[ExI] Reason for religions, was riots

Mirco Romanato painlord2k at libero.it
Tue Oct 2 14:02:47 UTC 2012

Il 02/10/2012 08:44, Keith Henson ha scritto:
> On Mon, Oct 1, 2012 at 4:06 PM,  Mirco Romanato <painlord2k at libero.it> wrote:

>> 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.

The phrase of Gat is a bit imprecise:
the migration in America happened between 20 to 12 KY ago.
Recent research support the latter more than the former.


It is interesting, cave hyenas disappearance is linked to the ability of 
humans to move from Siberia to Alaska.


Hyena, BTW, are very social and intelligent animals, in some test they 
are better than chimpanzee at problem solving, collaborating and helping 
young to solve a problem they solved.

I would not be happy to give them the chance of an upper hand battling 
other humans. I would ally with other humans to battle them, but if 
chimpanzee are an example, early humans could have problems cooperating.


"We have this idea that once humans became reasonably successful as 
hunters that they walked with impunity on the landscape, and that's just 
not so," Trinkaus said. "I'm not saying they were having fights at the 
mouths of caves with the hyenas, but I'm sure there were plenty of times 
when the hyenas came and, not being stupid, the Neandertals said 'see ya 
later, guys.'"

> "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."

Yes, but we now see only the push against other humans. In the past the 
push could be against other species. Just cave dwelling humans on a 
slope could be forced to push out surplus population to dwell in 
prairies (against hyenas) just few miles away.
The choice would be to battle other humans, hyenas or wolves.

Push, push, push, someone started to find a way to survive there (and 
climate changing helped a lot).

>> 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).

This is true, but what you start from is not the same you arrive with.
In WW2 the Germans started with an excess of people and lost 5% of the 
people (and not randomly distributed; mainly adults and young able to be 
The same is true with our ancestors, if they started a war, the outcome 
could be (often) the depleting of good males hunters/warriors.

Could be the development of agriculture a backup strategy of a 
population with an excess of women and not enough hunters?
We know sites with more resources were sought off and communities would 
fight to control them. So fighting would be more frequent in resources 
rich sites. So male hunters scarcity would be more frequent. And women 
would need to find a different way to obtain food.

> 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.

Male lions are built to kill hyenas but female lions are not big enough 
to intimidate a pack of hyenas. Often the hyenas hunt a prey and the 
male lion intimidate them, but often the female lions hunt a prey and 
the hyenas intimidate them.

Modern humans, in my opinion, are much more collaborative than early 
humans or hominids. This would made a enormous difference at the time.


"It was not possible for early humans to consume a large amount of meat 
until fire was controlled and cooking was possible. Sussman points out 
that the first tools didn't appear until two million years ago. And 
there wasn't good evidence of fire until after 800,000 years ago. "In 
fact, some archaeologists and paleontologists don't think we had a 
modern, systematic method of hunting until as recently as 60,000 years 
ago," he says."

Approximately 6 percent to 10 percent of early humans were preyed upon 
according to evidence that includes teeth marks on bones, talon marks on 
skulls and holes in a fossil cranium into which sabertooth cat fangs 
fit, says Sussman. The predation rate on savannah antelope and certain 
ground-living monkeys today is around 6 percent to 10 percent as well.

Sussman and Hart provide evidence that many of our modern human traits, 
including those of cooperation and socialization, developed as a result 
of being a prey species and the early human's ability to out-smart the 
predators. These traits did not result from trying to hunt for prey or 
kill our competitors, says Sussman.

"One of the main defenses against predators by animals without physical 
defenses is living in groups," says Sussman. "In fact, all diurnal 
primates (those active during the day) live in permanent social groups. 
Most ecologists agree that predation pressure is one of the major 
adaptive reasons for this group-living. In this way there are more eyes 
and ears to locate the predators and more individuals to mob them if 
attacked or to confuse them by scattering. There are a number of reasons 
that living in groups is beneficial for animals that otherwise would be 
very prone to being preyed upon."

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

My opinion is this "switch" is only apparent.
Cooperation allowed larger groups and languages allowed them to become 
even bigger.
Then come the problem of exploiters inside these larger groups 
preventing them from becoming larger and more efficient.

The research about cooperation and trust from Axelrod and other show the 
ability to grow bigger groups needed the evolution of a "new type" of 
human, the "altruistic punisher". At first willing to punish the 
exploiters and then willing to exploit the exploiters and the 
individuals not participating in the punishment (just say the closest 
relatives of the punished are more probable to not be happy to punish 
him for transgression against more far relatives).

The "go at war" switch is, IMO, a consequence of "acts of exploiting" 
from a group against another. Just say group A is resource strapped and 
go hunting/gathering in the territories of Group B. Group B could see 
this as an "exploit" against itself and enter in punishing mode 
(sometimes a genocidal punishing mode).


Your "war mode switch" is, IMO, problematic because it require a cut off 
of cooperating between humans and I believe cooperation is instinctive 
in humans. So it is difficult to have a clear cut off (cooperation in 
group and war mode off group).

If the "war mode" arise from a perceived exploitation from another group 
it would be a natural extension of our ancestors evolution of 
"altruistic punisher" traits.

I would add that a "war mode" could be used by exploiters as a way to 
get rid of in group competitors. They push for a war against the other 
group not only to take their resources but to get rid of an excess of 
far relatives inside the group.

In the same way, to prevent strife inside the group, a minority could 
leave the main group and enter the territory of another group (better to 
combat someone else than your relatives).

In this way, war arise from cooperation and the way it is enforced 
inside a group, perception errors and failure to detect exploitations or 
just the inability to give up perceived personal .

> 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.

My opinion is we developed social interactions in larger groups before 
becoming humans and continued in this path. With the enlarging of the 
groups modes to enhancing cooperation (language, read/writing) were 
developed with modes to stamp out exploitation. Religion start as a side 
effect of stamping out exploitation and facilitating cooperation.

“What is spe­cial about hu­mans is the will­ing­ness to be spite­ful to 
force coop­era­t­ion,” Mar­lowe and col­leagues con­clud­ed.

Religions are useful because give a memetic (moral) reason to be really 
evil with people perceived to be exploiters. And exploiters are often 
relegated out-group.

Any animal whatever, endowed with well-marked social instincts, the 
parental and filial affections being here included, would inevitably 
acquire a moral sense or conscience, as soon as its intellectual powers 
had become as well developed, or nearly as well developed, as in man.
Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man (1998[1873]) pp. 71–72.

>> 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.
> http://www.econ.ucdavis.edu/faculty/gclark/papers/Capitalism%20Genes.pdf

I read this a few years ago. It was very interesting.

Equally interesting reading was the theory of Psychohistory of deMause:

if it true that early ways of childrearing caused a greater number of 
psychosis, it is understandable people heard voices and see things not 
there and evolved explanations for it. Evolution and selections would 
prefer the people hearing voices telling them the right things at the 
right times (not always the good things).


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