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The evolutionary place and function of spiritual and religious belief


Mr Walker
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15 hours ago, closed for business said:

Hi Walker

To me it would signify a type of rain storm because that can be observed. As a child I was not told it was a god but understood that if there was thunder and lightning that it would be a rain storm rather than the other types of rainfall and head for home/shelter 

That is not an explanation.

Try explaining rain without any "scientific" knowledge. 

Even as a child, those around  you  knew the causes of thunder and lightning, and so you grew up knowing it .

Imagine if NO one knew what caused them  

My parents taught me the comparative speed  of light and sound and thus how to determine how far away a lighting strike was, from  the difference  in time  between seeing the lightning and hearing the thunder.

Not sure how old I was, but under 5.  

ps We also had a lot of "dry lightning' , without any rain. It was, and remains, one of the biggest causes of wild fires, here. 

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11 hours ago, Liquid Gardens said:

Depends on what you mean by 'deny'.  One qualification that seems to be missing from your 'analysis' is that, just like today, some people can live with 'we don't know' as their position on something.  Some people back then will look at lightning and not need to have some answer for it and conclude, 'we don't know where lightning comes from'.  Some people are also going to recognize that 'gods' doesn't really explain much and that other things that we can likewise just imagine will also 'explain' the phenomenon just as well.  It will occur to some people that the powers of the gods overlap and the implications of it; "was that lightning bolt from Thor because he's angry, or instead from Odin who wants to show me his power, or from Loki tricking me in some way? - why, actually lightning is so arbitrary and random it's almost like gods don't have anything to do with it at all...". 

There are many other reasons for questioning the 'god' answer that do not rely on science, and I don't think only modern people are able to recognize that.

Some truth in that but humans  are evolved to need, and thus to seek answers.  Where answers cant be found, almost ever human constructs one.

That's because, in evolutionary terms, predictable responses are more pro survival than non predictable ones  

Thus most people  do not feel safe without understanding the causes of lightning 

SO if they dont know the scientific reason/cause the y invent others to govern their behaviour and to help/ make them feel safer 

Lightning caused by gods is something you can do somehtng about  to make your self  FEEL  safer.

(eg prayer/ sacrifice  Pure nature is not 

In the past  'gods" explained everything.  (there were no alternative explanations) As science and human knowldge grew, the role of gods became more limited.

  However our psychology hasn't changed. 

Our minds still use faith and belief  to construct  a  feeling of predictability,   safety and security. 

and yes of course the powers of the gods overlap for period s of history and actress cultures .

Different people invent different forms of gods to explain the  same phenomena. 

Ps  Modern  people might not believe that  gods cause thunder and lightning, but most humans  still believe that prayer, and intercession by "gods",  (or their agents like angels  or the holy spirit ) works and helps people. 

While an ancient person might have questioned the existence of gods, they had no other explanations available to them  for what the y observed.

Needing an explanation. they reverted to the supernatural, including god forms. 

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Posted (edited)

While it is clear that humans will seek explanations, you present no evidence that fictive explanations help pre-industrial humans to survive or reproduce. Weighing against your extraordinary claim is that many natural phenomena can be controlled or predictied (two things which plainly do influence reproductive success) with no understanding at all. For example, anything cyclical can be predicted by counting. Archeological evidence of counting for cycle tracking abounds (markings on stick and bone, pebbles in bowls, ...). Google is your friend.

In any case, Zeus hurls thunderbolts explains Zeus, not thunderbolts. At best, Zeus mythology offers a vivid menmonic that thunderstorms are not cyclical, and so management of the risk they pose requires different approaches than counting. Meanwhile, the useful heuristic seek shelter in a thunderstorm, but not under isolated trees, requires no understanding of thunderbolts to discover or implement.

The notion that religion has ever offered explanations of natural phenomena is itself a profession of religious faith, suitable for a pioneering apologist like yourself. It is disingenuous of you to posture that self-serving and sugar-coated admissions of religion's inability to explain natural phenomea were ever treated on a par with actual explanations, or even with "shallow" heursitics like counting or seeking adequate shelter that really work and really promote survival and reproductive success.

 

Edited by eight bits
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11 minutes ago, eight bits said:

Google is your friend.

They are joined at the hip...

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Mr Walker said:

My parents taught me the comparative speed  of light and sound and thus how to determine how far away a lighting strike was, from  the difference  in time  between seeing the lightning and hearing the thunder.

Not sure how old I was, but under 5.  

Your parents taught you how to figure out how far away a thunderstorm is by using simple "math" that any child that knows how to count could understand...

Edited by Nuclear Wessel
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One one thousand 

Two one thousand 

Three one thousand 

... Not exactly science is it? 

~

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4 hours ago, Mr Walker said:

That's because, in evolutionary terms, predictable responses are more pro survival than non predictable ones  

I disagree with almost everything you wrote as you don't provide necessary qualifications ('some' before humans is missing, not everyone 'needs' explanations to feel safe, etc).  I don't know what you are talking about above, as usual it depends.  In the case of 'caudal luring', predictable responses works against prey, from wiki:

Quote

Caudal luring is a form of aggressive mimicry in which a predator uses tail movements to attract prey.[1] The prey animal misinterprets the tail as a worm-like species or another smaller prey. Once the prey animal is within striking range, the predator attacks. Snakes, often juveniles, and some types of shark are the main species that practice caudal luring.

That takes advantage of 'predictable responses' by prey.

5 hours ago, Mr Walker said:

Thus most people  do not feel safe without understanding the causes of lightning 

To add to what 8 already noted as the main issue here, lightning is not a good example for you to use.  I think it's reasonable to say that most people today do not really have much of an understanding of lightning, for most people it's along the lines of 'clouds... something something... charged particles...something'.  Yet many people feel fairly safe with lightning, and the caution most people take with it isn't based on understanding it, it's based on knowing its effects.  I think someone probably recognized that you don't get hit by lightning if you're in a cave, they didn't have to wait and develop a scientific understanding of lightning in order to take advantage of that safety measure.

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10 hours ago, Mr Walker said:

That is not an explanation.

Try explaining rain without any "scientific" knowledge. 

Hi Walker

It wasn't an explanation it was observation and what I was told about lightning was that to stay away from barbwire fences because it was a conductor. We grew up different the first day I was brought home from the hospital after being born the neighbors came to see the new baby and their son grabbed me by the feet and pulled me of the bed and dropped me on my head. My mom thought that caused brain damage and at 5 years old had scarlet fever so I spent most of my life with my mom and convinced that I was somehow mentally damaged and that is how I had to grow up. My brother was the brain and I was raised to be the back so no I didn't get taught science before I went to school and had to figure a lot of stuff out for myself and mom never progressed past her constructs of her limitations for me.

10 hours ago, Mr Walker said:

Even as a child, those around  you  knew the causes of thunder and lightning, and so you grew up knowing it .

Imagine if NO one knew what caused them  

You keep inferring that you know how everyone was raised which is a flaw in your construct not so unlike my mom with her construct.

10 hours ago, Mr Walker said:

Imagine if NO one knew what caused them  

Until I went to school I went by my observations because those close to me did not think I was smart enough to bother with so basically I was no different than and child raised before science was discovered and taught myself through observation and experimentation.

10 hours ago, Mr Walker said:

My parents taught me the comparative speed  of light and sound and thus how to determine how far away a lighting strike was, from  the difference  in time  between seeing the lightning and hearing the thunder.

That was your parents not mine.

10 hours ago, Mr Walker said:

ps We also had a lot of "dry lightning' , without any rain. It was, and remains, one of the biggest causes of wild fires, here. 

Yes and that was observable and understood but still was reason to head for shelter.

 

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On 7/21/2021 at 8:34 PM, Mr Walker said:

Yes ive read that article 

its a post modernist  interpretation which contradicts all accepted views across many relvant disciplines 

It  also depends on ones definition of gods.  "gods" includes spirits, nymphs, dryads, elemental  beings etc. 

The first peoples didnt distinguish between the material and the  spirtual (we know this from  Sumerian  tablets and the beliefs of modern "primitive" peoples) 

ie every thing had  a material and a spiritual component 

The earth, plants, water and fire weren't' just physical but spiritual elements.

  When you made something like a brick or a beer the sprits were involved and without them the process would fail  if you dint involve the spirits/gods in hunting  you would fail. 

There was really no way to disbelieve this, as there was no other acceptable  explanation at ahe time (no science and no real knowledge of reality) 

Finally it explains tha t some people saw religious beliefs contradicted by reality and thus did not believe  

Its true that then the y might disbelieve that particular religion or belief  but the y would adopt one which was acceptable to them  The oldest temple in the world in Turkey was used for/by many different religions as it evolved over millenia 

Plus of course, for most, spiritual things ARE intuitively a part of their world Even in the modern educated world, less than10 % of humans are atheists. The rest intuitively recognise a spiritual dimension to the universe.  

There simply wasn't enough science or knowledge to be able to dismiss the presence of spiritual beings and gods This began to change with the first civilizations.  like greek and rome  and in Asia 

 

 

Hi Walker

That is a whole lot of subjective projection on your part, there have always been people that did not share common beliefs based on words and were likely the motivators for change because they made observations of their own that is how we got where we are today by people who did not conform to common beliefs

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14 hours ago, closed for business said:

Hi Walker

That is a whole lot of subjective projection on your part, there have always been people that did not share common beliefs based on words and were likely the motivators for change because they made observations of their own that is how we got where we are today by people who did not conform to common beliefs

Maybe :) but it  also fits the known facts in history, anthropology,  psychology and cognitive  studies, and thus is the general accepted academic consensus 

of course everyone as slightly different beliefs.

We have  all lived slightly different lives. 

BUT when humans don't have the knowldge to explain anything  which they badly want to know,  they construct beliefs  (hypotheses) to do so.

The need to know or think we  we know is such  a powerful part of human psychology /cognition, that very few people  can ignore it 

its easy to have ideas , much harder to show they are true, without science and knowledge to build upon 

eg take a person from  10000 years ago.

What knowledge did they have about the sun?  (and the moon) (or thunder and lightning )

What  conclusions could be drawn from that knowledge ?

How could those conclusions be tested at the time ? 

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Posted (edited)
15 hours ago, closed for business said:

Hi Walker

It wasn't an explanation it was observation and what I was told about lightning was that to stay away from barbwire fences because it was a conductor. We grew up different the first day I was brought home from the hospital after being born the neighbors came to see the new baby and their son grabbed me by the feet and pulled me of the bed and dropped me on my head. My mom thought that caused brain damage and at 5 years old had scarlet fever so I spent most of my life with my mom and convinced that I was somehow mentally damaged and that is how I had to grow up. My brother was the brain and I was raised to be the back so no I didn't get taught science before I went to school and had to figure a lot of stuff out for myself and mom never progressed past her constructs of her limitations for me.

You keep inferring that you know how everyone was raised which is a flaw in your construct not so unlike my mom with her construct.

Until I went to school I went by my observations because those close to me did not think I was smart enough to bother with so basically I was no different than and child raised before science was discovered and taught myself through observation and experimentation.

That was your parents not mine.

Yes and that was observable and understood but still was reason to head for shelter.

 

Its not inference 

It is the fact tha t modern western children learn things from  their society through informal and formal education Thus a modern 5 year old probably has a greater knowledge of science and our world than the best informed person from  1000 years ago 

You are talking about warnings your parents gave you, but you would also have known that thunder and lightning were natural phenomenon, not the work of gods,  and a little bit about their causes and nature 

If you are speaking the  truth, and the whole truth (and your story makes this possible)  you were an exception. but i cant believe you knew nothing about thunder and lightning as a child  

You never sat on a verandah, watching the lightning, while others  talked about it ? 

You never read, watched tv, or listened to the radio when such topics were discussed  ? 

You never once asked  what caused it ? 

Ps It is good to see that, neither the fall, nor the scarlet fever,  affected your   intelligence  as an adult . 

Edited by Mr Walker
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9 hours ago, Mr Walker said:

Its not inference 

It is the fact tha t modern western children learn things from  their society through informal and formal education Thus a modern 5 year old probably has a greater knowledge of science and our world than the best informed person from  1000 years ago 

You are talking about warnings your parents gave you, but you would also have known that thunder and lightning were natural phenomenon, not the work of gods,  and a little bit about their causes and nature 

If you are speaking the  truth, and the whole truth (and your story makes this possible)  you were an exception. but i cant believe you knew nothing about thunder and lightning as a child  

You never sat on a verandah, watching the lightning, while others  talked about it ? 

You never read, watched tv, or listened to the radio when such topics were discussed  ? 

You never once asked  what caused it ? 

Ps It is good to see that, neither the fall, nor the scarlet fever,  affected your   intelligence  as an adult . 

Hi Walker

Just taking a break from working.

We didn't have a tv until I was 5 so no I didn't learn from it and mostly was allowed to watch on Saturday mornings or if there was a family movie. I was to be seen and not heard was how I was raised so I spent a lot of time doing my own thing or taking care of my younger sister and for some reason was also responsible for my older brother.

I have told you many times that my dad was a drinker so I kept out of his way because I was to be seen and not heard I was given a designated area that I could roam and there was one street I was not supposed to go across because of traffic and it didn't take me to long to figure out that a car could not fit into the culvert that ran under the street and would crawl through to the other side.(even at an early age I could see the grey areas of a point :lol:)

To be fair the fall and scarlet fever did not affect my intelligence when I was younger either but did affect how others related to me because of their beliefs and was something that I had to deal with while living at home.

 

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7 hours ago, closed for business said:

Hi Walker

Just taking a break from working.

We didn't have a tv until I was 5 so no I didn't learn from it and mostly was allowed to watch on Saturday mornings or if there was a family movie. I was to be seen and not heard was how I was raised so I spent a lot of time doing my own thing or taking care of my younger sister and for some reason was also responsible for my older brother.

I have told you many times that my dad was a drinker so I kept out of his way because I was to be seen and not heard I was given a designated area that I could roam and there was one street I was not supposed to go across because of traffic and it didn't take me to long to figure out that a car could not fit into the culvert that ran under the street and would crawl through to the other side.(even at an early age I could see the grey areas of a point :lol:)

To be fair the fall and scarlet fever did not affect my intelligence when I was younger either but did affect how others related to me because of their beliefs and was something that I had to deal with while living at home.

 

Thanks for sharing.

  Knowing  a person's childhood and formative years  always helps one understand  another's world view.

You may have mentioned that your father drank, but it was not something I was aware of 

We didn't have TV until i was about 8 or so, but we always listened to the news on the radio at breakfast, lunch, and tea times, and some other programmes. I made a crystal set when quite young, so I could listen to the more powerful radio signals in my bedroom. The aerial ran out of the house and around the roof :)    I also was reading the newspaper before I went to school so I guess I picked up more than the average kid. Plus my parents discussed politics, current affairs, science and technology, with us at the table or when playing with us 

On the other hand, we never discussed sports, or sporting results, much :)  

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