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Tucson Atheists Message Board › Is believing in God evolutionarily advantageous?

Is believing in God evolutionarily advantageous?

A former member
Post #: 7
Firstly, I was too cursory in my earlier reading of these texts. I overlooked Buck Vincent's laudable deflection of those fire-breathing dragons. I know what it's like to bo ignored for valour: western civilization has never thanked me for holding off an invasion of Martians in 1959. That was a desperate night, mateys!

In the above paragraphs, it strikes me that there is too much of the usual cause-and-effect simplification. Granted, it's normal; the popular press and news are almost always discussing evolution in these terms: such-and-such a development gave rise to such-and-such a result. Editorial standards for scientific articles usually are more cautious, and mention various ramifying factors.

If we assume that our ancestors (at some evolutionary nexus) had religion, and if they were among the few to actually become ancestors, it doesn't necessarily follow that the behavioral characteristic of religion was the sole cause for their evolutionary selection--or even a significant cause.

George Lakoff (now best known for his linguistic/metaphorical commentries on our political dialogue) has studied how certain types of expression recur in many of the world's languages even when there is no other significant relationship between those languages. As I recall, he wrote about metphors for sickness (e.g., "up" meaning healthy and "down" meaning ill) appearing around the world.

My belief is that our gods are like that: metaphors. We have a limited ability to understand and discuss powers that are greater than us, so we personify them and refer to those powers as expressions of a superior being. In this way, the concept of deity could crop up the world over and throughout history even when the current, localized conventions for a religion have no adaptive value.


--Sententious Butterfield
A former member
Post #: 7
If we assume that our ancestors (at some evolutionary nexus) had religion, and if they were among the few to actually become ancestors, it doesn't necessarily follow that the behavioral characteristic of religion was the sole cause for their evolutionary selection--or even a significant cause.

This is a pretty good point. Recent archeological discoveries imply that such a "nexus" may have occurred. I read about it in the following Scientific American article (but didn't remember it when I made my earlier comments.) : When the Sea Saved Humanity, Scientific American; Aug2010, Vol. 303 Issue 2, p54-61. It is "about the small group of humans who survived tough times beginning about 195,000 years ago and gave rise to all of us. (http://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode.cfm?id=when-humans-almost-died-out-earthy-10-08-12­)"

Here is the abstract: The article discusses the survival of human ancestors after facing possible extinction due to adverse climate conditions. The article describes the Earth's glacial stage known as Marine Isotope Stage 6 (MIS6) that rendered vast areas of land uninhabitable and left a human population that numbered only in the hundreds. The southern coast of Africa is said to have provided a haven for mankind's survival, owing to the ambient temperature of the region and year-round access to shellfish and edible plants. Archaeological research in the area has yielded items thought to be from humans that survived MIS6.

Here is a link to the article on Scientific American's web site: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=when-the-sea-saved-humanity­. (The full article is behind a paywall but I can get a copy of it for anyone who is interested.)

And here is a link to an interactive page illustrating the article: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=interactive-seas-saved-humanity­.

The next step is to establish whether or not religion "evolved" before, after, or perhaps during this period.

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