[extropy-chat] Putting God to Rest

Robert Bradbury robert.bradbury at gmail.com
Tue Apr 24 19:57:12 UTC 2007

> > > On 4/24/07, Keith Henson <hkhenson at rogers.com> wrote:
> > >> 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.

They do not go back that far.  The chimp-human split is ~4 million years ago
and there is significant discussion as to whether inbreeding took place
post-split.  Chimps can copy/imitate but they do not have a spoken language
(which can be used to transport an emplace memes in other repositories).
You have a distinct analytical problem -- did or did not "belief in
religion" predate spoken language.  Perhaps more importantly did religion
predate the organizations which produced such (e.g. pre-Pharaonic cultures
5000-10000 years BCE?)

My primary point being that while acceptance and imitation may have biased
humanity with respect to religion it is very difficult to make the argument
that this is a multi-million year old trait.

... 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.

I deal with this all the time in aging, it is the basis behind the concept
of "antagonistic pleiotropy".  You select for genes which may promote
reproduction but in the long term (when one has a global picture of
evolution) are harmful.

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