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Unread 7 Mar 2007, 20:50   #1
Boogster
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Evolution of religion

This interesting essay/article, which is a summary of current hypotheses concerning the evolution and cognitive function of religion, catches some of the curiously obtuse nature of the debate, in my opinion. Religion, it is posited, is a 'spandrel', an 'unintended byproduct' of certain evolutionary traits, not in itself a feature of adaption; yet it is 'the default position for the human mind' by virtue of the way in which our minds are structured.

Quote:
Agent detection evolved because assuming the presence of an agent — which is jargon for any creature with volitional, independent behavior — is more adaptive than assuming its absence. If you are a caveman on the savannah, you are better off presuming that the motion you detect out of the corner of your eye is an agent and something to run from, even if you are wrong. If it turns out to have been just the rustling of leaves, you are still alive; if what you took to be leaves rustling was really a hyena about to pounce, you are dead.
Now, as I see it, this would not be true today. There are impulses running counter to the survival instinct; though you would perhaps be better off running, you might well not bother. On consideration, you might convince yourself that the noise was almost certainly nothing, and it would be foolish to run. How did this impulse, running contrary to the principles of adaption, arise?
The article approaches the subject with a degree of respect, which is nice, but fails to address many issues. Religion may well be the inescapable offshoot of necessary biological instincts, but how does, for example, the evolution of religious feeling coincide with the development of moral structures? Did it precede the notion of an absolute judgement of good and evil? Where did the phenomenon of religion as moral barometer come from, and why?
The problem with these sorts of hypotheses, as I see it, is that they paint a one-dimensional picture of human nature. Humans are stubborn, willful creatures, and singularly incapable of following evolutionary guidelines. Consciousness itself inhibits our natural instincts. Morality, in any conventional sense, seems to presribe attitudes that do not appear adaptive; religious duty requires self-sacrifice at the expense of self-preservation.
Religious feeling is inescapably linked to these two concepts and cannot be fully explicated independently.The question, in short, is not what we are bound to do, but why we choose to do it, and evolutionary anthropology as it stands surely falls short of providing an answer.

Any answers or feelings, or is this just gibberish?
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Last edited by Boogster; 7 Mar 2007 at 23:40.
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Unread 7 Mar 2007, 21:01   #2
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Re: Evolution of religion

Talking about 'religious' experiences and the 'supernatural' is a crazy oversimplification, because it fails to distinguish between relatively naturalistic beliefs (eg Greek religion, witches), and beliefs which are irreducibly supernatural (Christianity, souls, etc). Theres no good apriori reason to believe that Greek religion and Christianity share a common psychological cause, given that pretty much everything about them from the metaphysics to the ethics is diametrically opposed. The mindset that leads a person to Christianity is very different from the mindset that would lead a person to traditional Norse beliefs, and talking about 'religion' in general tends to mask these huge contrasts. The idea of religion being universal strikes me as terribly confused.

The article largely seems to be the usual evo-psych 'far-reaching conclusions with very little directly relevant evidence, and no attempt whatsoever to control for cultural-specific variables' gimmick (the part about 'attributing agency to moving shapes' is particularly blatent - did they also perform this experiment on people who came from a culture whose language/folk-psychology placed less emphasis on individual agency and free-will? If not, what is the justification for postulating a hard-wired cause?)

Last edited by Nodrog; 7 Mar 2007 at 21:15.
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Unread 8 Mar 2007, 00:40   #3
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Re: Evolution of religion

To me, god seems a product of basic instincts like love, self-preservation, curiousity and the fear of the unknown.


And how can one prove himself, to a higher being, if it doesn't involve humbleness, strenght or doing anything against your will?
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Last edited by Alessio; 8 Mar 2007 at 00:53.
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Unread 8 Mar 2007, 00:45   #4
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Re: Evolution of religion

Being tall? Owning more than one bottle of Heinz ketchup? It's not really a very meaningful question.
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Unread 8 Mar 2007, 00:51   #5
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Re: Evolution of religion

Quote:
Originally Posted by MrL_JaKiri
Being tall? Owning more than one bottle of Heinz ketchup? It's not really a very meaningful question.
It's a retorical question; my answer to boogsters question about self-sacrifice
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Unread 8 Mar 2007, 04:17   #6
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Re: Evolution of religion

Is it me or is Richard Dawkins becoming a bit of a knob?


Quote:
The controversy erupted after Dawkins read an excerpt from Kay's autobiography, in which he wrote: "I believe in a God of some kind, in some sort of higher being. Personally I find it very comforting."

The believer-baiting academic responded with contempt. "How can you take seriously someone who likes to believe something because he finds it 'comforting'?" he said.

Believing in something because you find it comforting seems a pretty valid reason to me. You may dispute the verifiability of that belief but to criticise because someone finds it comforting?!?! Is it any different than people who find comfort in the belief that one day the revolution will come and make everything ok?

The intellectual level of his discussions isn't exactly staying high

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He was criticised recently for describing Nadia Eweida, the BA employee who refused to take off her cross at work, as having "one of the most stupid faces I've ever seen".
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Unread 8 Mar 2007, 04:41   #7
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Re: Evolution of religion

Quote:
Originally Posted by milo
Believing in something because you find it comforting seems a pretty valid reason to me.
Valid in what context? If a person's ultimate justification for believing something is that they want it to be true, then they really have no place in rational debate. I think the world would be 87% more awesome if unicorns existed and I'd quite like to own a magical one, but I dont really think this creates an obligation for biologists to take seriously my insistence that they live undiscovered in the amazon rainforest.

Perhaps from a personal point of view a false belief can be useful in some contexts. But really, given all that people in other times and cultures have claimed to derive from religion - the sense of transcendental awe, of being at unity with the universe and the divine, the extremes of emotional experience that have inspired so much great art and caused many to devote their lives to the pursuit of an ideal - is being 'comforting' really the best that religion can do these days? If youre going to practice self-deception, at least set your sights higher.

Quote:
Is it any different than people who find comfort in the belief that one day the revolution will come and make everything ok?
Yeah, unjustified faith in revolutions certainly led to some of the high points of the 20th century.

Last edited by Nodrog; 8 Mar 2007 at 05:06.
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Unread 8 Mar 2007, 05:13   #8
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Re: Evolution of religion

But it was never a rational debate! Peter Kay never sought to advocate creationism, all he said was he found comfort in something that was irrational.

It was valid in the sense there is an irrational 'crutch' that almost everyone relies on. Its difficult for me to concieve of how anyone can find gambling a joyful or comforting activity yet millions do. Don't misunderstand me, im not questioning debates on creationism, but i am...disheartened that the debate has now reached the level of critisicing the comfort an individual obtains from an idea/activity irrespective of how irrational it is.

I think David Icke's beliefs are profoundly odd, but i don't question them on the basis that he finds comfort in them. It's irrelevant. I'd never advocate biologists being given an obligation to take your unicorn beliefs seriously but them questioning your beliefs on the basis you found them comforting is pointless.


edit to your edit
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nodrog
is being 'comforting' really the best that religion can do these days?
Id say its the most important thing it can do these days, for whatever reason, in times of crisis people are less likely to turn to the works of marx, smith or wittgenstein for comfort, and far more likely to pray. The best it can do is what nothing else does.

Interestingly im basically asking 'is this the best you can do' in relation to Dawkin's remarks. If you take into consideration the sacrifices of Giordano Bruno or Galileo, questioning an individual's comfort is quite a come down.
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Last edited by milo; 8 Mar 2007 at 05:28.
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Unread 8 Mar 2007, 06:27   #9
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Re: Evolution of religion

Dawkins isnt pro-evolution as such, hes pro-science. He isnt advocating Darwinism as much as hes advocating a scientific approach to the world - namely trying to base your beliefs on evidence to the greatest extent possible, rather than believing whatever feels nice. With this is mind, his attack on using beliefs as a crutch seems quite reasonable - it is intellectually dishonest to believe something purely because you want it to be true, and I dont think there is anything wrong with pointing out the irrationality of others.

Quote:
Don't misunderstand me, im not questioning debates on creationism, but i am...disheartened that the debate has now reached the level of critisicing the comfort an individual obtains from an idea/activity irrespective of how irrational it is.
But this is the level that the debate has been on for a long time! We've known for centuries that large parts of Christianity are incorrect, but many people still believe in them because they want them to be true. What do you want Dawkins to say? Should he stick to presenting rational scientific arguments? But noone listens to rational scientific arguments.

Quote:
I think David Icke's beliefs are profoundly odd, but i don't question them on the basis that he finds comfort in them. It's irrelevant.
Christianity isnt being questioned on the basis that people find it comforting. It isnt being questioned here at all - the 'questioning' was completed many years ago when it was shown within all reasonable doubt that Christianity was not a correct or useful picture of the world. Evolutoinary biologists are not arguing over whether Christianity is true, for the same reason that Classics students are not seriously arguing over whether Greek mythology is true. We're at the stage beyond disproof, where we now want to find out why so many people continue to believe in something that is manifestly false. And this is where notions of comfort come in.

Last edited by Nodrog; 8 Mar 2007 at 07:12.
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Unread 8 Mar 2007, 08:17   #10
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Re: Evolution of religion

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nodrog
With this is mind, his attack on using beliefs as a crutch seems quite reasonable - it is intellectually dishonest to believe something purely because you want it to be true, and I dont think there is anything wrong with pointing out the irrationality of others.
You're making them out to know that they're wrong, that isn't the case. It isn't intellectually dishonest to believe in something you think is true. Regardless of what ideology or philosophy someone follows, they follow it because they believe it to be true, not because they want it to be.



Quote:
What do you want Dawkins to say? Should he stick to presenting rational scientific arguments? But noone listens to rational scientific arguments.
Quite frankly he should tone it down. If the arguments have been made but the people refuse to listen, there isn't something wrong with the people but the person making the argument. I'm not religious but even im put off by dawkins; making someone empathise isn't about taking the word 'rational' and repeatedly hitting everyone over the head. Instead of offering compassion he comes across as a zealot, you may say thats irrelevant to his message. I'd his failure to make people 'understand' is largely symptomatic of an underlying inability to communicate effectively. Hes trying to fundamentally change the way someone views the world, yet he can't understand that petty confrontation makes that more difficult



Quote:
We're at the stage beyond disproof, where we now want to find out why so many people continue to believe in something that is manifestly false. And this is where notions of comfort come in.
This is pretty much news to me! Why do you care how people think? I thought the issue was stopping people from enforcing their world view on everyone else, but letting anyone who wanted to practise religion X do so. I couldn't care less why people believe in something false or why they get comfort from it. Why does it matter?
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Unread 8 Mar 2007, 08:55   #11
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Re: Evolution of religion

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nodrog
Talking about 'religious' experiences and the 'supernatural' is a crazy oversimplification, because it fails to distinguish between relatively naturalistic beliefs (eg Greek religion, witches), and beliefs which are irreducibly supernatural (Christianity, souls, etc). Theres no good apriori reason to believe that Greek religion and Christianity share a common psychological cause, given that pretty much everything about them from the metaphysics to the ethics is diametrically opposed. The mindset that leads a person to Christianity is very different from the mindset that would lead a person to traditional Norse beliefs, and talking about 'religion' in general tends to mask these huge contrasts. The idea of religion being universal strikes me as terribly confused.

The article largely seems to be the usual evo-psych 'far-reaching conclusions with very little directly relevant evidence, and no attempt whatsoever to control for cultural-specific variables' gimmick (the part about 'attributing agency to moving shapes' is particularly blatent - did they also perform this experiment on people who came from a culture whose language/folk-psychology placed less emphasis on individual agency and free-will? If not, what is the justification for postulating a hard-wired cause?)
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Unread 8 Mar 2007, 11:51   #12
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Re: Evolution of religion

Quote:
Originally Posted by horn
quite simply because their beliefs affect our lives. the most obvious example of this is the fact that these people vote.

Your statist desire to dictate what type of thought is appropriate for the vote aside, do you vote?
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Unread 8 Mar 2007, 11:54   #13
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Re: Evolution of religion

Quote:
Originally Posted by milo
This is pretty much news to me! Why do you care how people think? I thought the issue was stopping people from enforcing their world view on everyone else, but letting anyone who wanted to practise religion X do so. I couldn't care less why people believe in something false or why they get comfort from it. Why does it matter?
Because the greatest comedy moment of all time certainly isn't 'Garlic Bread'.
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Unread 8 Mar 2007, 12:03   #14
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Re: Evolution of religion

Quote:
Originally Posted by All Systems Go
Because the greatest comedy moment of all time certainly isn't 'Garlic Bread'.

It's t'future!!


Quote:
Originally Posted by horn
no i don't vote. why?

I don't want your mental processes infecting elections that affect my life
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Unread 8 Mar 2007, 12:12   #15
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Re: Evolution of religion

Quote:
Originally Posted by milo
I couldn't care less why people believe in something false or why they get comfort from it. Why does it matter?
I like to compare it to homosexuality.
I have no problems with gay people aslong as they don't try to convert other people, and especially not try to fondle me or my children or whatever. Just like I have no problems with religious people aslong as they don't try to convert other people, and especially not try to fondle me or my children.
You could take "fondle" literally in case of christianity, else use it as a metaphore of influincing me and my environment.
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Unread 8 Mar 2007, 12:30   #16
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Re: Evolution of religion

Quote:
Originally Posted by horn
well they won't be. i don't plan on ever voting /o\

so anyway, what was all this "Your statist desire to dictate what type of thought is appropriate for the vote aside", about?
would you feel so passive about others' beliefs if you found yourself a citizen of a millitantly religious society?
I just don't see the point in going around trying to make people think a certain way, and there'd be no difference between living in the militant religious society that tried to dictate to me, and living here and trying to dictate to their kind in my reach. I'm just turning into a mellowed out hippy type
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Unread 8 Mar 2007, 13:07   #17
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Re: Evolution of religion

Quote:
Originally Posted by horn
to better your life, to further society... ? isn't this how scientific advancements are made, through scientists debating and convincing others of their theories etc etc.
I'd pretty much kill myself right now if i thought my life could be bettered by converting people to my way of thinking, infact id kill them aswell. I think it was Dante who said GD would be boring if everyone agreed and i hold the same view for life. I'lll listen to what someone else says, ill put my point across, after that why worry?

Quote:
there would be plenty of differences. one might be that you'd allow someone who held an abnormal religious belief to live/vote in a liberal democracy as opposed to in a country under sharia law where you'd just y'know, get stoned to death.

Yeah but to be honest i kinda appreciate the stoning, its a clear unambigious process of 'ill kill you for disagreeing' the alternative is the kind of preacy non-violent unrelenting crap you get from people with nothing better to do.

I'd much rather shake the hands of the mad mullah and headbutt a stone than spend my life answering the door to jehovas witnesses. At least with the former you keep your sanity.
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Unread 8 Mar 2007, 13:57   #18
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Re: Evolution of religion

Quote:
Originally Posted by milo
Quite frankly he should tone it down. If the arguments have been made but the people refuse to listen, there isn't something wrong with the people but the person making the argument.
There have, over the years, been an extremely large number of different people trying a wide variety of different methods to try to educate people about the sciences, and the scientific method. They have, in many cases, completely failed. How this, in your mind, points to a failure of an individual argument is beyond me, and it completely ignores the lack of other arguments. The trend is obvious.

The main problem is that most people do not understand how science works, or what it is.

The scientific method is merely a way of observing and predicting trends based on experimental evidence. This would, for example, include the "supernatural", if evidence for such things existed. To quote Alpha Centauri:

Quote:
The popular stereotype of the researcher is that of a skeptic and a pessimist. Nothing could be further from the truth! Scientists must be optimists at heart, in order to block out the incessant chorus of those who say "It cannot be done."
This is not entirely accurate, as universal skepticism is a vital part of science, but it's close enough.

Furthermore, many of the more outspoken scientists, no matter their methodology, are subject to both threatened and actual violence from some of the more extreme religious groups. Dawkins certainly didn't start this "war", if war it is.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Boogster
Any answers or feelings, or is this just gibberish?
Having actually read this now, the answer is "Evolution".

The survival of the individual is not paramount, as the individual, from one point of view, merely acts as the mechanism for the transmission of genes. Dawkins's book The Selfish Gene is the one to read on this.

Altruism and apparant self sacrifice make perfect sense within this context.

Quote:
Originally Posted by milo
I'd pretty much kill myself right now if i thought my life could be bettered by converting people to my way of thinking, infact id kill them aswell. I think it was Dante who said GD would be boring if everyone agreed and i hold the same view for life. I'lll listen to what someone else says, ill put my point across, after that why worry?
The Catholic Church's view on contraceptives as a method for STI prevention actively harm those who follow its teachings. This isn't a "What do you prefer? Red or Blue?" argument, unless you find the colour blue, for example, going around killing people.

Quote:
Originally Posted by milo
I'm just turning into a mellowed out hippy type
Mellowed out hippy types would generally be the people who'd support the wishy washy jehovah's witness-style argument, unless you think the opposition to the proliferation of nuclear weapons by said group was down to the fact that they weren't being used to kill enough people. You're just lazy.

Last edited by MrL_JaKiri; 8 Mar 2007 at 14:03.
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Unread 8 Mar 2007, 15:06   #19
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Re: Evolution of religion

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Originally Posted by Nodrog
Dawkins isnt pro-evolution as such, hes pro-science. He isnt advocating Darwinism as much as hes advocating a scientific approach to the world - namely trying to base your beliefs on evidence to the greatest extent possible, rather than believing whatever feels nice. With this is mind, his attack on using beliefs as a crutch seems quite reasonable - it is intellectually dishonest to believe something purely because you want it to be true, and I dont think there is anything wrong with pointing out the irrationality of others.
I think this is misguided. Dawkins may be pro-science, but he is certainly a manifestly pro-evolution commentator, apropos memetics. Frankly, I think Dawkins has gone further with his polemic than scientific investigation calls for. He writes with a objectionable degree of finality and and assuredness that borders on meglomania and bears no resemblence to scientific, experimental study.

I find him an absurd figure.
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Unread 8 Mar 2007, 15:23   #20
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Re: Evolution of religion

Quote:
Originally Posted by MrL_JaKiri
Having actually read this now, the answer is "Evolution".

The survival of the individual is not paramount, as the individual, from one point of view, merely acts as the mechanism for the transmission of genes. Dawkins's book The Selfish Gene is the one to read on this.

Altruism and apparant self sacrifice make perfect sense within this context.
A strangely worded answer. 'The survival of the individual is not paramount' to whom? Genes, obviously, have no thoughts on the matter, but the fear of death (for example) in humans themselves is universal, I would have thought.
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Unread 8 Mar 2007, 15:24   #21
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Re: Evolution of religion

Quote:
Originally Posted by MrL_JaKiri
There have, over the years, been an extremely large number of different people trying a wide variety of different methods to try to educate people about the sciences, and the scientific method. They have, in many cases, completely failed. How this, in your mind, points to a failure of an individual argument is beyond me, and it completely ignores the lack of other arguments. The trend is obvious.
I'm unsure what your point is or where this came from since i was evidently referring to Dawkins in that passage, but yeah id say that the statement 'people aren't accepting this and don't listen to us' is a pretty obvious failure to convert.

Quote:
The main problem is that most people do not understand how science works, or what it is.

The scientific method is merely a way of observing and predicting trends based on experimental evidence. This would, for example, include the "supernatural", if evidence for such things existed. To quote Alpha Centauri:

This is not entirely accurate, as universal skepticism is a vital part of science, but it's close enough.
Again im unsure where this has come from since i've never questioned the scientific method, that has nothing to do with my argument. I'm not denying darwinism, i just don't care whether anyone else accepts it or not as long as they leave me alone (which they do).

Quote:
Furthermore, many of the more outspoken scientists, no matter their methodology, are subject to both threatened and actual violence from some of the more extreme religious groups. Dawkins certainly didn't start this "war", if war it is.
I never said war!!! Religious violence against scientists hasn't been an issue in...centuries surely? Every case i can think of and the overwhelming majority (assuming i missed any) is the result of animal rights nutters.


Quote:
The Catholic Church's view on contraceptives as a method for STI prevention actively harm those who follow its teachings. This isn't a "What do you prefer? Red or Blue?" argument, unless you find the colour blue, for example, going around killing people.
Why should i care? I have an anarchist pov on this. Their life their choice, its no different to me than someone preaching against drug use because it harms people.


Quote:
Mellowed out hippy types would generally be the people who'd support the wishy washy jehovah's witness-style argument, unless you think the opposition to the proliferation of nuclear weapons by said group was down to the fact that they weren't being used to kill enough people. You're just lazy.

I'm part of a hippy splinter faction, we disagreed on the big book of what hippies should be and formed our own ideology.

I have no idea what nuclear weapons has to do with any of this, assuming you're vaguely bringing in al-queda, i'd say that geo-political factors have a much greater role in the support for AQ than religion.
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Unread 8 Mar 2007, 16:55   #22
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Re: Evolution of religion

Quote:
Originally Posted by milo
This is pretty much news to me! Why do you care how people think? I thought the issue was stopping people from enforcing their world view on everyone else, but letting anyone who wanted to practise religion X do so. I couldn't care less why people believe in something false or why they get comfort from it. Why does it matter?
Well from Dawkins perspective the reason is fairly obvious - finding out why people think what they think is the whole point of (evolutionary) psychology. He's trying to analyse why people hold religious beliefs - thats his schtick. From my point of view, it offends me that its the 21st century and I live in a country where a large number of people believe in transubstantiation. I'd also argue that Christian beliefs have a harmful effect on society overall, whether that is spreading the idea of 'hell' to a new generation of children, or providing the framework for most people's moral beliefs.

"letting people practice their religion' is ambiguous. Obviously everyone should be allowed to hold and practice reliigous beliefs without being met by forcible opposition or violence. But that doesnt mean that these beliefs should be tolerated in an intellectual sense, or that it shouldnt be pointed out how absurd they are.

Last edited by Nodrog; 8 Mar 2007 at 17:44.
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Unread 8 Mar 2007, 17:40   #23
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Re: Evolution of religion

I'm not going to re-quote as it gets incredibly annoying to anyone reading, but i do understand your position a little better with that. I still stand by what i originally said though, he may want to understand the way people think, but them thinking the way they do because it comforts them seems perfectly valid to me. To give the reciprocal, would he suggest believing in something that makes you uncomfortable is somehow more 'worthwhile'? Id be genuinely interested if he has some separate argument on why finding comfort in an idea is bad from an evolutionary standpoint.

As to your personal standpoint id say your offence is irrelevant, or as irrelevant as anyone who takes offence at dawkins because he questions their faith. I'm not saying this in an accusatory way but you have a tendency to see your world view as inherently rational, and those who disagree as deluding themselves ('it is intellectually dishonest to believe something purely because you want it to be true'). For the sake of argument lets say the society around you is completely founded on Christian belief, and as you say people won't be rational. In what sense is that harmful so society? Society has chosen its own way and is apparently happy with that choice despite being shown arguments to the contrary. It may be harmful from the perspective of your personal philosophy, but why should your personal philosophy be a better 'judge' of what others do?

I don't have a problem with pointing out something is absurd, but im curious what you desire from all this? If your day-to-day activities are being repressed by the masses id understand, but if they aren't dictating a way of life to you - why bother with the irrationality of others? And why religion? The vast majority of deaths in the 20th century were caused by political theories, surely its a bigger threat?
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Unread 8 Mar 2007, 18:55   #24
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Re: Evolution of religion

Quote:
Originally Posted by milo
I'm unsure what your point is or where this came from since i was evidently referring to Dawkins in that passage, but yeah id say that the statement 'people aren't accepting this and don't listen to us' is a pretty obvious failure to convert.
Dawkins doesn't exist in a vacuum. If everyone accepted the scientific method by less extreme forms of argument, then he would not do what he does.

Quote:
Originally Posted by milo
Again im unsure where this has come from since i've never questioned the scientific method, that has nothing to do with my argument.
It's a statement in general, not really directed at you. It does follow from what I said about Dawkins though.

Quote:
Originally Posted by milo
i just don't care whether anyone else accepts it or not as long as they leave me alone (which they do).

Why should i care? I have an anarchist pov on this. Their life their choice, its no different to me than someone preaching against drug use because it harms people.
Gordon Brown doesn't come round my house and drink my milk, but his actions do affect me (for example). Whilst you may simply want to be left alone, it is shortsighted to suggest that your wellbeing is entirely independent of the actions of others.

Quote:
Originally Posted by milo
I never said war!!! Religious violence against scientists hasn't been an issue in...centuries surely?
Well, it may not have been actively going on in the last few weeks or months, it might have suddenly stopped for some reason. I meant exactly what I said, and there is a significant amount independent of the animal rights terrorists.

Quote:
Originally Posted by milo
I have no idea what nuclear weapons has to do with any of this, assuming you're vaguely bringing in al-queda, i'd say that geo-political factors have a much greater role in the support for AQ than religion.
The point is that hippy-types have historically opposed violent solutions to pretty much anything, which you have stated support for here as opposed to the
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Unread 8 Mar 2007, 19:07   #25
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Re: Evolution of religion

@ horn

I'd appreciate some concrete examples of how they affect you, in all honesty id say the welfare state imposes itself on those opposed to socialism to a far greater degree. What do you want to do that you can't specifically because of religion?

Stem Cell research isn't repressed, state funding is limited but in a similar point to what i said above and to Nod, why shouldn't it be? The society that elected the president and ultimately funds the research is divided over the issue. Private funding exists, but id think a limit on state funding considering the debate wasn't overly draconian. Obviously there shouldn't be state funding to eliminate this kind of debate.

Peter Kay didn't link truth to comfort, he doesn't even accept the supernatural aspects of christianity, he just finds it comforting; again to reiterate, this isn't about the scientific method.
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Unread 8 Mar 2007, 19:24   #26
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Re: Evolution of religion

When a large group discriminates against a minority group on 'moral' grounds which they get from a 2,000 year old book which has been discredited over the centuries then it affects all of us.

It doesn't matter if it's about homosexuals being married or women having jobs or black people not being lynched in the streets. When beliefs with no legitimate basis are held by vast numbers of people in your country it is always potentially harmful.

throughout history people have found comfort in the belief that Jews were the cause of all of the worlds problems. this doesn't justify rounding them all up and killing them or using violence to make them flee the country.
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Unread 8 Mar 2007, 19:43   #27
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Re: Evolution of religion

Dawkins has always been a bit of a knob, but he is entirely necessary. If everyone were like him (even if all atheists were like him) then the world would be a bit dull, but the Good Guys require hardliners.

Basically, there's two types of wrong. One that is harmless enough (on it's own) and the second which is very harmful. A passenger on a plane believing that the plane is really being carried by angels when it flies and the engine is for show is harmless enough in most cases. An aircraft engineer on a flight-crew believing the same thing would be much more dangerous. Dawkins argument is that too much tolerance of the former (harmless) nonsense creates room for the latter (harmful) nonsense.

And he's probably right. But tactics dictate how you handle these things. In any argument, regardless of how right you are, you never "win" by being a prick.
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Unread 8 Mar 2007, 20:27   #28
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Re: Evolution of religion

Quote:
Originally Posted by horn
it doesn't necessarily have to be that action direct from the church affects me, just irrational beliefs (such as religious ones) held by people with power (whether that power is to vote or lynch me). my main beef and therefore example is the one i've already stated, stem cell research. off the top of my head another example might be the end timers in america who seem rather unwilling to prevent global warming because they think the end of the world is a good thing.
Theres really nothing i can say if your main objection is with people in a foreign country wanting some kind of say on how their taxes are spent. I'll just agree to disagree.


Quote:
it's not repressed? i thought there was legislation that prevented the accumulation of stem cells from foetuses or something? even if there were no restrictions to private research ventures (although there are) i still wouldn't agree that simply because an uninformed electorate doesn't agree with it that funding shouldn't be increased to such research.
In a similar way to nod you're dismissing them as being uninformed simply because they disagree with you
Out of curiosity how much do you donate to stem cell research?


But yeah the debate has moved on. Lets say a nine year old girl, brought up as a christian is dying of cancer, and she believes she'll go to heaven and finds comfort in that. In the weeks she has left would you respect her personal beliefs and leave her alone or just tell her her life was ultimately meaningless and that shes deluding herself?
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Unread 8 Mar 2007, 20:48   #29
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Re: Evolution of religion

In fairness in that situation there's not exactly much she could do which would affect you.
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Unread 8 Mar 2007, 21:03   #30
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Re: Evolution of religion

Nonetheless it centres around whether the comfort for the person possessing belief is valid, and should be respected or confronted.

I won't deny that if a form of tyranny tried to impose itself on me id object, and of course in that circumstance id 'fight' whatever facism there was. The girl example is valid since i genuinely don't think religion is anything like a problem its made out to be, in britain at least. It's an exhausted battle that was fought long before my grandfather was born. What we're left with is confronting people not on some meta-philosophical level, but when they're at their most vulnerable and least offensive. When they want nothing more than comfort. I find it distasteful, and to be honest i think many feel the same way. Richard Dawkins is a clever man, but he and his supporters somehow seem to lack the empathy needed to really connect with those they disagree with.
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Unread 8 Mar 2007, 21:25   #31
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Re: Evolution of religion

In answer to the question "would you go around seeking nine year old girls with misguided beliefs about the afterlife in order to inflict psychological damage on them" I'd imagine most of us would answer no. To compare this decision to allowing various groups to control the laws of your country through being a majority or a vocal and influential minority is rather inaccurate. As horn said the question here is largely over the impact of their beliefs on your life.
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Unread 8 Mar 2007, 21:36   #32
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Re: Evolution of religion

Most, but not all!
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Unread 8 Mar 2007, 23:32   #33
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Re: Evolution of religion

Quote:
Originally Posted by JonnyBGood
To compare this decision to allowing various groups to control the laws of your country through being a majority or a vocal and influential minority is rather inaccurate. As horn said the question here is largely over the impact of their beliefs on your life.

Horns main objection to religion is that people in another country don't spend their taxes as he would wish. Regardless, if they are the majority, they accurately represent society and i see no problem with 'them' dominating the political process anymore than i would a political philosophy, if they are an influential minority id ask why specifically why they are influential. Both these circumstances do not exist in Britain, i cannot speak for ireland.
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Unread 9 Mar 2007, 00:18   #34
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Re: Evolution of religion

Quote:
Originally Posted by milo
Horns main objection to religion is that people in another country don't spend their taxes as he would wish. Regardless, if they are the majority, they accurately represent society and i see no problem with 'them' dominating the political process anymore than i would a political philosophy, if they are an influential minority id ask why specifically why they are influential. Both these circumstances do not exist in Britain, i cannot speak for ireland.
The problems taxation causes us are endless
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Unread 9 Mar 2007, 07:38   #35
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Re: Evolution of religion

Its perhaps a tangential issue but i would be interested to know why you don't donate. Since we're concentrating on britain why or how is religion limiting research? And what religious bodies are controlling the purse strings that affect you? To be honest id say you hate the rich

Quote:
Originally Posted by horn
can you envisage a plan of action that you would have a problem going ahead with despite a majority of society supporting it?
Ofcourse, there are numerous ones. I unequivically objected to the iraq war irrespective of whether there was a second resolution, many here didn't. I object to my taxes being spent on 'defence' without a non-interference clause being put on the government. Others object to the welfare state. Nonetheless i accept the people of this country and the government doing things i object to because that is the system in place. I certainly don't contruct some vast purse-string-controlling-conspiracy thats keeping me down. When the revolution comes and the state is deconstructed ill do what i want, and leave others to do as they wish.
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Unread 9 Mar 2007, 07:51   #36
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Re: Evolution of religion

Most of the problems seem to centre around taxation, and as JBG said those issues are endless.

So lets say the revolution occurs and glorious anarchism appears.

The majority of people within stateless area A continue to practise religion. They don't interefere with your life, they don't stop you from living as you wish. Would you act against them?



Edit: I should probably explain why; It looks like im asking something competely pointless. I don't think religion is a repressive force in modern day britain (relative to other philosophies say). I'm curious whether you have an intrinsic desire to 'make' everyone stop believing in religion, irrespective of whether they harm you, if you do then i'd understand your opinions better. If you don't then i'm curious why you feel so oppressed as i don't think religion holds any real widespread power.
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Unread 9 Mar 2007, 08:02   #37
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Re: Evolution of religion

Genghis Khan would.



One day a TV network will listen to my idea and they'll make a cartoon series about Genghis Khan





Personally I'd imagine horn doesn't donate because he's direly impoverished.
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Unread 9 Mar 2007, 12:14   #38
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Re: Evolution of religion

Quote:
Originally Posted by milo
Most of the problems seem to centre around taxation, and as JBG said those issues are endless.

So lets say the revolution occurs and glorious anarchism appears.

The majority of people within stateless area A continue to practise religion. They don't interefere with your life, they don't stop you from living as you wish. Would you act against them?
Nietzsche, in Beyond Good & Evil, put forward an argument that the philosophical world was too hung up on whether something they were arguing was "true" or "not true".

This is a fairly similar position to yours, and Nietzsche was a nutjob, ergo I like cheese.
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Unread 9 Mar 2007, 16:41   #39
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Re: Evolution of religion

Quote:
Originally Posted by horn
well i have no money. but this isn't really important because i still wouldn't donate any money even if i had several thousand pounds. the reason why is that it wouldn't change anything. i'm not interested in engaging in such actions out of principle. if in a hypothetical situation i had millions then yes i would donate.*
I'm even more confused now, then why take issue with others who either do donate or are forced to donate but wish to have a say on where the money goes?

Quote:
by religion do you mean any and all irrational belief in the supernatural or just institutions such as the church and muslim coucil of britain?
I was hoping you could tell me (i'm trying to understand which bits you have a problem with). Would you feel less repressed if the MCB didn't exist? Why? What do they do to you? Obviously they try and lobby for their point of view but thats hardly different to any other organisation; religious, political or commercial

Quote:
so you accept any and all action by the government as long as they have the majority backing? i've got godwin in my pocket right now milo
'I won't deny that if a form of tyranny tried to impose itself on me id object, and of course in that circumstance id 'fight' whatever facism there was.'

I wouldn't support a facist party, but again its curious why you'd bring up such an extreme. Do you think there is an analogy between the nazis winning elections and a religious organisation threatening you?

I'm trying to understand where this (very irrational in my opinion) fear of religion is coming from. As far as i can see the debates about theology have been won generations ago, there are no religious parties in existence that are remotely likely to come to power. To me its as absurd as worrying about a reemergence of Communism. Its just a very irrational fear from people supposedly basing their arguments on rationality.

Thats why i asked the question about what you'd do in an anarchist type scenario where they didn't harm you. I'll be honest, im trying to understand if its about an underlying bigotry (im not seeking to judge you about your opinions, only clarify them)
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Unread 9 Mar 2007, 16:46   #40
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Re: Evolution of religion

Quote:
Originally Posted by horn
forget religion, it's a superfluous issue. the problem i am talking about (in this instance) is the belief in somekind of soul, or an essentialist notion of humanity that prevents people giving the green light to abortion/stem cell research.
Apologies I saw this after i posted the above. Don't those who oppose animal experimentation rely on an essentialist notion of humanity to oppose experimentation in a similar manner to stemcell research?
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Unread 9 Mar 2007, 20:08   #41
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Re: Evolution of religion

Quote:
Originally Posted by horn
for the same reason i'd take issue with the national front wanting to shoot black people in the head even if i myself wished to shoot a rampaging psychopath gunning down children in the street.
Thats not a reply though, or at least its as confusing as everything else. I'm willing to give my answers in relation to what i see, but you continually resort to 'analogous' extremes. I have no idea what you're trying to say.

Quote:
we're not talking about tyranny though. we're talking about if this were to happen with majority support from the electorate...
Sorry i thought you were alluding to the weimar republic (ie facism that the public not only supported but elected). Regardless i don't see what difference it makes either way.

Quote:
the gist of my "anti" animal experimentation posts were suggesting that those who hold only humans in esteem of moral worth were prone with humanistic essentialism. atleast that was part of it.

Its a point we'll have to differ on, i think the anti-testing lot try to endorse 'essences' common to humans and lifeform X inorder to justify their arguments. Putting worth on stemcells and mice is equally absurd to me.
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Unread 10 Mar 2007, 11:25   #42
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Re: Evolution of religion

Quote:
Originally Posted by Boogster
A strangely worded answer. 'The survival of the individual is not paramount': but to whom? Genes, obviously, have no thoughts on the matter...
To enlarge upon this, a useful link. The discussion of the disconnectedness of motive and effect was particularly interesting.

On 'unattached' motives:

Quote:
It's more of a problem -and Buller is quite clear on this -that an Adaptationist account of Jones's behaviour may need to appeal to a motive that explains his action but that Jones didn't actually have; not consciously, not unconsciously, not at all. It's a main tenet of psychological Darwinism that the "ultimate" motivation for an adaptive behaviour is to maximize one's relative contribution to the genetic endowment of one's breeding group. So (still assuming it's an adaptation) what Buller calls the "proximal" cause of Jones's behaviour is that he wants (maybe consciously, maybe not) not to catch his death of cold and he believes (maybe consciously, maybe not) that he won't catch his death of cold if he doesn't get wet.

But the "ultimate" cause of his behaviour is his wanting to maximize his contribution to the gene pool of his breeding group, which requires, inter alia, that he not be dead. That, to repeat, is what Jones really wants, assuming that his umbrella-carrying behaviour is an adaptation; and it's what his ancestors were selected for wanting in the old days back on the savannah.

The trouble is, of course, that Jones wants no such thing -not consciously or unconsciously either.

Jones may never have so much as heard about breeding groups; his ancestors certainly never did.

So, really, what are we to make of motives that explain one's actions even though one doesn't have them? And who is it that is motivated by Jones's genotypic ambitions if it isn't Jones? Notice, once again, that this is a kind of puzzle that is proprietary to Psychological Adaptationism; it doesn't arise for evolutionary explanations of the opposed thumb, or of bipedal gait, or of the anatomy of the retina; that's because neither your motivations, nor your ancestors', nor anybody else's, come into the story about why thumbs work the way they do. It's Psychological Adaptationism, not Adaptationism per se, that is raising this spectre of unattached motives.
So, Adaptionists want us to accept that 'our motivational systems can be designed to cause us to act in ways that enhance our reproductive success without processing information about reproductive success.' But surely...

Quote:
...that doesn't cut the knot since, strictly speaking and theology aside, nobody did design our motivational system; like Topsy, it "just growed". How, then, is the talk of its having been "designed to cause us to act in ways that enhance our reproductive success" supposed to be construed? No doubt our motivational systems are, often enough, causally implicated in our reproductive successes. But what something causes is one thing; what it is designed to cause is quite another. The point is entirely general. The structure of our nervous system is part of the etiological story about our migraines. It doesn't follow that our nervous system was "designed to" give us migraines; it doesn't follow, and it isn't true.
Thoughts?

(I'm trying to edge the conversation away from the thorny religion thing here, as it really wasn't my intention to drudge through all that again.)
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Unread 10 Mar 2007, 12:03   #43
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Re: Evolution of religion

Quote:
Originally Posted by Boogster
(I'm trying to edge the conversation away from the thorny religion thing here, as it really wasn't my intention to drudge through all that again.)
quite right. because if you move the topic away from idiots who refuse to believe in evolution and instead on to idiots who can not understand evolution we will almost certainly all have a far better time.
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Unread 10 Mar 2007, 16:52   #44
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Re: Evolution of religion

Quote:
Originally Posted by Boogster
To enlarge upon this
It wasn't strangely worded at all, and is not a controversial concept in evolutionary circles.

Lets consider a mutation which encourages altruistic behaviour towards members of your immediate family.

There can be two results of this altruistic behaviour.

The first is that there is a significant benefit gained from the behaviour.
The second is that there is not, or an active hindrance.

If the former is the case, then the members of your immediate family are more likely to breed. There is a good chance of this gene being passed on to the subsequent generation, in which case the same argument applies - and, over time, if the benefit is sufficiently large, it will become fixed in the population, or the two subsets of the population will stop interbreeding and a new species will be formed over time.

If the second is the case, then the mutation will disadvantage the members of the population with it, which will lead to them breeding less and thus, over time, the mutation will be removed from the population (or simply remain in small amounts, if it is not sufficiently deleterious).

Look up the Florida Scrub Jays for a decent example of this behaviour - and note that this behaviour does not rely on you surviving, if your death gives a sufficiently large advantage to the rest of your family.

Do you see?
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Unread 11 Mar 2007, 11:11   #45
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Re: Evolution of religion

Yes, kin selection.

Frankly, I find the idea that reproduction is the central motivation of human behaviour a little difficult to grasp. The fact is, we now don't work like that. Semantically, the notion of of a 'selfish' gene is also pretty difficult to follow (I need to read the damned book), and it is what confused me about your statement. So, the survival of an individual isn't paramount; but who is it 'not paramount' to? The individual? His family? His genes? Is the individual conscious of this motivation? It must be pscyhologically embedded; how does it interact with his other nebulous beliefs and desires?

I really am interested in what the article says, although I can understand if you can't be bothered to trawl through it.

Quote:
In relatively untendentious Adaptationist explanations -ones that don't involve the evolution of the mind -the situation is something like this: one finds some heritable feature of a creature's phenotype (for example, opposed thumbs, complex eyes, sexual dimorphism; whatever) and then constructs a story about how developing the feature would have increased fitness (here understood as an ancestor's probability of contributing to the gene pool of his breeding group) in the environment in which the creature evolved. The logic of Adaptationist explanations in EP accords with this general pattern: the datum is that a certain kind of creature reliably exhibits a certain kind of behaviour; and the putative explanation attributes the behaviour to a psychological mechanism -typically a complex of beliefs and desires -that would have been selected for in the ancestral environment. Roughly: on the one hand, the behaviour is intelligible on the assumption that the creature acts out of a certain motive; and, on the other hand, a propensity to act out of that motive would have been selected for if the evolutionary ancestors had had it.

The point to keep your eye on -what distinguishes Adaptationism as applied to specifically mental traits -is that the explanations it has on offer incorporate the kind of reasoning in which a creature's behaviour is explained by reference to its beliefs and desires. So you can't so much as start on constructing this kind of explanation unless you know not just how a creature behaves, but also its motive for behaving that way. This introduces complications that are not found in Adaptationist theorizing outside psychology: complications to which Evolutionary Psychologists -Buller included -are pretty generally insensitive.
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Unread 12 Mar 2007, 23:49   #46
MrL_JaKiri
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Re: Evolution of religion

Isn't paramount to anyone, necessarily; some measure of self-sustanance is not going to be a bad thing, but there are plenty of instances when people, and animals, have died in which it was possible for them to have chosen to have lived. It depends on what the situation is as to how the individual acts, and whether genetic mutations are advantageous, deleterious or netiher.

The concept of the selfish gene is fairly straightforward, as selection will be acting on a genetic level at all points, if you accept a certain level of relationship between the organism and its genes.
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Unread 13 Mar 2007, 03:00   #47
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Re: Evolution of religion

Quote:
Originally Posted by Boogster
Frankly, I find the idea that reproduction is the central motivation of human behaviour a little difficult to grasp.
You haven't lived.

Seriously though, while I would be reluctant to say anything is "the" central motivator in human behaviour it seems fairly obvious from looking at human cultures generally that reproduction is (directly and indirectly) _one_ of the central motivators that influences pretty much everything we do. Sometimes it's crude and obvious (i.e. someone wearing a particular type of clothing to attract a partner) other times it's not necessarily clear (even to the person who is performing the action) - e.g. career choice.

I would say that at the level of complexity of human beings enjoy, one-to-one mapping between sets of genes and behaviour is unlikely to be sufficient for explaining most things. Some of the evo-psych theories which use adaptationist explanaitons for everything suffer from being unnecessarily over-confident. In many cases, rather than positing just-so stories, it'd be more honest to say that we simply don't know. However, a just-so story is perfectly valid if someone thinks a behaviour is proof against Darwinian theory (e.g. "gay genes" or something like that).

The "selfish" gene theory taken it's most basic form is pretty much a truism, but I find the name unhelpful as it implies a range of things which Dawkins decidedly did not mean.
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