November 21, 2005

FORTUNATELY THE SUPERIOR BEINGS DON'T APPLY DARWINISM:

Survival of the religious is Darwin's newest fruitfly (Suzanne Fields, Nov 21, 2005, Townhall)

The argument between evolution and religion, continuing to roil the nation's politics, is undergoing change. Undergoing evolution, you might say. There's a new (fruit)fly in the ointment of Darwinism, a theory that religious belief contributes to natural selection and benefits human adaptation. (Darwin gets religion.)

David Sloan Wilson, a professor of biology and anthropology at Binghamton University in New York state, argues that "religiosity" fosters group discipline and could have given our hunter-gatherer ancestors an advantage for survival as they grouped together for worship. This helped them defend against predators at the waterhole, where they became prey on the savannah. Those who survived passed on their genes, increasing the survival of the fittest unto the next generation. Thus "religiosity" became a "useful" genetic trait.

His thesis, as set forth in his book "Darwin's Cathedral," raises provocative and controversial ideas. The ancient cave drawings and paintings have often been interpreted as Cro-Magnon churches for ceremonies replete with icons of religious inspiration, but these interpretations have been based solely on speculation. The Wilson argument rests on a Darwinian analysis of what contributes to evolution. Darwin wrote that tribes with a high degree of fidelity, obedience, courage and sympathy, always prepared to sacrifice themselves for the common good, would triumph over other tribes and thus be more likely to survive. This view perceives society as a single organism; since religious men and women historically aim to encourage such traits within their community, Mr. Wilson believes they were favored by natural selection. He draws on examples as diverse as Calvinism in Geneva and water temples in Bali.

Support for this theory of survival of the religious is intriguing, though no one has found a gene for religious belief. Those who argue that a disposition toward religious belief can be inherited, nevertheless root their argument in Darwinian terms, perceiving religion as a contribution to moral codes that encourage cooperation for finding food and maintaining health. This makes the practice of religious faith evolutionarily advantageous.


The obvious corollary--though, paradoxically, only for Darwinists who are among the victims--is that the the fact the secular rationalists are dying off is a good thing for the species precisly because they are an unfit maladaptation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 21, 2005 9:56 AM
Comments

Wow. It seems that, by and large, we agree.

BTW, Matt Ridley's Nature via Nurture makes a very compelling case that the tendency towards religious belief is heritable.

You are a classic example.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at November 21, 2005 11:28 AM

Can't we all agree that the notion that we can meaningfully theorize what adaptations will be chosen by "natural selection" is nonsense? Especially if it's at all related to "evolutionary psychology"?

Posted by: b at November 21, 2005 12:32 PM

One may wonder whether the suggestion that the complex cultural pattern we call theism is the priduct of biolgical evolutionm is a stalking horse for I.D. theory, planted to illustrate the unliklihood of darwiniam evolution of multiplex systems.

Darwinian evolution of cultural patterns is so unlikely as to be considered disproven, the obvious mechanism for their development being cultural evolution.

Folkways, such as theism, surpass and diffuse when they confer survival advantages on the human groups which adopt them. The process of diffusion takes place by military conquest, commerce, education, evangelism and example. It takes place in decades, not millenia.

Of course it is most observable in its operation in the family, thus mimicing biological hereditability. Where do we think patterns of culture are first transmitted?

Really, Nineteenth Century thought was all over this. They used to call it, mistakenly, "Social Darwinism."

Posted by: Lou Gots at November 21, 2005 12:32 PM

b:

Natural selection made you say that.

Posted by: oj at November 21, 2005 12:46 PM

Lou: In this month's Atlantic Monthly there is a long article by a crank with a PhD & a professorship at Yale arguing that religion is a result of "cognitive functioning gone awry." That article and the one posted here are merely tiresome attempts by Science to delegitimize religion. Yawn.

Posted by: b at November 21, 2005 12:55 PM

B.

Only some one of little faith is worried about "science undermining religion."

The article you reference smacks of a theory promoted in an EXCELLENT BOOK call "The origins of Consciousness in the Break Down of the Bicameral Mind."

Julian Jaynes, the author, theorized that language came BEFORE consciousness, language actually "created" consciousness, and the man didn't become fully conscious until around 4-6000 years ago.

Radical Stuff!

The theory was so radical that I believe the scientific community chuckled behind his back. Yet the article you reference, along with some of Dennett's stuff, build off of it.

Was Jaynes arguing for evolution? Yes. Did his book "shake my faith." Not in the least. In fact, expansively interpreted, Genesis "proves" Jayne's point, as does John 1:1

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

Posted by: Bruno at November 21, 2005 1:16 PM

b:

But they do the opposite. Obviously if Nature selects for Faith and not Darwinism then the belief in Darwinism was itself a faulty mutation. It is, of couyrse, nonsensical to argue that Darwinism is true if it is a truth that destroys itself.

Posted by: oj at November 21, 2005 1:28 PM

Bruno: Who's worried? I said it was boring...

Posted by: b at November 21, 2005 1:53 PM

Great post on the Bloom article over at Cafe Hayek ("Where Orders Emerge") :

Are Humans Genetically Disposed to Pray to the State?

WARNING TO OJ: Cafe Hayek is a semi-libertarian site. Do not view this site directly. Use welder's goggles, or make a pinhole camera out of an old cereal box.

Posted by: joe shropshire at November 21, 2005 2:15 PM

OJ:

Even if your assertion that Darwinism is a faulty mutation makes any kind of sense, your conclusion does not.

It is not the truth that destroys itself, but rather knowledge of the truth.

Two entirely different things.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at November 21, 2005 2:39 PM

Jeff:

It's such a huge secret you have to die if you find it out. Kind of like Man can't be allowed to eat from the Tree of Life?

Posted by: oj at November 21, 2005 2:45 PM

When God created man he installed numerous hardwired program in the computer that we call ‘brain’. Those hardwired programs were essential for procreation and man’s survival in a hostile environment. Examples of these programs are sex, belonging, maternal love, desire to acquire, desire for freedom, etc. These programs are so powerful that if not controlled lead to destructive behavior. For example sex/promiscuity, belonging/my kind is superior to your kind, desire to acquire/ greed, etc. He foresaw and designed accordingly.

Posted by: tgn at November 21, 2005 3:19 PM

Actually, Jeff, your last comment is telling evidence of just what a fanatic you have become. Elsewhere you are careful to compartmentalize science and limit it's scope, accord a rote respect for religion in the abstract, speak of "rational inquiry" while allowing that other kinds of inquiry are perfectly valid as long as they keep out of your beloved science classes, etc, etc. Now, suddenly you are equating Darwinism with "knowledge of the truth." I believe that goes by the name of scientism, not science.

This phenomenon should be giving our resident darwinists far more pause that it apparently does. It boggles my mind that intelligent people can be so beholden to natural evolution as proven/revealed truth that they react to the proposition that belief in darwinism leads to extinction, while faith leads to survival, by saying: "Sure, no problem. That is completely compatible with darwinism."

Posted by: Peter B at November 21, 2005 3:29 PM

Peter:

Please re-read my post.

I was clearly responding to OJ. He was the one who used the term. I was only contesting his assertion ... it is nonsensical to argue that Darwinism (sic) is true if it is a truth that destroys itself.

My post could apply to a great many things that are "true," but that the knowledge of which could be destructive. Nuclear energy is true; knowledge of the truth could be ultimately destructive. I recommend to you Shattuck's "Forbidden Knowledge." I predict you will find much in there you agree with.

Now, does the first para of your response still follow?

As for the rest, it is OJ's assertion that those who find naturalistic evolution persuasive are unfit, because their belief causes them to be much less inclined towards having children. Hence, the belief itself is maladaptive, and, therefore, will fail to breed itself out of existence.

Possible, I suppose. And, if true, quite possibly something that should be grouped under the heading "Forbidden Knowledge."

However, there are far simpler, and less sinister, explanations. For one: the wealthier people are, the fewer children they have. Typically, education is positively correlated with wealth. This is independent of any particular set of beliefs, BTW.

It is also true that the tendency to find naturalistic evolution persuasive is positively correlated with education and wealth.

Blaming lack of fecundity upon a particular notion of natural history seems to focus on the ant while ignoring the elephant.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at November 21, 2005 4:10 PM

Jeff:

No, that's what Darwinism argues. I don't believe people have such genetic predispositions nor that ones genes have anything to do with fitness.

Darwinists are dying off because their ideas are evil.

Posted by: oj at November 21, 2005 4:23 PM

OJ:

Darwinism is a straw man that exists only in your fevered imagination.

As for the rest, your assertion did the talking.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at November 21, 2005 5:19 PM

David Sloan Wilson, a professor of biology and anthropology at Binghamton University in New York state, argues that "religiosity" fosters group discipline and could have given our hunter-gatherer ancestors an advantage for survival as they grouped together for worship.

Religious behavior is an absolute human universal and it took them how long to propose this theory???

Posted by: Matt Murphy at November 22, 2005 1:58 AM

A few points:

1. Since religion is a human creation that by and large codifies what benefits a society and as such has been found to be a useful means of maintaining social control and group cohesion (which in turn benefit the survival of the group), it is hardly surprising that it is beneficial as a whole, and as such attractive to many members of the group.

2. There is no inherent mutual contradiction between religious piety and acceptance of science as an exploration of nature. Taking the bible literally when it comes to what it says about natural history is not a prerequisite to being sincerely spiritual/religious, and neither is rejecting the current state of scientific knowledge, which does not clash with the idea of God's existence.

3. If by 'Darwinists' you mean people who believe in the theory of evolution and don't believe in God, then it isn't true that 'Darwinists' are dying out - they are actually on the increase; a modest increase, from 9% to 13%, but nonetheless, it can not be said that they are dying out.

Also keep in mind that the article discusses advantages of the religious impulse historically and in general terms; if the advantages that such an impulse bestows can be attained in other ways, then it is possible for religion to be replaced by other things. I'm not saying that this will happen on a broad scale, but do keep in mind that the fastest growing religious preference in the US is 'none'.

4. There is nothing destructive or evil about studying the scientific theory of evolution. The theory of evolution will 'die out' when it is disproven and/or a competing scientific theory can be presented. As it stands the theory of evolution finds itself supported by scientific evidence on an ongoing basis, and it is not simply going to 'die out' because of the opinion of some that science must be representative of, and not step outside of, one perception of religious dogma.

Posted by: creeper at November 22, 2005 3:09 AM

Since religion is a human creation that by and large codifies what benefits a society and as such has been found to be a useful means of maintaining social control and group cohesion...

And this year's award for Begging the Question goes to...

Posted by: Peter B at November 22, 2005 5:49 AM

The end of Darwinism is a decent society now? Boy, you guys don't even pretend to science anymore.

Posted by: oj at November 22, 2005 6:18 AM

"The end of Darwinism is a decent society now?"

Where do you think I said that? What does a society benefiting from an effective control and cohesion mechanism have to do with biological evolution via natural selection?

Posted by: creeper at November 22, 2005 6:33 AM

Peter:

Apologies if I missed it, but did you re-read my post, and does your response to it still stand?

Creeper:

The reason many religionists get so upset with the theory of evolution is that they are unable to separate the validity of their core religious principles from implementation details.

Like you, I don't see the connection.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at November 22, 2005 6:39 AM

creeper:

Odd that we're the only species that can benefit from religion instead of the package of behaviors found in Nature, no?

Posted by: oj at November 22, 2005 6:42 AM

Jeff:

No, we get upset with it because it's anti-human. Yoiu miuss the point because you don't understand your own ideology.

Posted by: oj at November 22, 2005 6:50 AM

Orrin,

"Odd that we're the only species that can benefit from religion instead of the package of behaviors found in Nature, no?"

Given that religion requires both an organized society and higher intelligence (conceptual thinking, speech, to some extent writing), I don't find this odd at all.

Posted by: creeper at November 22, 2005 6:51 AM

How is it anti-human?

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at November 22, 2005 6:52 AM

Orrin,

"No, we get upset with it because it's anti-human."

There is nothing anti-human about the theory of evolution, and nothing to get upset about, unless perhaps you want to drape yourself in some kind of god-like Master of the Universe cloak and then find out that you may just be a part of nature, no more, no less.

But that's not anti-human - that's just anti-delusions of grandeur.

Posted by: creeper at November 22, 2005 6:54 AM

Orrin,

"Yoiu miuss the point because you don't understand your own ideology."

Accepting the theory of evolution as valid science does not constitute a particular ideology, nor does it necessitate one - certainly not an "anti-human" one.

Posted by: creeper at November 22, 2005 6:57 AM

creeper:

Bingo! Your theory makes perfect sense once you start with religion as the end towards which evolkution aims. None if survival is the end.

Posted by: oj at November 22, 2005 7:00 AM

Jeff:

It begins by denying Man's unique God-given dignity and inevitably ends in racism, infanticide, genocide, eugnenics, and cultural suicide. That's why guys like Stephen Jay Gould became Creationists.

Posted by: oj at November 22, 2005 7:03 AM

creeper:

Of course it does, it's just a human construct unrelated to reality.

Posted by: oj at November 22, 2005 7:04 AM

creeper:

Note that your argument is that we aren't part of Nature either.

Posted by: oj at November 22, 2005 7:06 AM

"Your theory makes perfect sense once you start with religion as the end towards which evolkution aims. None if survival is the end."

Which of "my" theories are you referring to?

If it's the theory of evolution, then it has no end toward which it "aims". Religion requires these elements (organized society, higher intelligence), but then so to an extent does advanced scientific understanding of the world and reading blogs and joining a book club and many other things, and we're not talking about evolution "aiming" at those, are we?

Posted by: creeper at November 22, 2005 7:07 AM

creeper:

1. Since religion is a human creation that by and large codifies what benefits a society and as such has been found to be a useful means of maintaining social control and group cohesion (which in turn benefit the survival of the group), it is hardly surprising that it is beneficial as a whole, and as such attractive to many members of the group. [...]


Given that religion requires both an organized society and higher intelligence (conceptual thinking, speech, to some extent writing), I don't find this odd at all.

Posted by: oj at November 22, 2005 7:12 AM

Orrin,

"Note that your argument is that we aren't part of Nature either."

How so? I said we are part of nature, no more, no less. I didn't use the term "Nature" - please define it.

The theory of evolution does not deny Man's God-given dignity.

Regarding the comment immediately above: neither of those refers to evolution "aiming" at religion as an end product.

As I said above:

"What does a society benefiting from an effective control and cohesion mechanism have to do with biological evolution via natural selection?"

Posted by: creeper at November 22, 2005 7:15 AM

creeper:

You posit just one species in the known Universe that is driven by the good of society which is to be found in religious belief. Thus you break us out of Nature.

Posted by: oj at November 22, 2005 7:22 AM

Orrin,

please define 'Nature'.

I did not posit that we are driven by "the good of society which is to be found in religious belief". It's the other way around: religion is the codified form of that which has, by and large, been found to work well for a society, as well as a useful cohesion mechanism. It is an elevated form of group behavior, thanks to our advanced intelligence, but not one that is fundamentally incongruous with nature.

Posted by: creeper at November 22, 2005 8:14 AM

"That's why guys like Stephen Jay Gould became Creationists."

http://www.nonzero.org/newyorker.htm

http://www.slate.com/id/2016/

http://pinker.wjh.harvard.edu/about/media/1999_11_linguafranca.html

http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-sailer052202.asp

Of course, Wright too then became a Creationist and got Daniel Dennett to admit he's one too:

http://www.beliefnet.com/story/153/story_15340_1.html

Posted by: creeper at November 22, 2005 8:19 AM

creeper:

Which societies found in Nature follow religious norms, other than some human ones? Since when is benefit to society the basis of Darwinism? Does every religion benefit society? Why are some societies becoming secular? Isn't Darwinism just the latest religion those societies are evolving towards? How do you escape from the magical theory you've constructed that every belief is an effect of Darwinism except Darwinism itself, which is True?

Posted by: oj at November 22, 2005 8:23 AM

...unless perhaps you want to drape yourself in some kind of god-like Master of the Universe cloak

No, creeper, Orrin modestly drapes himself in the Master of the Anglosphere cloak--it's you guys who think you personally run the whole show.

Let's get serious. One side posits a deity whose will we are commanded to subordinate our own to. The other says there is just nature (or acknowledges the possibility of some long-retired creator so no one can accuse them of being anti-religious) and the destiny of our lives and world is in our own unfettered control. Then the latter accuses the former of delusions of grandeur and omnipotence. Sorry, but I need my mother.

Jeff:

I'm not searching the archives, but I trust you will agree there are plenty of Durant-inspired posts from you on how malignant and destructive a force religion has been in history and how superior our modern life is since we relegated it to curtained living rooms. Now here you are saying: "Sure, religion may be necessary for our survival, but that's irrelevant to the issue of truth, as is the acknowledged possibility that we can't survive without it. What's the big deal?" Is it any wonder we feel we're wrestling with a pool of mercury.

Your analogy to nuclear energy is bizarre. People don't set their moral bearings on the basis of whether nuclear energy is real or not. What is the point?

Posted by: Peter B at November 22, 2005 8:41 AM

Okay. we'll simplify this: if beliefs are merely a function of evolution then why isn't belief in evolution a mere affect?

Any responsive comment will not be deleted--the rest will be.

Posted by: oj at November 22, 2005 9:28 AM

(non-responsive)

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at November 23, 2005 9:41 AM
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