[ExI] psychology and evolution

Keith Henson hkeithhenson at gmail.com
Thu Apr 23 22:36:39 UTC 2020

 Ben Zaiboc <ben at zaiboc.net> wrote:


> I always thought that religion was the result of our desire to
understand how the world works, but kind of gone wrong.

Selection occurs only by individuals failing to reproduce.  (Often by dying.)

For some trait to become as widespread as religion, at some point in
our past having this trait made a big difference in survival.  For the
traits behind capture-bonding, the selection forces are obvious.
Captives who did not bond to captors did not reproduce, most likely
they were killed.  This selection was around 10% per generation and
the result is the trait is widespread if not nearly universal.

I am at a loss to imagine how the psychological traits behind religion
were directly selected.  In addition, what we now consider religions
have not been around long enough to cause this selection.

When you can't come up with a direct selection story (which you can't
for drug addiction) then you need to consider an indirect selection.
Wars provide enough evolutionary selection to make those psychological
traits close to universal.  But the selection path between
psychological traits for wars and those for religion is not obvious.

I suppose that the psychological traits that allow the warriors to get
whipped up on xenophobic memes and go off to kill neighbors might also
make them vulnerable to religions.  A lot of religions seem to have
xenophobic origins.

When you invoke Darwinian selection for a psychological trait that has
become widespread, you have to consider strong selection over a
considerable time.


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