[ExI] Reason for religions, was riots

Keith Henson hkeithhenson at gmail.com
Tue Oct 2 06:44:40 UTC 2012

On Mon, Oct 1, 2012 at 4:06 PM,  Mirco Romanato <painlord2k at libero.it> wrote:

> Il 29/09/2012 06:03, Keith Henson ha scritto:
>> On Fri, Sep 28, 2012 at 12:41 PM,  Mirco Romanato <painlord2k at libero.it> wrote:
>>> My take is religions are useful to bind people together and allow much
>>> more cooperation.
>> Yes.  particularly getting the warrior of a hunter gatherer tribe to
>> kill the neighbors because trying that is better for genes in a
>> situation where half the tribe would otherwise stave.
> This is a mind experiment and I agree to the conclusions, but it have
> some implicit conditions in it making it worthy. For example, the
> implicit condition is "there is no way for the weakest group to leave
> for greener pastures".

Generally speaking, there was no way to leave for greener pastures.

Quoting Azar Gat end of page 4 and top of page 5:

"As recently as the last tens of thousands of years, the small groups
that crossed from Asia into North America propagated into hundreds of
thousands and millions of people, even prior to the introduction of
agriculture, filling up the Americas. Similarly, the small ‘founder
groups’ that arrived in the Pacific islands during the last two
millennia, in most cases probably no more than a few tens of people on
each island, rapidly filled up their new habitats, increasing in
numbers to thousands and tens of thousands.

"These dramatic cases only demonstrate that as a rule, and contrary to
the Rousseauite belief, our Palaeolithic ancestors had no empty spaces
to move to. Normally, species quickly fill up their particular habitat
and soon push against its boundaries."


> Another condition is "one group is totally
> genetically unrelated with the other".

Generally the groups were related since humans practice exogamy.  But
mathematically this makes no difference in the analysis.

> Another condition is "there are
> no other threat to them able to overcome them after they weaken
> themselves with a war".
> The last is more interesting. Hunter-gaters (mainly in Africa) have
> lived in caves used also by hyena. At a time or another, hyenas were
> able to take over the cave from humans or humans from the hyenas.
> Finding show that many humans ended as hyenas snacks in these take-overs.

Don't forget that when human groups fought, there was an excess of
human population (for the resources available).

But if you have a pointer to these findings, I would be very
interested.  Modern humans, even without guns, are more than a match
for lions.

> So, the hunter-gaters switch you talk about is problematic, because if
> it switched at the wrong time it would have caused the extinction of
> both parties. The winning side could be too weak to be able to defend
> itself from hyenas, lions or other humans.

As I have pointed out, the behavioral switch was under a great deal of
evolutionary pressure to "get it right."

> The preferred solutions for hunter-gaters groups in conflict for
> resources was emigration to another place.

see above.

> Another solution was, like in Viking Times, setting war parties to raid
> and sack some place far away, so a retaliation was improbable. Or hire
> themselves to another stronger group  in exchange of resources (like
> Harald Hardrada did with the Bizantine before becoming King).

This is *long* after the humans involved were no longer hunter-gatherers.


>> Happens all the time.  Zones of mixed religions such as Jews and
>> Christians have peacefully existed for a long time.  Then you get into
>> bad economic conditions such as happened when Hitler came to power.
> The problem is Nazis was not Christians. They were atheists and
> socialists.

It doesn't matter what memes were invoked.  Use the Rwanda Tutsi/Hutu
as an example instead.


>> Read what Azar Gat has to say about the Australian evidence.
> Maybe I'm not exposing my ideas well.
> I'm not against the idea religion is not useful in war, just that
> religion initially was useful to intra-group cooperation and only after
> was used for extra-group conflicts.

My argument is that wars came long before religions, and that the
psychological mechanisms, turning up the gain on circulating
xenophobic memes, is the origin of the human trait to have religions
at all.  I.e., religions are of the class of xenophobic memes, even if
not obvious all the time.  In unstressed groups it's not even obvious
they are xenophobic memes, but put a little stress on the society and
watch.  For example, consider the religious right in the US.

> Also I think Australia, Africa, Amazon, and other tropical setting are
> not well suited to explain how war, cooperation and trust started and
> evolved.
> How do war happened in temperate and cold ecosystems in the Paleolithic
> and Neolithic? What happened when humans were rare and were adapting to
> a new hostile environment? Do the same strategies worked then as they
> work now in Australia or Africa?

Gat goes into the evidence that war and the reasons for wars were not
much different from one ecosystem to another.

> Why these populations stopped their evolution/progress and never
> progressed up to the bow technology (and Tasmanians had not the
> boomerang technology). Black Africans never get to Madagascar before the
> Melanesians get there by chance.
> What is the limiting factor, the show stopper, preventing them from
> advancing? Genetic, ecologic, geographical?

I suspect that farming in northern temperate zones exerted a
considerable genetic selection on the people who lived there.  Beyond
that you need to read the works of Gregory Clark.  His book is good,
but here is a place to start.


> This will need a bit, to write it down, but I will try to articulate it
> in a later post.

Looking forward to it.


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