[ExI] Function of religions

Keith Henson hkeithhenson at gmail.com
Mon Sep 27 15:53:27 UTC 2010

On Mon, Sep 27, 2010 at 8:00 AM, spike <spike66 at att.net> wrote:


> We have seen a religion become considered almost as a race, so that
> criticism of it has become the practical equivalent to racism.  How did that
> happen?
> So the temptation is to get one's philosophy redefined as a religion, even
> if it really isn't one.  I recognize the temptation, but my ethical
> intuition tells me this is wrong.

Spike, we need to consider why humans have religions at all.  But
first it is a feature of top predators that their numbers are
ultimately limited by self predation.  Lions are a good example, they
evolved the pride social organization as a response to lions killing
lions.  Chimps are largely immune to predation and their numbers are
limited by group on group war.

The line that led to humans escaped predation by the big cats a long
time ago so there has been plenty of time for evolution to act.  Human
populations grow till they stress the ability of the ecosystem to
support them.  Then a behavioral switch flips, they organize and and
kill "the others."

Religion, even if it isn't always easy to see, is based on xenophobic
memes that are part of the organizational process leading to wars.

Since a lot of populations around the world are under
ecosystem/economic/ecological stress, mostly from accumulated
population growth, it's no wonder that religious memes have become
more of an influential factor.

Now the logical thing would be to strongly restrain the birth rate and
make ever effort to grow the economy in a way that did not depend on
rapid depletion of resources.  But for reasons involving the
conflicting interest of genes and the persons they are in, "war mode"
makes people irrational.

I think it is possible to get economic growth ahead of population
growth and shut off the drift of so many populations into "war mode."
As you know, I work on ways to solve the energy/carbon problems,
trying to keep my own ego out of the analysis.  Unfortunately there
are very few people trying to solve the problems.

I don't hold out a lot of hope for the intermediate future (before the
singularity).  Chances are the world will see a really drastic
population reduction in a lot of places over the next few decades.


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