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Can, and should, "sacred" be an atheistic concept? (The Sacred Relevancy) Options
Epiphileon
Posted: Friday, February 28, 2020 5:37:05 AM

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In any, hopefully, constructive and informative argument it is essential that the terms be strictly defined and that definition understood and adhered to in any debate. Given that, I went looking for, what I was fairly certain, would be numerous definitions. There were indeed many with many variations, and many tied to some mystical belief or other. Finally, I came across the following and knew immediately this is the one I was looking for with a slight modification necessary to this argument.

Encyclopaedia Britannica wrote:
Sacred, the power, being, or realm understood by religious persons to be at the core of existence and to have a transformative effect on their lives and destinies.


This definition captures perfectly what I feel is the essential characteristic of the concept I propose is critical for those humans who chose to transition from a theistic to an atheistic world view as well as those who have always been of an atheistic conviction.

And we immediately run into another definitional conundrum, what do I mean by an atheist?

Personally, I mean someone who has come to a consciously examined conclusion that none of the gods described by humankind exist and that it is unlikely in the extreme that there is any such entity that exists, and certainly nonesuch has contacted humankind for any reason. I know that this is not the generally accepted definition but I also know that there doesn't seem to be a generally accepted definition. There appears to be a sharp divide between the notions that atheists adamantly insist that nonesuch exists, and atheists merely do not believe that such does. For the purposes of my argument, that distinction does not matter.


What does matter I feel, is that the transition to a more rational based world view on the part of homo-sapiens may be curtailed by those holding one not sufficiently taking into consideration the coevolutionary inertia of faith-based interpretations of reality and the deep characteristics of mentality that are associated with them.

These musings came about as a result of a conversation I had with my brother the other day about how I feel an essential characteristic of life is a habitual appreciation of wonder. While discussing the nature of being an individual in the context of the entirety of "what is", I referred to that knowledge as "the sacred relevancy", and here we are.

That the universe exists as a result of events at the quantum and even perhaps at a subquantum level(?) that occur throughout its entirety, that these events give rise to increasing levels of complexity and finally to the evolution of life and the development of minds that not only experience being but experience that experience, i.e. have an "I" of mind. the prehension of this knowledge is what I called the sacred relevancy. It is this knowledge that for me fulfills the requirement of the definition that once again reworded is; the knowledge of existence that has a transformative effect on my life, and is therefore sacred.

Regardless however, of how any individual may define what to them is sacred, as long I think, as it is something that is far greater than themselves. I think it is such knowledge that must be a continued characteristic of human mentality, I think if as atheists we attempt to merely shun all things of a religious origin that we will be making a grave error. I do not think we are capable of making quantum style leaps* in the evolution of mentality that we may think in the amazing arrogance of subjectivity we assume that we can. In other words, we may not assume to merely leap into a purely rational interpretation of reality, nor do I think we should or should even want to. Wonder is an emotional experience and the roots of wonder it seems to me are inextricably tied to the origins of what led to religions and notions of gods.

I think atheists need to embrace the concept of sacred knowledge and to step into the future not forsaking all things religious but building on the foundations of mentality that are thousands of years old. It is after all how evolution works.



*
Encyclopaedia Britannica wrote:
The laws of quantum mechanics describe the process by which electrons can move from one allowed orbit, or energy level, to another. As with many processes in the quantum world, this process is impossible to visualize. An electron disappears from the orbit in which it is located and reappears in its new location without ever appearing any place in between. This process is called a quantum leap or quantum jump, and it has no analog in the macroscopic world.
FounDit
Posted: Friday, February 28, 2020 9:55:46 AM

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I would argue against using sacred in this manner since the word has such a very strong association with things that are considered holy, venerated, or worthy of worship. Those certainly do not fit with how most people think of atheists.

As I read your definition of sacred from the Encyclopaedia Britannica, I found myself thinking this fits another topic we've discussed before.

The definition:

Encyclopaedia Britannica wrote:
Sacred, the power, being, or realm understood by religious persons to be at the core of existence and to have a transformative effect on their lives and destinies.

The "power" to have a transformative effect on lives and destinies is, I would argue, the very consciousness we've covered before. It seems to me you allude to this with this statement: "...the development of minds that not only experience being but experience that experience, i.e. have an "I" of mind. the prehension of this knowledge..."

But I do agree with you that if we shun all things of a religious origin, we will be making a grave error.

I made much the same argument in this topic:
https://forum.thefreedictionary.com/postst190680_I-count-religion-but-a-childish-toy--and-hold-there-is-no-sin-but-ignorance-.aspx

And in this I also agree with you, not so much for the use of "sacred" for use by atheists, but allow that others hold this concept, and not fault them for it.

"I think atheists need to embrace the concept of sacred knowledge and to step into the future not forsaking all things religious but building on the foundations of mentality that are thousands of years old. It is after all how evolution works."
Hope123
Posted: Saturday, February 29, 2020 1:10:25 PM

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Epi wrote: “the knowledge of existence that has a transformative effect on my life, and is therefore sacred.”

Hi Epi. In this rewording of the definition of “sacred”, you left out “power, being, or realm” which alludes to the various gods humankind has created.

Therefore I can agree better with that rewording than with the first definition, as the word “sacred” and even the word sin to me belong with only religious use.

As an agnostic-atheist, I admit that nobody really knows 100% how the universe was created, but I am really an atheist at heart.

I do find most things religious as incredible (in the original sense of the word before it was corrupted).

If by not shunning all things religious you mean the basic tenet of love and the Golden Rule, then that is understandable.

But humans being what they are - basically war-like with civilization trying to control that inherent characteristic (and unless that characteristic is evolved “out”) - as long as there is religion it will always be used improperly to start wars or use violent means to get whatever it is individuals want for themselves.

Although the Golden Rule was inserted into the ideology of nearly every religion created, Belief in God is not necessary to endorse the Golden Rule which can be found in some form in almost every ethical tradition.

I am wondering what other ideas of religious origin of which you are thinking that should not be shunned.

I love that you have placed “Wonder” into an exalted position as it certainly should be there. Wonder that in spite of all the nastiness in the world, there is always beauty in nature, in the colours of the birds and flowers, in the unconditional love of the dog for humans, in the grief some animals feel when they lose family, in the sacrifices humans make to save lives of both humans and other animals, in how animals show love for each other and how they will try to save other animals and people, in the depth of the clouds, in all life on earth itself, in the very creation of the universe. I might use the word “venerable” relevance to describe “wonder” because even though it means the same as sacred, it is not so firmly entwined with religion to most people.

I have only a few family and close friends on Facebook but I do belong to several closed groups. Three of these focus on the beauty in life I have mentioned above and I see and wonder at many of these every day. Photos and videos of how animals and humans behave in beautiful ways. Also, with art as a hobby, I do see beauty in many places that others take for granted - even just the difference in the shades of green found in spring time in Canada and elsewhere.

I marvel everyday at the intelligence and creative minds of humans who work in science in all fields, including quantum, who help us to understand more and more how the planet and universe work, who have taken us into space, and have given humans all the conveniences and innovations of modern life.

What are some things you wonder at?
Romany
Posted: Sunday, March 1, 2020 2:24:19 PM
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Two immediate reactions: -

1) I think any discussion on "atheists" as a group is doomed to go unresolved and waffle itself out of existence.
Atheism is not a belief, a system, a movement, a regime, a collective, a cult. It's just an absence of belief in gods. An absence of belief in Santa Claus & the Tooth Fairy isn't seen as casting people into a particular category, or into a common, shared "Belief" to take the place of Santa and fairies. One cannot, with any validity, assign to A-Santa's a cohesion of thought; a shared interpretation of the world; a commonality of spiritual needs. Neither can one make those who don't believe in a deity into an homogenised group either.

2.) Following hard on the heels of that is the word "should" in the title. Who on earth has the prerogative to tell millions of other people across the world what they "should" and "should not" do? We're talking about central, core, and highly individualised beliefs: who has the innate "Right" to discuss what any of those millions of people of all creeds, nationalities and cultures "should" experience?

Is there perhaps a certain "door" (or curtain?) in your thinking caused by extrapolation of how people living in a self-proclaimed "Christian" country think about religion or lack of religion or deities? The rest of us don't live within this framework. Whether we believe in a deity has no bearing on anything: let alone what one "should" be thinking, feeling, believing.

The word "agape" which has now become an ecclesiastical word, was only taken over in around the 17thC. Until then the word was used to describe pure love - brotherly love, a love for humankind, unselfish love which transcended sex and/or gender and carried with it the sense of wonder without which human life would seem flat and empty. Until this word was commandeered by the Church, there was no such "sacred feeling" which referred only to the love deists had for their god, and that brought with it the idea of the sacred and the profane.

Hope - I wasn't sure what The Golden Rule you mentioned referred to, and at first could only find the meaning in Law. But I'd guessed correctly, I think, and it refers to the thought expressed in so many different homilies: "Do unto others as you would have them do to you". Yes?

This "rule" pre-dates Christianity, as I've mentioned before. It actually comes from Mesopotamia at the dawn of "civillisation" and was inscribed in Hammurabi's Code - the earliest list of Laws we have yet uncovered which was written around 2,000 years BC compiling all the wisdom of previous Kings and Rulers of Mesopotamia. It wasn't formulated by Christians, and is most certainly not restricted to Christianity. It's been found in all different languages and cultures around the world and through time, as it stemmed from the very first rules which ever governed society.
Epiphileon
Posted: Monday, March 2, 2020 4:28:31 AM

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FounDit wrote:
I would argue against using sacred in this manner since the word has such a very strong association with things that are considered holy, venerated, or worthy of worship. Those certainly do not fit with how most people think of atheists.

My point is that the characteristic of holding something as worthy of veneration is strongly inbred in the human mentality and that attempting to just ignore that is a mistake. Further that it is entirely legitimate to hold the sum of existence as worthy of veneration in an appreciative way, not in the sense of assigning it a personification like existence, or that it can offer interactive guidance, but for the stunning wonder of it all and that we are a part and product of it.

If we are not to use the word sacred, then what would we use? It seems to me there is no other word to convey the same, although modified, meaning.

Consciousness is indeed the power that can transform our lives, it is the agent of action. I am not advocating that we believe that anything other than ourselves can change our lives only that taking an ingrained characteristic of mentality and manipulating it to serve a new purpose would be, well, basically attempting to guide an evolutionary change in mentality rather than attempting to abandon a characteristic that has such strong roots.
Jyrkkä Jätkä
Posted: Monday, March 2, 2020 7:32:40 AM

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Sauna is a sacred place to all Finns. No matter whether one is religious or not. Of course we were the last Europeans brought to Christian world. For me, as an atheist,sauna is the place where I can get closest to earthly and heavenly spirits, whatever they are.
Hope123
Posted: Monday, March 2, 2020 10:01:56 AM

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Hi Romany. Yes, that’s the Golden Rule. I knew it went back as far as Confucius (BC) but was not sure how far back it went, so thanks for the historical info.

That's why I used the word “inserted” into religion and said that it was found in every ethical tradition.

Epi can explain when he gets time what he meant by “should” but I didn't read it as “people should do or not do” anything, but that if one wants to use the word “sacred” for something not tied to any religion, one “should” be able to do so and be understood.

Prime example - JJ just posted about how saunas are a sacred place to Finns, as much as religious buildings are to the religious. A place where one can be quiet, think one's thoughts, and meditate on the complexities and wonders of human life.

Epi's last post to FD explains to me what he means quite well and I would agree with that explanation. If I understand correctly what he meant, it is that we alone are the “masters of our fate” but since there seems to be an inherent need by humans to find something sacred to explain life, why not build on it rather than try to delete it by holding the “sum of existence as worthy of veneration in an appreciative way, not in the sense of assigning it a personification like existence, or that it can offer interactive guidance, but for the stunning wonder of it all and that we are a part and product of it.”
FounDit
Posted: Monday, March 2, 2020 11:37:54 AM

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Epiphileon wrote:
FounDit wrote:
I would argue against using sacred in this manner since the word has such a very strong association with things that are considered holy, venerated, or worthy of worship. Those certainly do not fit with how most people think of atheists.

My point is that the characteristic of holding something as worthy of veneration is strongly inbred in the human mentality and that attempting to just ignore that is a mistake. Further that it is entirely legitimate to hold the sum of existence as worthy of veneration in an appreciative way, not in the sense of assigning it a personification like existence, or that it can offer interactive guidance, but for the stunning wonder of it all and that we are a part and product of it.

If we are not to use the word sacred, then what would we use? It seems to me there is no other word to convey the same, although modified, meaning.
I think you have several times used the best word for that:
veneration
1. A feeling of profound respect or reverence.

I think this fulfills your description of appreciation of existence in all its fullness/glory/awe inspiring existence and admiration thereof. To be a part of the life-force of the universe, and this planet, if it exists no where else but here, is an amazing and awe inspiring fact to contemplate.

Consciousness is indeed the power that can transform our lives, it is the agent of action. I am not advocating that we believe that anything other than ourselves can change our lives only that taking an ingrained characteristic of mentality and manipulating it to serve a new purpose would be, well, basically attempting to guide an evolutionary change in mentality rather than attempting to abandon a characteristic that has such strong roots.
FounDit
Posted: Monday, March 2, 2020 9:40:18 PM

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Jyrkkä Jätkä wrote:
Sauna is a sacred place to all Finns. No matter whether one is religious or not. Of course we were the last Europeans brought to Christian world. For me, as an atheist,sauna is the place where I can get closest to earthly and heavenly spirits, whatever they are.


Hi, JJ. Speaking of sauna, I wondered if you saw a post I made to you in another thread. I was commenting on having watched a series on Netflix that takes place in Helsinki, and not one person ever spent any time in a sauna! Your culture has been slighted!...Whistle
Epiphileon
Posted: Tuesday, March 3, 2020 4:31:01 AM

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Hope wrote:
Epi wrote: “the knowledge of existence that has a transformative effect on my life, and is therefore sacred.”

Hi Epi. In this rewording of the definition of “sacred”, you left out “power, being, or realm” which alludes to the various gods humankind has created.

Therefore I can agree better with that rewording than with the first definition, as the word “sacred” and even the word sin to me belong with only religious use.

As an agnostic-atheist, I admit that nobody really knows 100% how the universe was created, but I am really an atheist at heart.

I do find most things religious as incredible (in the original sense of the word before it was corrupted).

If by not shunning all things religious you mean the basic tenet of love and the Golden Rule, then that is understandable.

But humans being what they are - basically war-like with civilization trying to control that inherent characteristic (and unless that characteristic is evolved “out”) - as long as there is religion it will always be used improperly to start wars or use violent means to get whatever it is individuals want for themselves.

Although the Golden Rule was inserted into the ideology of nearly every religion created, Belief in God is not necessary to endorse the Golden Rule which can be found in some form in almost every ethical tradition.


High Hope,
I think I completely understand how you identify as an atheist, it is pretty much the same with me. Personally I don't think an adamant insistence that there is nonesuch as a god can be rigorously defended, that is why I personally define it as I did in my opening post.

I agree that all things of religion ascribed to mystical causation are classically incredible, however, what I am currently attempting to investigate is whether there are aspects of the religious experience and associated behaviors that are either a result of the nature of homo sapiens or have become a part of human nature as a result of the coevolution of mind and culture. If it is indeed accurate that either of those conditions exists then it would seem to me, for those atheists who see religion as a danger to the future of humankind, or who are merely seeking the most adaptive path forward for themselves or the species, that these things must be understood.

Hope wrote:
I am wondering what other ideas of religious origin of which you are thinking that should not be shunned.

Pardon an aside here Hope.
I have found it intensely curious watching how my mind has come to this topic, and how long it took for me to return to the underlying theme after posting "Is Atheism Evolutionarily Unstable?", nearly three years ago. Minds are so weird! Mine was all ready to ascribe it to a waning of interest and/or attention due to age but then I realized that I posted that thread at the beginning of the process of buying a house and moving a just a few months later.

Thank you for this question between it and some of Romany's comments(which is as far as I've read at this point) I realize that there is much more groundwork that needs to be established not the least of which is unpacking that last paragraph of my above response to first part of your post.

As to your question, I now realize what some of those behaviors that are associated with religion that may need to be examined to determine their merit within an atheistic world view are but, rather than list them here perfunctorily I think I need to answer some of the points that have come up and then perhaps bring the topic up in a more ordered manner. I'm going to see if I can figure out how to access the forum on my tablet in a workable way as I have a few hours downtime at work every day that may let me get more of this done, as it is I only have about an hour free before work each morning.

I'm thinking I need to provide an explanation for why I think this entire area of investigation is warranted and clarify that I am by no means convinced of any of it as yet.
Epiphileon
Posted: Wednesday, March 4, 2020 4:37:02 AM

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Romany wrote:

Two immediate reactions: -

1) I think any discussion on "atheists" as a group is doomed to go unresolved and waffle itself out of existence.
Atheism is not a belief, a system, a movement, a regime, a collective, a cult. It's just an absence of belief in gods. An absence of belief in Santa Claus & the Tooth Fairy isn't seen as casting people into a particular category, or into a common, shared "Belief" to take the place of Santa and fairies. One cannot, with any validity, assign to A-Santa's a cohesion of thought; a shared interpretation of the world; a commonality of spiritual needs. Neither can one make those who don't believe in a deity into an homogenised group either.

2.) Following hard on the heels of that is the word "should" in the title. Who on earth has the prerogative to tell millions of other people across the world what they "should" and "should not" do? We're talking about central, core, and highly individualised beliefs: who has the innate "Right" to discuss what any of those millions of people of all creeds, nationalities and cultures "should" experience?


First of all Rom thanks for taking the time to reply, and second of all yikes! I see that I failed to properly contextualize these conjectures of mine.
To your points though, I fully understand that there is no agreed upon set of precepts held by all atheists, nor would I think that anyone would have the right to say what anyone should believe in that regard. These conjectures are not within the context of advocating for societal change on the part of any group or non-group but rather within the context of examining human mentality from an evolutionary perspective. As far as I know these conjectures along with my initial thread on the issue, (Is Atheism Evolutionarily Unstable?) are, as far as I know, pretty much my own ideas and therefore, in my opinion, have next to no informational authority whatsoever. The whole point of posting them here is to expose my own subjective interpretation of what I know of the development of human mentality and see how it holds up.


Romany wrote:
Is there perhaps a certain "door" (or curtain?) in your thinking caused by extrapolation of how people living in a self-proclaimed "Christian" country think about religion or lack of religion or deities? The rest of us don't live within this framework. Whether we believe in a deity has no bearing on anything: let alone what one "should" be thinking, feeling, believing.


No Rom there is no such curtain or door but there is the pervasive ignorance of the experience of other cultures that comes from being a subjective entity ensconced in one particular cultural environment,(a particularly problematic one at that). This is also why I appreciate this forum there are representatives of many different cultures that can provide some illumination to that ignorance.

"Whether we believe in a deity has no bearing on anything: let alone what one "should" be thinking, feeling, believing."
This may be true of atheists, although I wouldn't state categorically without rigorous examination; however, it certainly is not true of many theists for whom their belief in a god is a defining characteristic of their very identity.

The reason I said without a rigorous examination of that claim is due to another conjecture of mine that I posted about here quite a long time ago regarding what I called one's "FIR, Fundamental Interpretation of Reality, that would be what one believed was the cause of existence, spiritual or physical. I argued at the time that whether consciously decided on or not that interpretation would be a contributing factor to everything about a person's behavior, that, however, is a separate discussion.

My point here is that if the influence of theism on the evolution of mind has endowed it with certain characteristics, that attempting to abandon those characteristics rather than modifying them into an atheistic framework may be a mistake. This is purely hypothetical at this point, obviously, I think it has merit and even a rather strong argument, but I am not sufficiently arrogant to think that makes it so.
Hope123
Posted: Friday, March 6, 2020 11:50:00 AM

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Epi,

I don't see why trying to modify theistic characteristics by adding to them rather than trying to eradicate them would be a problem whether or not it is evolutionary theism or something else. In history we know how trying to burn books, symbols, even religious meeting places to eradicate beliefs (whether religious or not) of defeated cultures has not really worked.

As for the evolutionary question, I went back to see if there are any signs of religion being inherent in Chimpanzees, as humans share 98% of their DNA with them. So far there is no proof that Chimps have any real religious behaviours. Although there have been rocks piled at the base of a tree by Chimps, and although Chimps do have mating rituals as do many species, there is no way to interpret whether or not this throwing of rocks at trees or piling of rocks at the base of a tree is some sort of symbolic ritual or just a marking of territory, or symbolism of belonging to a group. Or if it is indeed symbolic, that it shows an awareness of religious ideology.

Humans do love rituals and religions have lots of rituals. Rituals provide a very visible means of identifying who is a group member and who isn’t,” says developmental psychologist Cristine Legare from the University of Texas at Austin. “They help define us as a group, reflect our group values, and demonstrate shared commitment to the group.”

So rituals may be one reason religion is popular.

Read more: https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22530041-000-rite-reasons-why-your-brain-loves-pointless-rituals/#ixzz6FvJu0cpD

Secondly, humans often turn to religion during hard times. I have always thought that the reason for religion is a desire to feel some sort of security in a very insecure world.

So to me, religion would just be a coping mechanism and would not be from evolutionary changes in structure or DNA.

If that were so, why are there agnostics and atheists? They are not as evolved? Or even further evolved?

Epiphileon
Posted: Saturday, March 7, 2020 3:39:51 PM

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Hope wrote:
As for the evolutionary question, I went back to see if there are any signs of religion being inherent in Chimpanzees, as humans share 98% of their DNA with them.


High Hope, You’re thinking of strictly biological evolutionary processes, I’m looking at the co-evolutionary processes of culture on biology. The fundamental unit of selection in biological processes is the gene and it is definitely a process that directly modifies DNA, co-evolution while within the same evolution paradigm operates at a higher level of observation the evolution of culture and cultures selective pressures on a population. TFD’s definition of coevolution is accurate but only partially. I found a much better synopsis at Wikipedia and here is the primary distinction.

Quote:
*Dual inheritance theory (DIT), also known as gene-culture coevolution or biocultural evolution,[1] was developed in the 1960s through early 1980s to explain how human behavior is a product of two different and interacting evolutionary processes: genetic evolution and cultural evolution. Genes and culture continually interact in a feedback loop,[2] changes in genes can lead to changes in culture which can then influence the genetic selection and vice versa. One of the theory's central claims is that culture evolves partly through a Darwinian selection process, which dual inheritance theorists often describe by analogy to genetic evolution.[3]
'Culture', in this context is defined as 'socially learned behavior', and 'social learning' is defined as copying behaviors observed in others or acquiring behaviors through being taught by others. Most of the modeling done in the field relies on the first dynamic (copying) though it can be extended to teaching. Social learning at its simplest involves blind copying of behaviors from a model (someone observed behaving), though it is also understood to have many potential biases, including success bias (copying from those who are perceived to be better off), status bias (copying from those with higher status), homophily (copying from those most like ourselves), conformist bias (disproportionately picking up behaviors that more people are performing), etc.. Understanding social learning is a system of pattern replication, and understanding that there are different rates of survival for different socially learned cultural variants, this sets up, by definition, an evolutionary structure: cultural evolution.[4]
Because genetic evolution is relatively well understood, most of DIT examines cultural evolution and the interactions between cultural evolution and genetic evolution.

How I see coevolution’s effect playing out in the context of this discussion and atheism, in general, is that religion has been a powerful and nearly ubiquitous selective pressure for most of our civilized history. I do not believe that any specific part of religious experience is written into our DNA; however, my tentative conjecture is that the mental processes associated with religion have been heavily selected for. I kind of jumped the gun by introducing this notion concerning the concept of sacred. I am currently thinking about how to come back to the entire notion from an approach that begins more at first principles.

*Here’s the link to the Wikipedia article I know it’s not the greatest authoritative source but I feel like it was a pretty good overview of what I’m referring to as coevolution. My knowledge of the field is actually pretty dated at this point mostly relying on the original work of Lumsdan and Wilson in “Genes, Mind, and Culture - The Coevolutionary Process” with consideration of Richard Dawkins’ “The Selfish Gene” as well.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dual_inheritance_theory

Something is messed up with my account disallowing access from my regular computer so I’m writing in Google docs than copying that into the forum from my tablet which for some reason has no problem with forum access.

Hope123
Posted: Sunday, March 8, 2020 12:42:40 PM

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Epi, I know there are criticisms of this cultural evolution theory, but to me, comparing this theory to the similar nature/nurture theory in psychological development would say your theory is perfectly logical. And I don't see why the development of religion could not be included.
FounDit
Posted: Monday, March 9, 2020 8:57:17 PM

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Epiphileon wrote:
Hope wrote:
As for the evolutionary question, I went back to see if there are any signs of religion being inherent in Chimpanzees, as humans share 98% of their DNA with them.


High Hope, You’re thinking of strictly biological evolutionary processes, I’m looking at the co-evolutionary processes of culture on biology. The fundamental unit of selection in biological processes is the gene and it is definitely a process that directly modifies DNA, co-evolution while within the same evolution paradigm operates at a higher level of observation the evolution of culture and cultures selective pressures on a population. TFD’s definition of coevolution is accurate but only partially. I found a much better synopsis at Wikipedia and here is the primary distinction.
For culture to influence DNA, would there not have to be something already present as a result of DNA for that influence to act upon? But by the time we are old enough to be influenced by culture or even mimicry, it would appear that we would be far beyond any DNA shaping of the brain not already created and established.

Quote:
*Dual inheritance theory (DIT), also known as gene-culture coevolution or biocultural evolution,[1] was developed in the 1960s through early 1980s to explain how human behavior is a product of two different and interacting evolutionary processes: genetic evolution and cultural evolution. Genes and culture continually interact in a feedback loop,[2] changes in genes can lead to changes in culture which can then influence the genetic selection and vice versa. One of the theory's central claims is that culture evolves partly through a Darwinian selection process, which dual inheritance theorists often describe by analogy to genetic evolution.[3]
'Culture', in this context is defined as 'socially learned behavior', and 'social learning' is defined as copying behaviors observed in others or acquiring behaviors through being taught by others. Most of the modeling done in the field relies on the first dynamic (copying) though it can be extended to teaching. Social learning at its simplest involves blind copying of behaviors from a model (someone observed behaving), though it is also understood to have many potential biases, including success bias (copying from those who are perceived to be better off), status bias (copying from those with higher status), homophily (copying from those most like ourselves), conformist bias (disproportionately picking up behaviors that more people are performing), etc.. Understanding social learning is a system of pattern replication, and understanding that there are different rates of survival for different socially learned cultural variants, this sets up, by definition, an evolutionary structure: cultural evolution.[4]
Because genetic evolution is relatively well understood, most of DIT examines cultural evolution and the interactions between cultural evolution and genetic evolution.

How I see coevolution’s effect playing out in the context of this discussion and atheism, in general, is that religion has been a powerful and nearly ubiquitous selective pressure for most of our civilized history. I do not believe that any specific part of religious experience is written into our DNA; however, my tentative conjecture is that the mental processes associated with religion have been heavily selected for.
What would those be? I think the survival instinct and the primal fear response fits as the mental processes associated with religion. Surely our DNA could not be said to be responsible for the Aztecs (among many others), cutting out the beating hearts of living children and adults to pacify gods.

I think the prime mover is the overwhelming desire for inclusion/acceptance by some imagined Being(s) of power (a progenitor, or progenitors, for whom parents are representative), and fear of rejection by the same; a way of understanding the world and the things in it that were unknowable at that time.

I kind of jumped the gun by introducing this notion concerning the concept of sacred. I am currently thinking about how to come back to the entire notion from an approach that begins more at first principles.

*Here’s the link to the Wikipedia article I know it’s not the greatest authoritative source but I feel like it was a pretty good overview of what I’m referring to as coevolution. My knowledge of the field is actually pretty dated at this point mostly relying on the original work of Lumsdan and Wilson in “Genes, Mind, and Culture - The Coevolutionary Process” with consideration of Richard Dawkins’ “The Selfish Gene” as well.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dual_inheritance_theory

Something is messed up with my account disallowing access from my regular computer so I’m writing in Google docs than copying that into the forum from my tablet which for some reason has no problem with forum access.

Hope123
Posted: Sunday, April 5, 2020 6:45:09 AM

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Joined: 3/23/2015
Posts: 9,698
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Location: Kitchener, Ontario, Canada
Epi, I couldn't find the old thread where we were discussing the future of religion vs atheism and whether or not religious adherence is inherent, so this thread will have to do for my comment. Hope you see it.

The lowering of numbers may happen sooner than you think. I just watched a video of a woman in Ohio replying that she wouldn’t get Covid-19:while attending church because “she is covered in Jesus' blood”. She had just left a church service where even children were in attendance.

At least 14 states have exempted religious gatherings from stay at home orders. Book of Revelations?
Epiphileon
Posted: Sunday, April 5, 2020 6:55:24 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 3/22/2009
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People are idiots! Fortunately, most true Christians do not abandon reason altogether, and actually have a reasonable understanding of what their own scripture teaches.
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