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Anthropologists: New Approach To Explain Religious Behavior

PostPosted: Wed Sep 10, 2008 8:23 am
by Minimalist
"Instead of studying religion by trying to measure unidentifiable beliefs in the supernatural, we looked at identifiable and observable behavior - the behavior of people communicating acceptance of supernatural claims," said Craig T. Palmer, associate professor of anthropology in the MU College of Arts and Science. "We noticed that communicating acceptance of a supernatural claim tends to promote cooperative social relationships. This communication demonstrates a willingness to accept, without skepticism, the influence of the speaker in a way similar to a child's acceptance of the influence of a parent."



In short, they've caught up to what Dawkins suggested in The God Delusion!

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080909122749.htm

PostPosted: Wed Sep 10, 2008 8:53 am
by seeker
That's interesting Min. I've always felt that the template for religion is our common experience of childhood. We all go through the experience of total dependence on a provider who answers our needs for food, warmth etc and literally teaches us how to live. I'm not so sure that when we grow out of infancy we lose the desire for that sort of attention even though we learn to sublimate it in order to gain our independence.

PostPosted: Wed Sep 10, 2008 9:03 am
by Ishtar
Yes, this is what religion for thousands of years now has encouraged ... a total handover of our power and ability to think for ourselves.




.

PostPosted: Wed Sep 10, 2008 9:07 am
by Minimalist
In a nutshell what Dawkins suggested was that religion is a bad after-effect of a very useful trait of natural selection.

Children who listen to their parents/other adults when they are told in a stern voice not to play near the river have a better chance of survival than those who go play in the river anyway.

The problem is that some other adult can adopt the same authoritative tone of voice to say: "sacrificing a goat...or a virgin...will make it rain."

PostPosted: Wed Sep 10, 2008 10:16 am
by seeker
I think Dawkins is off by one step in this though. It isn't just natural selection but psychological conditioning. Mom and Dad are bigger, faster, stronger and wiser in a significant way. Self Reliance is only learned after a long dependent period.

Ish- Its kind of a chicken or egg argument. Did man invent religion to get people to cede their power or did people invent religion because they did not want the responsibility of power?

PostPosted: Wed Sep 10, 2008 10:56 am
by Ishtar
seeker wrote:
Ish- Its kind of a chicken or egg argument. Did man invent religion to get people to cede their power or did people invent religion because they did not want the responsibility of power?


I have no idea... but I have some sort of half-assed theory that it happened at the advent of agriculture, for various reasons to do with automation (of a sort) and reduced personal space time.

Also people are easier to control when you stop them wandering around.

PostPosted: Wed Sep 10, 2008 11:03 am
by seeker
On that we agree, the switch from a nomad existence is the key.

PostPosted: Wed Sep 10, 2008 11:11 am
by Minimalist
Self Reliance is only learned after a long dependent period.



But you have to survive long enough to develop self-reliance. Hence his assertion that people who have learned to listen to advice from their elders have a natural advantage over those who run off into the woods to play with the bears. The listeners live long enough to reproduce. The non-listeners end up as bear poop.

But the same authoritarianism can be misused by charlatans.

PostPosted: Wed Sep 10, 2008 1:04 pm
by seeker
Minimalist wrote:
Self Reliance is only learned after a long dependent period.



But you have to survive long enough to develop self-reliance. Hence his assertion that people who have learned to listen to advice from their elders have a natural advantage over those who run off into the woods to play with the bears. The listeners live long enough to reproduce. The non-listeners end up as bear poop.

But the same authoritarianism can be misused by charlatans.


The thing is that we learn to listen to our parents in those fist couple of years when that is all we can do. Its the same kind of psychological conditioning that forms strong parental bonds. Children don't listen to their parents because they are afraid to die but because their parents usually are giving them a better chance to live.

PostPosted: Wed Sep 10, 2008 2:34 pm
by Minimalist
Your missing the point.

It isn't only "parents." It is all adults in the group.


I had hoped to do this without having to type out Dawkins' whole idea but, guess not.

From Page 174 of The God Delusion.

My specific hypothesis is about children. More than any other species, we survive by the accumulated experience of previous generations, and that experience needs to be passed on to children for their protetion and well-being. Theoretically, children might learn from personal experience not to go too near a cliff edge, not to eat untried red berries, not to swim in crocodile-infested waters. But, to say the least, there will be a selective advantage to child brains that possess the rule of thumb: believe, without question, whatever your grown-ups tell you. Obey your parents; obey the tribal elders, especially when the adopt a solemn, minatory tone. Trust your elders without question. This is a generally valuable rule for a child. But as with the moths, it can go wrong.


Any adult in the tribe, seeing a child about to put its hand in a fire should instantly shout "STOP." There is no reasoning. There is no discussion. There is no psychological growth. Dawkins point is that the child which obeys instantly has a survival advantage over the one who says "you don't mean me, do you?" and proceeds to burn his hand. With luck, the dumb ones drop out of the gene pool early on.

Unless the Supreme Court awards them the presidency!

PostPosted: Wed Sep 10, 2008 2:42 pm
by seeker
Minimalist wrote:Your missing the point.

It isn't only "parents." It is all adults in the group.


I had hoped to do this without having to type out Dawkins' whole idea but, guess not.

From Page 174 of The God Delusion.

My specific hypothesis is about children. More than any other species, we survive by the accumulated experience of previous generations, and that experience needs to be passed on to children for their protetion and well-being. Theoretically, children might learn from personal experience not to go too near a cliff edge, not to eat untried red berries, not to swim in crocodile-infested waters. But, to say the least, there will be a selective advantage to child brains that possess the rule of thumb: believe, without question, whatever your grown-ups tell you. Obey your parents; obey the tribal elders, especially when the adopt a solemn, minatory tone. Trust your elders without question. This is a generally valuable rule for a child. But as with the moths, it can go wrong.


Any adult in the tribe, seeing a child about to put its hand in a fire should instantly shout "STOP." There is no reasoning. There is no discussion. There is no psychological growth. Dawkins point is that the child which obeys instantly has a survival advantage over the one who says "you don't mean me, do you?" and proceeds to burn his hand. With luck, the dumb ones drop out of the gene pool early on.

Unless the Supreme Court awards them the presidency!


I guess I wasn't clear. I've read the God Delusion. The point is that children see all adults as authority figures because for the first part of their lives that is how they experience them.

PostPosted: Wed Sep 10, 2008 4:55 pm
by Minimalist
The point is that children see all adults as authority figures



But some don't grow out of it!

PostPosted: Wed Sep 10, 2008 5:24 pm
by seeker
...and become Republicans.