[ExI] Function of religions

Keith Henson hkeithhenson at gmail.com
Mon Sep 27 21:06:43 UTC 2010

2010/9/27 Darren Greer <darren.greer3 at gmail.com>:


> Almost every single war we see taking place in the world today is a result
> of this age-old philosophical struggle between relativism and objectivism.
> Edward Said put it nicely in his book Orientalism. The wars or the future
> will not be east vs west, he said, but rather  fundamentalism vs modernity.

Right.  And since the fundamentalists tend to be the ones facing a
bleak future, you can expect them to be the ones who start wars.  You
can also expect them to have by far the higher body count.

> I read somewhere recently, and I'm sorry I can't remember where so I can't
> reference it, that we spend far too much time trying to come up with
> universal moral standards that would be accepted by everyone, when we should
> in fact spend more time looking for where our moral beliefs come from in the
> first place, even those that appear to be diametrically opposed. And a very
> useful tool for doing this is evolutionary psychology, for it narrates to
> the species as a whole and not just to cultural or national factions.

That may actually not be the case.  Dr. Gregory Clark makes a rather
solid case based on probated wills that certain groups were under as
intense a selection for 20-25 generation as the selection that turned
wild foxes into tame ones.  This might not have change their tendency
to make war under some circumstances (like being attacked) but it
seems to have fit them with the psychological traits needed for the
modern world.

> Such
> an approach has the power to actually unite us, as it establishes trust on
> the most basic level: that of our  evolutionary and genetic commons.
> But like Keith, I don't hold out much hope for this in the near future
> either. I suspect, like most drastic changes in perspective, it will need to
> be precipitated by an intense crisis before people let go of their cherished
> illusions.

I don't see in the past that intense crisis situations have changed
illusions one bit.

> Either the proposed singularity where power will be removed from
> our hands either for our own good or despite of it, or some man-made
> disaster before then. I've held this opinion for twenty years and have been
> bracing myself for it ever since.

It might not happen.  Engineers and the like might keep the food
supply ahead of the population for another generation.


> Call me pessimistic. I'm used to it.
> Darren
> On Mon, Sep 27, 2010 at 1:29 PM, Brent Allsop <brent.allsop at canonizer.com>
> wrote:
>> Keith and Spike,
>> I was attending Mormon Sunday School yesterday.  It's pure hell listening
>> to all the irrational faithless fear mongering, the irrational worshiping
>> and wallowing in misery they go on and on about there, but it is very
>> educational to watch them, and to learn what motivates them, and to find out
>> the real purposes of religion and how hierarchical religions have evolved to
>> be so successful at taking advantage of people's sheepish tendencies.
>> The older lady lay teacher, was leading the discussion.  She started
>> bringing up how all the 'worldly people' accuse them of being 'closed
>> minded' and so on.  Our church is in the small town of Sandy, just outside
>> of SLC.  And she said they always accuse her of being in this "little sandy
>> bubble" ignorant of the rest of the world.  But she, and obviously everyone
>> else there, was very proud of that, and she literally said: "I'm proud of
>> this little Sandy bubble we're in" that she believes protects them from "the
>> world".
>> All these people are clearly people that don't enjoy thinking about moral
>> issues much.  They are far less intelligent than experts that are
>> intelligent and interested in moral issues.  These types of people have no
>> hope of standing up to any real argument, against  intelligent moral
>> experts, so they must have something they can trust and lean on, to do it
>> for them.  Within humanity, not everyone can be moral experts on everything,
>> so others must have something they can trust in.   And obviously these
>> people desperately want some 'prophet' they can trust so they don't have to
>> think.  Religions have obviosly evolved to take advantage of the tendency of
>> the normal human to act in such sheepish ways.
>> But there is clear evidence, that people in general do trust scientists
>> and proven experts, on certain things.  Especially if they could be the ones
>> to lay down the criteria of selecting who is and isn't an expert.  So I
>> believe, the only problem is, having a good way to measure for moral expert
>> and scientific consensus, so that everyone can learn to know and trust such.
>>  Obviosly, most of us can see there are lots of moral experts that believe
>> much of what the prophets say is wrong.  But, since there is not yet some
>> way to measure for this moral expert consensus, anyone claiming what the
>> prophets are saying is wrong, can easily be doubted by the religious
>> leaders.
>> But, if we could measure, and rigorously show that the moral and
>> scientific expertise is definitively refuting the the hate, war and fear
>> mongering the popes and prophets are touting is wrong, such that nobody
>> could refute such, I think there is great hope for humanity to finally take
>> the power  away from the hierarchical selfish primitive leaders.
>> I think it's all about knowing, concisely and quantitatively, what the
>> moral and scientific experts are saying.  And that is precisely our goal at
>> canonizer.com.  I can't be a moral expert at everything, so would sure like
>> the help of all you moral experts to help me out, so I no longer needed to
>> trust in these primitive, selfish, hierarchical religious leaders, for my
>> moral direction.
>> What, concisely, are all of you experts saying, and what do you agree on?
>>  And how much consensus, is there really, for such?  If we can come up with
>> that, rigorously and definitively, then I think there is hope for the world.
>> Brent Allsop
>> On 9/27/2010 9:53 AM, Keith Henson 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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