[ExI] Function of religions

Darren Greer darren.greer3 at gmail.com
Tue Sep 28 01:46:35 UTC 2010

Keith wrote:

"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"

I actually read about that study, in the context of an article discussing
the relationship of capitalism to hereditary fitness. I forgot about it. The
author of the article, based on the probate study, stated that survival
rates in families regardless of economic status equalled that of death rates
in pre-industrialized English society right up until the 1800's. When the
industrial revolution raised the standard of living  by improving nutrition,
housing conditions and health care across the board, and not just for the
wealthy, more babies survived than were lost. At the time I remember
thinking that this made a better case for socialism than it did for

When you think about it, though, even some developed urban and nationalist
environments provide immense selection pressures on individuals living in
them. They force generational samples of us to jettison our earlier
primitive programming through natural selection  in favor of new programming
that suits us better in the modern world. Even individually this is true:
our tribal tendency to abhor those physically or culturally different from
us, for example, must often be circumvented in many modern cities if we wish
to survive there long. At the same time, and almost paradoxically,  we can
re-adapt or re-route this programming using social technology to find more
people like us in those same urban environments by creating ghettos and
clubs and organizations. It's kind of like a crash-course in evolutionary

I sometimes forget that evolution does not proceed at a nice, orderly and
stately pace at all times. That if pressures intensify and quicken in a
region then more individuals die. And the more individuals die the more fit
the offspring of those that survive these pressures are for the new
environment. But if they stray out of that environment they may not be at
all suited to the next, even if the "new" environment is similar to an old
one there now unfit ancestors thrived in. I've often thought that if we had
a massive solar flair or EMP pulse that put us off the grid for any
considerable amount of time, those in what we call superciliously call
undeveloped nations would suddenly find themselves some of the fittest on
the planet, thanks to many generations living under harsh selection
pressures that were once again universal.

Natural selection is a bitch.


On Mon, Sep 27, 2010 at 1:19 PM, Darren Greer <darren.greer3 at gmail.com>wrote:

> Keith wrote:
> "I don't hold out a lot of hope for the intermediate future (before the
> singularity)"
> 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.
> Darren
> 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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