Friday, October 14, 2005

Evolution Of Religion

When I was a much, much younger homo-nerd in search of answers to all the world’s mysteries, I stumbled upon a little paperback with an intriguing cover in the back of a used bookstore. I must have spent two hours sitting cross-legged in between the stacks before I was able to pull myself away long enough to cough up $1.50 and catch the bus home with my new treasure. I’m pretty sure that no book has had more influence on my world view than The Naked Ape by Desmond Morris – not so much because it filled me with radically new ideas about evolution and sociology – but more because it solidified and expounded on my own observations.

For those with a significantly lower nerd quotient than is called for here, Desmond Morris is a socio-biologist, meaning that his work explores the area of the human condition where genetics and environment overlap. The Naked Ape written in 1967 (and still making fundamentalists gnash their primate teeth), looks at the behavior and societal structure, Evos of Homo Sapiens as products of evolution. Basically, how our social interactions and our experience of emotions – everything about being human – are products of our genetic inheritance. Humans weren’t the fastest, the strongest or the most agile. Our evolutionary gifts were abstract thought, group communication and group cooperation.

I just finished my annual re-reading Morris’ scriptures, and I just can’t stop thinking about his thoughts on the function of religion from a socio-evolutionary standpoint. Check this out…

Before we evolved into co-operative hunters, we must have lived in social groups of the type seen today in other species of apes and monkeys. There, in typical cases, each group is dominated by a single male. He is the boss, the overlord, and every member of the group has to appease him or suffer the consequences. He is also the most active in protecting the group from outside hazards and in settling squabbles between lesser members. The whole life of a member of such a group revolves around the dominant animal. His all-powerful role gives him a god-like status. Turning now to our immediate ancestors, it is clear that, with the growth of the co-operative spirit so vital for successful group hunting, the application of the dominant individual’s authority had to be severely limited if he was to retain the active, as opposed to passive, loyalty of the other group members. They had to want to help him instead of simply fear him. He had to become more ‘one of them.’ The old-style monkey tyrant had to go, and in his place there arose a more tolerant, more co-operative naked ape leader. This step was essential for the new type of ‘mutual aid’ organization that was evolving, but it gave rise to a problem…From our ancient background there remained a need for an all-powerful figure who could keep the group under control, and the vacancy was filled by the invention of a god. The influence of the invented god-figure could then operate as a force additional to the now more restricted influence of the group leader.

At first sight, it is surprising that religion has been so successful, but its extreme potency is simply a measure of the strength of our fundamental biological tendency, inherited directly from our monkey and ape ancestors, to submit ourselves to an all-powerful, dominant member of the group
.

Cool stuff to think about as we enter the new Dark Ages of fundamentalism and religious fanaticism, huh?

3 comments:

Valerie - Riding Solo said...

I'll have to check it out. I believe a lot of our reactions and needs are hardwired.

I have theories along this line of thinking. On how women actively promoted civilization and trade.

It's a cute story, I'll tell it to you one day.

Cyrus said...

I'd absolutely LOVE to hear it!

Anonymous said...

Wow. I've read a lot of evolutionary articles and this is the least thought provoking. Maybe that's because of the lack of evidence that seems to underline the whole theory.

Your book explains things using mostly philosophy, but also by the mechanisms of a theory that you have chosen to suit you, when they could otherwise be explained another way. To perpetuate the evolutionary dogma without proof by explaining things with a shoehorn is not really what I call scientific. So far I've seen hand drawings of the evolutionary process, and I've heard some logical explanations that works off of the assumption that the theory is fact, but I have yet to see the one thing that is necessary for the theory to even become a working hypothesis; "History".

If I were to go to the police and tell them that my brother murdered my sister and explain in detail how my brother did it and where it took place, they would be very angry to find out that I don't have a brother or a sister, and that I haven’t even witnessed a murder. You see, if there is no body, no weapon, no evidence of any struggle, no dna evidence, no proof that the murderer or victim even existed, or no crime scene of any kind, then it would be absolutely ridiculous for me to even suggest that I could explain how it happened, especially when I never saw or heard any such thing. But the theory of evolution attempts to do just that and instead of "ridiculous" it has been heralded as science. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the scientific method a little more objective than a few drawings and best-guess explanations to what would otherwise be trivial when explained through the mechanisms of creationism. It’s a funny thing what men do to deny that they’re a sinner.

You would probably say, “Haven’t you chosen the theory that suits you?” But I would have to say no. I would rather not have to live my life being laughed at and treated like an idiot because I refuse to do that which is a sin to a being I can’t see. I would like to be able to socialize more without people trying to avoid me, like I used to. I have a lot of friends at church but even the majority of them are still trying to live their own lives and don’t really want to “forsake all they have”. I was mister cool before but now I don’t even have to preach and people hate me. I’m only saying this to show that we are choosing our beliefs based on two different reasons. You: antinomianism. Me: Truth.
Guffaw if you like, but you know that you only like your theory and therefore it is true. I have to accept my belief because I can see that it is true. You hate my belief and therefore it is false. I can’t see one shred of evidence of your theory and most of the so called “logical” explanations are not that logical making it undeniably false.

Look it up. If one thing evolved into another over a period of millions of years, then you would find a majority of transitional forms and a minority of the prehistoric and the contemporary forms. However, we have unearthed tens of millions of fossils and all of them being a random sample and we have less than a hundred so called transitional forms that are ambiguous at best, and the rest are either the prehistoric or the contemporary form. There are so many things wrong with the theory of evolution but history is the one thing that would demand an evolutionary explanation, and yet for a hundred years the evidence remains unchanged –It’s “the trade secret of paleontology” as Stephen Jay Gould calls it, which is the FACT that there are no transitional forms and he is a leading evolutionist, complete with his own theory because of his inability to explain that FACT-

You will find someone posting drawings of forms that are similar to each other and asserting that they are transitional, but that’s no good because marsupial bats and mice look almost identical to placental bats and mice and they are not said to have been relatives of each other.

You will find people asserting that the dog specie is a good example of evolution because evolution only means “change” and all dogs came from one relative, but that won’t do any good because we may have created a bunch of different looking dogs but how much of those mutations have increased the viability of the dog? Not to mention, we have never created a new specie. They remain dogs.

The majority of what you will find though is just assertions. If evolution was so true, we would be swimming in evidence (instead of what we’re swimming in now) but no one can offer any objective evidence that you can see with your eyes and touch with your hands. It’s all philosophy and drawings. I would love it if someone could prove me wrong because all I’m seeing is a world full of idiots, half of them claiming to be smart and the other half believing them because they are dogmatic and elitists. Sheep! They’re all sheep!

It is pretty funny that you heard a good explanation about human interaction and just like a sheep, you followed right along. No murderer. No victim. No murder weapon. No murder. Case closed.

“If it doesn’t make sense, it’s not true!” -Judge Judy

Peace,
Sam