Re: Religion is probably a good thing

From: Lee Daniel Crocker (
Date: Thu Oct 25 2001 - 13:42:26 MDT

> So if the brain has built in hardware for creating these feelings, which
> tend to produce religion in societies (and we can see why epileptic
> "prophets" in olden times would be exactly the people expected to write
> stuff like the Bible and other religious documents), it must have evolved
> for a reason. People with this hardware are more likely to survive and
> reproduce. Societies of these people are more likely to outcompete other
> groups of people who don't have it. Perhaps it allows these groups of
> people to "stop worrying" and get on with work that might help them
> survive? Or is religion just a fluke- the brain hardware only seems to
> generate feelings of deep meaning and "joy", perhaps feeling attached
> to your surroundings and people helped those people and societies do
> better, and later on those feelings got interpreted by individuals to
> be significant- boom, you get religions.

What seems to me the most apparent evolutionary benefit of a sense of
ethics and/or religious belief is that is provides a shortcut to
reasoning about long-term interests over short-term ones. It takes
relatively simple hardware to reason that if you steal a piece of
fruit you won't be hungry. But it takes more effort to reason that
if you steal it, the person you stole it from will be angry and his
anger will reduce your fitness. If instead you have the ability to
"feel bad" about theft, you are motivated to follow your long-term
interests in conflict with immediate goals. Likewise for feelings
of love/attachment, religious ritual, etc.

(Now, the ability to have those same "theft is bad" feelings about
growing your own fruit on your own land after your neighbor
discovered how seems like it would require some indoctrination
beyond what is hard wired :-)

Lee Daniel Crocker <> <>
"All inventions or works of authorship original to me, herein and past,
are placed irrevocably in the public domain, and may be used or modified
for any purpose, without permission, attribution, or notification."--LDC

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