[ExI] Function of religions

Darren Greer darren.greer3 at gmail.com
Mon Sep 27 16:19:19 UTC 2010

Keith wrote:

"I don't hold out a lot of hope for the intermediate future (before the

I'm making the assumption that this lack of hope is due to the fact that the
evolutionary programing is extremely hard to circumvent even if you're aware
of it, short of some sort of drastic behavior modification which is
difficult to achieve in others and almost as difficult  (more difficult?) to
achieve in yourself. Look at the limited success of cult deprogramming and
aversion therapy for gay men- both of which use pretty drastic methods --
for good examples. Add to the mix that most people ascribe specious
justifications for their behavior (I'm thinking of some politicians) that
actually distort and conceal not only their motivations (which are likely
murky even to themselves) but the ramifications of that behavior upon the
environment and the fitness of the species as a whole.

Mathew Heisman discusses something similar in his "Suicide Note", which I've
been plowing my way through. I'm not sure I'll get through all 2000 pages,
but some of what I've read so far is valid. He claims at the beginning of
the book that it is precisely this lack of awareness, this disinclination to
look for reasons for our apparently species-wide self-destructive behavior
in the only workable model we have--evolutionary psychology--that could be
our downfall.


On Mon, Sep 27, 2010 at 12:53 PM, Keith Henson <hkeithhenson at gmail.com>wrote:

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