Is Religion Man-Made? How Did Religion Start? The Evolution of Belief (2006) - VideoSpot.ME- World No.1 Video Portal

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Is Religion Man-Made? How Did Religion Start? The Evolution of Belief (2006) - VideoSpot.ME
Published: 4 years ago By: Way Back

By: Way BackPublished: 4 years ago

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The evolutionary origin of religions theorizes about the emergence of religious behavior during the course of human evolution. About the book:

Humanity's closest living relatives are common chimpanzees and bonobos. These primates share a common ancestor with humans who lived between four and six million years ago. It is for this reason that chimpanzees and bonobos are viewed as the best available surrogate for this common ancestor. Barbara King argues that while non-human primates are not religious, they do exhibit some traits that would have been necessary for the evolution of religion. These traits include high intelligence, a capacity for symbolic communication, a sense of social norms, realization of "self" and a concept of continuity. There is inconclusive evidence that Homo neanderthalensis may have buried their dead which is evidence of the use of ritual. The use of burial rituals is evidence of religious activity, but there is no other evidence that religion existed in human culture before humans reached behavioral modernity.

Marc Bekoff, Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, argues that many species grieve death and loss.

There is general agreement among cognitive scientists that religion is an outgrowth of brain architecture that evolved early in human history. However, there is disagreement on the exact mechanisms that drove the evolution of the religious mind. The two main schools of thought hold that either religion evolved due to natural selection and has selective advantage, or that religion is an evolutionary byproduct of other mental adaptations. Stephen Jay Gould, for example, believed that religion was an exaptation or a spandrel, in other words that religion evolved as byproduct of psychological mechanisms that evolved for other reasons.

Such mechanisms may include the ability to infer the presence of organisms that might do harm (agent detection), the ability to come up with causal narratives for natural events (etiology), and the ability to recognize that other people have minds of their own with their own beliefs, desires and intentions (theory of mind). These three adaptations (among others) allow human beings to imagine purposeful agents behind many observations that could not readily be explained otherwise, e.g. thunder, lightning, movement of planets, complexity of life, etc. The emergence of collective religious belief identified the agents as deities that standardized the explanation.

Some scholars have suggested that religion is genetically "hardwired" into the human condition. One controversial hypothesis, the God gene hypothesis, states that some variants of a specific gene, the VMAT2 gene, predispose to spirituality.

Another view is based on the concept of the triune brain: the reptilian brain, the limbic system, and the neocortex, proposed by Paul D. MacLean. Collective religious belief draws upon the emotions of love, fear, and gregariousness and is deeply embedded in the limbic system through sociobiological conditioning and social sanction. Individual religious belief utilizes reason based in the neocortex and often varies from collective religion. The limbic system is much older in evolutionary terms than the neocortex and is, therefore, stronger than it much in the same way as the reptilian is stronger than both the limbic system and the neocortex. Reason is pre-empted by emotional drives. The religious feeling in a congregation is emotionally different from individual spirituality even though the congregation is composed of individuals. Belonging to a collective religion is culturally more important than individual spirituality though the two often go hand in hand. This is one of the reasons why religious debates are likely to be inconclusive.

Yet another view is that the behaviour of people who participate in a religion makes them feel better and this improves their fitness, so that there is a genetic selection in favor of people who are willing to believe in religion. Specifically, rituals, beliefs, and the social contact typical of religious groups may serve to calm the mind (for example by reducing ambiguity and the uncertainty due to complexity) and allow it to function better when under stress. This would allow religion to be used as a powerful survival mechanism, particularly in facilitating the evolution of hierarchies of warriors, which if true, may be why many modern religions tend to promote fertility and kinship.

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