Friday, November 19, 2010

286: The Brain and Religion 1

"The recognition that the brain lies at the center of the human world—as organizer and interpreter of incoming information, as constructor and communicator of outgoing ideas—is revolutionizing the humanities and social sciences.

In fundamentally restructuring traditional understandings of human thought and behavior, cognitive science is bringing provocative new insights and methods to traditional areas of specialization, including anthropology, archaeology, linguistics, philosophy, psychology, sociology, and others."

says Ted Tremlin in the preface of his book "Minds and Gods: The cognitive foundations of Religion (2006) Around the world and throughout history, in cultures as diverse as ancient Mesopotamia and modern America, human beings have been compelled by belief in gods and developed complex religions around them.

But why? What makes belief in supernatural begins so widespread? And why are the gods of so many different people so similar in nature? His book tries to answer these questions, like we make our first attempt here today.

In the US 95% of the Americans believe in God, 90% prays, 82% say that God can do miracles and more than 70% believes in an afterlife. Remarkable however is that less than 50% believes in hell.

Compare this with the fact that among the top scientists of the National Academy of Science of the US only 7% believe in God, that among Nobel-prize winners religiosity is almost nil. Only 3% of the members of the English Fellows of the Royal Society of Science is religious.

These are remarkable figures. It seems that the level of atheism in a populations depends on intelligence, education, scientific achievements and a positive interest in science.

As we already learned in the lectures on supersense, our brain is wired so that we have a natural drive for spirituality. Spirituality is the receptivity to religion.

It is even proven that spirituality is determined genetically for 50%. The environment does the rest. Dean Hamer wrote in 2006 the book "The God Gene".

Small variations in a certain gene determine the degree of spirituality of a person. Probably there are more gens involved, tho this one showed to be significant.

After birth the religious programming of the brain of a child begins. The evolution biologist Richard Dawkins finds it absurd to talk about christian, islamic or jewish children. Children have no religious beliefs at all.

He points out that in society it would be regarded as unacceptable when we also would talk about atheist, humanist or agnostic children.

Dawkins regards indoctrinated religion as a by-product of another feature of the child brains that has a great evolutionary advantage.

Children have to respond immediately to warnings of parents and other authorities without debate and follow their directions, if they don't want to be put in constant jeopardy.

As downside of this property children are gullible. Indoctrination at a young age is then easy. This could be an explanation of the permanent presence of a belief, a religion…..generation after generation.

With the evolution of modern man there have emerged five characteristic behaviors, which you find in all cultures: language, the making of tools, music, art and religion.

Of all these behaviors we have found predecessors in the animal kingdom, except religion. Yet, mankind survived, so we only can conclude that religion must have had an evolutionary advantage for the homo sapiens.

We'll discuss that next lecture….thank you!

The Discussion

[13:18] Qwark Allen: very interesting
[13:18] Bejiita Imako: aaa yes
[13:18] Bejiita Imako: indeed'
[13:19] Qwark Allen: religion can be so different from culture to culture
[13:19] herman Bergson: If you have any questions or remarks...feel free...the floor is yours
[13:19] Aphrodite Macbain: why does being religious=believing in god? uddhists dont lieve in an external god.
[13:19] Aphrodite Macbain: Buddhists
[13:20] Aphrodite Macbain: Can the gene make you spiritual but not god-fearing?
[13:20] Daruma Boa: i think its not all the same
[13:20] herman Bergson: In the first place there is spirituality....
[13:20] Aphrodite Macbain: yes
[13:20] herman Bergson: the inclination of the mind to believe that there is more between heaven and earth...
[13:20] Aphrodite Macbain: why is there that leap then?
[13:21] herman Bergson: the next step is to give this belief body...
[13:21] Daruma Boa: there is nothing really more i guess.
[13:21] Aphrodite Macbain: from spirituality to a god
[13:21] AristotleVon Doobie: Mr Dawkins then is of the opinion that the inclination for religion is not innate?
[13:21] Daruma Boa: its all in us
[13:21] herman Bergson: or an other next institutionalize this belief even
[13:21] Daruma Boa: but most humans are too lazy to find that out^^
[13:21] Aphrodite Macbain: that is shaped by society, the culture
[13:21] Daruma Boa: or are afraid of
[13:22] Aphrodite Macbain: different religions for different cultures
[13:22] herman Bergson: No is innate...Dawkins agrees on that
[13:22] Aphrodite Macbain: It is a socializing thing not a genetic thing, surely?
[13:22] herman Bergson: and yes it shaped culture and society...
[13:22] Aphrodite Macbain: yes
[13:23] Aphrodite Macbain: which I suggest is most powerful in order to survive in society
[13:23] herman Bergson: But for the good or the bad..that is questionable...
[13:23] AristotleVon Doobie: one would have to have a laboratory filled will parentless children to ascertain it origins I think
[13:23] herman Bergson: we'll discuss that next lecture
[13:23] herman Bergson: the brain is the origin Aristotle...
[13:24] AristotleVon Doobie: understand that is the consensus
[13:24] Aphrodite Macbain: Can you tell us any more about the "spiritual gene"?
[13:24] herman Bergson: children develop supernatural ideas by themselves....before culture kicks in
[13:24] Aphrodite Macbain: how was it identified?
[13:24] AristotleVon Doobie: but where have there been children without adult influence to study?
[13:24] Aphrodite Macbain: who gave it that name?
[13:24] herman Bergson: Piaget did a lot of experiments....
[13:25] Aphrodite Macbain: the wild child
[13:25] herman Bergson: animism is a basic child attitude towards nature
[13:25] Aphrodite Macbain: acts like any other animal
[13:26] Aphrodite Macbain: then society comes along and shapes the child
[13:26] herman Bergson: yes Aphrodite..there have been found totally wild mentally damaged...
[13:26] Aphrodite Macbain: Does that mean all our ideas about religion are learned?
[13:27] herman Bergson: I forgot the name...but there was that american a woman in het 50s...
[13:27] Aphrodite Macbain: In a basment for years
[13:27] herman Bergson: to some extend yes Aphrodite....
[13:28] Beertje Beaumont: i think she was raised by dogs
[13:28] herman Bergson: the capability of spiritual ideas is wired into our brain....
[13:28] Aphrodite Macbain: did the dogs become gods to her?
[13:28] herman Bergson: institutionalized religions shape it ..
[13:28] Aphrodite Macbain: and the parents
[13:28] Aphrodite Macbain: and the schools
[13:28] herman Bergson: yes...what Dawkins calls indoctrination ^_^
[13:29] herman Bergson: But don't underestimate the mind....
[13:29] Aphrodite Macbain: hard to get an original thought in this system
[13:29] herman Bergson: In china ...any religion was forbidden....
[13:29] AristotleVon Doobie: the only way to really know if there is a 'god gene' is to isolate a large quantity of newborns fro any adult influence and study their behavior until puberty
[13:29] Aphrodite Macbain: and look at their genetic makeup
[13:30] Aphrodite Macbain: at the beginning
[13:30] herman Bergson: I dont think so Aristotle.....that cant be done...
[13:30] Aphrodite Macbain: They would not be happy campers - being isolated from society
[13:30] herman Bergson: The mind of a child believes that her doll gets hurt when you hit it...
[13:30] AristotleVon Doobie: I know :) but anything else would be conjecture I think
[13:30] Aphrodite Macbain: Really?
[13:30] herman Bergson: Believes that there are fairies...
[13:31] Aphrodite Macbain: I thought kids were cruel to animals because they didn't know it had any effect
[13:31] Aphrodite Macbain: Empathy is learned, no?
[13:31] herman Bergson: I dont think you can undo the basic animistic phase a mind goes through in its development
[13:31] AristotleVon Doobie: yes
[13:32] herman Bergson: Yes Aphrodite...
[13:32] Bejiita Imako: ah
[13:32] AristotleVon Doobie: maybe a computer model someday will reveal it
[13:32] herman Bergson: but empathy with physical pain is easier learned than with eamotional pain...
[13:32] Aphrodite Macbain: yes?
[13:33] Aphrodite Macbain: Only if you have experienced either pain can you truly empathize
[13:33] Aphrodite Macbain: (walk a mile in my moccasins kind of thing)
[13:33] herman Bergson: Yes ..seems that the organism easier understands when another is in physical pain, than when he is in emotional toruble...
[13:33] AristotleVon Doobie: empathy must have the seed of 'right and wrong' instilled by nurturers
[13:33] Aphrodite Macbain: how so aristotle?
[13:34] herman Bergson: I think I understand Aristotle...
[13:34] AristotleVon Doobie: unless we believe that 'right and wrong' is innate
[13:34] herman Bergson: When you see injustice done to somebody...that is about right and wrong...
[13:34] Aphrodite Macbain: now there's another good question - what is virtuous?
[13:35] Aphrodite Macbain: How do we learn right and wrong? Just or unfair
[13:35] herman Bergson: that is a very nice question Aphrodite...
[13:35] Aphrodite Macbain: Are they innate?
[13:35] AristotleVon Doobie: I supspect we are instructed
[13:35] Aphrodite Macbain: or taught?
[13:35] herman Bergson: I would
[13:36] herman Bergson: In fact ...altruism isnt innate...selfishness is....
[13:36] herman Bergson: let me give you a remarkable example....
[13:36] Aphrodite Macbain: but a sense of being unfairly wronged is innate- perhaps that' just the ego crying for satisfaction
[13:36] herman Bergson: On the radio I recently heard an interview with somebody about neuromarketing
[13:36] Aphrodite Macbain: yes?
[13:37] Aphrodite Macbain: selling brain cells?
[13:37] herman Bergson: neuromarketing or neuro economics means...
[13:37] herman Bergson: show a consumer a product and scan his brain....
[13:38] herman Bergson: depending on what you see you can see ..good or bad the sense...he is willing to buy it...
[13:38] Aphrodite Macbain: who does this?
[13:38] herman Bergson: That man said something remarkable...
[13:38] herman Bergson: Was about a campain on becoming organ donor...
[13:39] herman Bergson: He said....the mistake these campains make is to emphasize altruism...
[13:39] herman Bergson: that is not innate...not wired in the brain by nature...
[13:39] herman Bergson: so change the slogan and say....would you accept an organ from a donor if it would safe your life?
[13:40] Aphrodite Macbain: How depressing. Don' we have an alturistic gene. Sounds like Hobbes theories
[13:40] Qwark Allen: very nice point of view
[13:40] Aphrodite Macbain: Smart
[13:40] Bejiita Imako: ah' yes
[13:40] herman Bergson: Yes Aphrodite...we'll look into that indeed....
[13:40] herman Bergson: altruism is a very special feature of human behavior...
[13:40] Aphrodite Macbain: a big discussion -why people do things.
[13:41] AristotleVon Doobie: but that only supports the fact that we are selfish indeed
[13:41] herman Bergson: Are we samaritans or hobbessian
[13:41] Aphrodite Macbain: Hobbes would say people do what they do to satisfy their needs
[13:41] Aphrodite Macbain: even when they re being generous
[13:41] AristotleVon Doobie: of course altruism is an idealistic notion
[13:41] Aphrodite Macbain: ? why of course?
[13:41] herman Bergson: We'll keep it on the list of future subjects...
[13:42] AristotleVon Doobie: fundementally we are all selfish and required by nature to be
[13:42] Aphrodite Macbain: I think it's wrapped up with that spirituality gene!
[13:42] herman Bergson: Yes Aphrodite..that could be a good point
[13:43] Aphrodite Macbain: wonder what Freud would say
[13:43] herman Bergson: but...somehow altruism seems to be in our genes too...
[13:43] herman Bergson: there are examples in nature where animals sacrifice their life for the group...
[13:43] Aphrodite Macbain: I'd like to think so. We can't survive well without a society
[13:44] Aphrodite Macbain: we are mutually dependent
[13:44] AristotleVon Doobie: it is a sweet and romantic thought
[13:44] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:44] Aphrodite Macbain: Am I being romantic?
[13:44] herman Bergson: The human being is and always will be a social animal Aphrodite...
[13:44] AristotleVon Doobie: well, we are much better folks if we believe it
[13:45] herman Bergson: He'll never be something else
[13:45] Aphrodite Macbain: are our lives short mean and brutish?
[13:45] Aphrodite Macbain: brutish?
[13:45] AristotleVon Doobie: our survival requires us to be social at least to one other
[13:45] Aphrodite Macbain: yes. I agree
[13:46] herman Bergson: I wouldnt say that..but related to eternity our lifes are just a flash in the dark ^_^
[13:46] AristotleVon Doobie: any additional joy in society is created by ourselves
[13:46] herman Bergson: Well...ok....
[13:47] herman Bergson: Next lecture we'll see who religious behavior can be interpreted from an evolutionary point of view...
[13:47] herman Bergson: May I thank you for you participation again...
[13:47] Daruma Boa: thank u herman
[13:47] Bejiita Imako: ㋡
[13:47] Beertje Beaumont: thank you Herman
[13:48] Bejiita Imako: another interesting nice time
[13:48] herman Bergson: class dismissed :_)
[13:48] Bejiita Imako: ㋡
[13:48] AristotleVon Doobie: after all Darwin was from a religious family
[13:48] AristotleVon Doobie: Thanks you, Professor
[13:48] bergfrau Apfelbaum: THANKS you all! that was very much interssant
[13:48] bergfrau Apfelbaum: ***** APPPPPPPLLLLAAAUUUSSSSEEEEEEE***********
[13:48] bergfrau Apfelbaum: herman
[13:48] Bejiita Imako ♪♥♪APPLAUDS!!!♪♥♪
[13:48] herman Bergson: thank you Bergie ..
[13:48] Beertje Beaumont: *•.¸'*•.¸ ♥ ¸.•*´¸.•*
[13:48] Beertje Beaumont: .•*♥¨`• BRAVO!!!! •¨`♥*•.
[13:48] Beertje Beaumont: ¸.•*`¸.•*´ ♥ `*•.¸`*•.¸
[13:48] Daruma Boa: *+*+*+*+*+*+*
[13:48] Daruma Boa: Holla die Waldfee
[13:48] Daruma Boa: *+*+*+*+*+*+*
[13:49] AristotleVon Doobie: Bravo!.....Bravo!!!
[13:49] Daruma Boa: so i hope 2 be here again on thursday^^
[13:49] herman Bergson: You are most welcome Daruma...
[13:49] Aphrodite Macbain: That was great. Thanks everyone!
[13:50] Beertje Beaumont: see you all on thursday
[13:50] herman Bergson: My pleasure Aphrodite
[13:50] AristotleVon Doobie: Good bye everyone.....thanks again Herman :)
[13:50] Bejiita Imako: ok cu
[13:50] bergfrau Apfelbaum: iFAITH in you all! : -))) see u thursday
[13:50] Aphrodite Macbain: Same time on Thursda?
[13:50] herman Bergson: dont collide with particles Bejiita
[13:50] AristotleVon Doobie: lol
[13:50] herman Bergson: Yes Aphrodite
[13:51] Aphrodite Macbain: Bye!
[13:51] Qwark Allen: was very interesting class hermman
[13:51] Qwark Allen: thank you
[13:51] Bejiita Imako: \o/
[13:51] Bejiita Imako: || Hoooo!
[13:51] Bejiita Imako: / \
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