Darwinian reason for religion

phooney
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Darwinian reason for religion

One thing I've seen mentioned in several clips of various Richard Dawkins interviews etc is the fact that religion is pretty much a universal constant in every culture in the world, past or present.

Dawkins' opinion is that this is likely to have a Darwinian cause, that is to say it adds to the survival strength of a person (or an entire culture?).  One suggestion I have seen him make is that it provides a psychological comfort, thus in times of great stress, an individual falls back on this belief, and is less likely to do something stupid and remove him or herself from the gene pool.  Said person is then more likely to breed, and pass on this belief, a human trait that is not part of our genetic make up.  Keeping in mind of course that no matter how comforting and helpful it is in this case, this doesn't make it true.

Another Darwinian explanation I've pondered about is what I call the 'safety in numbers factor' people who belong to a religion have the 'backing' of a large number of people to look out for them.  Of course it's a crying shame that usually the only other group one needs such a backing for is another religious group.  It's in our nature to look after 'our own' (this itself must provide survival value).  I know I'd certainly go the extra distance to help out my own family in a threatening situation (and indeed any situation that would affect their long term survival e.g. doing what I can to help them get off drugs etc, and a hundred years ago if Random White Person A saw a fight between Random White Person B and Random Black Person A, who do you think RWPA would have helped, if he helped anybody?  Not condoning it of course, just giving a general example of somebody looking after 'their own'.

So my theory is basically that religion provides a belonging to a group with the absolute belief that their way is the only way, and this causes them to defend 'their own' and this adds survival value, and thus this is a Darwinian reason for religion.

And of course none of this has means that religion is true, it's just the only thing that seems to produce such a high level of commitment.

Please discuss.  I hope I'm not just spouting out old and worn out ideas, is there a search function for this forum?  If so, am I blind!!?

 


xamination
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I don't believe that

I don't believe that religion is habitual or genetic; instead, religion evolves out of civilization.  The question that must be asked about this is if a person was isolated for his own life, would he eventually create a religion?

I hope that when the world comes to an end I can breathe a sigh of relief, because there will be so much to look forward to.


hellfiend666
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In "The God Delusion",

In "The God Delusion", Dawkins also talks about the suggestion that religiosity also might spring from the same bio-chemical process that allows us to feel love.  If you don't own it, it's on page 184.  The idea was presented by philosopher Daniel Dennet, suggesting that irrational religion could be the by-product of the same bio-chemical processes that are responsible for "falling in love", and it goes on to compare the two types of "mania".  Drawing parralels, and showing differences.  Still just a hypothesis, but one that's being looked into.

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phooney
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xamination wrote: I don't

xamination wrote:
I don't believe that religion is habitual or genetic; instead, religion evolves out of civilization.  The question that must be asked about this is if a person was isolated for his own life, would he eventually create a religion?

I certainly wan't meaning to imply that religion was genetic.  However, I think we can agree that in the majority of cases, the children follow in the footsteps of their parents in terms of religion.  In this way I reckon religion could be considered a non-genetic 'trait' that is passed on, and a 'trait' that adds survival value.

It's an interesting question you pose in regards to the person in isolation.  On one hand if you take my arguement to be true then a person in isolation would have neither a group to belong to nor anybody else to need defending from, thus no survival value to be gained from worshipping Chippie the tree god.

On the other hand, a person existing in isolation would certainly have large gaps in knowledge that they would probably attempt to fill with something, and they wouldn't have the combined knowledge of many generations to help do this.


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I think those arguements

I think those arguements seem to make sense and I think you are on the right track. Let me try to elaborate.

Religion is a man made construct that is passed down more through socialization than genes. However, over the course of history religion and religious type beliefs have also been linked to governments and to rulers. Therefore, in those cultures, societies and environments it was maladaptive to be a non-believer and usually came to the point of death if you were thought to be a non-believer. So in this case it was not genes that got passed down, but the learning and socialization of relgious ideas. I refer you to a book by a social psychologist named Fathali M. Moghaddam called The Individual and Society. In this book he discusses what he calls carriers that are socially passed on from generation to generation. He does not touch on religion, but you could see the analogy.  

As for the idea that if man were isolated would he create his own religion? Yes, this is why there are so many religions around the world. Even native americans had their spirituality and rituals. However, this is because they are isolated from knowledge, cultures, and facts outside their own world of existence. Sort of like a child who only gets his educaiton from the bible. 

"Those who think they know don't know. Those that know they don't know, know."


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Quote: In "The God

Quote:
In "The God Delusion", Dawkins also talks about the suggestion that religiosity also might spring from the same bio-chemical process that allows us to feel love.  If you don't own it, it's on page 184.  The idea was presented by philosopher Daniel Dennet, suggesting that irrational religion could be the by-product of the same bio-chemical processes that are responsible for "falling in love", and it goes on to compare the two types of "mania".  Drawing parralels, and showing differences.  Still just a hypothesis, but one that's being looked into.

I don't have the book, but I can't find page 184.Laughing

I hope that when the world comes to an end I can breathe a sigh of relief, because there will be so much to look forward to.


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xamination

xamination wrote:

Quote:
In "The God Delusion", Dawkins also talks about the suggestion that religiosity also might spring from the same bio-chemical process that allows us to feel love. If you don't own it, it's on page 184. The idea was presented by philosopher Daniel Dennet, suggesting that irrational religion could be the by-product of the same bio-chemical processes that are responsible for "falling in love", and it goes on to compare the two types of "mania". Drawing parralels, and showing differences. Still just a hypothesis, but one that's being looked into.

I don't have the book, but I can't find page 184.Laughing

http://polyinthemedia.blogspot.com/2007/01/polyamory-cited-in-god-delusion.html


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I hope that link helps.

I hope that link helps.


xamination
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Quote: As for the idea that

Quote:
As for the idea that if man were isolated would he create his own religion? Yes, this is why there are so many religions around the world. Even native americans had their spirituality and rituals. However, this is because they are isolated from knowledge, cultures, and facts outside their own world of existence. Sort of like a child who only gets his educaiton from the bible.

I was not asking about isolated cultures, I meant an individual.  Imagine gaing conciousness in a world with no knowladge of anything and no one else around.  It would be... weird.

I hope that when the world comes to an end I can breathe a sigh of relief, because there will be so much to look forward to.


hellfiend666
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Hell yeah, dude, good find

Hell yeah, dude, good find American Atheist!  That's the exact passage I was reffering to! 


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I have a great many ideas on

I have a great many ideas on where religion may have come from. One of them is that it is the most valuable tool available against a dictatorship/monarchy/etc. A religion can remove the power claimed by the dictator, and give it to an insubstantial being. This can easily lead to a populace unafraid of death since only their god can judge their actions, not the dictator. Only their god can sentence their soul, the dictator only has power over their body. It's like a psychological tool that allows you to do things you normally wouldn't for the survival of yourself and/or family. This would be a great survival benefit in times long past, when dictatorship was more common and even more delusional than most religions of the day.

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I would not say that

I would not say that religion is a total by-product of our evolution. What I would say is that our evolutionary instincts have certianly helped religion.

 

Religion survives in the memeplex because it gets passed down through generations, often by indoctrination. From an evolutionary standpoint, it is an advantageous trait to have children listening unquestioningly to their parents at a young age, because it was a fundamental survival mechanism, the same could be said about taste (need to distinguish poisonous, bitter fruit). 

"Physical reality” isn’t some arbitrary demarcation. It is defined in terms of what we can systematically investigate, directly or not, by means of our senses. It is preposterous to assert that the process of systematic scientific reasoning arbitrarily excludes “non-physical explanations” because the very notion of “non-physical explanation” is contradictory.

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triften
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xamination

xamination wrote:

Quote:
As for the idea that if man were isolated would he create his own religion? Yes, this is why there are so many religions around the world. Even native americans had their spirituality and rituals. However, this is because they are isolated from knowledge, cultures, and facts outside their own world of existence. Sort of like a child who only gets his educaiton from the bible.

I was not asking about isolated cultures, I meant an individual. Imagine gaing conciousness in a world with no knowladge of anything and no one else around. It would be... weird.

Darwinism/natural selection doesn't operate at the level of an individual, it operates on the level of population/groups. Something can give an individual a massive "survival" advantage but if it doesn't allow him to reproduce (at all/as effectively as those he is competing with), the trait is selected against.

Dawkins addresses the tendency for god creation by pointing out that humans have a propensity to explain things with agents. "The tiger wants to eat you" so you should run. "The volcano is angry" so it must be placated. "The sky god loves us" and makes it rain. This may have been an advantage when you didn't need to figure out why the tiger wants to eat you, or why the volcano was going to erupt, you just needed to assess the situation and react quickly.

Its easy to anthropomorphize things. Have you ever said "my car is tired" or "my computer decided to X"? Hopefully, it's tounge-in-cheek for most people, but that's likely the type of thing that started religion.

 

I like to think that if an adult woke up with a blank slate, they'd approach things more rationally. (Skepticism has been generally bred out of children, since skeptical kids tend not to heed their parents advice about dangerous things.) Then again, a blank slate might make you more likely to believe anything you're told.

-Triften


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Just because I am nitpicky

Just because I am nitpicky and/or annoying, I will point out that your statement is incorrect. Evolution works on individuals. Evolutions deals in genetics. It progresses only with mutation and genetic innovation. This is because evolution not only eliminates the weak but shapes the strong. Let us say an individual, during segmented shuffling undergone during mitosis, has the good fortune to acquire a new protein string which has  a useful ability. Let's say this individual lives in the Arctic, and the new gene codes for a useful lipoprotein. This is a survival advantage which will allow him to reproduce more than his unmutated counterparts, so as time goes on through generations, the lipoprotein gene will become more prominent in the pool, until it is a dominating allelle, and then while all this is happening, lets say that a couple generations down the line, one of his descendents undergoes another useful mutation.

And the cycle continues 

"Physical reality” isn’t some arbitrary demarcation. It is defined in terms of what we can systematically investigate, directly or not, by means of our senses. It is preposterous to assert that the process of systematic scientific reasoning arbitrarily excludes “non-physical explanations” because the very notion of “non-physical explanation” is contradictory.

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triften
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Point conceded. I think my

Point conceded. I think my problem may have been perceiving "an" animal to have evolved when a new trait becomes dominant amongst the species. (Using "an" animal to refer to it as a species.) I'll ponder that more, but I must be off to work.

-Triften