[ExI] Rick Warren on religion

Keith Henson hkeithhenson at gmail.com
Mon Dec 10 16:32:17 UTC 2018

On Sun, Dec 9, 2018 at 9:47 AM "Stuart LaForge" <avant at sollegro.com> wrote:


> 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.

I can't parse that.  Please try again.


> 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.

I am not talking about religion, no matter how you want to define it.
I am talking about the human *capacity* to have religions.  It is so
widespread among human populations that, like capture-bonding, it is
nearly universal.  That is an indication that the capacity to have
religions was under serious selection over a long time.  I agree with
you that the capacity to have religions developed long before
religions themselves.  The most serious selection factor in those days
was war between groups of people.

> 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.

Perhaps you can explain how "performing rituals" or not doing so had a
survival advantage to genes?

> > 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.

War, even among ants, is episodic.  Bonobos don't fight.  Chimps are
hostile to other groups all time.  Human wars depend on the situation.
I suspect that the mechanism that turns on wars between human groups
is the same underlying psychological mechanisms that are behind our
capacity to have religions.  This speculation will eventually be
tested as the tools get better.

> > 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?

No.  Do you have a way to put numbers on this benefit?

> > 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?

>From the Wiki article, support seems weak, but this is the kind of
genetics that would lie behind the capacity to have religions at all.


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