[extropy-chat] Putting God to Rest

Keith Henson hkhenson at rogers.com
Tue Apr 24 04:40:48 UTC 2007

At 08:51 PM 4/23/2007 -0400, Anna wrote:

(In reply to my post)

>I have no problem with religion, I have a problem with
>the mentality that's running it. If this study can
>examine why people need religion then I am all for it
>and interested.

This may only be ambiguous only to me, but do you mean mentality like the 
pope or Pat Robertson or do you mean it generically as humans?

In either case, what we call "religion" is a species wide behavioral trait.

The mental mechanisms in brains where religion "resides" and runs was 
shaped by evolution going back millions of years.  What manifests as 
religions today is the result of these mechanisms.  Now there are two major 
choices, the mechanism(s) were selected for something else and happen to be 
used by religions, or they were directly evolved for something like 
religion.  In either case, because they are so widespread, there must have 
been a considerable selection advantage for these mechanisms.

Could modern religions be taking advantage of brain mechanisms evolved for 
other reasons?  It's possible.  It is clear that the mechanisms behind drug 
addiction were selected for something besides getting blitzed on plant sap.

I think I understand the brain reward mechanisms that gives rise to modern 
drug addiction and even what their function was and still is.

I have argued that religious memes may be seed xenophobic memes that 
function to get a tribe moving on the path to killing neighbors when the 
choice was to kill and take a neighbor's resources or your kids will 
starve.  Religions *do* tend to play a large part in wars.

But how this fits in to the observations of Tooby and Boyer is a still 
mystery to me.


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