Re: Religion Explained -- Almost

From: Robin Hanson (
Date: Wed Jul 18 2001 - 11:38:51 MDT

Curt Adams wrote:
> >>In a lot
> >>of primates, you have intergroup movement; in that case
> >>"intragroup" signals get deployed between individuals not of
> >>the same group. Granted, one is typically trying to join the
> >>other's group but it's an obvious pathway to intergroup signalling,
> >>especially for a memetically based signal like religion.
>Now while this doesn't explain the first origin of religion,
>co-opting religious signals for intergroup signals certainly
>could explain the importance of religion, and almost certainly
>has a lot to do with the nature of religion as we face it.
>Religions and cultures have adapted to the signaling properties
>of religion.

I'm sure religion does in some places serve the function of identifying
which group someone came from. A similar function is served by music, art,
language, clothing fashion, food preparation, dance, etc. But it also seems
clear that all these other things serve other functions besides group
identification. Clothes keep you warm, food sustains you, language
exchanges info, music shows off your mental abilities, etc.

Given that there are so many ways to signal group identification, which also
serve other functions, it seems unlikely we would spend much effort on
things that only identified group of origin. So the question for religion
must be: what *other* functions does it serve besides group identification.

Robin Hanson
Asst. Prof. Economics, George Mason University
MSN 1D3, Carow Hall, Fairfax VA 22030-4444
703-993-2326 FAX: 703-993-2323

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