Religion as evolutionary trait

zarathustra
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Religion as evolutionary trait

An article in the Post-Dispatch discusses whether religion has evolutionary advantages.  Interestingly, two of the researchers agree on the evidence, yet one is an atheist and the other an evangelical.

One explanation given is the mind's use of agency -- attributing natural phenomena to sentient agents -- as a defense against predation.  Another is the theory of mind -- an individual's ability to appreciate that another person (or being) can have a mind, operating independently of his own.

 If religion must be debunked, does species survival demand it be exchanged for something else, or can it be discarded with nothing to replace it?

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Very interesting points

Very interesting points made in the article and by you Zara.

Could it be that when society goes through more troubling times the evolutionary trait strengthens and when society is calmer and learning becomes highly important (the enlightenment) the trait lies dormant? 


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BGH wrote: Very

BGH wrote:

Very interesting points made in the article and by you Zara.

Could it be that when society goes through more troubling times the evolutionary trait strengthens and when society is calmer and learning becomes highly important (the enlightenment) the trait lies dormant? 

No. Those two traits are fundamental facets in understanding other people. Autistic children lack "mirror neurons" because of a defect in the second genetic trait, and it makes them lack any sort of empathy (and results in some of the oddest aspects of autism). The other is a fundamental part of human nature (to attribute actions to other people/animals/invisible skydaddys) and allow us to make social descisions based on the actions (and probable future actions) of others.

It's really interesting how our brains evolved socially. So much of our brain is devoted to social interaction that it is possible that our entire capacity for intelligence is a direct result of that socialization.

What we really ought to do is screen dogs and dolphins for genes related to mirror neurons and assumption of intent and see if they have it (or a similar set of genes) also. I think they might be aspects common to all social animals.


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You should check out

You should check out Breaking the Spell by Daniel Dennett. It discusses this issue in depth and ultimately concludes that religion does more harm than good and should be discarded, or at least discouraged.


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Cognitive science and

Cognitive science and evolutionary biology are working towards a better understanding of inherent “belief in hope beyond reason”. The researchers tend to agree that religious belief is an outgrowth of brain architecture and religious experience and practice is generated and structured largely by a few emotions that evolved for reasons not yet defined.  Emotion is an intangible illogical thing; if belief in God is tied to our emotions that would make a God as real as any other emotion.. The current hypothesis is that belief in something transcendent and unfathomable is a “natural” faith and our brains are primed to presume the presence of God. Belief then becomes normal and natural.

This research has been ongoing This is a link to  a NewYork Times article

 http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/04/magazine/04evolution.t.html?ei=5090&en=43cfb46824423cea&ex=1330664400&pagewanted=all


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Mjolnin wrote: Cognitive

Mjolnin wrote:

Cognitive science and evolutionary biology are working towards a better understanding of inherent “belief in hope beyond reason”. The researchers tend to agree that religious belief is an outgrowth of brain architecture and religious experience and practice is generated and structured largely by a few emotions that evolved for reasons not yet defined.  Emotion is an intangible illogical thing; if belief in God is tied to our emotions that would make a God as real as any other emotion.. The current hypothesis is that belief in something transcendent and unfathomable is a “natural” faith and our brains are primed to presume the presence of God. Belief then becomes normal and natural.

This research has been ongoing This is a link to  a NewYork Times article

 http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/04/magazine/04evolution.t.html?ei=5090&en=43cfb46824423cea&ex=1330664400&pagewanted=all

 

Yes, but racism is also a natural tendency for the human mind, so is anscestor-spirit worship and animism. Just because its a natural tendency of the human mind doesn't make it true or a "good thing".

 


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theotherguy wrote: Yes,

theotherguy wrote:

Yes, but racism is also a natural tendency for the human mind, so is anscestor-spirit worship and animism. Just because its a natural tendency of the human mind doesn't make it true or a "good thing".

If the trait was developed as a survival instinct reqiured for stronger society than it is a needed thing and it is a true thing. What makes almost anything good or bad is not what it is but how it is used. If I beat someone to death with a branch from an apple tree the tree is not bad. If we protect society before we seek personal gain than it is also good even though personal gain would be lost. If we gain from the loss of a society then it is bad. As bad as religion is depicted the fact that we are still here gives me reason to have confidence to believe we need it if for no other reason than survival. A society that sacrifices nature portrays its insensitivity to human needs.


kellym78
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Mjolnin wrote: If the

Mjolnin wrote:
If the trait was developed as a survival instinct reqiured for stronger society than it is a needed thing and it is a true thing.

Kind of like how our bodies evolved to store fat for periods of famine--the same mechanism that causes countless thousands of deaths and chronic illnesses every year. Well, it must be a good thing since we evolved that way. :-/ 

Quote:
What makes almost anything good or bad is not what it is but how it is used...As bad as religion is depicted the fact that we are still here gives me reason to have confidence to believe we need it if for no other reason than survival. A society that sacrifices nature portrays its insensitivity to human needs.

So then, the fact that religion IS used to promote all kinds of evil and to separate us from each other with this whole in and out-group mentality would by your own definition make it "bad". Was it necessary for the formation of groups for the purposes of cooperation and survival--yes. But it does more harm to both individuals and societies now than good. And the continual progress of humanity/society is not insensitive--it's just the way that it is. Sorry, but I'm happy that we didn't stagnate in the 14th century in the name of sensitivity and "nature". 


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mjolnin wrote: What makes

mjolnin wrote:
What makes almost anything good or bad is not what it is but how it is used.

I agree totally.  Religion is used for bad, so that makes it bad.

But it is possible for us as a society to get the benefits of religion without the superstition, the anti-intellectualism and the intolerance.  The Unitarians have been doing it for more than a hundred years.

"After Jesus was born, the Old Testament basically became a way for Bible publishers to keep their word count up." -Stephen Colbert


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This reminds me of a video

This reminds me of a video I saw on Youtube.

 


Mjolnin
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kellym78 wrote: [Kind of

kellym78 wrote:

[Kind of like how our bodies evolved to store fat for periods of famine--the same mechanism that causes countless thousands of deaths and chronic illnesses every year. Well, it must be a good thing since we evolved that way. :-/ 

You are very right, but the mechanism is not bad. Over eating and lack of excersise is.

kellym78 wrote:

So then, the fact that religion IS used to promote all kinds of evil and to separate us from each other with this whole in and out-group mentality would by your own definition make it "bad". Was it necessary for the formation of groups for the purposes of cooperation and survival--yes. But it does more harm to both individuals and societies now than good. And the continual progress of humanity/society is not insensitive--it's just the way that it is. Sorry, but I'm happy that we didn't stagnate in the 14th century in the name of sensitivity and "nature". 

On this I also agree, to a point. There is much "bad" being done in God's name and that  point can not be argued. But that does not make religion bad, just the misuse of religion. This is not the No true Scotsman argument either. Just a simple statement that even the progress of humanity/society can be displayed in both possitive and negative lights. I can not think of anything that people can not use in a bad way.


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Mjolnin wrote: On this I

Mjolnin wrote:

On this I also agree, to a point. There is much "bad" being done in God's name and that point can not be argued. But that does not make religion bad, just the misuse of religion

I simply can't think of any way that people can childishly believe in all these stupid emotion-appealing fairytales, and still call it a good thing. Fairytales like God, Jesus, heaven, hell, Santa-pagan-Claus, christmas-pagan-tree, easterbunny etc. etc. What happened to "homo sapiens"? The wise, intelligent human being?

Even if all the religous violence in the world would be removed, some people would still want to end religion. I believe what they say in the RRS motto: "Helping to free humanity from the mind disorder known as Theism". There is no God. Just a mental disorder from people who don't want to accept the simple truths of the universe: Everyone will die, you cannot know if there's light at the end of the tunnel, once you are dead you will eventually be forgotten, and there's nothing you can do about it.

But if you ask me, it takes some time to get used to, but it's not that bad to live with these facts.

Mjolnin wrote:

Just a simple statement that even the progress of humanity/society can be displayed in both possitive and negative lights. I can not think of anything that people can not use in a bad way.

Why are people in industrialized countries protesting against feeding developing countries with gene-manipulated food? The answer is simple: They are not hungry, they don't understand the meaning of "hunger", and they have the power to say so. We could basically end all starvation from the face of the earth if we relied on biotechnology, but a bunch of over-weight idiots in industrialized countries say that gene manipulated food is evil.

What do I mean by this? We can hardly say that trying to improve the standard of living in the world is negative. One cannot rationally say that we should stop improving food technology, and let billions of people starve to death. It's so sick and inhuman to say like that. 

Ofcourse, with better technology we can create better ways of ending, or saving lives. Science and technology have nothing absolute about them. Some things can be used for good, and some things for bad.

Biotechnology is neutral. With it we can create weapon technology and nutrition technology. Weapons is bad and food is good.

Trust and believe in no god, but trust and believe in yourself.


jread
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Damn that video pineapple

Damn that video pineapple posted is good. The guy is sincere even if you disagree with what he says.

The implication that we should put Darwinism on trial overlooks the fact that Darwinism has always been on trial within the scientific community. -- From Finding Darwin's God by Kenneth R. Miller

Chaos and chance don't mean the absence of law and order, but rather the presence of order so complex that it lies beyond our abilities to grasp and describe it. -- From From Certainty to Uncertainty by F. David Peat


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Larty wrote:  I believe

Larty wrote:

 I believe what they say in the RRS motto: "Helping to free humanity from the mind disorder known as Theism". There is no God.

The discussion here is not whether you believe or not believe in God, it is about evolutionary traits within the human mind.

Studies done by Scott Atran lead him to believe that people who doubt the existence of God act as if they believe in something. Research, not the Bible, has seen these traits and Cognitive science and evolutionary biology are studying them. The reality is that we may be primed for belief. So, "Helping to free humanity from the mind disorder known as Theism" may be identified by science as “Helping to free humanity from a necessary biological trait for the growth of human civilization”.

Larty wrote:

Why are people in industrialized countries protesting against feeding developing countries with gene-manipulated food? .....

What do I mean by this? We can hardly say that trying to improve the standard of living in the world is negative. One cannot rationally say that we should stop improving food technology, and let billions of people starve to death. It's so sick and inhuman to say like that...

Some things can be used for good, and some things for bad...

Biotechnology is neutral. With it we can create weapon technology and nutrition technology. Weapons is bad and food is good.

Protesting against gene-manipulated food? I don’t know what this has to do with Cognitive science? But since this is a topic you opened, let’s look at it and I will play devil’s advocate, (-play devil’s advocate- I hope this term is acceptable to use).  Life-science companies are not charity organizations and although they have helped people from starvation, they can and will adversely impact Third world countries financially. Gene technology affected approximately 70,000 vanilla farmers in Madagaskar due to growing of vanilla tissue culture in science laboratories. Gene-manipulated canola oil is targeted replace coconut and palm oils affecting 21 million people in Asia. Gene-manipulated cocoa butter substitute is another potential discovery on the way to displace millions of farmers in West Africa.Feed the starving and increase the starving, does that make perfect logic?Life is not that simple as forget God and follow science and everything will be good.

Hey pineapple ,

I agree with Jread.  good post.


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I certainly didn't mean to

I certainly didn't mean to change the subject of this thread. I thought if I wrote that biotechnology stuff as an example of my point, and that you guys could figure out what I mean.

Sorry for the... Unclearness.

Trust and believe in no god, but trust and believe in yourself.