Friday, November 19, 2010

287: The Brain and Religion 2

Last Tuesday I ended my lecture with these words: "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."

Did religion help the species Homo sapiens to survive? To get to a clear answer we have to be more specific from an evolutionary point of view.

The brain is wired in such a way that it has the capacity to generate spiritual ideas and concepts. This means that we are willing to believe that there is more than just what we see.

With which spiritual ideas the individual brain comes up with is unpredictable, but we have to take another factor into account. The Homo sapiens is a social animal, so he lives in groups.

We all know about group dynamics, be it chicken, wolves or humans. There always is a dominating individual member or a small group of dominating members. It is obvious that the dominating group members dictate which ideas prevail.

When spiritual, supernatural ideas are institutionalized you get a religion, a set of ideas that is accepted by all members of the group or tribe and thence comes the evolutionary advantage.

In the first place religion keeps a group together. The Jews, for instance, have survived due to their religious beliefs in spite of the diaspora and holocaust.

For leaders religion is a perfect instrument. Like Seneca (ca. 54 BC – ca. 39 AD) said: " Simple minded people regard religion as true, wise people as false and rulers as useful"

And thence come the rules for the group: it is not allowed to marry someone who does not share your religion. Social control by threatening with all kinds of punishments from above.

You have to be recognizable as true believer. So you show this in your clothing, black clothes, a keppel, a burke. And of course you have to make as many children as possible. A common rule in many religions.

Religion brings comfort to people in hard times (even when they are caused by a merciless ruler). And when life is that bad, there always is a better afterlife waiting for the believer.

100.000 years ago homo sapiens already believed in an afterlife. This can be concluded from what was put in the graves of the dead: food, tools, jewelry.

These are all perfect ingredients to protect the group and kill the infidel, that is…..competing groups or tribes, who threaten your resources and survival. Killing in the name of your god is allowed then.

Even today we see these mechanisms at work. Not just in one religion: weird sects, which commit collective suicide, terrorism inspired by the Koran or the Bible, xenophobia, discrimination of certain groups in the collective… and so on.

Would the world be better off without religion? Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris would immediately say : YES! But is this true?

When you look at the Evolution chart on the wall to the left of me, you can see that homo sapiens exists in fact only for a short time compared to other species.

Our evolution has hardly begun. So the right question would be…What will be the role of religion (in a globalized world) in 100.000 years?

Spirituality is hard wired in the brain. There is proof of that even from prehistoric man. Institutionalizing individual spirituality is a next step in culture.

Some of these institutions are already decaying these days…. maybe a sign that a more scientific view on reality is more appealing and appropriate?

The Discussion

[13:19] herman Bergson: Thank you....
[13:19] herman Bergson: You have the floor :-)
[13:19] AristotleVon Doobie: brb
[13:19] Bejiita Imako: oki
[13:20] BALDUR Joubert: where can i find scientific basis for your assumption that spirituality is hard wired in the brain
[13:20] herman Bergson: looks around
[13:20] herman Bergson: any questions or remarks?
[13:20] Simargl Talaj: Animals don't pray.
Humanity creates its gods.
So, faith's good for us?
[13:20] Simargl Talaj: Cats eat what they kill.
Only humans torture, gloat.
Torture's good for us?
[13:21] Simargl Talaj: Existence of traits
not proof they are adaptive
stains: didn't wash out.
[13:21] BALDUR Joubert: cat's torture too -in our sense..
[13:21] herman Bergson: those are non sequiturs Siargl...
[13:21] BALDUR Joubert: ever saw a cat play with a mouse?
[13:21] herman Bergson: No logic in that
[13:21] herman Bergson: Oh yes...
[13:22] herman Bergson: a cat can play with a mouse for an hour without killing it...
[13:22] herman Bergson: and afeterwords it even doesnt eat it
[13:22] Gemma Cleanslate: ▓▒░ ♪♫♩ ॐ ॐ ॐ ((-: QWARK :-)) ॐ ॐ ॐ ♪♫♩ ▓▒░
[13:22] Gemma Cleanslate: is ill so went to bed
[13:22] herman Bergson: awww...poor felllow...
[13:22] Bejiita Imako: aaaw
[13:22] Gemma Cleanslate: right that is true
[13:23] AristotleVon Doobie: honing its killing skils, and doent need them mostly today
[13:23] AristotleVon Doobie: the primal brain in action
[13:23] BALDUR Joubert: right wolves who will kill as many sheep as possible in a heard
[13:24] Bejiita Imako: ah
[13:24] Gemma Cleanslate: some animals only kill when they need to eat
[13:24] Simargl Talaj: My dog hopes, pleads, thanks
me, my opposible thumbs.
Am I not his god?
[13:24] AristotleVon Doobie: we are the same, only with rationality to curb the play killing, or ideally
[13:24] BALDUR Joubert: you're an alpha for your dog sim
[13:25] herman Bergson: No Simargl....dogs have no supernatural ideas...
[13:25] herman Bergson: you are just the dominant member of the group
[13:25] AristotleVon Doobie: we teach our children how to, still
[13:25] BALDUR Joubert: how to do what ari
[13:25] AristotleVon Doobie: like religion is taught from the cradle
[13:26] AristotleVon Doobie: to kill, to survive primally
[13:26] BALDUR Joubert: you do ari?
[13:26] herman Bergson: Yes Aristotle..that is the idea of my lecture todya....
[13:26] herman Bergson: and the former one..
[13:26] herman Bergson: Religion is a good tool to control the group...
[13:26] itsme Frederix: So you have a mission Herman?
[13:26] AristotleVon Doobie: I do not, but I have seen the results of the behavior up close....most just follow the path handed to them from the previous generation
[13:27] herman Bergson: on the other hand...the group loves to believe all in the same ideas
[13:27] Simargl Talaj: God, too tall to see
Mysterious can opener
faith: imagined alphas
[13:27] itsme Frederix: and its a nessecarity!
[13:27] AristotleVon Doobie: religion is like collective comfort food
[13:27] BALDUR Joubert: how did religion start?
[13:27] Beertje Beaumont: it's safe
[13:28] herman Bergson: Save me your mystic can openers Simargl
[13:28] herman Bergson: In a simple way Baldur...
[13:28] AristotleVon Doobie: we find safety in being surrounded by like kind
[13:28] herman Bergson: The brain searches for patterns, structures, order...
[13:28] itsme Frederix: you are all to sceptic (is it me that is saying this) religion also has an association with a deeper feeling for sense (supersense), its in us
[13:29] BALDUR Joubert: well.. i'm thinking 100000 years ago when a group consisted of a larger family of 4-to 10 memebers
[13:29] herman Bergson: yes Itsme...I dont deny that...
[13:29] AristotleVon Doobie: it is in us from somewhere, I cant aruge that
[13:29] AristotleVon Doobie: but where is the question for me
[13:29] Bejiita Imako: hmm that is possible for sure
[13:29] herman Bergson: One half of our brain loves to come up with supernatural ideas to understand the world around us
[13:29] itsme Frederix: then lets be possitive about our selves and what is experience but stay critical to official who miss use the thing
[13:30] BALDUR Joubert: language was at the most very primitive
[13:30] herman Bergson: Well...just look at the situation....
[13:30] BALDUR Joubert: questions of survival must have been predominant..
[13:30] herman Bergson: Yes baldur...
[13:31] herman Bergson: you are in a situation you dont understand and you have to move fast...
[13:31] herman Bergson: The left hemisphere of the brain does intuitive....
[13:31] BALDUR Joubert: i do?
[13:31] itsme Frederix: its is heuristic (it worked well several times, so lets do it again)
[13:32] herman Bergson: yes Itsme....
[13:32] BALDUR Joubert: doing by learning .....
[13:32] herman Bergson: rational thinking and analysis is slow..takes time....
[13:32] itsme Frederix: procedural behaviour
[13:32] herman Bergson: not the tool to survive when in immediate danger
[13:32] BALDUR Joubert: a 100000 years ago it would not only be slow..
[13:33] BALDUR Joubert: but limited
[13:33] herman Bergson: No was hardly used...then
[13:33] itsme Frederix: still limitted ;)
[13:33] BALDUR Joubert: lol..
[13:33] herman Bergson: tool making is an example of rational thinking...
[13:33] BALDUR Joubert: so what was the tool for survival..
[13:34] BALDUR Joubert: in immediate danger..
[13:34] herman Bergson: the brain Baldur...
[13:34] BALDUR Joubert: of course.. that goes for almost any animal
[13:34] AristotleVon Doobie: primal instinct are instantly available, rationally we temper those based on the situation
[13:35] BALDUR Joubert: may be before we think of rational we should think of reasoning?
[13:35] herman Bergson: The first thing we do is think intuitively...
[13:35] BALDUR Joubert: primal instincts are rational.. if the species survives..:)
[13:36] herman Bergson: rationality comes later
[13:36] AristotleVon Doobie: desire for an attractive, potential mate in the middle of a restaurant is tempered by empirical data we have gathered
[13:36] herman Bergson: that is also what you see in the development of mind
[13:36] BALDUR Joubert: coward ari lol
[13:36] AristotleVon Doobie: LOL
[13:36] Bejiita Imako: haha
[13:36] AristotleVon Doobie: but in many other instances also
[13:37] herman Bergson: what kind of restaurant was that Aristotle?
[13:37] AristotleVon Doobie: :))
[13:37] Bejiita Imako: :)¨
[13:37] herman Bergson: Was she on the menu?
[13:37] BALDUR Joubert: may be the empirical data you have is a slap in the face?
[13:37] AristotleVon Doobie: a family one, who dictate 'n'
[13:37] AristotleVon Doobie: no
[13:37] AristotleVon Doobie: lol
[13:37] AristotleVon Doobie: would dictate a 'no'
[13:38] AristotleVon Doobie: yes, that is right BAlDUR
[13:38] Bejiita Imako: hehe
[13:38] herman Bergson: Well I notice that nobody has really questions about what I put forward..
[13:38] BALDUR Joubert: as you see humans can share experiences:)
[13:38] Simargl Talaj: I promised silence
or haiku; useful thoughts, no --
alas, too many words.
[13:39] AristotleVon Doobie: my point of course is we control our instincts by rationality
[13:39] herman Bergson: And Simargl has her poetic moments here..^_^
[13:39] herman Bergson: ok
[13:39] herman Bergson: Yes Aristotle....
[13:39] BALDUR Joubert: so what do you think about religion sim..
[13:39] AristotleVon Doobie: or yield to them, in the same manor
[13:39] herman Bergson: That is the battle between the right and left hemisphere of the brain
[13:39] BALDUR Joubert: in prose ..:)
[13:40] herman Bergson: But from an evolutionary point of view, the intuitive thinking may have come first
[13:40] itsme Frederix: well Herman that a simplified drawing you made up
[13:40] AristotleVon Doobie: yes I agree Herman
[13:40] herman Bergson: yes Itsme..I love to keep it simple ^_^
[13:41] Gemma Cleanslate: ♥ LOL ♥
[13:41] itsme Frederix: me too, I stay with the appelpijnboomklier
[13:41] AristotleVon Doobie: the KISS theory
[13:41] herman Bergson: Descartes Itsme?
[13:41] herman Bergson: Dualism?
[13:41] itsme Frederix: Good guess, yes
[13:42] herman Bergson: Interesting
[13:42] BALDUR Joubert: descartes and kisses?
[13:42] herman Bergson: And it wasnt a guess :-)
[13:42] itsme Frederix: Baldur he shove himself (the barber did not)
[13:42] BALDUR Joubert: ok...
[13:42] itsme Frederix: shove ? shaved
[13:43] BALDUR Joubert: probably cut himself..
[13:43] herman Bergson: But get it hold that dualism is what reality is ?
[13:44] itsme Frederix: well we have only a small interval (80 years) to think about it and feel concerned, then its over and another has the burden
[13:44] herman Bergson: I mean the reality of body and mind?
[13:44] itsme Frederix: Herman, sure not
[13:44] herman Bergson: sorry...I misunderstood I guess
[13:44] itsme Frederix: just kidding and making it more simple, not left not right but just one piece of the body
[13:45] BALDUR Joubert: if only the body were one piece .....
[13:45] herman Bergson: But one thing is for sure....
[13:45] itsme Frederix: i go for TAO, it just goes
[13:45] herman Bergson: in relation to evolution...our personal existence is just the blink of an eye
[13:46] herman Bergson: while we have the feeling that we are IT, complete ..all human
[13:46] itsme Frederix: That right Herman, and sometimes that is a burden we all have to deal with
[13:47] herman Bergson: Just nice to know it only takes about 80 years :-)
[13:47] itsme Frederix: yes that helps
[13:47] herman Bergson: smiles
[13:47] herman Bergson: friends
[13:47] Gemma Cleanslate: ok
[13:47] Simargl Talaj: Just to kiss Descarte
can be done without a word
More takes *two* paragraphs.
[13:47] itsme Frederix: a tiny tiny bit
[13:47] herman Bergson: next lecture will be on religious experiences....
[13:48] Gemma Cleanslate: ah
[13:48] Bejiita Imako: ok
[13:48] itsme Frederix: More is writing about Utopia
[13:48] herman Bergson: not coming form above but created by magnetism...:-)
[13:48] itsme Frederix: just be
[13:48] herman Bergson: So Thank you all for you r participation
[13:48] Gemma Cleanslate: ♥ Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!! ♥
[13:48] Bejiita Imako: ㋡
[13:48] Gemma Cleanslate: interesting
[13:48] BALDUR Joubert: omg.. magnetism? messmer?
[13:49] herman Bergson: Class dismisssed :-)
[13:49] AristotleVon Doobie: Thank you, Professor
[13:49] Bejiita Imako: hehe ok
[13:49] Bejiita Imako: interesting as usual ㋡
[13:49] Gemma Cleanslate: yes very
[13:49] bergfrau Apfelbaum: ty herman!! &Class
[13:49] Simargl Talaj: Thank you. You do great preparation for our benefit. It is a great gift.
[13:49] herman Bergson: No Baldur...a real scientist
[13:49] Gemma Cleanslate: see you Tuesday
[13:49] AristotleVon Doobie: oh........the body is a mass of tissue, manipulated by the brain as directed by the mind
[13:49] herman Bergson: no Aristotle....
[13:49] AristotleVon Doobie: trilogism?
[13:50] herman Bergson: that is the homunculus
[13:50] itsme Frederix: or worse Ari, the other way around, just surviving DNA
[13:50] herman Bergson: do you ever
[13:50] BALDUR Joubert: other way round ari--
[13:50] AristotleVon Doobie: LOL
[13:50] Bejiita Imako: hehe
[13:51] BALDUR Joubert: and do'nt forget brain is nothing more than a mass of tissue too:)
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