[ExI] Evolutionary psychology and religion

hkhenson hkhenson at rogers.com
Thu Dec 13 03:21:40 UTC 2007

At 04:51 PM 12/10/2007, you wrote:
>On 10/12/2007, Kevin Freels 
><<mailto:kevin at kevinfreels.com>kevin at kevinfreels.com> wrote:
>This would work if religion were only about irrational and 
>unreasonable explanations for the world around you. But it is much 
>deeper. Deeply religious people will put the religion before 
>everything else - including their own lives and the lives of others. 
>Faith is more important than fact. There has to be some underlying 
>benefit to this behaviour or it wouldn;t have made it out of the 
>first few people into the general population. Maybe it's a 
>side-effect - as an overdeveloped sense of hope and there just 
>happens to be a net benefit.
>Well, now faith is more important than fact, because of the 
>self-preserving nature of memes (like genes). At the time, if it was 
>the best available explanation, then, well, that was the benefit: it 
>was the best available explanation. Also, as you rightly say, it 
>gave a sense of hope and possibly even made people psychosomatically 
>do better and be more productive and confident if they felt the gods 
>were with them. (This might be bad for them in the case of rushing 
>into battle, or good in terms of, say, engineering new and 
>potentially dangerous technology or something, but that doesn't 
>matter to the meme of course).
>On 10/12/2007, hkhenson 
><<mailto:hkhenson at rogers.com>hkhenson at rogers.com > wrote:
>At 01:11 PM 12/10/2007, you wrote:
>You put your finger right on it.  "Before everything else - including
>their own lives and the lives of others."  So what reoccurring
>situation in the EEA could have led to conditions where this trait
>would promote genetic survival?
>why should it promote genetic survival?

You have to remember that gene copies exist in relatives.  So an 
irrational sacrifice of a warrior might be in the interest of his 
genes even though he gets killed (and his copies get destroyed).

>If Religion is an antirational meme, it will behave in ways that 
>promote its memetic survival. If there's a gene that makes people 
>more likely to be fanatics, well, okay. I don't see necessarily why 
>this gene can't behave in a self-promoting way anyway, although my 
>knowledge of genetics is pretty poor compared to my understanding of 
>meme theory. But WRT the meme, Religion is one of the strongest 
>antirational memeplexes next to parenting and romance, so we're 
>likely to see a lot of self-preservation behaviour from this meme. 
>Memes are not dependent on genes to explain the ways they behave.

In the long run memes and genes can't be at odds.  Those that are die 
out.  Look into the history of the Shaker meme.


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