Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Is "Belief" an Evolved Characteristic?

Someone wrote over at another blog that religion has been used to promote and justify tyranny and the enslavement of people. I think this is true, but I think religion has probably been primarily beneficial to most people.

It's not true for me, and obviously not for the guy writing, but some people can not come to grips with a godless world, even though it seems like it would be easy enough. But maybe it shouldn't be so easy. A while back I was chewing over the idea that our brains may be evolutionarily hardwired for religion and it still does not seem like that incredible of a notion to me.

The essence of what I'm saying is this: As the brain of Homo, and probably Australopithecus before him, started rather rapidly increasing in size and especially once abstract thought was occurring, you would imagine that the fears of the unknown (most specifically death of loved ones and self), would have been among the primary thoughts being contemplated in detail (unlike any other animal). This could have been emotionally, psychologically and even physically so overwhelming to these creatures that only those who were able to buy in to the tribal myths could survive. If true, then everyone alive today is the descendant of a creature that actively accepted the supernatural.

I'm sure someone must have written extensively on this and I'd love to see what they came up with. I’m asking for a little help here - anyone know of a book that covers research on this concept?


Vince DC said...

John, your profile description finished the job Ground Hog Day started. I have grey matter seeping from my ears! Thanks for the visit and I'll browse your stuff.

John said...

Even if I make you feel crazy, you should watch Ground Hog Day all the way through!

Impatient Patient said...


The God Gene

tom l said...

"Religious belief itself is an adaptation" - Edward O Wilson on salon.com


John said...

Thanks to both Pigeon and Impatient! I'll check out your links tomorrow. I'm a little tired. Just watched American Idol (one of my few TV, and ESPECIALLY 'Reality TV') "guilty indulgences"... Sorry - I love it. And it's a great daddy/daughter bonding thing! Sometimes I even think I'll blog on it, and then I think I'd blow my whole persona here!

Anonymous said...

For improvements to one's ontological (mis) understandings try reading:

Gagdad Bob

It might help you make it through the day, Middleman. On the other hand monkeys do no evil, see no evil and hear no evil. That could have been the evolutionary jumpstart on homo religiosis. Only kidding of course.


John said...

McKiernan - I would love to do a whole new post on this which would start with your comment, but (though I'm ALLOWED TO) won't do so unless you say it's ok with you.
It's just my style!

Anonymous said...

Okay, as long as I'm only in the comment section. McK

John said...

Don't overstep. I said, because I'm such a courteous soul, that I'd let you decide if you wanted your comment to be the basis of a new post. I didn't say I was giving you any latitude in the decisions about the nature of the post, or the structure. Nevertheless, it was my intention to make it about your comment. I'll take your answer, thus, as an unequivocal "yes".

John said...

McKiernan, have you any comments on Hank's two most recent posts over at
Barnes-ville ?

Anonymous said...

My understanding was that you wished to start a new post on the subject (evolution/religion) and that you wished my comment to lead the comment section. As you said:

"I would love to do a whole new post on this which would start with your comment..."

I took 'this' to mean evolution/religion. Over-step never entered my mind, nor would the idea of impinging on any creative freedom whatever of the form the new post would be.

You're free to use whatever you wish.


Anonymous said...

McK...have you any comments on Hank's two most recent posts...

To answer your question,

Hank and I have never had ANY productive dialogue. Anything I have said in any positive fashion regarding what few comments he has sent in my direction have never been acknowledged or else ignored. Anything I've said that opposed his stance on any issue has been also ignored. Since that has been our communication history, I have yet to comment on his blog with no future intent to do so.

Hank is going on six months as a blogger. Given the subject matter HIV/AIDs and prolific responses those issues create on the internet, then ask yourself, why does Hank have so few commenters ? I don't know the answer. But if you required I answer, I would say that he has managed to piss off most of the people that have a vested interest in the subject academically and professionally whether they agree or disagree with his position. So I leave Hank free to impose his views on the internet world.

Like how much brain power is it to quote the PDR (all drugs bad, azt bad, chemo bad) then wave your cherished p-reviewed literature under the noses of your audience while discounting and ignoring any sense of actual dialogue with those with whom you presume you are communicating ?


John said...

I have watched his blog. I have a different take on it than you do. I may be wrong. Time will tell. But I have seen the "evolution of Barnes-ville" much as that of my own blog. Not saying I have a huge following like Dean, for instance, but I've been doing it 8 months to his 4 years. And I basically wasted the first 4 or 5 months of it. I believe Hank has also. But if you go look at the material he has produced in the past month, it's reminiscent of what happened on mine and that's about when mine took off pretty good. I now how several hundred hits a week (about 1,000 the week of the Culshaw post). So again, we'll see.