[ExI] Reason for religions, was riots

Mirco Romanato painlord2k at libero.it
Wed Oct 3 19:31:36 UTC 2012

Il 03/10/2012 06:02, Keith Henson ha scritto:
> On Tue, Oct 2, 2012 at 3:13 PM,  Mirco Romanato
> <painlord2k at libero.it> wrote:

>>> 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.

> I am sure that you agree about animals having behavior switches.
> Ducks fly south in the fall and north in the spring.  That's
> definitely a behavior that depends on external conditions.  Drop a
> rat in water and it swims.

The problem with these example, IMO, is they are predictable,
repetitive, uniform on all individuals. They biologically evolved in
this way. When it become cold bird start to migrate; bird migrating too
early or to late migrate alone and are more probable to die. At the end
the population evolve in a way the switch switch all together or near

If human biologically evolved this behavior, they would be unable to
control it in any way. It would act inside any and all individuals
indifferently from the others. They would be unable to go in war mode
before being compelled by the switch and unable to prevent it after.
There would be no reason to develop something like religion to
justifying it.

But if they evolved a different behavior (cooperation) and the war mode
is only a way this behavior show up in the right circumstances (your
stressful situations) this would allow a wide range of adaptation: they
would be able to be in war mode against Group A and friendly with Group
B. They would be able to go at war and them negotiate a peace. They
would be able to select their targets (kill males, keep females alive).

>> Cooperation allowed larger groups and languages allowed them to
>> become even bigger.

> The thing that limited hunter-gatherer group size was how far they
> had to walk to collect food.

What I read say ǃKung need 40 hours week to gather food and cook it. But
they live in the Kalahari desert and this is enough for groups of 30-40

If we move to a place with more resources, like a savanna, Europe
grassland or forests, North America prairies. the time spent gathering
food would be severely reduced as there is much more food around.
The main problem, IMO, is not gathering but preserving. Not easy in hot
and wet places, but easier in colder/drier places. Seasonality would add
to the need to gather and preserve for the winter.

In fact North Europe hunter-gathers built places to store food for
winter and they needed cooperation from other individuals to defend them
and share the food preserved. And some North America hunter-gatherers
was sedentary because they need not to move from where they where.

> I don't know what that would be a problem.  Lions cooperate inside
> the group but the groups do their best to kill each other.  So do
> chimps.

True, but lions groups could be described as always in war mode against
other groups. Do lions groups cooperate sometimes? Do they share a
territory or a den with another different group? I think not.
A lions group is all about the dominant male and his female harem.
Outside it is all food or competitors.

Hyena groups sometimes cooperate in a limited way. Sometimes they share
the same cave with another group. This need a greater intelligence
level: they must be able to recognize their group, the other group and
the not welcome groups. So, sometimes they keep all other groups away,
sometimes allow another group to co-habit. There is some "switch" there
also. And also hyena are much more social and cooperative than felines.

The difference could be linked to the fact a male lions monopolize the
females in the group, kill all cubs of the predecessor where hyenas have
dominant females. So the strategies of reproductions lead to different
social organizations.

Humans, for the majority of their evolution (even before being humans)
were hunted not hunters.
They developed social skills to be able to outsmart predators.
This is, the greater risks came from lions, hyenas, not from other
humans, so they evolved a greater ability to cooperate. Only after they
become the top of the food chain, the greater risks started to become
other humans. And only then they developed a war mode derived from the
cooperation ability and the strategies adopted to enforce it (punishing

>> 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.

> I don't follow your reasoning.

How you describe your "war mode switch" it appear a novel feature 
evolved, something not present before.
Then religion develop on top of this new feature.

My opinion is religion is better explained as a way to enforce 
cooperation and justify punishment inside the group. Then, by extension, 
cooperation with another group is "natural" until there is some 
grievance that make them to be perceived as exploiters (it doesn't 
matter if it is real or not) and this activate the "war mode" as an 
extension of the "punisher mode", just on a group level.

It is a Occam Razor thing: there is no need to hypothesize a new feature 
developing from scratch when an old feature could be used to explain it.

This would explain because the war mode spare the women and the children 
(sometimes). The punishment is mainly for the males.

Why the war mode, as you see it, should prevent the winning warriors 
(even in reduced numbers) from exterminating the females of the other 
tribe also? More resources for the surviving warriors and their related 
womens and a lesser burden for the surviving warriors to support, also a 
smaller prize for other groups interested in acquiring women.

>> Equally interesting reading was the theory of Psychohistory of
>> deMause: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychohistory
> "In a 1994 interview with deMause in The New Yorker, the interviewer
>  wrote: "To buy into psychohistory, you have to subscribe to some
> fairly woolly assumptions [...], for instance, that a nations's
> child-rearing techniques affect its foreign policy".[2]"

> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lloyd_deMause

> I know a good deal about this topic.  I suggest that your detector
> for nonsense needs to be improved if you take this guy seriously.

The idea of evolution of the human psyche is interesting; the brain 
surely evolved in the same time frame as, probably, some other part.
It would be interesting to clone some remnant of cavemen and raising 
them to observe how they behave. A simulation would be  better, but we 
have not the ability to simulate a full brain yet, nor to simulate an 
entire organism starting from the DNA.

We know nurturing is able to silence some genes and activate others 
linked to behaviors like aggression.
We know also, from the domestication of foxes (and other animals) that 
domestication select for hormonal changes, delay the development of 
brain, meeknesses, etc. The  DNA is near the same as the wild ones, but 
some dominant genes/gene expression was selected for in the process.

The upbringing alone is not a good explanation, but the evolution of the 
brain could have simply allowed an evolution of the memes and of actual 
nurturing techniques. Selective pressure would have, slowly, pushed out 
unfit individuals with unfit features and unfit memes.

"for instance, that a nations's child-rearing techniques affect its 
foreign policy"

Directly? Not.
Indirectly? Why not?

What is the reason governments want to control how and when children are 
instructed and raised?
If I instill, from infancy, the idea any individual is entitled to 
health care, that anything goes, that is "forbidden to forbid", etc. 
this have consequences.
If a mother must leave the children alone because she must forage (or 
got a job to survive) this have consequences on the development of the 
children as much as an helicopter mother programming the day of the 
children from dawn to dusk. They will be different, but they will be 
In a prehistoric setting, with a life span of 25-30 years, children 
would often become orphans at early ages and often they would need to 
survive by themselves or they could be captured as slaves from other 
groups. This would have modified the way their psyche developed.

I disagree with deMause when he state the various styles of nurturing 
are simply improvements from the precedent. It is too much "shiny and 
progressive destiny" for me. Even the current "Helping" style it is too 
early to be sure it is a real improvement or simply a different style 
for a different environment and what will be the real consequences.

deMause discount too much genetics and the habitat children grow.
It is too easy to single out a single cause. It is too appealing for his 
ideology leaning.

>> 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).
> For a more recent and respected view of the topic try here
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judith_Harris

This, also, is interesting.
I don't see them contradicting each other.
They simply highlight different causes and, probably, any one of them 
highlight the cause he/she psychologically prefer: Maybe because their 
experiences highlight it.

Judith Harris could be right about the today's peer pressure importance 
in the development of the personalities of children in the western 
world. But I don't think this could apply in the context of small bands 
of 30-50 individuals (half children, half adults, half males, half 
females). One would have a couple of sibling around your age, no more 
and many children would die for a reason or another.

Genetics is important, the habitat is important, nurture is important, 
peer pressure is important, culture is important. And each one give a 
feedback to the others.

It is like some spaghetti code where it is difficult to understand what 
something do and how every part interact with the others.
And we have no code to analyze, just a limited part of the output.


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