlineOffline
OrdinaryClay wrote: Or

OrdinaryClay wrote:

 

Or maybe it can act as an antidote to our base inclinations. Self sacrifice is not always so easy to explain. I know some attempt to explain altruism via the notion that it may be advantageous for gene survival, but there is no denying that more genes survive if I produce more offspring then if I sacrifice myself for the survival of existing offspring or worse a non-genetic relative

 

But that ignores the fact that we're group animals, and may have quite a lot of genetic material devoted to valuing others of our kind. That would explain our odd mixture of group violence and group solidarity that inevitably leads to war, and would also explain why we help people we don't know. Our affection for otters is also not survival-based, necessarily, but could be linked to something that is. It's quite a lot of speculation in that area.

Saint Will: no gyration without funkstification.
fabulae! nil satis firmi video quam ob rem accipere hunc mi expediat metum. - Terence


OrdinaryClay
Theist
Posts: 440
Joined: 2009-04-19
User is offlineOffline
BobSpence1

BobSpence1 wrote:

OrdinaryClay wrote:

BobSpence1 wrote:

OrdinaryClay wrote:

BobSpence1 wrote:

I would have been happier if at the end it was pointed out that the flip side of binding a large group together, religious beliefs also tend to define an outgroup, ie, all those in some other group or groups not sharing the same set of beliefs, so setting up stronger excuses for conflict between the separate groups.

This could just as easily be explained due to tribalism as our religious inclinations. Resource competition predated shrines. Just ask the chimps.

Both are probably true. Religion incorporates and reinforces pre-existing ideas and attitudes.

 

Or maybe it can act as an antidote to our base inclinations. Self sacrifice is not always so easy to explain. I know some attempt to explain altruism via the notion that it may be advantageous for gene survival, but there is no denying that more genes survive if I produce more offspring then if I sacrifice myself for the survival of existing offspring or worse a non-genetic relative.

 

There are some problems fully explaining altruism, it may originate in ways similar to the way religious ideas can emerge. It occurs in many species in various forms. There are many examples of altruistic behavior in chimpanzees. At the lower end of the scale, there are extreme examples of self-sacrifice in ants. It does seem, unsurprisingly, to be common to social species, which rely on cooperation to enhance collective survival. It is probably another pre-existing aspect of behavior which was incorporated into religious ideas.

Not perfectly explained, but its not a fundamental problem for evolutionary theory. Its demonstration in chimps is more of a problem for anyone trying to use it to cast doubt on naturalistic explanations for human morality.

I don't consider ants particularly interesting since they don't have much concept of self. Without a concept of self altruism is not really self sacrifice, and that is the key. With regards to the chimps I have not heard of altruism to the extent people practice it. Degree does matter obviously. It may be evolutionarily interesting to see behaviors, maybe even nascent behaviors, in our relatives, but when it comes to altruism I guess one could say that "size" matters. The greater the sacrifice the greater the explanation needed.

 


OrdinaryClay
Theist
Posts: 440
Joined: 2009-04-19
User is offlineOffline
HisWillness

HisWillness wrote:

OrdinaryClay wrote:

 

Or maybe it can act as an antidote to our base inclinations. Self sacrifice is not always so easy to explain. I know some attempt to explain altruism via the notion that it may be advantageous for gene survival, but there is no denying that more genes survive if I produce more offspring then if I sacrifice myself for the survival of existing offspring or worse a non-genetic relative

 

But that ignores the fact that we're group animals, and may have quite a lot of genetic material devoted to valuing others of our kind. That would explain our odd mixture of group violence and group solidarity that inevitably leads to war, and would also explain why we help people we don't know. Our affection for otters is also not survival-based, necessarily, but could be linked to something that is. It's quite a lot of speculation in that area.

 

Yes we are gregarious, but this is far from unique among animals. This again does not explain very well the degree of altruism we see in humans.

 

Regarding otters, yes I find them inexplicably cute and cuddly. Eye-wink

 

 


BobSpence
High Level DonorRational VIP!ScientistWebsite Admin
BobSpence's picture
Posts: 5863
Joined: 2006-02-14
User is offlineOffline
OrdinaryClay wrote:<....>I

OrdinaryClay wrote:

<....>

I don't consider ants particularly interesting since they don't have much concept of self. Without a concept of self altruism is not really self sacrifice, and that is the key. With regards to the chimps I have not heard of altruism to the extent people practice it. Degree does matter obviously. It may be evolutionarily interesting to see behaviors, maybe even nascent behaviors, in our relatives, but when it comes to altruism I guess one could say that "size" matters. The greater the sacrifice the greater the explanation needed.

 

I realize ants don't display 'conscious' altruism, but the example does address the issue you raised about evolution and passing on of genes - altruism in a social species is can work in an evolutionary context.

The fairly clear example of altruistic behavior in chimps which is more readily recognized as close to what we would understand as such, does demonstrate that acting in a way not directly benefitting the individual or their immediate prospects of reproduction did not start with homo sapiens.

Our own conscious thought processes can clearly enhance or inhibit these basic impulses, as can social activities such as religion. The results may be at one extreme result in the purest of altruistic sacrifice, at the other in the darkest plots to enslave or slaughter other members of society. These are the two sides of the coin of our enhanced cognitive capabilities.

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology


Fanas
Posts: 249
Joined: 2008-03-27
User is offlineOffline
geirj wrote:To The Brain,

geirj wrote:

To The Brain, God Is Just Another Guy

Of course he is:

 

Sorry,  couldn't help myself Smiling


OrdinaryClay
Theist
Posts: 440
Joined: 2009-04-19
User is offlineOffline
BobSpence1 wrote:I realize

BobSpence1 wrote:

I realize ants don't display 'conscious' altruism, but the example does address the issue you raised about evolution and passing on of genes - altruism in a social species is can work in an evolutionary context.

Oh, I understand your point. I don't deny that social behaviors can evolve that can increase the likelihood of an individual's gene transmittal. In the case of an ant there is no other way for an individual worker ant's genes to be transmitted except through self sacrifice. In a way the self sacrifice has taken the place of participating in gene exchange, i.e. ant sex. In the limit a multicelled organism is a "group". Sure it is analogic in some sense, but the analogy lacks much explanatory power in our case. Analogy needs more then general structure to be effective. 

 

 

BobSpence1 wrote:

The fairly clear example of altruistic behavior in chimps which is more readily recognized as close to what we would understand as such, does demonstrate that acting in a way not directly benefitting the individual or their immediate prospects of reproduction did not start with homo sapiens.

In the case of the chimps, again, I don't deny social behaviors that enhance group survival at some cost to the individual. That is most certainly why the group evolved, and certainly re-evolved. Again, the degree in difference seems non-trivial. I have not done a comprehensive  literature survey in the case of chimp altruism, but it would be interesting. The term altruism is just a word after all, and can be used lightly or strongly. The word itself carries no notion of weight of sacrifice. A metric could be devised that had a measure of "altruism". I suspect it would be along the lines of a moment calculation. I don't know that chimp altruism would score well compared to humans.

 

 

BobSpence1 wrote:

Our own conscious thought processes can clearly enhance or inhibit these basic impulses, as can social activities such as religion. The results may be at one extreme result in the purest of altruistic sacrifice, at the other in the darkest plots to enslave or slaughter other members of society. These are the two sides of the coin of our enhanced cognitive capabilities.

So the sub-thread comes full circle. Your optimism that you have an unbiased coin seems unfounded to me.  So we agree(I think) we have basic impulses to arbitrarily help and arbitrarily hurt - altruism and sadism. Which dominates in our species is blatantly obvious. The premise that religion exists to evenhandedly enhance both seems to ignore the fact that aggression is easily reinforced without the costly complication of religion. Note, I'm not saying religion is not used to enhance aggression. I'm saying there are many ways to do so. There appear to be very few that enhance altruism. It may be that our base impulses utilize any and all methods of enhancement available. It seems to me that religious behavior serves as an antidote to our baser nature.

I do take heart that you seem to concede to at least a 50% beneficial factor in the case of religion(hope I'm not reading to much into your coin analogy). Some atheists I've talked to would not concede a minuscule fraction of that.

 

 


BobSpence
High Level DonorRational VIP!ScientistWebsite Admin
BobSpence's picture
Posts: 5863
Joined: 2006-02-14
User is offlineOffline
 OrdinaryClay

 

OrdinaryClay wrote:

BobSpence1 wrote:

I realize ants don't display 'conscious' altruism, but the example does address the issue you raised about evolution and passing on of genes - altruism in a social species is can work in an evolutionary context.

Oh, I understand your point. I don't deny that social behaviors can evolve that can increase the likelihood of an individual's gene transmittal. In the case of an ant there is no other way for an individual worker ant's genes to be transmitted except through self sacrifice. In a way the self sacrifice has taken the place of participating in gene exchange, i.e. ant sex. In the limit a multicelled organism is a "group". Sure it is analogic in some sense, but the analogy lacks much explanatory power in our case. Analogy needs more then general structure to be effective. 

It was more than an analogy, it was an actual example of evolutionary processes being entirely consistent with behavior not exclusively focussed on the self, at a level which excluded conscious decision making on the issue.

Quote:

BobSpence1 wrote:

The fairly clear example of altruistic behavior in chimps which is more readily recognized as close to what we would understand as such, does demonstrate that acting in a way not directly benefitting the individual or their immediate prospects of reproduction did not start with homo sapiens.

In the case of the chimps, again, I don't deny social behaviors that enhance group survival at some cost to the individual. That is most certainly why the group evolved, and certainly re-evolved. Again, the degree in difference seems non-trivial. I have not done a comprehensive  literature survey in the case of chimp altruism, but it would be interesting. The term altruism is just a word after all, and can be used lightly or strongly. The word itself carries no notion of weight of sacrifice. A metric could be devised that had a measure of "altruism". I suspect it would be along the lines of a moment calculation. I don't know that chimp altruism would score well compared to humans.

I think I already pointed to the obvious fact that altruistic behavior is considerably enhanced in our species. The point stands, along with the 'ants' example, that this behavior tends to be present in all forms of social species.

Quote:

BobSpence1 wrote:

Our own conscious thought processes can clearly enhance or inhibit these basic impulses, as can social activities such as religion. The results may be at one extreme result in the purest of altruistic sacrifice, at the other in the darkest plots to enslave or slaughter other members of society. These are the two sides of the coin of our enhanced cognitive capabilities.

So the sub-thread comes full circle. Your optimism that you have an unbiased coin seems unfounded to me.  So we agree(I think) we have basic impulses to arbitrarily help and arbitrarily hurt - altruism and sadism. Which dominates in our species is blatantly obvious. The premise that religion exists to evenhandedly enhance both seems to ignore the fact that aggression is easily reinforced without the costly complication of religion. Note, I'm not saying religion is not used to enhance aggression. I'm saying there are many ways to do so. There appear to be very few that enhance altruism. It may be that our base impulses utilize any and all methods of enhancement available. It seems to me that religious behavior serves as an antidote to our baser nature.

I do take heart that you seem to concede to at least a 50% beneficial factor in the case of religion(hope I'm not reading to much into your coin analogy). Some atheists I've talked to would not concede a minuscule fraction of that.

You have indeed misunderstood my reference to the 'two sides of the coin'. It was not referring to the idea of a 50/50 probability as in a coin toss.

I was using in the other widely used sense of things which we accept or use because they have real benefits may also have a 'flip side' with significant negative consequences, at least potentially.

I do not agree that we have basic impulses to 'arbitrary' help or hurt. Altruism is not really a 'basic' impulse, its a bit more complex than that, and 'sadism' is not a basic impulse, and not a good example of the opposite of altruism. I would see the opposite of altruism being extreme selfishness and disregard for others' well-being. Either way, sadism does not 'dominate' in our species, but arguably self-centeredness does, both at an individual and group level. Shared religious beliefs are frequently a major factor binding groups together, and so inevitably also a factor in conflict between groups. The glaring example these days is the Christian/Jewish/Moslem conflict.

And I am not asserting that conflict is inevitable between such groups, or that religion is the only source of conflict, but it is a major factor. It is almost inevitable when two groups each claim to be upholding mutually incompatible versions of the 'Truth', neither of which can be objectively demonstrated, ie faith is required. The difference in belief may itself trigger the conflict if either group interprets some edict in their dogma to mean that unbelievers should not be tolerated. Otherwise some additional factor such as competition for limited resources or territory may be required to trigger open conflict.

All of these variations can be observed in that glaring example of the inextricable connection between certain widely held and differing religious beliefs rubbing up against each other and ongoing violent conflict - the Middle East. There are other factors involved, but if religion was such a unalloyed positive factor as some would like to believe, this is the opposite of what we expect to see where three major religions have such a strong following.

The only way such conflicts can ultimately be resolved is via a non-religious based approach, as was recognized by the founding fathers of the US Constitution, exemplified in the First Amendment.

 

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology


OrdinaryClay
Theist
Posts: 440
Joined: 2009-04-19
User is offlineOffline
 BobSpence1 wrote:It was

 

BobSpence1 wrote:

It was more than an analogy, it was an actual example of evolutionary processes being entirely consistent with behavior not exclusively focussed on the self, at a level which excluded conscious decision making on the issue.

As I said excluding conscious decision making removes any explanatory power for our case. It is an actual example of evolutionary behavior for sure, but an ant can no more not die for the whole then a bone cell can wander off and become an amoeba. Multicellular organisms are not of much interest when it comes to altruism.

 

BobSpence1 wrote:

I think I already pointed to the obvious fact that altruistic behavior is considerably enhanced in our species. The point stands, along with the 'ants' example, that this behavior tends to be present in all forms of social species.

You're reemphasising a point not being argued. As I pointed out, I don't disagree that altruistic behaviors are present in social species. Degree is important if we want to understand what is happening. Chimp behaviors are interesting and informative, but carry no magic in there ability to explain our altruism.

 

BobSpence1 wrote:

You have indeed misunderstood my reference to the 'two sides of the coin'. It was not referring to the idea of a 50/50 probability as in a coin toss.

Ah, yes, well thanks for the clarification. I was pretty skeptical I had seen any new atheist opinion.

 

BobSpence1 wrote:

I was using in the other widely used sense of things which we accept or use because they have real benefits may also have a 'flip side' with significant negative consequences, at least potentially.

Got it.

 

BobSpence1 wrote:

I do not agree that we have basic impulses to 'arbitrary' help or hurt. Altruism is not really a 'basic' impulse, its a bit more complex than that, and 'sadism' is not a basic impulse, and not a good example of the opposite of altruism. I would see the opposite of altruism being extreme selfishness and disregard for others' well-being. Either way, sadism does not 'dominate' in our species, but arguably self-centeredness does, both at an individual and group level. Shared religious beliefs are frequently a major factor binding groups together, and so inevitably also a factor in conflict between groups. The glaring example these days is the Christian/Jewish/Moslem conflict.

I was using your term when I used "basic impulse". No matter, I agree the behavior is a complex one. I also agree that using sadism to describe our base inclinations is to strong for general discussion. I will say that judging from examples like the Colosseum crowds it is not to far off the mark. Dismissing our aggressive behavior as self centeredness I think is far to forgiving. 

 

BobSpence1 wrote:

And I am not asserting that conflict is inevitable between such groups, or that religion is the only source of conflict, but it is a major factor. It is almost inevitable when two groups each claim to be upholding mutually incompatible versions of the 'Truth', neither of which can be objectively demonstrated, ie faith is required. The difference in belief may itself trigger the conflict if either group interprets some edict in their dogma to mean that unbelievers should not be tolerated. Otherwise some additional factor such as competition for limited resources or territory may be required to trigger open conflict.

I'm asserting that these conflicts and the extreme aggression we show towards each other is inevitable with or with out religion. It is naive to think otherwise. The world both past and present is filled with endless violence from mobs, tribalism, organized crime, secular state aggression and oppression. All sans religion. It is what we are. It is the nature of the beast. "Imagine" is a fantasy. I further assert that Christianity (true Scotsman do exist) acts as a dampening effect on our base aggressions. Christianity is an antidote to these behaviors. 

 

 


Kevin R Brown
Superfan
Kevin R Brown's picture
Posts: 3142
Joined: 2007-06-24
User is offlineOffline
Quote:I'm asserting that

Quote:
I'm asserting that these conflicts and the extreme aggression we show towards each other is inevitable with or with out religion.

Welcome to science, where simply asserting something doesn't make it true.

 

Evidence, please.

Quote:
"Natasha has just come up to the window from the courtyard and opened it wider so that the air may enter more freely into my room. I can see the bright green strip of grass beneath the wall, and the clear blue sky above the wall, and sunlight everywhere. Life is beautiful. Let the future generations cleanse it of all evil, oppression and violence, and enjoy it to the full."

- Leon Trotsky, Last Will & Testament
February 27, 1940


BobSpence
High Level DonorRational VIP!ScientistWebsite Admin
BobSpence's picture
Posts: 5863
Joined: 2006-02-14
User is offlineOffline
Some of the endless

Some of the endless variations on the way religious or any other structured belief systems are interpreted by individuals or groups may encourage positive behavior, or discourage negative behavior. Whether this is more accurately described as the particular belief-system discouraging harmful behavior, or that individuals with a less aggressive personality type are more likely to adopt a matching world view is a moot point. It is almost certainly a bit of both.

IOW if a particular version of a religion, whether accurately described as the True™ interpretation or not, can be shown in practice to discourage the worst aspects of human behavior, that is of no benefit to society at large unless the worst offenders can be encouraged/persuaded to adopt it and genuinely take it on board to the extent necessary to modify that behavior, and on a wide scale. One will always be able to find individual cases which exemplify the hoped for effect, given the range variation in individual personality and life history.

Such arguments can go round and round indefinitely.

My way of trying to assess the social effects of particular religions is to compare societies or sub-groups within society where various religions or non-belief dominate. As I mentioned, the history of the Middle East is not good for an argument for the benefits of strong religious belief. It is not just the Abrahamiv faiths I have problems with. Cambodia in SE Asia, (which I gave actually visited, as well as Egypt, FWIW) is religiously very strongly Buddhist, a religion which I probably have least problem with, still managed to allow the horrors of Pol Pot to arise in their midst.

When we consider things like this, along with several more formal surveys, it is hard to justify the proposition that religions in general, and particularly the Abrahamic ones, are unambiguously associated with more peaceful, law-abiding societies with high levels of life-satisfaction. 

What seems to emerge from both informal observation and repeated studies, is that if any consistent  trend can be observed, it does not support the hypothesis that religion inevitably improves human behavior.

As I said, if any of these major religions was as strongly conducive to 'peace' as all their proponents insist they are, I think would see something very different to the real world of today. 

If we are to address these problems at all, it will have to be independent of religious claims, rather objective surveys and studies. If any particular sect, such as the True™ Christians, wants to claim their way works, it will need to be objectively justified. To repeat, not only does the particular belief have be demonstrably effective in discouraging anti-social behavior in its adherents, it has to have sufficient appeal to a wide range of people to be adopted voluntarily, and that those benefits remain when it becomes a dominant belief, and not have other negative effects such as discouraging or impeding ethical scientific research into cures for disease and other ways to improve our well-being. we need truth and facts and evidence, here which automatically excludes religious faith-based claims.

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology


Cpt_pineapple
atheist
Cpt_pineapple's picture
Posts: 5487
Joined: 2007-04-12
User is offlineOffline
Kevin R Brown

Kevin R Brown wrote:

Quote:
I'm asserting that these conflicts and the extreme aggression we show towards each other is inevitable with or with out religion.

Welcome to science, where simply asserting something doesn't make it true.

 

Evidence, please.

 

Aggressive behaviour is observed in every animal, what makes you think humans are any different?

 

 

last I checked, a bear who mauls a hiker doesn't pray.

 

 

 

 

 

 


BobSpence
High Level DonorRational VIP!ScientistWebsite Admin
BobSpence's picture
Posts: 5863
Joined: 2006-02-14
User is offlineOffline
Cpt_pineapple wrote:Kevin R

Cpt_pineapple wrote:

Kevin R Brown wrote:

Quote:
I'm asserting that these conflicts and the extreme aggression we show towards each other is inevitable with or with out religion.

Welcome to science, where simply asserting something doesn't make it true.

Evidence, please.

Aggressive behaviour is observed in every animal, what makes you think humans are any different?

last I checked, a bear who mauls a hiker doesn't pray.

The evidence that would be required here would be evidence that religion tends to reduce aggression.

Unfortunately for the religiously inclined, what evidence we do have points to an increase in 'bad' behavior.

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology


OrdinaryClay
Theist
Posts: 440
Joined: 2009-04-19
User is offlineOffline
Kevin R Brown

Kevin R Brown wrote:

Quote:
I'm asserting that these conflicts and the extreme aggression we show towards each other is inevitable with or with out religion.

Welcome to science, where simply asserting something doesn't make it true.

 

Evidence, please.

"The world both past and present is filled with endless violence from mobs, tribalism, organized crime, secular state aggression and oppression. All sans religion. "

You deny my statment? Seems self evident.

 


OrdinaryClay
Theist
Posts: 440
Joined: 2009-04-19
User is offlineOffline
BobSpence1 wrote:Some of the

BobSpence1 wrote:

Some of the endless variations on the way religious or any other structured belief systems are interpreted by individuals or groups may encourage positive behavior, or discourage negative behavior. Whether this is more accurately described as the particular belief-system discouraging harmful behavior, or that individuals with a less aggressive personality type are more likely to adopt a matching world view is a moot point. It is almost certainly a bit of both.

IOW if a particular version of a religion, whether accurately described as the True™ interpretation or not, can be shown in practice to discourage the worst aspects of human behavior, that is of no benefit to society at large unless the worst offenders can be encouraged/persuaded to adopt it and genuinely take it on board to the extent necessary to modify that behavior, and on a wide scale. One will always be able to find individual cases which exemplify the hoped for effect, given the range variation in individual personality and life history.

Such arguments can go round and round indefinitely.

My way of trying to assess the social effects of particular religions is to compare societies or sub-groups within society where various religions or non-belief dominate. As I mentioned, the history of the Middle East is not good for an argument for the benefits of strong religious belief. It is not just the Abrahamiv faiths I have problems with. Cambodia in SE Asia, (which I gave actually visited, as well as Egypt, FWIW) is religiously very strongly Buddhist, a religion which I probably have least problem with, still managed to allow the horrors of Pol Pot to arise in their midst.

When we consider things like this, along with several more formal surveys, it is hard to justify the proposition that religions in general, and particularly the Abrahamic ones, are unambiguously associated with more peaceful, law-abiding societies with high levels of life-satisfaction. 

What seems to emerge from both informal observation and repeated studies, is that if any consistent  trend can be observed, it does not support the hypothesis that religion inevitably improves human behavior.

As I said, if any of these major religions was as strongly conducive to 'peace' as all their proponents insist they are, I think would see something very different to the real world of today. 

If we are to address these problems at all, it will have to be independent of religious claims, rather objective surveys and studies. If any particular sect, such as the True™ Christians, wants to claim their way works, it will need to be objectively justified. To repeat, not only does the particular belief have be demonstrably effective in discouraging anti-social behavior in its adherents, it has to have sufficient appeal to a wide range of people to be adopted voluntarily, and that those benefits remain when it becomes a dominant belief, and not have other negative effects such as discouraging or impeding ethical scientific research into cures for disease and other ways to improve our well-being. we need truth and facts and evidence, here which automatically excludes religious faith-based claims.

 

Worst offenders on wide scale worthless - got it. Christianity certainly does not claim or seek this. The Bible, which I understand carries no weight with you, specifically states salvation is relatively rare. Now you seem to chalk the result up to "random" susceptible personalities, I understand. It is good to see you don't deny the observable effect at least on an individual scale.

You have been very ambiguous about the size of the effect, besides mentioning formal surveys, it seems you actually don't know. I'm pretty sure this is why you then go to the macro view and look at a societal effect. Earlier you seemed to be making the case that Christianity was active in creating problems, at least now you seem to be arguing not so much causal as ineffective in overcoming. This is progress at least.

Now your repeated macro observation that Christianity has not solved the worlds problems is not a reason to not encourage and foster it. As was stated, if the overwhelming inclination of our species independent of religion is aggression, and Christianity is an individual experience and not a societal one then using a macro societal measure does not seem to be important. Let's assume some percentage of people indeed do practice Christianity in a life changing way, which you seem to agree exists. I would think you would then encourage and want to magnify the effect since they can possibly change society in positive ways. 

 

 


Cpt_pineapple
atheist
Cpt_pineapple's picture
Posts: 5487
Joined: 2007-04-12
User is offlineOffline
BobSpence1 wrote:The

BobSpence1 wrote:

The evidence that would be required here would be evidence that religion tends to reduce aggression.

 

The claim seems to be with or without religion, aggression will continue. It says nothing as to whether or not religion reduces aggression.

 

BobSpence1 wrote:

 

Unfortunately for the religiously inclined, what evidence we do have points to an increase in 'bad' behavior.

 

From what I've read, religious fundamentalism is inversely proprotional to 'good' behavior where as religious quests is positiviley correlated with 'good' behaviour.

 

But the fact is religion merely amplifies the behaviour, get rid of the religion, the core is still there.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Cpt_pineapple
atheist
Cpt_pineapple's picture
Posts: 5487
Joined: 2007-04-12
User is offlineOffline
OrdinaryClay wrote:"The

OrdinaryClay wrote:

"The world both past and present is filled with endless violence from mobs, tribalism, organized crime, secular state aggression and oppression. All sans religion. "

 

You deny my statment? Seems self evident.

 

 

 


Re-defining religion in 5...4...3...2...1

 

 

 


OrdinaryClay
Theist
Posts: 440
Joined: 2009-04-19
User is offlineOffline
BobSpence1

BobSpence1 wrote:

Cpt_pineapple wrote:

Kevin R Brown wrote:

Quote:
I'm asserting that these conflicts and the extreme aggression we show towards each other is inevitable with or with out religion.

Welcome to science, where simply asserting something doesn't make it true.

Evidence, please.

Aggressive behaviour is observed in every animal, what makes you think humans are any different?

last I checked, a bear who mauls a hiker doesn't pray.

The evidence that would be required here would be evidence that religion tends to reduce aggression.

Unfortunately for the religiously inclined, what evidence we do have points to an increase in 'bad' behavior.

No, there are two independent questions: 1) does aggression exist independent of religion, and 2) does religion decrease aggression.

In the case of 1) it is pretty self evident this is the case, and this is important since any macro  measures of effect need to take this into account. In the case of 2) you can take a macro view, which I would argue is interesting, but no where near as interesting as the individual view. The obvious reason being that even a small percentage of dedicated truly changed people can have a meaningful societal effect, even if it is washed out by a larger societal tendency to aggression.

 


OrdinaryClay
Theist
Posts: 440
Joined: 2009-04-19
User is offlineOffline
Cpt_pineapple

Cpt_pineapple wrote:

OrdinaryClay wrote:

"The world both past and present is filled with endless violence from mobs, tribalism, organized crime, secular state aggression and oppression. All sans religion. "

 

You deny my statment? Seems self evident.

 

 

 Re-defining religion in 5...4...3...2...1

 

I don't understand.


Cpt_pineapple
atheist
Cpt_pineapple's picture
Posts: 5487
Joined: 2007-04-12
User is offlineOffline
OrdinaryClay

OrdinaryClay wrote:

Cpt_pineapple wrote:

OrdinaryClay wrote:

"The world both past and present is filled with endless violence from mobs, tribalism, organized crime, secular state aggression and oppression. All sans religion. "

 

You deny my statment? Seems self evident.

 

 

 Re-defining religion in 5...4...3...2...1

 

I don't understand.

 

 

you'll see

 

 

 


BobSpence
High Level DonorRational VIP!ScientistWebsite Admin
BobSpence's picture
Posts: 5863
Joined: 2006-02-14
User is offlineOffline
OrdinaryClay wrote:Worst

OrdinaryClay wrote:

Worst offenders on wide scale worthless - got it. Christianity certainly does not claim or seek this. The Bible, which I understand carries no weight with you, specifically states salvation is relatively rare. Now you seem to chalk the result up to "random" susceptible personalities, I understand. It is good to see you don't deny the observable effect at least on an individual scale.

You have been very ambiguous about the size of the effect, besides mentioning formal surveys, it seems you actually don't know. I'm pretty sure this is why you then go to the macro view and look at a societal effect. Earlier you seemed to be making the case that Christianity was active in creating problems, at least now you seem to be arguing not so much causal as ineffective in overcoming. This is progress at least.

Now your repeated macro observation that Christianity has not solved the worlds problems is not a reason to not encourage and foster it. As was stated, if the overwhelming inclination of our species independent of religion is aggression, and Christianity is an individual experience and not a societal one then using a macro societal measure does not seem to be important. Let's assume some percentage of people indeed do practice Christianity in a life changing way, which you seem to agree exists. I would think you would then encourage and want to magnify the effect since they can possibly change society in positive ways. 

The observable effect, when enough cases are selected in an un-biased way, works both ways. No evidence that it does have a positive effect overall on society, if anything the evidence points negatively, IOW that it is at least somewhat more likely to be harmful in any particular case, ie that for some people it DOES actively create problems.

I did not base my claims on the observation that "Christianity has not solved the worlds problems". I pointed out that in situations where religion is a major factor, things are not noticeably better, but if anything are likely to be worse. It is precisely because there are other factors, that I am not claiming that removing religion will solve all the world's problems. I am bending over backwards to only make claims that can be well justified by the evidence, although I do personally feel the case against religion is much stronger, but that would take much longer to argue.

I am saying that even if we give religion the maximum benefit of any uncertainty in the evidence, it still is virtually impossible to demonstrate that belief is an overall benefit. There is some evidence that believers tend to be happier, but that is not the only thing by which to assess whether religion is a good thing or not, otherwise we should just distribute Prozac...

Since the positive effect actually observed is so variable from case to case and as likely to be negative as positive, it cannot be due to the some consistent effect of the particular faith system. Other societies, especially in Eastern and Northern Europe, with much lower levels of religious belief are measurably in better shape than the US, by many measures, such as crime rates and 'happiness' assessment,  so there are obviously other and apparently better ways to achieve widespread improvements in society than promoting religious belief. The best that can be said for your claim is that it can help some people, in some circumstances, which could probably apply to some degree to almost any particular philosophy of life.

EDIT: A fair approach to this issue would almost certainly reveal that some people respond more positively to some other version of Christianity, or maybe to a version of Buddhism, or whatever. So if you want to argue for your faith based on the psychological benefits to the individual, we should to be fair expose people to as wide a range of world-views as possible, rather than just your version, even if it gets a higher average score than other brands, to maximise the potential benefit.

I do not think the "overwhelming inclination of our species independent of religion is aggression". I think that is way overstating the situation, but you do seem stuck on this belief.

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology


FreeHugMachine
FreeHugMachine's picture
Posts: 152
Joined: 2009-04-02
User is offlineOffline
Hug-a-boo

Aggression exists outside of religion, of course.  Religion does however justify, validate, and support otherwise terrible acts of aggression.  It essentially creates an unnecessary in-group which allows for more turmoil.  With something as serious as what happens to you after death (and forever after) it definitely appears as a major concern of many people's lives.  Since there are so many religions, which disagree fundamentally, we basically find tons of unneeded in-groups with contrary positions and a great many new 'reasons' to act aggressively.

Anything built off irrationality will not have a stable foundation, through time the cracks do show and will lead to collapse.  A person who uses critical thinking and rationality will allow themselves the flexibility needed throughout life.

If people need comfort they can find it if they try.

[Free Hug]s are no longer available
Please refer to our older [Cheap Hug] model.
*provides slightly less comfort*


BobSpence
High Level DonorRational VIP!ScientistWebsite Admin
BobSpence's picture
Posts: 5863
Joined: 2006-02-14
User is offlineOffline
Yep.Not to mention that none

Yep.

Not to mention that none of this is inconsistent with the OP, namely that it is all a manifestation of our brains rather than reflecting the existence of some actual God thing outside the conceptual world of the individual.

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology


Kevin R Brown
Superfan
Kevin R Brown's picture
Posts: 3142
Joined: 2007-06-24
User is offlineOffline
Quote:But the fact is

Quote:
But the fact is religion merely amplifies the behaviour, get rid of the religion, the core is still there.

And, naturally, you have the expertise to be making a claim like this.

Right, Alison?

Quote:
"Natasha has just come up to the window from the courtyard and opened it wider so that the air may enter more freely into my room. I can see the bright green strip of grass beneath the wall, and the clear blue sky above the wall, and sunlight everywhere. Life is beautiful. Let the future generations cleanse it of all evil, oppression and violence, and enjoy it to the full."

- Leon Trotsky, Last Will & Testament
February 27, 1940


Kevin R Brown
Superfan
Kevin R Brown's picture
Posts: 3142
Joined: 2007-06-24
User is offlineOffline
Quote:Re-defining religion

Quote:
Re-defining religion in 5...4...3...2...1

Hardly any need, given that you already have my definition of what constitutes religion.

Quote:
"Natasha has just come up to the window from the courtyard and opened it wider so that the air may enter more freely into my room. I can see the bright green strip of grass beneath the wall, and the clear blue sky above the wall, and sunlight everywhere. Life is beautiful. Let the future generations cleanse it of all evil, oppression and violence, and enjoy it to the full."

- Leon Trotsky, Last Will & Testament
February 27, 1940


Cpt_pineapple
atheist
Cpt_pineapple's picture
Posts: 5487
Joined: 2007-04-12
User is offlineOffline
Kevin R Brown

Kevin R Brown wrote:

Quote:
But the fact is religion merely amplifies the behaviour, get rid of the religion, the core is still there.

And, naturally, you have the expertise to be making a claim like this.

Right, Alison?

 

Well the burden of proof is on me. But I have already made my argument that aggression will continue regardless of religion so sour grapes on you.

 

 

Kevin R Brown wrote:

Hardly any need, given that you already have my definition of what constitutes religion.

 

OrdinaryClay doesn't

 

 


Kevin R Brown
Superfan
Kevin R Brown's picture
Posts: 3142
Joined: 2007-06-24
User is offlineOffline
..Man, this is why I have

..Man, this is why I have such a beef with you, Alison. Your arguments all follow exactly the same routine:

 - Slap around a Strawman ('Not all violence is religious violence')

 - When told you're out in the field knocking down scarecrows, jump right into a non sequitor ('Since not all violence is caused by religion, religions must not be a cause of violence')

 - When told that this does not follow, and given examples when religion is plainly at fault for causing destructive behavior, you just make-up terminology ('Oh, well, maybe religion just 'enhanced' his/her behavior') and baldly assert that said destructive behavior would've happened anyway (...Apparently you bought one of Will's time machines a while back?)

Quote:
"Natasha has just come up to the window from the courtyard and opened it wider so that the air may enter more freely into my room. I can see the bright green strip of grass beneath the wall, and the clear blue sky above the wall, and sunlight everywhere. Life is beautiful. Let the future generations cleanse it of all evil, oppression and violence, and enjoy it to the full."

- Leon Trotsky, Last Will & Testament
February 27, 1940


Kevin R Brown
Superfan
Kevin R Brown's picture
Posts: 3142
Joined: 2007-06-24
User is offlineOffline
What I mean when I say

What I mean when I say 'Religon', for Clay's benefit: a religion is any belief that motivates any one or combination of the the following things:

- conflict

- hatred

- bigotry

- fear

...Towards anything else without needing further premise (i.e. : Homosexuality is wrong because I believe homosexuality is wrong). If it doesn’t do this, it’s not religion. If it does, it is.

Quote:
"Natasha has just come up to the window from the courtyard and opened it wider so that the air may enter more freely into my room. I can see the bright green strip of grass beneath the wall, and the clear blue sky above the wall, and sunlight everywhere. Life is beautiful. Let the future generations cleanse it of all evil, oppression and violence, and enjoy it to the full."

- Leon Trotsky, Last Will & Testament
February 27, 1940


Cpt_pineapple
atheist
Cpt_pineapple's picture
Posts: 5487
Joined: 2007-04-12
User is offlineOffline
Kevin R Brown wrote:..Man,

Kevin R Brown wrote:

..Man, this is why I have such a beef with you, Alison. Your arguments all follow exactly the same routine:

 - Slap around a Strawman ('Not all violence is religious violence')

 

 

Let's see

 

Kevin R Brown wrote:

Quote:

I'm asserting that these conflicts and the extreme aggression we show towards each other is inevitable with or with out religion.

Welcome to science, where simply asserting something doesn't make it true.

 

Evidence, please.


That sure sounds to me like you're skeptical of aggression by non-religious means.

 

 

 

Kevin R Brown wrote:

 - When told that this does not follow, and given examples when religion is plainly at fault for causing destructive behavior, you just make-up terminology ('Oh, well, maybe religion just 'enhanced' his/her behavior') and baldly assert that said destructive behavior would've happened anyway (...Apparently you bought one of Will's time machines a while back?)

 

 

Okay, guess what would happen if the action was positive?

 

Yeah "They are just good people to begin with"

 

So you still get sour grapes.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Cpt_pineapple
atheist
Cpt_pineapple's picture
Posts: 5487
Joined: 2007-04-12
User is offlineOffline
Oh and Kevin, as for my

Oh and Kevin, as for my calim that religion is an amplifier read the OP

 

Quote:

"Some of the same underlying abilities that support other sorts of complex human social behavior also support the behavior that we're terming 'religious belief,' " he says.

 


 

 

 


OrdinaryClay
Theist
Posts: 440
Joined: 2009-04-19
User is offlineOffline
BobSpence1 wrote:The

BobSpence1 wrote:

The observable effect, when enough cases are selected in an un-biased way, works both ways. No evidence that it does have a positive effect overall on society, if anything the evidence points negatively, IOW that it is at least somewhat more likely to be harmful in any particular case, ie that for some people it DOES actively create problems.

I did not base my claims on the observation that "Christianity has not solved the worlds problems". I pointed out that in situations where religion is a major factor, things are not noticeably better, but if anything are likely to be worse. It is precisely because there are other factors, that I am not claiming that removing religion will solve all the world's problems. I am bending over backwards to only make claims that can be well justified by the evidence, although I do personally feel the case against religion is much stronger, but that would take much longer to argue.

I am saying that even if we give religion the maximum benefit of any uncertainty in the evidence, it still is virtually impossible to demonstrate that belief is an overall benefit. There is some evidence that believers tend to be happier, but that is not the only thing by which to assess whether religion is a good thing or not, otherwise we should just distribute Prozac...

Since the positive effect actually observed is so variable from case to case and as likely to be negative as positive, it cannot be due to the some consistent effect of the particular faith system. Other societies, especially in Eastern and Northern Europe, with much lower levels of religious belief are measurably in better shape than the US, by many measures, such as crime rates and 'happiness' assessment,  so there are obviously other and apparently better ways to achieve widespread improvements in society than promoting religious belief. The best that can be said for your claim is that it can help some people, in some circumstances, which could probably apply to some degree to almost any particular philosophy of life.

EDIT: A fair approach to this issue would almost certainly reveal that some people respond more positively to some other version of Christianity, or maybe to a version of Buddhism, or whatever. So if you want to argue for your faith based on the psychological benefits to the individual, we should to be fair expose people to as wide a range of world-views as possible, rather than just your version, even if it gets a higher average score than other brands, to maximise the potential benefit.

I do not think the "overwhelming inclination of our species independent of religion is aggression". I think that is way overstating the situation, but you do seem stuck on this belief.

 

A societal level view does does not infer that Christianity is an independent causal factor in aggression at the individual or societal level. Humanities propensity for aggression completely independent of Christianity confounds attempting to use societal level measures to pinpoint the effect religion has on individuals. Humans naturally and undeniably build insider/outsider facades by any means necessary to achieve the material goals they are trying to accomplish.

Washing out individual effect by aggregating over a society does not allow you to make large claims about the effect at the individual level. There are a multitude of reasons why some societies may have a "better" society then ours completely irregardless of the still positive effect Christians are having in each society. It is not obvious that Christianity can not, and should not, be a significant and encouraged contributor to the whole "betterness".

You seem to have brought the 50/50 split back into the argument. I have no idea where you conclude these odds, but again I'm pleased to see you agree there is at least a 50% chance of positive effects due to Christianity. Somehow, though I feel you may now counter and say this is not what you were saying, but no matter. The benefits of Christianity at the individual level are greatly magnified by the congregation of those individuals who truly believe and are deeply motivated. Multiply this then over the many congregations and the magnification becomes synergy. This effect is very meaningful and powerful at a global level. This is clearly well beyond anything Prozac, the United nations, whining "Can we all get along" and photo-ops can accomplish. Changing individual behavior takes high motivation,

The fact that some number of people use Christianity in a negative way and as a negative motivator does not say that Christianity is the negative determinant in their behavior. Our propensity for this behavior is there at the base level. How a belief that aggression is not fundamental to our Psyche is possible I can not grasp. I've heard it is based on an underlying faith in humanity despite evidence to the contrary.

 

 


OrdinaryClay
Theist
Posts: 440
Joined: 2009-04-19
User is offlineOffline
FreeHugMachine

FreeHugMachine wrote:

Aggression exists outside of religion, of course.  Religion does however justify, validate, and support otherwise terrible acts of aggression.  It essentially creates an unnecessary in-group which allows for more turmoil.  With something as serious as what happens to you after death (and forever after) it definitely appears as a major concern of many people's lives.  Since there are so many religions, which disagree fundamentally, we basically find tons of unneeded in-groups with contrary positions and a great many new 'reasons' to act aggressively.

My point is that because of our innate aggression sans religion we would find another way to "justify, validate, and support otherwise terrible acts of aggression". Your faith in humanity's rational tendencies is unfounded in reality. Clearly the crazed mob in action is not worried about life after death. Rationality is the exception. We are much more motivated by the now then the later. If fact, I would claim that, it takes rational thought to stop and psychologically justify violence based on an afterlife. our aggression is in large degree deeper then this.

 


OrdinaryClay
Theist
Posts: 440
Joined: 2009-04-19
User is offlineOffline
Kevin R Brown

Kevin R Brown wrote:

Quote:
But the fact is religion merely amplifies the behaviour, get rid of the religion, the core is still there.

And, naturally, you have the expertise to be making a claim like this.

Some claims about the world can be made with out specialized expertise.  


BobSpence
High Level DonorRational VIP!ScientistWebsite Admin
BobSpence's picture
Posts: 5863
Joined: 2006-02-14
User is offlineOffline
OrdinaryClay

OrdinaryClay wrote:

BobSpence1 wrote:

The observable effect, when enough cases are selected in an un-biased way, works both ways. No evidence that it does have a positive effect overall on society, if anything the evidence points negatively, IOW that it is at least somewhat more likely to be harmful in any particular case, ie that for some people it DOES actively create problems.

I did not base my claims on the observation that "Christianity has not solved the worlds problems". I pointed out that in situations where religion is a major factor, things are not noticeably better, but if anything are likely to be worse. It is precisely because there are other factors, that I am not claiming that removing religion will solve all the world's problems. I am bending over backwards to only make claims that can be well justified by the evidence, although I do personally feel the case against religion is much stronger, but that would take much longer to argue.

I am saying that even if we give religion the maximum benefit of any uncertainty in the evidence, it still is virtually impossible to demonstrate that belief is an overall benefit. There is some evidence that believers tend to be happier, but that is not the only thing by which to assess whether religion is a good thing or not, otherwise we should just distribute Prozac...

Since the positive effect actually observed is so variable from case to case and as likely to be negative as positive, it cannot be due to the some consistent effect of the particular faith system. Other societies, especially in Eastern and Northern Europe, with much lower levels of religious belief are measurably in better shape than the US, by many measures, such as crime rates and 'happiness' assessment,  so there are obviously other and apparently better ways to achieve widespread improvements in society than promoting religious belief. The best that can be said for your claim is that it can help some people, in some circumstances, which could probably apply to some degree to almost any particular philosophy of life.

EDIT: A fair approach to this issue would almost certainly reveal that some people respond more positively to some other version of Christianity, or maybe to a version of Buddhism, or whatever. So if you want to argue for your faith based on the psychological benefits to the individual, we should to be fair expose people to as wide a range of world-views as possible, rather than just your version, even if it gets a higher average score than other brands, to maximise the potential benefit.

I do not think the "overwhelming inclination of our species independent of religion is aggression". I think that is way overstating the situation, but you do seem stuck on this belief.

A societal level view does does not infer that Christianity is an independent causal factor in aggression at the individual or societal level. Humanities propensity for aggression completely independent of Christianity confounds attempting to use societal level measures to pinpoint the effect religion has on individuals. Humans naturally and undeniably build insider/outsider facades by any means necessary to achieve the material goals they are trying to accomplish.

Washing out individual effect by aggregating over a society does not allow you to make large claims about the effect at the individual level. There are a multitude of reasons why some societies may have a "better" society then ours completely irregardless of the still positive effect Christians are having in each society. It is not obvious that Christianity can not, and should not, be a significant and encouraged contributor to the whole "betterness".

You seem to have brought the 50/50 split back into the argument. I have no idea where you conclude these odds, but again I'm pleased to see you agree there is at least a 50% chance of positive effects due to Christianity. Somehow, though I feel you may now counter and say this is not what you were saying, but no matter. The benefits of Christianity at the individual level are greatly magnified by the congregation of those individuals who truly believe and are deeply motivated. Multiply this then over the many congregations and the magnification becomes synergy. This effect is very meaningful and powerful at a global level. This is clearly well beyond anything Prozac, the United nations, whining "Can we all get along" and photo-ops can accomplish. Changing individual behavior takes high motivation,

I have most definitely not made any assumption of 50/50 splits anywhere. The FACT that when we aggregate the effects of belief across many individuals by analyzing societal differences, the effects seem to be small, and tend if anything to be negative. One simple interpretation of this would be a that the effect were as likely to be positive as negative and be of similar magnitude, which would be consistent with an even split. It could also be that there a few very strong positives and a larger number of modest negatives, or vice versa.

Either way, if we are arguing on the nett benefit to society of religion, it doesn't matter about the details at the individual level.

I will agree that if a few individuals get some great benefit, and the negative effects on many more individuals are very modest, that may be acceptable by some judgements. 

I think the last part is pretty much mostly wishful thinking, since there is NO evidence of this when we compare societies around the world.

Quote:

The fact that some number of people use Christianity in a negative way and as a negative motivator does not say that Christianity is the negative determinant in their behavior. Our propensity for this behavior is there at the base level. How a belief that aggression is not fundamental to our Psyche is possible I can not grasp. I've heard it is based on an underlying faith in humanity despite evidence to the contrary.

It doesn't matter if Christianity is or is not the negative determinant - this is not my position - it is a problem if it is shown to be a significant negative factor. I don't claim Christianity is the origin of the behavior, only that it can magnify the negative behavior by providing a whole slew of new excuses for seeing other people as bad, 'sinful', infidels, and so on, and deserving of punishment or death.

Aggression is certainly one of the modes of behavior 'wired' into us, but it is not a dominant factor in all interactions, at all times, or in emotionally stable individuals.

When I deny that it is "fundamental to our Psyche",  I do agree that it is an important component, and many people can be prone to going way to quickly into aggressive mode under many common circumstances, and this is a real problem, and even more at the group level, where mutual reinforcement magnifies the aggression. I see that it is there because in more turbulent conditions of society, the less aggressive individual will simply be less likely to survive. The other side of the evolutionary 'coin' is that the capability for altruistic behavior is also there, because it can benefit the group. You focus way too obsessively on the negatives of our 'base' nature - it is mixed, as is ultimately inevitable.

I see that many of our behavioral problems you refer to are due to the fact that many aspects of modern societies are so different to the conditions our species spent most of its evolutionary history in that many of these basic impulses and reactions are too often very inappropriate or worse.

I can't help thinking your attitude here is related to the Biblical idea that we are fallen, depraved, and only to be 'saved' by Jesus.

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology


OrdinaryClay
Theist
Posts: 440
Joined: 2009-04-19
User is offlineOffline
BobSpence1 wrote:Either way,

BobSpence1 wrote:

Either way, if we are arguing on the nett benefit to society of religion, it doesn't matter about the details at the individual level.

I will agree that if a few individuals get some great benefit, and the negative effects on many more individuals are very modest, that may be acceptable by some judgements. 

I think the last part is pretty much mostly wishful thinking, since there is NO evidence of this when we compare societies around the world.

It doesn't matter if Christianity is or is not the negative determinant - this is not my position - it is a problem if it is shown to be a significant negative factor. I don't claim Christianity is the origin of the behavior, only that it can magnify the negative behavior by providing a whole slew of new excuses for seeing other people as bad, 'sinful', infidels, and so on, and deserving of punishment or death.

As I've pointed out the problem is that you can not determine the net macro negative (amplification or direct motivator) effects of Christiany because of the confounding effects of the blatantly obvious and extremely common aggression independent of religion.

 

BobSpence1 wrote:

Aggression is certainly one of the modes of behavior 'wired' into us, but it is not a dominant factor in all interactions, at all times, or in emotionally stable individuals.

I never said it was "a dominant factor in all interactions, at all times", and it does not have to be to still be confounding.

 

BobSpence1 wrote:

You focus way too obsessively on the negatives of our 'base' nature - it is mixed, as is ultimately inevitable.

Pointing out the obvious historical and current truth is not obsessing.

 

BobSpence1 wrote:

I see that many of our behavioral problems you refer to are due to the fact that many aspects of modern societies are so different to the conditions our species spent most of its evolutionary history in that many of these basic impulses and reactions are too often very inappropriate or worse.

 

This is an interesting point. The effect mass urbanization is having is certainly not helping. Still, there is plenty of evidence that we are aggressive to the core even with out the hordes. Hordes increase the scale of atrocities for sure though. Hmmm ... could be argued this is even another confounding factor.