[ExI] Rick Warren on religion

Stuart LaForge avant at sollegro.com
Thu Dec 6 01:13:53 UTC 2018

Keith Henson wrote:

> Perhaps I should have been more specific.  When I talk about "traits"
> and "evolved" the context is evolutionary psychology.

I had made that tacit assumption actually.

> "In this view, the mind is a set of information-processing machines
> that were designed by natural selection to solve adaptive problems faced by
> our hunter-gatherer ancestors."

In so far as the brain is our fastest evolving human organ, having tripled
in size in the last two million years, I would think that evo-psych would
be one of our fastest evolving traits.

> There are more recent selection events (see Gregory Clark), but for
> wide spread traits like capture-bonding, mechanisms for religions and those
> for war (if separate), you need to think about selection before
> agriculture.  I.e., historical Catholics and Shakers are not
> "hunter-gatherer ancestors," and should not be used as examples.

But religion itself is a moving target that has been evolving alongside
our capacity for it. Depending on how you define religion, our
"hunter-gatherer ancestors" may not have actually had religion.

Assuming that the written word is necessary to distinguish true religion
from animistic and shamanistic traditions or more generally superstitions
that were largely passed down word of mouth. And believing what a tribal
elder says amounts to little more than yielding to that elder's authority.

True religion documented in sacred writing did not come about until around
the development of writing, city-states, and agriculture which all came
about at roughly the same time. Therefore there would not have been enough
time for any real genetic component for religion to have developed aside
from those that enabled tribalism and the tendency to trust the authority
of ones elders in matters of survival.

But on the other hand, if you define religion as the copying of sacred
rituals from one generation to the next, well that is very old and there
is likely a genetic component to that. Curiously chimpanzees and elephants
are known for performing rituals too.

> It seems really unlikely in a hunter-gatherer world long before birth
> control that religion or anything related to it made any difference in the
> number of children a woman had.  The proximate limit to human populations
> in those days was war with other humans (top predator argument).  The
> ultimate cause of the limit was the (fluxuating) capacity of the
> environment to feed them.

War does not require religion as attested to by the warring of apes and
ants but learning how to awaken the fire spirits inside wooden sticks is
vital for survival and that requires you to trust your elders.

> But, as I have pointed out in other postings, the model shows that
> human genes do not profit from war unless the alternative (such as
> starving) is worse.

Does the model account for the benefits of genetic out-breeding as a
result of war?

> So you would expect genes to get this judgment for "a time for war"
> correct, and genes that get the tribe into "attack mode" when needed would
> be positively selected.
> The major religions where we know something of their historical
> origins seem to have started as a set of xenophobic memes.
> I have been thinking about ways to locate the genes and brain
> structures behind these traits.

What do you think of Dean Hamer's so-called God gene VMAT2?

Stuart LaForge

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