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Author Topic: Is religion a natural consequence of evolution?  (Read 2978 times)

Offline thedoc

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Is religion a natural consequence of evolution?
« on: 12/03/2012 09:01:02 »
David Spence asked the Naked Scientists:
   Hi Chris and NS Team

My question is in relation to the evolutionary and intellectual development of homo sapiens

Q : If you have a species of life which perceives itself to be superior to all other life forms (development and intelligence) would it be a natural phase of behaviour (based on the historical facts of social development in many cultures) for this form of life (homo sapiens) to believe they were created separately thus the birth of religion (whether there is any fact in it or not) and this of faith?

Hoping you can pose this question on air or answer it via my email address.

Kind Regards

David :)

P.S. My question is not questioning the role of religion or faith but the justification of it in relation to evolution and would you say, based on historical evidence, it is part and parcel of this Darwinian process?
What do you think?
« Last Edit: 12/03/2012 09:01:02 by _system »


 

Offline Sprool

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Re: Is religion a natural consequence of evolution?
« Reply #1 on: 12/03/2012 12:48:14 »
I think this is a really interesting question, and I am in agreement that religion as a social and anthropological function comes about to improve aspects of community within a tribe - to help set acceptable codes of conduct, to improve tribal bonding, give a cause and a morality to the group which all helps improve survival chance. This happened at the most fundamental level when humans were evolving into social group creatures, with sun worship, rituals giving thanks for food availability and the birth of new tribe members.
In this respect there is no superstition or spirituality but an evolvement of group conscience as an evolutionary step.
 

Offline Don_1

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Re: Is religion a natural consequence of evolution?
« Reply #2 on: 12/03/2012 13:28:27 »
An interesting and, perhaps, logical explanation to the 'evolution' of religion. Certainly one which is worthy of consideration.

It is my belief that gods were invented by early man to answer inexplicable questions. It might therefore follow that man might have put his very existence down to those same gods. Why not? After all, even today we cannot answer the question 'why are we here?' OK, the answer is that we are here because all the right factors came together on this planet, but that answer is not good enough for the majority.

Many a time questions are posed here on matters pertaining to 'us' & 'them'. 'Us', being humans and 'them' being the rest of the animal kingdom. So yes, today perhaps more than ever, we put ourselves above and separate to the rest of the animal kingdom. The suggestion that man evolved from apes was something Darwin tried to avoid, for fear of the repercussions. But today as then, his theory was seen as just that and he was ridiculed and berated for it. Man did and still does, set himself apart from even the great apes. Since man holds himself in such high esteem, it would follow that he must have thought himself to have originated from somewhere or something different to other species.

Gods have come and gone over thousands of years, and while some of us no longer believe in such deities, some of those gods remain real to a great many people. Perhaps the more we learn, the more some might turn to religion. Perhaps one day we might learn enough for all to reject it.
 

Offline nicephotog

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Re: Is religion a natural consequence of evolution?
« Reply #3 on: 14/03/2012 12:57:37 »
Quote
a species of life which perceives itself to be superior to all other life forms
called a Government... and is holy
Quote
would it be a natural phase of behaviour to believe they were created separately
..."only if the lower classes(sheep) never here of this"...
Quote
thus the birth of religion (whether there is any fact in it or not) and this of faith
The truth of statements over a beer at the pub and the resulting brawl appear to be time honoured all the way back to settlements of pre history, nothing has changed here.  (..."exiting nothing to do here"...)

While modern humans do have abilities and activities committed as a group that are more complex than other animals or extinct versions of Homonid, it is not particularly a point for that to be able to be percieved as entirely natural phase of behaviour because they are mortal, all that is recognised is that the entity called life contains common unexplainable facets that are essentially more than their physics e.g. Sound is percieved as noise , light radiation is visualised and concepts and memory are existent with no form and shape.

Certainly they would percieve themselves as greater than other life forms because of the utilitarian effectiveness of their morphise upon their environment, however if they view their environment they are bound into it along with other creatures as helplessly and mortal.
The add on of separate creation would be a subtle megalemania , too in saying, what is often forgotten is how much of primitive history and fable that is scripted at the first stages of civilisations is the continual stories of agitators and userpers whos convolvulism was directly involved in either propaganderising for their own personal benefit but mostly brainwashing their people.
E.g. One female Pharoah whom was said to have userped her brother for the throne, whilst remembering the Pharoah is seen as a living god. A note about that so called living god is it means vaguely in translation "Big House" , or in short the one raking it all in that has it all right now.
Another e.g. is the story of how the rights of birth were stolen between Cane and Abel by deceipt assisted by their mother.
Really the list goes on and on of brain-washing primitive societies and leaders setting themself up as a living god.

Religion itself always tends to express it follows a deity or small set of elite deity at its hierarchy top , whether wolves(as a pack have a hierarchy) see Alpha as an actual deity is unclear because it is a concept of philosophy that something is there that is as holy as being such, and that wolves ever commit philosophy, but i cannot see a reason that may not be, because, they can think(logistisise) and their encephalization development matches a large portion if not all of Hominid evolution side by side.

As for faith, that revolves around the deity being successful or loser as a blame man.

Note: H. Heidelbergensis is supposed to be the link in the Hominid species that gained brain operations of "reverence" and "morality" as subtley shown in H. Sapiens because it is only a recent acquisition to the instinct tool set in brain and mind, it obviously requires millions of years to embed, and H. Heidelbergensis is only 800, 000 years to 400, 000 years previous (little over half to 3/4 of a million years) in start to end.

Well i suppose if you call evil "natural" then maybe it is "natural" as you express to believe as a primitive that we were created separately. But if we are only refined H. Heidelbergensis then we probably are "weak" at good , vegetarianism, cooperation and remain truly helpless to Alpharism , hypercarnivorousness and taking care of ourselves.
« Last Edit: 14/03/2012 19:24:39 by nicephotog »
 

Offline RD

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Re: Is religion a natural consequence of evolution?
« Reply #4 on: 14/03/2012 21:34:26 »
According to Richard Dawkins, religion is a mental virus (analogous to a computer virus) ... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viruses_of_the_Mind
« Last Edit: 14/03/2012 21:38:06 by RD »
 

Offline cheryl j

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Re: Is religion a natural consequence of evolution?
« Reply #5 on: 15/03/2012 01:44:47 »
The only evolutionary basis for religion I can think of is all animal are motivated to survive, but unlike most other animals, as far as we know, only man can contemplate his own death and the end of his existance. Perhap religion developed to ease this natural, biological fear of not existing anymore. The second reason may be that the parent/child bond makes such a strong impression on the mind and is so intensely related to survival that we seek to duplicate it later in life.
 

Offline MikeS

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Re: Is religion a natural consequence of evolution?
« Reply #6 on: 16/03/2012 09:31:06 »
Mankind is naturally inquisitive.  We like to question things and try to understand our surroundings and our place in nature.  Nature abhors a vacuum. So where lack of knowledge and understanding was dominant the void was filled by creating religion.  You don't have to understand something you only have to have faith and accept it.   So I suppose religion is a natural outcome of evolution.  Unfortunately, once encouraged to become established it is an easy way of controlling the masses.  This also is evolution.  We subject our will to a higher power.  (Assumed, not God given.)
 

Offline unstman

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Re: Is religion a natural consequence of evolution?
« Reply #7 on: 17/03/2012 00:08:25 »
‘ man can contemplate his own death ‘

I would question this Cheryl, if you look at the social grouping of certain mammals and their behaviour in relation to death or even injury.
 
Elephants have a strong social bonding, and it is very evident that if one of the elephants within the social group dies there certainly seems to be an element of behaviour which indicates that elephants, as we perceive it, having feelings and/or emotions for the deceased and an acknowledgement of their existence within the group. Even after several years, elephants have been known to stroke, smell and even protect the bones of previously existing members of the social group.

I do not think this behaviour is directly related to survival, more akin to consciousness and this of memory and emotion. Admittedly, this is only an interpretation based on research, observation and making a direct link between our own behaviour to this of other mammals. However, this may be entirely wrong since we cannot communicate between different species, but the elephant’s behaviour does seem to recognise death and an awareness that they themselves will die.
 
However, my question is whether or not religion is a consequence of higher intelligence and social development within large numbers of people (animals) and is it a natural development in regards to evolution. If it is the case, what, in evolutionary terms, would be the end product of such a development within a single species?   
 

Offline nicephotog

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Re: Is religion a natural consequence of evolution?
« Reply #8 on: 17/03/2012 21:31:50 »
Quote
..."Unfortunately, once encouraged to become established it is an easy way of controlling the masses.  This also is evolution"....

As i likened before (I see we agree)
how much of primitive history and fable that is scripted at the first stages of civilisations is the continual stories of agitators and usurpers whos convolvulism was directly involved in either propagandarising for their own personal benefit but mostly brainwashing their people.

So it tends to say that to develop "reverence" like developing any new piece of behavior associate a physical section of brain by evolution, there is required to be a need for it, e.g. "religious junkies".
However to conceive that idea(reverence for religion(special emotional acceptance) or faith(trust of statistics as though real though it can be with no evidence to prove validity(abhorrent))) would require a use, of requires some level of intelligence "AKA complex thinking" beyond survival.
EDIT-ADD-ON: Someone mentioned bonding in context of nurture in a previous post, that would relate outsider(family) or inter-species cooperation developed potentially as a bond(brings new meaning to wolves Familiaris evolving and adapted into Hominid society and the problem of "flight theory" as a cause for humans adapting canids as part of their lives as primitive man.
Also from this, as a law of evolution appears to state that change for survival is required, "Why can't women regrow their own arms after they are torn off?, they always pick up puppies that do not belong to them!")
.


Quote
and it is very evident that if one of the elephants within the social group dies there certainly seems to be an element of behavior which indicates that elephants, as we perceive it, having feelings and/or emotions for the deceased
Many years back, i saw a wildlife program of elephants that showed them(a herd of African elephants) each picking up a bone of a dead elephant and carrying the bone to a common bone pile location they are said to use as that herd as a graveyard.

Of development of the brain and its abilities, it is often said to be "the larger the species brain size the more intelligent" however, elephants all but commit engineering on their environment because of the powerful agile trunk they can use as an agile accurate limb. Because of the ability to manipulate accurately upon their environment for profitable survival, their brain may have evolved "because there is something to learn, because there is something to do using a remembered sequence" ,
too with wolves(which are safer than giant cats) my suspicion is they have in some way at least as wolves "for millions of years" ALWAYS cooperated with Hominids and caused each to others encephalization development ("AKA metaphorically I.Q", some Hominids may never have bothered with wolves but mated to Hominids that did exploit wolves by inter-species cooperation. The previous could explain the massive difference of IQ levels in among humans) (physical reason is living space access and agility and hunting assistance - note: no other species really has that set of properties that perfectly) not merely only the recent H. Sapiens, deeming the point of "where did domestic bloodline of Canids evolve?" a totally worthless way of thinking of modern dogs(e.g. mankind is now a dirty little F*** on a special version of its own kind but does not know it!!!!!!!!!).
That too is probably the evolutionary status of both wolves and all Hominids that caused their encephalization to increase being wolves affected humans and humans affected wolves directly in evolution through cooperation requirement.
*Note why not giant cats as pure survival cooperation - because of their claws being an effective and too dangerous "accidental" wounding or killing equipment.

The question for reverence would be
a. accurate powerful modification of the environment for survival as an ability(will develop I.Q. by repetitive action sequences being remembered and re-used continually)
or
b. ability to cooperate with another living being (own or inter species) at the level of a likened bond(excitement/propagation of communication-cooperation for survival - more psychological behavioral version of "a")
probably "b" because Dolphins are considered intelligent but do not seriously have "a", but fun parks would have us believe more accurate agility than other sea creatures.
Interestingly Wolves have a neck with the agile ability to bite while the head is upside down 180 degrees, Familiaris can only quite point its head straight up 90 degrees finally with any poor agility, as for manipulating the world around it mainly it is building by digging into earth efficiently, but possibly subtly covering and arranging den entrances(liken to thinking for artistic study with purpose - e.g. advertising).
Wolves and Dolphins appear to have the same level of point approx. for "a", but it does appear to show more than many creatures of likeness of them in their respective  context of environment.

So maybe you should get marine biologists to be on look-out for an underwater graveyard location.



For children A test for evidence of evolved underpinning(crude) instinctual reverence behavior
1. Find your local chicken thief or poacher.
2. get a good runners heart rate watch or strap on meter.
3. get some pictures of wolves and of foxes around 20 and as many each.
4. Sit your poacher in a comfy chair, strap the watch or meter onto him/her and cycle through showing him/her one of a fox for 10 seconds then 1 of a wolf for ten seconds and measure the heart rate and blood pressure at the end of showing each plate.

Did the fox cause more serenity to the chicken thief?
Did an increased heart rate when shown a fox indicate adoration or recent guilt?
Were there any provable negative behavior gained from the meter data when shown a wolf or did it remain level indicating indifference?(You may need a set of chicken thieves for this last one)

« Last Edit: 18/03/2012 08:03:01 by nicephotog »
 

Offline unstman

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Re: Is religion a natural consequence of evolution?
« Reply #9 on: 20/03/2012 00:36:17 »
The only main connection I can see between religion and social development within a higher intellectual species seems to be the concept of death and the ending of life which most people, I would say, fear. However, to alleviate this powerful emotion is sub-consciously comforting when you introduce the idea that death itself is just a journey to another existence or plain where the joys of your previous life can still be carried on.

Religion, in many ways, seems to fill this void by replacing fear with hope. Because we cannot prove such a philosophical concept, we accept it as the truth. Years and years of perpetual brainwashing of this idea of the after life, until recent times (especially when you take into consideration the intellectual development of education for the majority of people in western society) has never been questioned or challenged.

Is there any connection between social development, intellectual development, advancing technology (which seems to have coincided with the act of giving the majority of people education) and religion, I don't think so. However, religion, until now, has played a major part in western social values as our history proves.......certainly in terms of being more negative than positive I would say. 
« Last Edit: 20/03/2012 00:48:23 by unstman »
 

Offline nicephotog

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Re: Is religion a natural consequence of evolution?
« Reply #10 on: 21/03/2012 05:25:05 »
Quote
thedoc: ..."would it be a natural phase of behaviour"...
would it be a natural phase of unnaccuracy by piousness(definition 2. Making a hypocritical display of virtue.)at the chances of having come from one of the lower classes!!!!!
 

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Re: Is religion a natural consequence of evolution?
« Reply #10 on: 21/03/2012 05:25:05 »

 

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