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Is Atheism Evolutionarily Unstable? Options
Epiphileon
Posted: Saturday, April 22, 2017 9:29:00 AM

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(This is by no means a rigorously formulated argument as yet, but something that has been on my mind for some time. My hope is that presenting it here will lead to constructive discussion of the main idea. I do not intend it as a refutation in any manner of theism, nor do I wish to argue the validity of evolutionary theory.)

I haven't believed in God for thirty years now. The transition from an evangelical pastor to atheist happened because I discovered that evolutionary theory was not refutable. Almost every course I took in pursuit of a degree in behavioral neuroscience was steeped in, or based on evolutionary theory in some manner. and it is on the basis of that foundation that I have come to the conjectures that are the topic of this post.

Everything about human nature is a result of evolutionary processes, our biological, social, and even the organizational and developmental characteristics of the individual brain/mind, are the result of these processes. The dynamics and time frames of these various applications are considerably different, but underlying them all is some form of selection, and modification of the original due to selection. This is the evolutionary paradigm of human nature, both physical and behavioral.

A fundamental principle of evolutionary theory is that it is a blind process, anyone who understands the theory knows this intellectually; however, understanding this sufficiently for it to challenge our preconceived notions about ourselves takes, it seems, considerable effort. This becomes important to how atheists view the issue of gods and religions.

That is the most succinct preamble I could come up with, I hope that is sufficient to keep the following question from being dismissed out of hand by other atheists.

What if atheism is evolutionarily unstable? It seems to me that in the evolution of human mentality that there may have not been sufficient intermediary steps between the last major revolution of religious thought, i.e. the development of personal, interactive, omniscient gods, and complete godlessness.

Consider...

1) Gods, and religions were evolutionarily stable strategies for thousands of years, they have in fact been woven into the entirety of the co-evolutionary history of modern homo-sapiens. If that is so then the mental characteristics that support belief in gods, and religions may have been strongly selected for.

2)A good deal of the practice of belief in gods, and religions, have little to do with the actual beliefs and more to do with providing social cohesiveness, and all kinds of mutual support. In the modern world the majority of this support is of an emotional nature and therefore pulls on numerous other characteristics of human nature which are deeply evolutionarily ingrained.

3)Curiosity, or the need to understand the cause of things, is an ancient, and extremely adaptive behavioral trait that predates consciousness by many millions of years. We are driven to have reasons for things we observe, those things include the origins of life and the universe, and for millennium our only answers to those were supernatural, and mostly gods.

4)The coevolution of religious mentality occurred over a period of approximately 10,000 years, it was also the central foundation of social structure for most of that time. Such a circumstance would result in an extremely strong selective pressure for the mental characteristic of religiosity.

5)The advent of reasoned and evidentially grounded atheistic explanations of life and the universe are extremely young, less than a blink of an eye in evolutionary time.

My speculative conclusion based on these points is that it is just not reasonable to expect the majority of the population to be able, to abandon gods, and adopt an atheistic view of reality. It is a much more unreasonable expectation if the majority are raised within a religious environment which would tap into, and strengthen the inherent propensity towards religion.

The absence of intermediary steps away from the notion of interactive, personal divinities and atheism has, I feel, made it nearly impossible to expect widespread adoption of the latter.

Question authority. How do you know, that you know, what you know?
almo 1
Posted: Saturday, April 22, 2017 10:02:07 AM
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I am an agnostic.


From urbandictionary:

Litteraly meaning a lack of claim to knowlege. Generaly is refering to a lack of claim to knowelge about the possible existance of god(s).
One can be an agnostic theist. Meaning that while they personally believe in a god they are open to the idea that they could be wrong. Or an agnostic atheist who personally believes there is no god(s) but also admits they have no real way of knowing the truth.
The term agnostic is ment to be used in conjunction with the words theist or atheist but will often be used as a stand alone deffinition of ones beliefs. Agnostic's will often be split in the middle of these two phiolsophys.

Is the opposite of gnostic- meaning a claim to knowlege.
#1) Agnostic person: "I don't think its possible to tell if there is or isn't a god but I respect your beliefs as long as your not murdering or raping people as part of them."

#2) Other agnostic person: "We will find out the truth on this issue when we are dead and I would not care to die sooner just to find the answer."

*******************

I belong to #2




FounDit
Posted: Saturday, April 22, 2017 11:32:34 AM

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Epiphileon wrote:


Consider...

I have previously stated I believe the desire for acceptance and the fear of the pain of rejection is the foundational motivation for all human behavior. From that perspective, I think the answers to your considerations can be explained. So from my point of view, some considerations would involve:

1) Gods, and religions were evolutionarily stable strategies for thousands of years, they have in fact been woven into the entirety of the co-evolutionary history of modern homo-sapiens. If that is so then the mental characteristics that support belief in gods, and religions may have been strongly selected for.
My first thought when I read this was, “What is/are the mental characteristics?” More specifically, what characteristic would select for belief in gods and religions? I come back to fear and the need for belonging – acceptance. How this explains belief in gods and religions I offer below.

2)A good deal of the practice of belief in gods, and religions, have little to do with the actual beliefs and more to do with providing social cohesiveness, and all kinds of mutual support. In the modern world the majority of this support is of an emotional nature and therefore pulls on numerous other characteristics of human nature which are deeply evolutionarily ingrained.
It is precisely that need to belong, to be a part of a social group and find mutual support that would result in such beliefs being ingrained over time.

3)Curiosity, or the need to understand the cause of things, is an ancient, and extremely adaptive behavioral trait that predates consciousness by many millions of years. We are driven to have reasons for things we observe, those things include the origins of life and the universe, and for millennium our only answers to those were supernatural, and mostly gods.
Curiosity is abundantly evident in humans, and attempts to understand, albeit with limited information, would inevitably lead to the idea of a creator, since all life observed comes from a progenitor. Further, the fear of the unknown, particularly what happens at death, and if anything survives, would prompt an imaginative creature, a conscious being able to see itself in an environment, and able to imagine some kind of existence after death, to invent some kind of progression.

4)The coevolution of religious mentality occurred over a period of approximately 10,000 years, it was also the central foundation of social structure for most of that time. Such a circumstance would result in an extremely strong selective pressure for the mental characteristic of religiosity.
I submit that the selective pressure did not come from nature, but from within the human mind itself; that source being the common experience of fear and the need for not only social acceptance but also acceptance from whatever progenitor the group has invented.

5)The advent of reasoned and evidentially grounded atheistic explanations of life and the universe are extremely young, less than a blink of an eye in evolutionary time.

My speculative conclusion based on these points is that it is just not reasonable to expect the majority of the population to be able, to abandon gods, and adopt an atheistic view of reality. It is a much more unreasonable expectation if the majority are raised within a religious environment which would tap into, and strengthen the inherent propensity towards religion.

The absence of intermediary steps away from the notion of interactive, personal divinities and atheism has, I feel, made it nearly impossible to expect widespread adoption of the latter.
I agree. It doesn’t seem possible that humans will collectively overcome their fears. Indeed, most seem to cling to them even when they find them harmful. I do think, however, that as science progressed, more individuals found a home in an atheistic/agnostic view. It is possible that as we move further into a world of scientific advancements, and perhaps greater, more advanced space travel, a greater number of people will join that group. That group will likely always be a minority, however.





A great many people will think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices. ~ William James ~
Epiphileon
Posted: Saturday, April 22, 2017 3:44:16 PM

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almo 1 wrote:
I am an agnostic.


Thank you for responding Almo but, I do not see how this addresses my conjecture.

Question authority. How do you know, that you know, what you know?
Epiphileon
Posted: Saturday, April 22, 2017 4:12:05 PM

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FounDit wrote:

My first thought when I read this was, “What is/are the mental characteristics?” More specifically, what characteristic would select for belief in gods and religions? I come back to fear and the need for belonging – acceptance. How this explains belief in gods and religions I offer below.


Hi FounDit thank you for responding, even if we accept your notion of a single overarching motivation for all human behavior, and its evolution, the conjecture I made while not entirely independent of such a principle would be addressable as a distinct phenomenon. There is no doubt, (from a naturalist's perspective), that there are specific brain behaviors involved in the belief in god. Brain behaviors are largely although not entirely based on structures that are genetically determined. Given the age and power of religion, and its ubiquitous presence in the history of society as I point out in my post, these would result in powerful selective pressures for those structures and that behavior.

My point is that given that, and that the major forms of theism became "set in stone" in the iron age and have not continued to evolve with the advancement of knowledge, that we have arrived at a conundrum, the type of which can result from blind process. We need to stop believing in these things, but as a species we have not been through the intermediate states that would allow for the adoption of an atheistic world view without wholesale societal trauma.

As I have said this is a conjecture, but one based in my understanding of current understandings of evolutionary processes.

Question authority. How do you know, that you know, what you know?
FounDit
Posted: Saturday, April 22, 2017 7:02:12 PM

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Epiphileon wrote:
FounDit wrote:

My first thought when I read this was, “What is/are the mental characteristics?” More specifically, what characteristic would select for belief in gods and religions? I come back to fear and the need for belonging – acceptance. How this explains belief in gods and religions I offer below.


Hi FounDit thank you for responding, even if we accept your notion of a single overarching motivation for all human behavior, and its evolution, the conjecture I made while not entirely independent of such a principle would be addressable as a distinct phenomenon. There is no doubt, (from a naturalist's perspective), that there are specific brain behaviors involved in the belief in god. Brain behaviors are largely although not entirely based on structures that are genetically determined. Given the age and power of religion, and its ubiquitous presence in the history of society as I point out in my post, these would result in powerful selective pressures for those structures and that behavior.
From my perspective, those structures would be those that allowed imagination/consciousness to develop. There can be no doubt that belief in gods and the structure of religious practice could not exist without that special ability of humans.

My point is that given that, and that the major forms of theism became "set in stone" in the iron age and have not continued to evolve with the advancement of knowledge, that we have arrived at a conundrum, the type of which can result from blind process. We need to stop believing in these things, but as a species we have not been through the intermediate states that would allow for the adoption of an atheistic world view without wholesale societal trauma.
As I have postulated, I believe the reason there has been no evolution in this area is precisely because there has been no evolution in our ability (read willingness) to rationalize our fear — to control — our need for approval/acceptance. We are just as steeped in those as our early human ancestors when imagination first appeared.

As I stated in our discussion on consciousness, I believe it is possible for humans to advance beyond the knee-jerk reactions of these forces, but it takes a willingness to do so, and few have a desire to go there. We seem to like the drama, and emotional roller coaster ride of life, even when it is painfully inefficient in dealing with the realities we face. We could never totally eliminate it, but we could do a much better job of controlling ourselves.

Some, however, think the drama and emotional turmoil is what gives life meaning. To me, this is total immersion in the acceptance/rejection principle which leaves no escape for those who believe this way. There are whole cultures who practice this as can be seen daily on the news.

As I have said this is a conjecture, but one based in my understanding of current understandings of evolutionary processes.


A great many people will think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices. ~ William James ~
Hope123
Posted: Sunday, April 23, 2017 1:39:55 AM

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Your premise is an interesting point of view, Epi. I shall have to think about it. You may have a point.

I have never considered that there might be a genomic factor or inherent propensity for the belief in a god or gods. I think of it as learned behavior that is rewarded with feel-good serotonin when we participate with a "like" social group or in group identification. Meditation of any kind, whether religious or not, can produce endorphins and make one feel good. And humans have a propensity for pleasure of all kinds. As do animals.

To me any evolution would be in the communication of belief, rather than in the brain itself.

But my first reaction to every topic is to get statistics/facts and in this case to see how quickly the numbers of atheists are actually changing. And the numbers of atheists do seem to be increasing more in the recent past. But it takes generations for change because children are conditioned to believe and it is hard to throw away "stuff" we learned as children. A lot of baggage we never do get rid of as adults.

And often adults raised in religion return to it after life events. My brother and sister became very vocal about religion AFTER they both lost an adult child - they want to believe they will see that child again.

I think the main reason that religion has such a hold still is that there is absolutely no security in this life and people try to find it.

There is fear of the future and the unknown. Some people actually think they can bargain with God - if this operation on my back does not paralyze me, I will forever believe in you and be good etc. It is their way of handling anxiety.

After marriage a less religious person or lapsed religious person may adopt the level of commitment of their more religious spouse. Often if one converts to a different religion for the sake of marriage, one becomes more devout than the non convert.

And of course since it is a way of controlling people, leaders actively endorse it.

From what I saw in my search for statistics, countries are very different. The US has a reputation for having a large number of religious people but apparently in Gallup polls that has dropped from almost 100% years ago to around 70 % now.

http://www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12/americas-changing-religious-landscape/

Atheism etc. jumped 6 points in seven years. Not bad in my book!

A 2015 article said the UK is one of the least religious in the world.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3036133/Brits-religious-world-UK-comes-59th-poll-65-countries-30-population-say-faith.html

Some Churches in Canada are losing their congregations. Those that have changed their services to be more like concerts, with bands instead of an organ etc., are faring better.

The data on Wiki (link at end) also revealed some interesting facts about Canadians' beliefs:
▪ A majority (53%) of Canadians believe in God. What is of particular interest is that 28% of Protestants, 33% of Catholics, and 23% of those who attend weekly religious services do not.
▪ One quarter (23%) of those with no religious identity still believe in a God.


http://canadianatheist.com/2015/04/angus-reid-survey-faith-in-canada/

26% say they reject religion
• 21% say they have no religious identity
• 37% prefer to live without “God or congregation”
• 27% consider themselves neither religious nor spiritual
• 33% think the growth of atheism in Canada is positive
43% are uncomfortable around the devoutly religious, and only 22% are uncomfortable around people “who have no use for religion”

And yet I would have sworn Canada is around 90% religious and most are Protestant, but there is a higher percentage of Catholics. I always think I am alone and never talk about it. I have never met anyone who is an atheist. We actually do not know what others around us really think.

Psychologists have studied the differing personalities between the two groups and there are a few differences in some areas but not in others. They did find that since atheists do not believe in afterlife, they are often more willing to try to fix things here with social justice. But then again the religious in churches often have "Outreach" where they put their money where their mouth is. (And sometimes missionaries have brought unintended as well as intended consequences upon those they tried to convert in their zeal. Hawaii for instance.)

Humans also have a need to have their opinions validated and some faiths even send out contacts to try to convert others - Jehovah's Witness for instance.

You can read the list of nice adjectives ascribed to atheists ;) on this Wiki link which may give an idea as to demographics even if not all facts have been verified.


https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_atheism


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FounDit
Posted: Sunday, April 23, 2017 10:33:00 AM

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Some additional thoughts on this lead me to wonder if perhaps a better question might be:

Is Imagination/consciousness evolutionarily unstable?

And by unstable, I assume you mean whether or not it results in our survival as a species rather than the survival of a particular characteristic. Since belief in gods and religions is a result of our ability to imagine, it would seem to me that it is the results of this ability that would determine stability in the sense of survival.

If, for example, we exterminated ourselves from the planet with nuclear weapons, whether that results from religious beliefs or the lack thereof (Atheism), it would be our imaginative ability that would ultimately be the cause, both in the area of belief and in weapons creation. For our imagination has led us to believe in gods and to create weapons capable of our own demise.

The need for approval and fear of rejection also are a result of our imagination. So if we, out of our fears, unleashed those WMD’s, it would be our imagination that would be the ultimate cause of our extinction. It would be our imagination that proved to be evolutionarily unstable.


A great many people will think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices. ~ William James ~
Romany
Posted: Sunday, April 23, 2017 10:50:04 AM
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Epi (and Hope)

I don't think the last 100 years has as much bearing on Epi's proposition as the last 500 years; Or the last 1000 years.

You both seem to completely disregard social movements such as the Renaissance, the Enlightenment,even the Industrial Revolution - or, further back, the Byzantium rise of Science and Mathematics, or the Greeks.

Because, what I'm getting at, is Epi's proposition rests upon the belief that Atheism is something new, like plasma tvs. That only in the past century has it gained ground. Thus he is able to wonder if people haven't had 'time' to adapt.

However, here I think one fact is in play which might be misleading. You guys live in the North of a continent that is predominantly deist. Christianity is woven into your sports, your government,your social media, your military, your schools: it's a Christian country. And as such, it's an anomaly amongst first world countries, and directly at odd with others.

Because there have ALWAYS been people who didn't buy into deism; well, at least since people could communicate on stone tablets and parchment and wax. There have always been whole communities of philosophers and scientists who rejected deism. And even within polytheistic ancient cultures there have always been those who didn't necessarily believe, but who were always there for the celebrations and never really gave a moment's thought about what was behind it all. Just as happens to-day.

As all the other first world countries have not had much trouble accepting that some people believe in gods and some don't, I would contend that mitigates against an evolutionary god-gene. Yep, social cohesion may indeed be bred into us. The need for social intercourse IS part of the make up of many species. The need for bonding rituals may indeed have played a part in humankind's development. The need for comfort from repeated rituals could also have contributed to our development.

But I would need a helluva lot more convincing that people are prisoners of their own genes when it comes to deism.

Kirill Vorobyov
Posted: Monday, April 24, 2017 5:12:51 AM

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I was born and finished school in Soviet Union where I was taught to be an atheist. Then I spent years studying math and physics at the University.

The result you may find rather surprising. I still don't feel any affiliation to a specific religion, probably because I was never brought up as a religious man. I even "dislike" religions to some extent because I think people should be stimulated to learn and think rather than to blindly believe in things fed in their minds by somebody else. However, the more I learned about the physical world, the more a sense grew inside me that the physical world is not all.. For example, the physical matter can not evolve into a beautiful building by itself. In fact, that would be against the laws of physics. The physical matter is a raw material that can only be shaped into a building by a creative power, which would find ways to organize the matter in a nice way in spite of that matter's natural tendency to chaos, including the need to make mathematical calculations. Then, of course, the laws of physics take their toll, so the building gradually molders and must be fixed from time to time to retain its beautiful form.

Anyway, this is by no means an answer to Epiphileon's post. I think what's interesting in this observation is the need to separate religiousness, i.e. a set of blind beliefs, which is rudimental in my view, from a based on knowledge understanding that ideal or "spiritual" world is in fact part of the reality in some ways that we the humans are only beginning to comprehend.

In this sense "atheism", if understood as a pure materialism, may not only be "evolutionary unstable", but simply wrong, i.e. not stand the test of evidence and newly acquired knowledge.
leonAzul
Posted: Tuesday, April 25, 2017 6:09:17 AM

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Epiphileon wrote:

5)The advent of reasoned and evidentially grounded atheistic explanations of life and the universe are extremely young, less than a blink of an eye in evolutionary time.


If the written word is acceptable evidence, theism and atheism have co-existed with humanity since the beginning. Along with the tales of brave Ulysses and his murderous gods were screeds against the woo peddlers and god-mongers of the world.

In fact, it could well be argued that the literal interpretation of the gods and their myths as anything but creative story-telling on existential themes is a modern superstition that prehistoric people would laugh at if they could understand it. If prehistoric people were so fixated on the supernatural that they did not heed evidence and reason, how did they ever survive the real world for hundreds of thousands of years? Belief in an unseen god does not organize a hunting party or pick the nuts and berries for you.

I'll agree with you that on the larger evolutionary scale that's not very long, yet in terms of human evolution that is quite significant.

The above is a rather broad opinion, and I understand that I'll have to do some work to substantiate it, but for the moment, like Romany, this is how I see your conjecture.


"Make it go away, Mrs Whatsit," he whispered. "Make it go away. It's evil."
Hope123
Posted: Tuesday, April 25, 2017 11:48:04 AM

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Leon, I don't doubt what you say - I'm not a history buff. But it may not all have been "creative story-telling", at least in some cultures. Mayan cenotes tell a more gruesome story of animal and human sacrifice. Maybe those atheists knew they had to go along or else!

Coming from a very young country and never having been overseas :( I am always impressed when I see documentaries and travel programs of Europe and the UK and they show buildings built 2000 years ago or churches in all their splendor that took forty years to build.

In fact if one watches Rick Steve's Travel programs of the UK and Europe (which we are now reduced to doing it seems 😀) one gets the impression that everybody is and always has been religious. He is American so it may be he is coming from that POV, but it seems tourists all want to see the churches and statues and monuments and tombs and evidence of wars of long ago religious people. Perhaps for the beauty alone but when one sees at least two churches every program from many cities and countries, it is the impression one gets that religion is and always has been the dominating force in every culture.

(These programs make me wish even more that I could visit these places but at least I am learning some European and British history along with seeing some beautiful countryside.)

Edited - these impressions are not meant to prove anything; I am "just saying" that looking at that history "you could have fooled me" - what it seems like to me is not what you and Romany have said, so I'm learning from your POV.



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Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Tuesday, April 25, 2017 11:48:22 AM

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My first thoughts on all this were something like "Why give two choices which are not mutually exclusive?" and "What about all the other viewpoints?"

This is not what I personally believe, but what's wrong with the idea that some "Big Being" Creator set up this universe and animals and people on Earth - and set up the process of evolution at the same time as part & parcel with the universe itself?
Why this dichotomy of "theist" or "evolutionist".
They are not in the least mutually exclusive.

I suppose my ideas are actually (though I came to them from the opposite direction) very similar to those of Kirill.

I was brought up in a Catholic family and Catholic church, with nuns as my teachers for junior school and 'brothers' for secondary school. By the time I was leaving school, I had seen enough hypocrisy, lies and unproved 'fixed ideas' to last a lifetime.
However, I cannot see that it's all 'coincidence' and 'accidental'. Some random mixture of various types of mud was hit by a lightning bolt and came to life and grew up to be self aware. I can see each step (chemicals to organic molecules and so on) but the coincidence of chemicals coming through all the stages of evolution to Man is just a bit too much. Some guidance seems (to me) rather obvious.

I see some spiritual side to life, separate from the material. Mind is not brain.
But I also can't figure with some overall GOD figure who controls everything and has arranged for millions of people to die horribly, half the planet to be starving.

I see individuals with a spiritual side - some good and some not so good - who together provide the creativeness which Kirill mentions - piles of sand and rock becoming great buildings and so on.


Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
Hope123
Posted: Tuesday, April 25, 2017 12:17:30 PM

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Drago, the idea that theories of evolution and gods are not "mutually exclusive" are exactly how many people, including religionists and scientists, solve their dilemma of not knowing and probably never knowing the beginnings. In fact I was content with that theory for some time. "God's day may have been a billion years" etc.

It was when I accepted that I will never know the answer, that I was freed from conflict.

I am re-reading an online Yale course that I kept copies of the lectures entitled "Death" - it is the Philosophy of Death. Body theory versus Personality Theory versus Soul theory. It was interesting enough for me to want to read it again and yet I have not changed my thinking.

Equality is when you see a person - not a label.
Hope123
Posted: Tuesday, April 25, 2017 1:59:39 PM

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Epi, I just reread your OP and next post. You said "specific brain behaviors that are largely...based on structures that are genetically determined" that have been selected and evolved.

Just double checking but I did understand correctly that you think there is a genetic component to belief or non belief in gods? If so, why?

There is only one small study about twins and a God gene, saying people with it are more mystic and believe in religion, or even believe in ESP and UFO's.

"The evolutionary advantage this (God Gene) might convey, or whether it could be a side effect of a separate adaptation, have yet to be fully explored. However, Dr. Hamer has hypothesized that self-transcendence makes people more optimistic, which makes them healthier and likely to have more children." Wiki

The science of the study has been criticized and some religious leaders have denounced it. They say religion is based on faith and not on some gene. I find the above "self-transcendence" statement too general and not in the least provable.

John Polkinghorne, an Anglican priest, told the Daily Telegraph that "You can't cut faith down to the lowest common denominator of genetic survival. It shows the poverty of reductionist thinking."

There were no other studies I could find at all. When scientists think there may be something to a nature/nurture characteristic, they are usually all over it with many twin studies and with siblings who weren't twins.

Am I way off base what you are thinking?

Equality is when you see a person - not a label.
Epiphileon
Posted: Thursday, April 27, 2017 5:29:09 AM

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Hope123 wrote:

I have never considered that there might be a genomic factor or inherent propensity for the belief in a god or gods. I think of it as learned behavior that is rewarded with feel-good serotonin when we participate with a "like" social group or in group identification. Meditation of any kind, whether religious or not, can produce endorphins and make one feel good. And humans have a propensity for pleasure of all kinds. As do animals.


High Hope, thank you for your consideration of this notion, I am glad I finally ran this up the flagpole.
The aspects you mention are definitely part of the phenomenon of brain behavior we call theism.

"To me any evolution would be in the communication of belief, rather than in the brain itself."

This is the tricky part, because there is the ongoing evolution of the cultural phenomenon of belief, specifically the evolution of theistic religions. What I am speculating is that on top of all the other social creature factors, like those you mentioned above, that there was a selection pressure that developed due to the ubiquity of religion that selected for a neuronal architecture upon which my posited archetypes of spirituality would exist. The type of archetypes I proposed in The Spirituality of Atheism, nearly 6 years ago.

One of the things I need to work on making much more clear in that presentation is that I do not think there has been any major biological evolution of the brain that results in belief in gods, but that a number of other areas already existent establish particular interconnections as a result of the existence of the cultural phenomenon of religion. The coevolutionary process is still largely unheard of in the general population, what I believe would be considered the foundational work on it was only published in 1981 "Genes, Mind, and Culture: The Coevolutionary Process", and it is an intense academic tome. The work makes it abundantly clear though that mind and culture are inextricably locked in an evolutionary feedback loop.

My proposition that this process has resulted in some sort of evolutionary change in the brain is speculative. I can not however, write it off to blind conjecture, it seems to me inevitable given the selective pressures involved, and the fact that all behavior arises from biology interacting with an environment, both of which are being evolutionarily shaped.

Hope123 wrote:
But my first reaction to every topic is to get statistics/facts and in this case to see how quickly the numbers of atheists are actually changing. And the numbers of atheists do seem to be increasing more in the recent past. But it takes generations for change because children are conditioned to believe and it is hard to throw away "stuff" we learned as children. A lot of baggage we never do get rid of as adults.


I would very much like to see the statistics of 20 years from now on the next generation. I do not mean to say that sweeping change is not at all a possibility, only that the hindrance to that change may be the existence of evolutionarily established mental processes that are specifically adapted for religious belief, on top of all of the other contributing factors, group belonging, the fear of death, childhood indoctrination, etc.

Hope wrote:
From what I saw in my search for statistics, countries are very different. The US has a reputation for having a large number of religious people but apparently in Gallup polls that has dropped from almost 100% years ago to around 70 % now.


Thank you very much for the information in the rest of you post Hope, I found it very interesting, and encouraging.

I realized that perhaps I did not much address part of my motivation for pursuing this notion. One of the things that bothers me about many atheists' approach to theists is that there is a tendency to be immediately hostile, or belligerent. In general I do not think this is either warranted, or justifiable, and in fact I think atheists should know better. The possibility of what I propose here I think can lead to a more informed and reasoned approach, as well as a better understanding of why some theists may seem so resistant to reason.

It is taking me longer than usual to respond to replies not only because of the short amount of time I can devote to them daily, but also because I realize that my original presentation, and in fact my entire thinking on the issue is likely fraught with subjective interpretation, and viewpoints that I failed to take into consideration. Thank you again so much for your research and insights.


Question authority. How do you know, that you know, what you know?
Epiphileon
Posted: Thursday, April 27, 2017 7:07:15 AM

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Romany wrote:

Epi (and Hope)

I don't think the last 100 years has as much bearing on Epi's proposition as the last 500 years; Or the last 1000 years.

You both seem to completely disregard social movements such as the Renaissance, the Enlightenment,even the Industrial Revolution - or, further back, the Byzantium rise of Science and Mathematics, or the Greeks.

Because, what I'm getting at, is Epi's proposition rests upon the belief that Atheism is something new, like plasma tvs. That only in the past century has it gained ground. Thus he is able to wonder if people haven't had 'time' to adapt.


Hi Rom, thank you for helping out with this.
I do not think atheism is in general new, I only think that an evidentially based alternative explanation for life and the universe is new. My current proposal is broad and does not look specifically at the cultural milestones you've mentioned; however, some of those, in my subjective, not intensely investigated opinion, may support the proposition. If I am not mistaken all of those periods you mention are immersed in theistic thinking, and some even motivated by it.*
To my mind one of the most notable examples of this is Descartes. I still don't know that I accept he actually believed in the Catholic God, and just didn't want to suffer the fate of Galileo. I have no problem with the notion that there have always been unbelievers, in fact I can't imagine there weren't, but in what numbers? Obviously not enough to change the cultural phenomenon that have resulted in the major theistic cultures of today and the tenacity with which the majority of those individuals cling to iron age views of reality.

(*The industrial revolution is a notable exception, on top of our inherent curiosity and drive to tame the environment, I would say it was more driven by greed and lust for power, than any desire to more fully understand God, or glorify his name. What in fact we are seeing today is not only religion being the opiate of the masses, but a primary tool of the powerful to manipulate the population.)

Romany wrote:
However, here I think one fact is in play which might be misleading. You guys live in the North of a continent that is predominantly deist. Christianity is woven into your sports, your government,your social media, your military, your schools: it's a Christian country. And as such, it's an anomaly amongst first world countries, and directly at odd with others.

This is absolutely a consideration Romany, and I freely admit to not having sufficiently broad experience with other cultures to have not mistakenly insinuated this to be currently a global phenomenon, it may be confined to highly religious cultures, not just North America but the Middle East as well. While many would object I do not see a lot of difference between the devout theists of either area in the fundamental aspects of their belief.

Romany wrote:
Because there have ALWAYS been people who didn't buy into deism; well, at least since people could communicate on stone tablets and parchment and wax. There have always been whole communities of philosophers and scientists who rejected deism. And even within polytheistic ancient cultures there have always been those who didn't necessarily believe, but who were always there for the celebrations and never really gave a moment's thought about what was behind it all. Just as happens to-day.


To further clarify, I think deists would not only have an easier time abandoning a belief in supernatural causation, but I also consider them far less dangerous than theists. Even if there were whole cultures of atheists in the past, this would not have prevented the rise of what I am proposing in theistic cultures.

Romany wrote:
As all the other first world countries have not had much trouble accepting that some people believe in gods and some don't, I would contend that mitigates against an evolutionary god-gene.
But I would need a helluva lot more convincing that people are prisoners of their own genes when it comes to deism.


This may be true today; however, the crusades were not that long ago.

I am by no means proposing a god gene, please see my response to Hope for some critical clarifications of what I had intended to propose.

I did not mean to indicate that belief in theism is immutable, only that an understanding of what types of coevolutionary phenomenon are in play would better inform atheists' attempts to ameliorate its effects on society.

I do really appreciate your input on this, and as I hope I have made clear, I am not at all married to this notion, nor am I convinced at this point that it has sufficient merit to be considered as actually describing an existent phenomenon. It is a concept that arose from my own thinking and as such am highly suspect of it being to some degree, indeterminable by me alone, flawed. The fallibility of subjectivity is a lesson I do not think I will ever forget.

Question authority. How do you know, that you know, what you know?
Epiphileon
Posted: Thursday, April 27, 2017 7:17:53 AM

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Kirill Vorobyov wrote:
I was born and finished school in Soviet Union where I was taught to be an atheist. Then I spent years studying math and physics at the University.

The result you may find rather surprising. I still don't feel any affiliation to a specific religion, probably because I was never brought up as a religious man. I even "dislike" religions to some extent because I think people should be stimulated to learn and think rather than to blindly believe in things fed in their minds by somebody else. However, the more I learned about the physical world, the more a sense grew inside me that the physical world is not all..


Hello Kirill and thank you for your reply, I realize that it does not directly address my proposal, but I did want to point out that your experience may actually support my notions of archetypes for spirituality that I posited in the topic, The Spirituality of Atheism.

Question authority. How do you know, that you know, what you know?
Kirill Vorobyov
Posted: Thursday, April 27, 2017 8:23:40 AM

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Hello, Hope!

Hope123 wrote:
the idea that theories of evolution and gods are not "mutually exclusive" are exactly how many people, including religionists and scientists, solve their dilemma of not knowing and probably never knowing the beginnings. In fact I was content with that theory for some time.


And for a good reason so. In may well turn out that this has so far been the best shot.Angel

Because, as Drago pointed out, flaws in both of the two extremes seem to be increasingly evident as people learn more.

The problem with the evolutionary theory in its materialistic form is that for a physical system to actively adapt to changes in the environment the mechanisms of such adaptation must be embedded in the system's design by the creator, or the designer in more earthly terms, in the first place.

The physical matter on its own only passively obeys the laws of physics. It always "adapts" to the environment by way of downgrading into a more chaotic rather than a more organized form ("inceasing entropy"). Using the example of a building, the building will adapt to rain and wind by dropping the fine nuances of its design, by "rounding corners" etc., and finally it will evolve into dust and sand, and in that stable form the matter can then co-exist with the rain and wind for millions of years with no tendency to form back into a building whatsoever.

What makes it different with human involvement is that we do not in fact start from erecting the physical building. Instead, we start from preparing the future building's "design", i.e. we begin from creating an ideal building in some ideal parallel universe. In that universe the architect can play with the building, apply mathematical equations that are known to acceptably model the actual physical environment in which the future "material" building is supposed to "live", and when and only when this process is over can we successfully proceed with incarnating the designed building into the physical matter.

Creation of the ideal image of the building in the ideal world using the architect's imagination, i.e. using his/her embedded creative ability, is, therefore, an essential step. It cannot be skipped. So claiming the non-existence of that ideal or "spiritual"/non-material part of the reality and pretending there's nothing but physical matter goes in my view against all evidence. And besides, what do all those mathematicians do from 9 to 18 then, if not explore that part of the reality? Angel





Kirill Vorobyov
Posted: Thursday, April 27, 2017 8:24:40 AM

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Epiphileon wrote:
Kirill Vorobyov wrote:
I was born and finished school in Soviet Union where I was taught to be an atheist. Then I spent years studying math and physics at the University.

The result you may find rather surprising. I still don't feel any affiliation to a specific religion, probably because I was never brought up as a religious man. I even "dislike" religions to some extent because I think people should be stimulated to learn and think rather than to blindly believe in things fed in their minds by somebody else. However, the more I learned about the physical world, the more a sense grew inside me that the physical world is not all..


Hello Kirill and thank you for your reply, I realize that it does not directly address my proposal, but I did want to point out that your experience may actually support my notions of archetypes for spirituality that I posited in the topic, The Spirituality of Atheism.


Not exactly, it seems. See my post above.
Epiphileon
Posted: Friday, April 28, 2017 7:08:19 AM

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leonAzul wrote:

If the written word is acceptable evidence, theism and atheism have co-existed with humanity since the beginning. Along with the tales of brave Ulysses and his murderous gods were screeds against the woo peddlers and god-mongers of the world.

Thanks Leon for replying, do you know where I might find any of these? I would be interested in reading them. Like I said above though I do not doubt there have always been those who actually didn't believe and just went along, or those who actually voiced their disbelief. Although in many cultures that would have been, literally a grave mistake.

leonAzul wrote:
In fact, it could well be argued that the literal interpretation of the gods and their myths as anything but creative story-telling on existential themes is a modern superstition that prehistoric people would laugh at if they could understand it. If prehistoric people were so fixated on the supernatural that they did not heed evidence and reason, how did they ever survive the real world for hundreds of thousands of years? Belief in an unseen god does not organize a hunting party or pick the nuts and berries for you.

I have never seen any reason to believe that, for most of the history of religion it in any way hindered the application of reason to evidence. In the earlier days it would not even have been a question, as it requires a degree of self-reflection that we did not see until the Greeks, I think.

leonAzul wrote:
I'll agree with you that on the larger evolutionary scale that's not very long, yet in terms of human evolution that is quite significant.


Yes I do not think I made it sufficiently clear that I was talking about coevolutionary processes that occur at a much more rapid pace than biological evolution. If we date the rise of organized religions to circa 4000 years ago, and accept that these would have grown from the belief in simpler gods prior to that, and that these religions tended to be the equivalent of totalitarian governments, then it seems to me, we have a powerful selective pressure that comes into existence. It further seems to me that we see the evidence of that selection in the tenacity of belief in the dominant Abrahamic religions of today. Which as far as I can tell are the most dangerous on the planet, and the biggest threat to the development of the species.

A further weakness in my original presentation is that I failed to point out that I do not think this is a species wide phenomenon, nor that it entirely enslaves people to theism, if that were the case, given the one time strength of my belief I should still be a theist.

It also occurs to me after reading the replies that directly address my proposal, and considering the manner in which I replied to those, that I drifted away from the main thrust of this notion. It does indeed seem to me that there are strong coevolutionary forces that have strengthened the capacity for belief, and I am still interested in critiques of that notion, but the primary focus of my musings were that the progression towards a naturalistic interpretation of reality would have been easier if the dominant religions based in the Abrahamic traditions had not stagnated but progressed to be ever more rationally based. This is what I feel modern atheists must take into account, and what makes me wonder if overcoming the momentum of a mythos based religiosity, in favor of an entirely naturalistic interpretation of reality, in the majority of the population of highly religious cultures, is a reasonable expectation at this time.

Thanks again Leon for considering this, and responding, if this is just so much noodle soup reasoning I certainly want to know that.



Question authority. How do you know, that you know, what you know?
FounDit
Posted: Friday, April 28, 2017 10:10:02 AM

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Epiphileon wrote:


"...but the primary focus of my musings were that the progression towards a naturalistic interpretation of reality would have been easier if the dominant religions based in the Abrahamic traditions had not stagnated but progressed to be ever more rationally based."


What would have caused those dominant religions to stagnate? There would have to be some reason why they remained so popular and so strong for so many millennia, and it would have to be found in the minds of those who accept them.

They (religions) feed into a basic human need. Since humans are a herd creature, we naturally tend to follow a leader. And as a herd animal, we tend to want to belong to that herd; to not be rejected by it, but to be accepted as a member of it. This would put pressure on each member to remain faithful to what the herd believes to be true.

We see this exhibited in groups with only a few members all the way to up to national levels. And at each level, each member wants to feel accepted by the leader; wants to show and demonstrate their allegiance to that leader; even to an invisible, omnipotent leader they were told from an early age to believe exists.

It would seem, therefore, logical to find that no evolution away from this mindset is to be found among humans. Only those strong enough to stand apart from the group would dare to go a different way. Only those willing to bear the reproach of the herd would defy it. The irony is that is was exactly those people who began the belief system we see today. Then when it reached the point of being the social norm, it is those same types that break off again from the group-think.






A great many people will think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices. ~ William James ~
Maryam Dad
Posted: Friday, April 28, 2017 11:30:54 AM

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Hope123 wrote:
In fact I was content with that theory for some time. "God's day may have been a billion years" etc.



1. " The angels and the Ruh ascend unto Him in a day, the measure of which was fifty thousand years". (Quran.70:4)

This verse refers to the ascent of angels back to heaven after settling all matters of life in the universe.

The verse clearly said a day that "was" and not a day that "is", which clearly indicates that that day was in the past (50,000 years ago).

2. " A day with your Lord is like a thousand years of your count". (Quran. 22:47)



If 1 day (for God) = 1000 years (for man)

1 year (for God) = 1000 x 365 (for man)

= 365,000 years

Therefore, 50,000 years (for God) = 365,000 x 50,000 (for man)

= 18.25 billion!


The 50,000 years mentioned in point 1 above are of God's years and not of man's. This is because man was not mentioned at all in that verse, and more importantly because the subject of the verse (creation of the universe) is obviously a matter executed by God and not by man and so, its description is related to God and not to man.


Kindness is a mark of faith. and whoever is not kind has no faith.
Romany
Posted: Friday, April 28, 2017 4:02:27 PM
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Epi - you said:

"... I only think that an evidentially based alternative explanation for life and the universe is new."

That was my whole point in referring to how much this very question HAS been part of whole movements, and philosophies, and treatises and pamphlets and books...and even of men who contributed to setting up a brand new nation. We've also got texts from ancient Greeks, Eastern Philosophers, Byzantium Emperors, Chinese Leaders, etc. etc. going way before any Christian tradition, to show that atheism is not a product of a Judaeo-Christian tradition.

And what becomes quickly apparent is that at all time, and in all cultures: - some people believed; some didn't.

So if we pay attention to the times and the cultures when atheism is expressed and discussed the most, we find that it's in cultures where Scientific enquiry was flourishing and bringing about a plethora of discoveries on every subject from Astrology to Mathematics to Physics. Thus, in various times in our own cultures:- the Renaissance; when Greek philosophy was being re-discovered alongside Greek science; the Enlightenment which established scientific protocols of evidence-based proofs and the Industrial Revolution were three of the greatest engines for change ever to impel humanity.

So why did the Deist tradition persist in light of all these advances? A) The Catholic Church and B) politics.

And as the stranglehold of The Church was gradually overcome, gradually people relaxed a lot more, repudiated dogma, and just stopped judging people about whether they were deists or atheists any more.

Until lately, I don't think many of us had appreciated just how much religion has become a part of politics in America. Nor what a multi-million dollar industry it is: fully as powerful, as a combined force, as the Catholic Church in its hey-day.

So it doesn't really behove anyone to champion atheism in a culture where the Christian religion is built into every aspect of the people's lives, and has been woven into the general narrative of every day experiences. It would not be to the advantage of corporate America if people were to question this particular gigantic corporation, let alone discredit it.

I'm sorry, man. I know you were looking for a more esoteric kind of discussion; or one which at least *referred to* evolution.

However, I feel that stating the case from a (very brief) historical perspective, shows the evolution, at least, of contemporary thought about the question. I just couldn't get past that opening premise that public discourse about atheism was new.

Science has always been about that which can be proved. And Deism isn't. Simple (No, really).

There's always been a dialogue about those two facts. So the reason Atheism is newer in the USA is because, until the advent of the internet, it was possible simply not to tell people about it! If deism is enforced through education, through the Justice System, through Hollywood, and through media; then there'd be a good chance the average person never would find out.



Kirill Vorobyov
Posted: Tuesday, May 02, 2017 7:11:01 AM

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Romany wrote:


So why did the Deist tradition persist in light of all these advances? A) The Catholic Church and B) politics.



Hello, Romany!

I 100% agree with what you're saying about the political interests behind theism. I think what is lacking in this picture, however, is that equally influential political interests have grown behind the extreme form of the atheism - the materialism, too. Besause what it tells people is basically that the only thing that's worth anything is earthly power and wealth, i.e. money. This kind of narrative has proved very convenient for some politians, particularly left-wing groups, in their buying and blackmailing people.

So unfortunately both political right and political left are interested in propagating extremes, and neither of them is interested in that the truth be dicovered. Which is somewhere in between, and certainly it is not pure materialism. But also it has to be something based on knowledge rather than belief.

I guess it is precisely due to the above complexity of the political landscape that the "philosophical thought" has been going in circles around some fairly simple stuff for like the last 3000 years. Angel

Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Tuesday, May 02, 2017 9:52:07 AM

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Kirill Vorobyov wrote:
So unfortunately both political right and political left are interested in propagating extremes, and neither of them is interested in that the truth be discovered. Which is somewhere in between

Though we seem to have some very different views on some things, it seems that neither of us is really 'far right' or 'far left' - we just have personal ideas, not 'party-political' ones.

It is possible to be "somewhere in between" and have a 'leftist' idea about one subject and a 'rightist' idea about a different one, a liberal (not Liberal) view on another and a slightly conservative idea about yet another subject.
Everybody does not HAVE to be "A Free Thinking, Fair Minded Conservative", "A Snowflake, Bleeding Heart Liberal", "A Fascist Misogynist Racist Republican" or a "Free Thinking, Fair Minded Liberal". (all with lots of capital letters and quotation marks).

I can't really see much point in going over this data again - I'm sure we could resurrect threads going back to 2007 about the existence of god (or not) and the facts (or not) of evolution.
Some people will not look at evidence.
Some people consider their views (with no evidence) to be "TRUTH" and others' views' to be lies.
Some people consider that no idea which does not have ironclad proof can be a working theory.
These ideas 'fix' thought.
Fixed ideas cannot be discussed.

Only when the participants are willing to say "My ideas are . . . but I may be wrong. What do you think?" is discussion really worthwhile.


Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
FounDit
Posted: Tuesday, May 02, 2017 4:35:06 PM

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A great many people will think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices. ~ William James ~
Epiphileon
Posted: Saturday, May 06, 2017 3:52:08 AM

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Romany wrote:
And what becomes quickly apparent is that at all time, and in all cultures: - some people believed; some didn't.


I am not at all debating that Rom, what I am proposing is that within cultures that are highly religious this posited selection perhaps has, and does exist. I am convinced at this point that I need to do a major rework on this presentation to be more clear, not only about the limits of its applicability, as well as correcting some of the flaws I'm beginning to suspect on the basis of what feedback I've gotten so far.

I do want to stress though, as I said to, I think LeonAzul, I am by no means married to this concept, however, I do think there is sound reason within a coevolutionary paradigm to think something like this exists. So far what I see are problems with my presentation of the notion and not the underlying assertion.

Romany wrote:
So if we pay attention to the times and the cultures when atheism is expressed and discussed the most, we find that it's in cultures where Scientific enquiry was flourishing and bringing about a plethora of discoveries on every subject from Astrology to Mathematics to Physics. Thus, in various times in our own cultures:- the Renaissance; when Greek philosophy was being re-discovered alongside Greek science; the Enlightenment which established scientific protocols of evidence-based proofs and the Industrial Revolution were three of the greatest engines for change ever to impel humanity.


I must admit to not being deeply knowledgeable of ancient history, but from my understanding many of the ancient scientific endeavors were not at all contradictory to the religious cultures in which they were immersed. The enlightenment is interesting in this context, for although it did lead to the loss of much of the power of the Catholic Church, it did not lead to the widespread acceptance of naturalism. Yes major advances were made in not only science, and philosophy, but in government and society as well, but theism endured, why?

Romany wrote:
So why did the Deist tradition persist in light of all these advances? A) The Catholic Church and B) politics.


Yes no doubt these two massive cultural phenomenon were part of this co-evolutionary process. I think I have mislead people into thinking that I am positing a far more biological sided, and widespread, type of evolutionary process than I am.

Yes the Catholic Church survived the enlightenment, despite taking the dual hits of the reformation, and socio-political reform in Europe. The tenacity of this particular form of mythology is amazing. The protestant reformation took much of Europe by storm, despite the horrendous history of the Roman Church, people were willing to accept the same God in a new package, why?

Romany wrote:
And as the stranglehold of The Church was gradually overcome, gradually people relaxed a lot more, repudiated dogma, and just stopped judging people about whether they were deists or atheists any more.

Well apart from the protestants. In general however, there was a marked increase in non-theist thinking, so why is there such a high incidence of basically fundamentalist mentality in both the U.S. and the Middle East, not to mention the prevalence and tenacity of Catholicism in some areas?

What I am positing as the reason is that theism, within the coevolutionary paradigm and timeline, has been a highly adaptive and extremely stable cultural trait. As such it would also represent a selective pressure, definitely within at least the processes of cultural evolution, and perhaps even within cultures with high religiosity, selection for brains that are more apt to believe.

I would have been intensely embarrassed if I had made such a half baked presentation as my original post has turned out to be, 30 years ago. This forum is the one place in all that time that I have had some success in having the type of dialog that is essential to the development of sound ideas, and the discovery of the type of erroneous conjectures that subjectivity is prone to. I can only hope that you and the other members that are directly addressing what I am proposing, know how much I appreciate your efforts.

Romany wrote:
Until lately, I don't think many of us had appreciated just how much religion has become a part of politics in America. Nor what a multi-million dollar industry it is: fully as powerful, as a combined force, as the Catholic Church in its hey-day.

So it doesn't really behove anyone to champion atheism in a culture where the Christian religion is built into every aspect of the people's lives, and has been woven into the general narrative of every day experiences. (Pretty good operational definition of a selective pressure.)It would not be to the advantage of corporate America if people were to question this particular gigantic corporation, let alone discredit it.


Absolutely and they damn well know it, what is truly frightening is that they also know about the principles of coevolutionary theory, and the likelihood that these are being used as mass manipulation is terrifying. But I'll leave that aside for now as it would depend somewhat on the merit of the proposal under development, and besides I don't want anyone screaming conspiracy theorist.

Romany wrote:
I'm sorry, man. I know you were looking for a more esoteric kind of discussion; or one which at least *referred to* evolution.


On the contrary Rom I am looking for a practical discussion, based on posited, potential characteristics of mind that will be more affective in altering the course of at least what is happening in this country, and perhaps with fundamentalism in general world wide.

Romany wrote:
However, I feel that stating the case from a (very brief) historical perspective, shows the evolution, at least, of contemporary thought about the question. I just couldn't get past that opening premise that public discourse about atheism was new.


Again I'm sorry for that misrepresentation, I never meant to insinuate that the concept of atheism was new. However, it still seems to me that atheism that is able to be completely founded on reason, and evidence, has only been entirely possible as of the 20th century. I mean this in the sense that only since then have atheists been able to point to a factual alternative to creation myths for an explanation of life, the universe, and consciousness.

Question authority. How do you know, that you know, what you know?
leonAzul
Posted: Sunday, May 07, 2017 10:56:08 PM

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Epiphileon wrote:

Thanks again Leon for considering this, and responding, if this is just so much noodle soup reasoning I certainly want to know that.



Sorry for the slow response, we each have other calls away from the keyboard. ;^)

You have raised an interesting topic that deserves a better response than I can offer at the moment. As an outline, I would like to offer the following points to consider, and I shall try to support these ideas in subsequent messages.

What seems to my mind to be essential to the human experience is faith. During the recent centuries this has largely been institutionalized as religion, and closely associated with a credo that involves belief in a supernatural god. Therefore, for persons like us who have been educated in a "God fearing" society, it is only natural to assume that this is how it ever was. It was good enough for my father, so it's good enough for me. ;^)

I consider what is called religion to be proto-psychology. As a thesis, I would like to suggest that what has evolved as religion was based on observations of human behavior, and subsequently codified as dogma. We touched upon this when discussing Julian Jaynes, although I certainly do not wish to poison the well by citing him as an authority.

From this point of view, the question could be better formed as Jean-Paul Sartre put it: is it good faith or bad faith? Does the faith bring us collectively forward, or does it merely keep us treading water, or even worse drowning in our own shit?
Think

In other words, is it the social cohesion which religion has afforded due to theistic belief, or is it just the cohesion which is evolutionarily significant?
Think



"Make it go away, Mrs Whatsit," he whispered. "Make it go away. It's evil."
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Monday, May 08, 2017 8:19:55 AM

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Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
Hope123
Posted: Friday, May 12, 2017 2:35:14 AM

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Epi,

I don't have any one specific theory but am just brainstorming with several ideas as to what may go on in the brain.

But first - could your concept be accounted for just by the sheer logistics of numbers? There are more religious people to begin with and I think studies have shown religious people tend to have more children than their secular counterparts. Just a thought. However, there are also arguments to support what you postulated.

:::::::

Quote Epi - "I did not mean to indicate that belief in theism is immutable, only that an understanding of what types of coevolutionary phenomenon are in play would better inform atheists' attempts to ameliorate its effects on society."

Your selection of brains "more-apt-to-believe" sounds quite logical. I am thinking about conspiracy theories in general as well as religion. Some people are just more susceptible to gullibility and it surely would be of value to know why. But how to effect change using the knowledge would still be information needed.

This article ties physical with psychological theories and it seems to me to have the most substance to prove what you are thinking if I understood that correctly.

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/the-curious-wavefunction/what-do-conspiracy-theories-religious-beliefs-and-detoxifying-proteins-have-in-common/.

"To me the observation of patternicity and agenticity at the level of human brains as well as individual proteins is a testament to the enormous power and elegance of evolution in molding living organisms across an incredible hierarchy of molecules, cells, organs, individuals and societies through common mechanisms...

::::

They have learned in recent years about the plasticity of the brain, how it does change and modify according to various forces in it and how often the connections are made. An example is how chronic pain develops after the injury is healed. Habit forming would be another area to look at. The more you do something, the more the connection is reinforced. The body does the same thing - the more you are exposed to a substance, the more the risk of allergy developing. Allergy and ADD and OCD areas in the brain are all closely situated and all may often be found in the same person.

:::

Another aspect of motivation is from your field of behavioral genetics - (Links are sources of the quotes):

https://www.boundless.com/psychology/definition/behavioral-genetics/

"According to evolutionary psychology, individuals are motivated to engage in behaviors that maximize their genetic fitness...so they can pass on their genes..."

The social cohesiveness and other such factors of religion already discussed may have the basic motivation of the passing on of genes and so the brain adapts.

https://www.boundless.com/psychology/textbooks/boundless-psychology-textbook/motivation-12/theories-of-motivation-65/evolutionary-theory-of-motivation-249-12784/

Another theory about evolutionary behavioral motivation:

"Optimization theory is concerned with assessing the success of behaviors. It states that individuals are motivated to adopt strategies that allow them to consume the most energy while expending the least amount of energy."

If something is successful, we keep doing it. Religion is actually both helpful and unhelpful, but the scales must be tipped in favor of helpfulness.

::::

However, I'm not sure enough coevolutionary phenomenon could ever be uncovered to really help, as motivation is so deep and so buried.

Robert Sapolsky one of the leading neuroscientists in the world, explains why you have to go back and examine "actions on timescales from seconds to millions of years before they occurred...One thing that's clear, though, is you're not going to get anywhere if you think there's going to be the brain region or the hormone or the gene or the childhood experience or the evolutionary mechanism that explains everything. Instead, every bit of behavior has multiple levels of causality." New book - "Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst"

http://mailchi.mp/ted/bmls22qu3s?e=e74843ef5a

I'm not sure if any of this is exactly what you are looking for.




Equality is when you see a person - not a label.
Epiphileon
Posted: Saturday, May 13, 2017 11:16:31 AM

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leonAzul wrote:
Sorry for the slow response, we each have other calls away from the keyboard. ;^)

No worries, I entirely understand, my responses are slow as well, not only due to other time commitments, but because I'm not even sure I can call that initial presentation of mine even half baked at this point. I really greatly appreciate the time people are taking to engage with the notion though. I can say, that exactly what I hoped to accomplish by posting it is happening, i.e. the great fallibility of subjectivity is countered and as many minds evaluate the concept, it allows for better definition, development, and determination of the merit, of the original concept. Also as a result of what others have said, I have finally discovered some resources for co-evolutionary theory that I had not come across before, of course the time required to look into those is stretching out the time between responses. Currently I'm thinking that I will give an entirely new presentation a shot at some point.

leonAzul wrote:
You have raised an interesting topic that deserves a better response than I can offer at the moment. As an outline, I would like to offer the following points to consider, and I shall try to support these ideas in subsequent messages.

What seems to my mind to be essential to the human experience is faith. During the recent centuries this has largely been institutionalized as religion, and closely associated with a credo that involves belief in a supernatural god. Therefore, for persons like us who have been educated in a "God fearing" society, it is only natural to assume that this is how it ever was. It was good enough for my father, so it's good enough for me. ;^)
d'oh! d'oh! d'oh! Johny Cash, seriously?Dancing
The underlined statement is a topic worth its own discussion, it is an interesting idea, I perceive some resonance with it, though it seems to me faith is not quite the right term, but I admit to not focusing on it at the moment, I do think it is a needed discussion though.

leonAzul wrote:
I consider what is called religion to be proto-psychology. As a thesis, I would like to suggest that what has evolved as religion was based on observations of human behavior, and subsequently codified as dogma. We touched upon this when discussing Julian Jaynes, although I certainly do not wish to poison the well by citing him as an authority.

While I do not think that was the root cause of religion, it would definitely have been a factor in the coevolutionary process; regardless however, I think whatever the case may be, this would have been ancillary to the specific dynamic I am proposing.

leonAzul wrote:
From this point of view, the question could be better formed as Jean-Paul Sartre put it: is it good faith or bad faith? Does the faith bring us collectively forward, or does it merely keep us treading water, or even worse drowning in our own shit?

I think the answer to both those questions is definitely the latter.

leonAzul wrote:
In other words, is it the social cohesion which religion has afforded due to theistic belief, or is it just the cohesion which is evolutionarily significant?Think

I think that the roots of religions began before the aspect of contributing to social cohesion became one of the adaptive characteristics that promoted their growth. The tribal groups of hunter-gatherers did not possess an authority structure to facilitate groups much larger than 30-40, I think. So I'm thinking the social cohesion is primarily evolutionarily significant, and that religions became the path of least resistance to developing and sustaining it. One of the aspects of my proposal is that this resulted, in the development on the cultural side of the coevolutionary dynamic, of a selective pressure for belief, or perhaps not even belief per say, but a reliance on religious type structure. This would certainly help explain the type of religious extremism that is evident in parts of the world today.

Question authority. How do you know, that you know, what you know?
leonAzul
Posted: Tuesday, May 16, 2017 2:09:25 AM

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Epiphileon wrote:
leonAzul wrote:


What seems to my mind to be essential to the human experience is faith.


d'oh! d'oh! d'oh! Johny Cash, seriously?Dancing
The underlined statement is a topic worth its own discussion, it is an interesting idea, I perceive some resonance with it, though it seems to me faith is not quite the right term, but I admit to not focusing on it at the moment, I do think it is a needed discussion though.


Yeah, I went there. Dancing

Yet on consideration, I would like to amend that:

What seems to my mind to be an essential part of the human experience is faith.

That is not intended to support my assertion, but rather to clarify it better.

What I am referring to here is the sort of conviction and expectation of success that gives a person or society a fighting chance, and is the opposite of what in modern parlance would be a depressive state of mind. I definitely do not intend the sort of equivocation that would include self-righteousness and xenophobia. I concede that point verges on the psychological, which was not a part of your original thesis, yet to the extent that it elucidates (not supports) my conjecture it is germane.

Epiphileon wrote:
leonAzul wrote:
I consider what is called religion to be proto-psychology. As a thesis, I would like to suggest that what has evolved as religion was based on observations of human behavior, and subsequently codified as dogma.


While I do not think that was the root cause of religion, it would definitely have been a factor in the coevolutionary process; regardless however, I think whatever the case may be, this would have been ancillary to the specific dynamic I am proposing.

Agreed; I didn't intend to convince anyone or derail the topic, merely to illustrate and clarify my ideas.

Epiphileon wrote:
leonAzul wrote:
From this point of view, the question could be better formed as Jean-Paul Sartre put it: is it good faith or bad faith? Does the faith bring us collectively forward, or does it merely keep us treading water, or even worse drowning in our own shit?

I think the answer to both those questions is definitely the latter.

Perhaps that was too flippant. As articulated above, I am not referring to any particular credo, but rather to the more abstract notion of having a point of view, knowing what it is, and hopefully understanding its limitations.

Totally off-topic, this reference might be of interest:

The surprising truth of open defecation in India | Sangita Vyas | TEDxWalledCity

Please watch critically: TED Talks are intended to present topics and should never be accepted as formal theses. Think

This just happens to be a recent exposition of what happens when a stabilizing influence on a given society becomes disconnected from the original metaphorical and meaningful codification and descends into dogma and superstition. Please see below.

Epiphileon wrote:
leonAzul wrote:
In other words, is it the social cohesion which religion has afforded due to theistic belief, or is it just the cohesion which is evolutionarily significant?Think

I think that the roots of religions began before the aspect of contributing to social cohesion became one of the adaptive characteristics that promoted their growth.

I would respectfully disagree. The evolutionary advantage of cooperative cohesion, along with competition, already has existed in coral, lichen, and many other examples of symbiotic relationships in the natural history of life for many eons. From this perspective, behavioral entrainment by "propagation of the faith" post partum is no less significant than the behavioral repertoire afforded by a particular genome.

Epiphileon wrote:
The tribal groups of hunter-gatherers did not possess an authority structure to facilitate groups much larger than 30-40, I think. So I'm thinking the social cohesion is primarily evolutionarily significant, and that religions became the path of least resistance to developing and sustaining it.

I'm listening.
Epiphileon wrote:
One of the aspects of my proposal is that this resulted, in the development on the cultural side of the coevolutionary dynamic, of a selective pressure for belief, or perhaps not even belief per say, but a reliance on religious type structure. This would certainly help explain the type of religious extremism that is evident in parts of the world today.

I would express this with slightly different emphasis, owing no doubt to my different experience.

The authority structures that promoted survival are the ones we are still aware of. It might seem trivial, but if something does not survive long enough to be perceived, it isn't.

The actual moment when religion emerged as a feature of human society is a difficult question best left to paleo-anthropologists, although well-evidenced conjectures are always welcome. I think we are "on the same page" when I observe that direct evidence is only hoped for, testable hypotheses desirable, and theses that can be demonstrated to have better than average power of prediction the best we can expect. If only they could prove to be adaptive Pray

Pascal's Wager is not so much a sop to politically institutionalized religion, as an accurate expression of the oldest survival strategy of all: it is less harmful to imagine a threat that is not there, than to not observe a threat that is there.

As to the rabid religiosity evident in the world today, please see my comments above concerning dogma and superstition. It is widely off-topic, yet one of the most trenchant observers of this class of phenomena was Eric Hoffer, as articulated in his book The True Believer.

Forgive me, there have been several online edits to provide links that explicate what I am talking about. Anxious


"Make it go away, Mrs Whatsit," he whispered. "Make it go away. It's evil."
Epiphileon
Posted: Saturday, June 03, 2017 3:59:57 AM

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Hope123 wrote:

But first - could your concept be accounted for just by the sheer logistics of numbers? There are more religious people to begin with and I think studies have shown religious people tend to have more children than their secular counterparts. Just a thought. However, there are also arguments to support what you postulated.

High Hope, and thank you again for engaging on this topic and the effort you put into it. Yes the differential reproduction rates of theistic and atheistic people is a definite factor in their numbers. This is also true of a number of other characteristics including social consciousness, and even intelligence. The fact that there are more theists, reproducing more often, contributes to the selective pressure for belief, that much is simple, who has more babies? Theists or atheists? In this sense belief has been more adaptive. My suspicion is that by default this is selecting for brain/minds more likely to believe.

Quote Epi - "I did not mean to indicate that belief in theism is immutable, only that an understanding of what types of coevolutionary phenomenon are in play would better inform atheists' attempts to ameliorate its effects on society."

Hope123 wrote:
Your selection of brains "more-apt-to-believe" sounds quite logical. I am thinking about conspiracy theories in general as well as religion. Some people are just more susceptible to gullibility and it surely would be of value to know why. But how to effect change using the knowledge would still be information needed.

This article ties physical with psychological theories and it seems to me to have the most substance to prove what you are thinking if I understood that correctly.

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/the-curious-wavefunction/what-do-conspiracy-theories-religious-beliefs-and-detoxifying-proteins-have-in-common/.


Hi Hope, sorry this reply has been languishing in an open tab for probably a few weeks now, we suddenly became very busy with a major logistical development. Thank you again for your input and research on this, those are interesting, and useful references. It turns out my original post really was half baked, but I needed to get it out there in order to move past the initial rumination stage of thinking about it. I hope to return to the subject with a more cogent presentation perhaps in the fall, the next few months are going to be very busy. I am really happy with the help I got here though.

I think you will find the download of this paper pretty interesting, "Nature meets nurture in religious and spiritual development".

Question authority. How do you know, that you know, what you know?
Epiphileon
Posted: Saturday, June 03, 2017 4:04:38 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 3/22/2009
Posts: 3,937
Neurons: 57,149
leonAzul wrote:


Hey LeonAzul, sorry I bailed on this thread, I really do appreciate your help with this, please see my post to Hope above, and the paper I referenced. I hope to return to this topic after our logistics settle down in a few months.

Question authority. How do you know, that you know, what you know?
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