A Conversation for The Evolutionary Advantages of Faith
alysdragon Started conversation Sep 26, 2008
I liked that article, though I'm interested in some bits and bobs which it might possibly imply. I'm saying right here and now that any rabid/ unconsidered athiest or thiest attacks on these suggestions will be treated with the contempt which they merit and duly ignored. I'm throwing some ideas into the void, just some points for discussion on how this pretty cool information might be discussed socially, culturally and, dare I say it, spiritually.
Firstly, you (is it ben? am I allowed to call you Ben?)sort of hinted at us having this apparatus, but that it dealt with imagainary or purely internal stuff -I'm not saying that was outright stated, just sort of implicit - and I was wondering about how it could be viewed if we work from the concept of the existance of deities and the 'supernatural' - although I hate that term - as being real. Surely if God/s exist it would be an evolutionary advantage to communicate with them. If so, why is it a distinct part of the brain here - maybe it is the equivalent of a lock on a teenagers door - best not to have Mum and Dad invading everything you are doing? Maybe it is what has allowed humanity to focus upon tool buiding and social networking away from the persistant background noise of all the gods of the earth (and who's to say, maybe other non-human intelligences) babbling away all the time? Not to say it didn't happen by chance, but perhaps that's why its an advantage.
Secondly, and connectedly, perhaps it is the bit of us that deals with collective consciouness - perhaps those 'voices' we would otherwise here are other people as well as manifestations of our own psyche - perhaps this is how we developed such individual identities? By seperation from this? Ben, you suggested that people often 'got together' to do the whole spiritual thing and maybe there was origionally forms of interconnection which strengthened community spirit and an interpersonal faith through ceremonies which weren't strictly religious in the modern sense. Perhaps this community vibe then helped strengthen early Homo sapien communities against external threats, but because there was no innate connection with this they could concentrate both as individuals and as a society?
I'm babbling now, but the implications of this are fascinating!
I read somewhere that there's this bit of the brain (how scientific... I think it's the right frontal cortex, but my neuroscience is a bit thin on the ground) that becomes more active when we meditate and pray - could this have evolved to allow us to communicate with god/s or other spiritual entities (or even each other!) in the same way that our vocal organs have for more mundane speech. Maybe it's become more redundant as we use it less - maybe we feel the need for it less - or maybe it still has the impact upon people's chances of survival as this article seemed to suggest. Or maybe, most exicting of all, we've got this incredible thing by chance and are slowly learning how to use it! Wow. Could this explain why one religious experiance and prayer are generally followed by further religious experiances? Any (non-utterly-cynical) suggestions?
And if god/s don't exist, what causes the religious experiances and why are they so apparently beneficial? This is not a confrontational question, btw, I really am interested in why our brains might have evolved to take advantage of certain cicumstances or states of mind that make us think that we are in contact with something greater, or which maintain faith. Any suggestions?
Any other excitable propositions from other enthusastic HooToo-ers? and to anyone who offers one.
alysdragon Posted Sep 26, 2008
and I became increasingly excited through that post, didn't I?
Mrs Zen Posted Sep 27, 2008
Oh, gosh, they dragged this ole thing out of the back of wardrobe.
Don't worry alysdragon - I'm not a rabid atheist. An atheist yes, but not a rabid one.
If you start from the presupposition that there is a god, as you do, then you can go off in all sorts of enticing directions, as you have. Unfortunately I've not been able to follow all of your logic, but never mind. You clearly enjoyed yourself.
>> Would it be an evolutionary advantage to be able to communicate with god? -
Only if god was nicer to those who communicated with it. That gives god the emotional devlopment of a five year old. (True, for the classical and nordic deities, of course).
>> Why is it a distinct part of the brain? -
Because god is manifesting in a physical universe so any apparatus that perceives it must be a physical apparatus. There has to be a cross-over point from the spiritual to the physical and at that crossing-point can be located, measured, assessed, and so on. Ste's essay here supplements the one you've just read: A933635
I don't really understand what you mean when you connect a part of the brain which is sensitive to god with the ability to shut out noisy chattering deities (which is a great image, by the way). I guess it depends on whether you assume that the base line is silence until you get the Word (or darkness until there is Light), or whether you assume that the baseline is so much noise it is impossible to carve out your own sense of self without tuning out the background chatter. As I said, I don't really get your point here.
As I remember it, my line of thought at the time was as follows: Experiences described as "spiritual" are widespread throughout humanity, not universal but fairly evenly spread, and there must be a reason for this. Now I'd accept "chance" or "co-incidence" as a reason (ie it sprung up as a mutation somewhere, and was never actively selected against) but at the time I discounted that idea.
If spiritual sensitivity had to come from somewhere, I argued, there were only two places it could come from. In the first case it would be god-implanted and in the second case it would be the outcome of evolution. There's a hybrid options which argues that evolution is god's tool - the mechanism god uses to introduce changes in the world. It's and attractive compromise until you look at it in detail, when what the deity actually *does* retreats away from you as you approach it, like the horizon or the rainbow's end.
>> If god/s don't exist, what causes the religious experiances and why are they so apparently beneficial? -
Erm. That's the question the entry answers.
alysdragon Posted Sep 27, 2008
Cheers, Ben, umm, I'm not sure if the article answers it fully, and there's still room for discussion of when and how this proved helpful enough to become as widespread as you suggest it is, but as I can't offer a better one, I take your point there. Much better than I could have done.
Just speaking randomly here, I was just offering an alternative standpoint, my own beliefs are irrelavent and I just didn't want someone going 'that's a ludicrous question' because a) God doesn't exist or b) God doesn't work like that, so your atheism is cool and definately non-rabid.
Okay, trying to clarify in slightly less hyperactive terms, I was working from the standpoint that maybe all beings can hear that charming babble of deity/ies ALL THE TIME, and it turned out that having an off switch was helpful to a particular breed of large ape, rather than causing total mental breakdown (although I sometimes wonder about that.)
I think the thing about talking is right and an interesting area for discussion - although I'm quite fond of Tyr and have always found him remarkably emotionally intelligent . I wasn't suggesting that god/s would stop talking at/to us, its just that if we consistantly don't hear or talk back them we lose the kind of advantage we have when we hear someone yell 'look out! Car!' or 'put that bl**dy light out!' or, possibly, the advantgage of having a mobile phone whilst up a mountain. There's only so much you can help someone, particularly emotionally, who refuses to return your calls...
As I say, this isn't a pro-theist arguement, but if we start from the premise that god/s exist, then maybe that's why it's helpful?
Anyhow, heres your
Mrs Zen Posted Sep 27, 2008
Ah, great. That's a slightly clearer explanation. And the thought of there being all that supernatural chattering going on in the background is an interesting one to play with.
Thanks for commenting.
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