[ExI] Rick Warren on religion

Stuart LaForge avant at sollegro.com
Wed Dec 5 17:40:33 UTC 2018

Keith Henson (KH) and John Clark (JC) wrote:

KH>>  The trait of having religions, like all else in living things,
>> evolved.  It was either directly selected or it is a side effect from
>> some other trait that was selected. *

Religions are directly selected for or against based upon their teachings.
Compare Catholicism to Shakers for example.

JC> I don't see any way religion could be selected for directly, maybe it
> helps something else that is selected for directly but I think it's more
> likely religion is a Evolutionary Spandrel; I wouldn't be surprised if
> music appreciation was one too.

How is it not obvious that religion is a trait selected for by increased
reproductive success? After all, repeated bouts of conjugal bliss is a
much easier way to grow a religion than proselytizing strangers at the
point of a pen or a sword. Prohibiting masturbation and contraception
while demanding that the faithful "be fruitful and multiply" is a sure
recipe for Darwinian success.

Therefore any religion that makes it a sacred duty to procreate is
certainly no spandrel.


Of course some religions had historically prohibited sex entirely like the
Shakers and thus as of 2017, there are only two Shakers left in the world:
Brother Arnold Hadd, age 58 and Sister June Carpenter, 77.


So it would seem that the most successful of religions are those whose
edicts are most conducive to reproductive success of its members. This
leads to the somewhat paradoxical situation that, on average, those that
don't believe in evolution are actually better at it than those that do.

KH>> The trait to have religions is widespread.  This indicates that at
>> some point in our past, the trait was under strong selection. What
>> situations in our evolutionary past would have led to a strong selection
>> for this psychological trait? War. *

There is certainly a correlation between religion and war but they are
both complex traits and it is doubtful that one is necessarily causal of
the other.

Admittedly religion facilitates war by giving participants a shared tribal
identity to rally around as a tribal totem or battle standard.

Also religions tend to assuage fear of death in it's participants with
promises of after-lives for the faithful who die in battle: Valhalla,
Heaven, Paradise, Nirvana, etc.

JC> I'm skeptical that religion will in general help to get a gene into the
> next generation, for one thing one of the main causes of war is religion
> and the genes in young men killed in religious wars end up going nowhere,
>  and for another in the last 60 years death from violence has dropped to
> the lowest level in human history and the general trend toward violence
> has been declining for centuries.

Well in a strictly historical context, the vanquished soldier's genes were
nonetheless perpetuated by his sister and children who got raped and/or
sold into slavery by the victors. Modern warfare with all its rules of
engagement and Geneva conventions? I would agree that there is not much of
a selective advantage for warfare in modern times.

Conversely however, in ancient times, warfare might have served as the
primary method of gene transfer between tribal gene pools which might have
otherwise become too homozygously inbred.

KH>> *>I make a case that "Surrendered people obey God's word, even if it
>> doesn't make sense" has its origin in the same psychological trait that
>> worked up our ancestors in a resource crisis to kill their neighbors.*

I think it runs deeper than that. It has to do with status hierarchies as
well and that is tied up in our primate natures. The word primate itself
is the derived from the Latin word primus which means "first". Who does
the alpha male of your tribe answer to? The gods.

So I think religion is the psychological extrapolation of your primate
status hierarchy beyond the monkey that you fear the most. It is probably
very much tied up in ones susceptibility to perceived authority. That is
there is probably a strong correlation between a person's religiousness
and whether Stanley Milgram in a white lab coat can get them to
electrocute other study participants.

JC> I think it's more likely religion results from a tendency of very young
> children to believe what their parents tell them. Without that tendency it
>  would be impossible to pass on valuable information from one generation
> to the next, like how to make a fire or how to hunt a Mammoth or how to
> plant seeds etc.

Well yes, of course but I think it is the rituals that children see their
parents do that cements religions into their minds more than what their
parents say. This is because I think animism and magic predate religion
and religion likely evolved from the other two. Magic is about the use of
rituals to influence real world outcomes. As the nature spirits of animism
gave way to anthropomorphic gods, magic gave way to prayer, sarcrifices,
ablutions, and other means of influencing the favor of the gods.

If you see your father pray to a god for success before setting out on the
hunt, you are likely to do so as well especially if he comes back with
meat. Who is this god person? Your chieftain's boss.

Stuart LaForge

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