April 10, 2019

CHRIST FOLLOWS CAESAR:

Big gods came after the rise of civilisations, not before, finds study using huge historical database (Harvey Whitehouse, Patrick E. Savage, Peter Turchin, Pieter Francois, 3/20/19, The Conversation)

One of the earliest questions we're testing is whether morally concerned deities drove the rise of complex societies. We analysed data on 414 societies from 30 world regions, using 51 measures of social complexity and four measures of supernatural enforcement of moral norms to get to the bottom of the matter. New research we've just published in the journal Nature reveals that moralising gods come later than many people thought, well after the sharpest rises in social complexity in world history. In other words, gods who care about whether we are good or bad did not drive the initial rise of civilisations - but came later. [...]

Our statistical analysis showed that beliefs in supernatural punishment tend to appear only when societies make the transition from simple to complex, around the time when the overall population exceed about a million individuals.

Social complexity tends to increase more rapidly before the appearance of moralising gods, not after. Whitehouse, Francois Savage et al. Nature., Author provided
We are now looking to other factors that may have driven the rise of the first large civilisation. For example, Seshat data suggests that daily or weekly collective rituals - the equivalent of today's Sunday services or Friday prayers - appear early in the rise of social complexity and we're looking further at their impact.

If the original function of moralising gods in world history was to hold together fragile, ethnically diverse coalitions, what might declining belief in such deities mean for the future of societies today? Could modern secularisation, for example, contribute to the unravelling of efforts to cooperate regionally - such as the European Union? If beliefs in big gods decline, what will that mean for cooperation across ethnic groups in the face of migration, warfare, or the spread of xenophobia? Can the functions of moralising gods simply be replaced by other forms of surveillance?

Such is the narrative arc of the Bible.


Posted by at April 10, 2019 12:01 AM

  

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