Author Topic: The Evolution of Belief  (Read 9104 times)

Toedancer

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The Evolution of Belief
« on: March 07, 2007, 11:27:45 AM »
This 11 page read is quite interesting or at least I found it so.

Darwin's God - stupid title really, I say that because you can apply it to many beliefs not just Creator.

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Lost in the hullabaloo over the neo-atheists is a quieter and potentially more illuminating debate. It is taking place not between science and religion but within science itself, specifically among the scientists studying the evolution of religion. These scholars tend to agree on one point: that religious belief is an outgrowth of brain architecture that evolved during early human history. What they disagree about is why a tendency to believe evolved, whether it was because belief itself was adaptive or because it was just an evolutionary byproduct, a mere consequence of some other adaptation in the evolution of the human brain.

Which is the better biological explanation for a belief in God — evolutionary adaptation or neurological accident? Is there something about the cognitive functioning of humans that makes us receptive to belief in a supernatural deity? And if scientists are able to explain God, what then? Is explaining religion the same thing as explaining it away? Are the nonbelievers right, and is religion at its core an empty undertaking, a misdirection, a vestigial artifact of a primitive mind? Or are the believers right, and does the fact that we have the mental capacities for discerning God suggest that it was God who put them there?

In short, are we hard-wired to believe in God? And if we are, how and why did that happen?


NYTMag
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Croghan27

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The Evolution of Belief
« Reply #1 on: March 29, 2007, 09:48:19 AM »
Here is a response to Dawkins and his The God Delusion by Terry Eagleton, from the London Review of Books.

It is sort of long, but well written. You will not come away a raving christian, but maybe a tad more considered and reasonable.
"It is also a good rule not to put overmuch confidence in the observational results that are put forward until they are confirmed by theory." -- Arthur Stanley Eddington

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The Evolution of Belief
« Reply #2 on: March 29, 2007, 01:02:07 PM »
Okay, ... one of these days, when i have the time and the energy to do something philosophical, I'll pick this subject up with you.

I wish i could do so now.


 :(

 :bike   [for no reason]

fern hill

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The Evolution of Belief
« Reply #3 on: June 12, 2007, 09:42:47 AM »
A blogger linked to Birth Pangs, then got aggregated here an atheist aggregator -- who knew?

It struck me: I call myself an atheist, but really such stuff never crosses me tiny mind. I mean, I can get awe-struck by a sunset and whatnot, but gods and/or sprites just don't factor into anything for me.

Croghan27

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The Evolution of Belief
« Reply #4 on: June 17, 2007, 11:33:23 AM »
For those that have been taking notes - a book review in the Salon by Laura Miller, about Terry Eagleton's new book/essay.

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"The Meaning of Life" is more a long essay than a full-length book, and its publishers probably hope it'll hit the same sweet spot as Harry G. Frankfurt's surprise success, "On Bullshit," another slim volume of intellectual nonfiction

Here is why she says about Mr. Eagleton:

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Two primary tributaries feed into the body of Eagleton's thought: Marxism and the tradition of Catholic intellectualism in which he was educated as a boy. Although no longer a member of the church, Eagleton retains much respect for religious ideals, a respect that lies behind his recent, scalding review of Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion" in the London Review of Books. These two influences might seem incompatible today, but in the 1970s, when Eagleton was coming up as a working-class boy turned Oxbridge scholar, liberation theology and other exhilarating currents of social change combining faith with socialism were in the air. However much his work may have changed on the surface since then, Eagleton's underlying values remain much the same.

I am rather a fan of Mr. Eagleton, she sums up the essay by saying: (the reference to the tiger is something inside the piece.)

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Outside of the academy, essentialism-- usually in the form of evolutionary psychology -- is almost always used to justify a conservative or libertarian, dog-eat-dog view of human nature, so it's a treat to see it recruited here for the leftist cause. Perhaps, irony of ironies, Eagleton has demonstrated that essentialism is what you make of it? Maybe so, but having seen him make mincemeat out of his ideological opponents in "The Meaning of Life," I wouldn't want to be the one to tell him that. I'd sooner try to scratch a tiger under the chin.
"It is also a good rule not to put overmuch confidence in the observational results that are put forward until they are confirmed by theory." -- Arthur Stanley Eddington

Caissa

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The Evolution of Belief
« Reply #5 on: August 02, 2007, 01:08:00 PM »
This just in from a longer comedic piece forwarded to me by Ms. C:

TAOISM: Stuff happens.
  CATHOLICISM: Stuff happens because you are bad.
  PRESBYTERIANISM: This stuff was bound to happen.
  SCIENTOLOGY: Stuff happens if you're on our stuff list.
  ZOROASTRIANISM: Bad stuff happens, and good stuff happens.
  UNITARIANISM: Maybe stuff happens. Let's have coffee and donuts.
  RIGHT-WING PROTESTANTISM: Let this stuff happen to someone else.
  JUDAISM: Why does stuff always happen to us?
  QUAKER: Let's not fight over this stuff.
  NEW AGE: Visualize stuff not happening.
  CONFUCIANISM: If stuff has to happen, let it happen properly.
  ZEN: (What is the sound of stuff happening?)
  ISLAM: Stuff happens if it is the will of Allah.
  SECULAR HUMANISM: Stuff evolves.
  CHRISTIAN SCIENCE: Stuff is in your mind.
  BUDDHISM: Stuff happens, but pay no mind.
  HINDUISM: This stuff has happened before.
  WICCA: Mix this stuff together and make it happen!
  DIANETICS: Your mother gave you stuff before your were born.
  BAHA'I: It's all the same stuff.
  STOICISM: This stuff is good for me.
  EST: If my stuff bothers you, that's your fault.
  RASTAFARIANISM: Let's smoke this stuff.
  AGNOSTICISM: What is this stuff?
  ATHEISM: I don't believe this stuff!

Croghan27

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The Evolution of Belief
« Reply #6 on: November 10, 2007, 04:03:15 PM »
The LRB has a good review of the book: American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America by Chris Hedges

While a great many on the Christian fundamental camp are trying to see Deuteronomy as the law of the land,: an  
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evangelical movement in the United States is trying to establish a government based on scripture rather than the constitution

Yet they are neither very successful nor monolithic.
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the striking thing about the Republican alliance with evangelicals has been the thinness of their legislative achievements: abortion is still legal, campaigners for gay rights have made real strides and the wall between church and state remains largely intact in American classrooms.

and some evangelicales have 'gone over' to more liberal agendas.
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Richard Land, the powerful Southern Baptist leader, joined with Ted Kennedy in March to promote reforms that would enable illegal immigrants to gain legal resident status; Joel Osteen and others offered their support

and:
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Pat Robertson, who is probably the country’s best-known evangelical now that Falwell has died, declared himself a ‘convert’ on the issue of global warming last summer, insisting that ‘we really need to address the burning of fossil fuels.


There is also an interesting recounting of how the Whore of Rome has ended up on the cutting edge of fundamental politics. (here read abortion)

I must say the review looks more .... sensible than the book - the book seems to be of the more splashy, spectacular bent - but the review, by Nicholas Guyatt, until recently an associate professor of history at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, is moving to the University of York next month. Have a Nice Doomsday: Why Millions of Americans Are Looking Forward to the End of the World appeared earlier this year is worth reading.
"It is also a good rule not to put overmuch confidence in the observational results that are put forward until they are confirmed by theory." -- Arthur Stanley Eddington

Croghan27

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Intelligent Design
« Reply #7 on: November 18, 2007, 02:47:50 AM »
This is a good place for it.  :D

There is no one more philosophically spiritual than crogh .... and damn few that are more spiritually philosophical.  :annoyed:

I once read a quote about Catholics: "We don't have to really try, we've got a holy alibi." which I disagreed with then and do even now. It is a concept that can be thrown at any systematic codified set of beliefs: from anarchy to Zoastrianism, and pretends they are all monolithic - which none of them are.

Yet, the effect of the quip comes from a superficial truth - that by following a code someone is, of necessity and in some way, wrong.  :panic

Intelligent Design is the latest attempt to apply the methods of the Sky Pilot to education and by extention the rest of life. The argument being that things here are too complicated to have happened 'naturally', but had to have some big brained designer plotting the course. Now, this immediately brings up the question of which Sky Pilot to follow :shock:

In the spirit (told ya I was spiritual, didn't I  :) ) of: "This is my opinion, and if you don't like it  :rant: , well, here is another one.  :evil: "

Here are some options: rather than make up an huge long post, I shall post these over a few days. Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls (of all ages) welcome to the worlds of Intelligent Design.

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Hammer of the Gods: Norse Mythology

With its bounty of brawny, barrel-chested gods and buxom goddesses, the ancient Norse religion of the Scandinavian and Germanic countries is truly the creation myth for fans of both pro wrestling and heavy metal music. According to Norse lore, before there was Earth (Midgard), there was Muspell, a fiery land guarded by the fire sword-wielding Surt; Ginnungagap, a great void, and Niflheim, a frozen ice-covered land. When the cold of Niflheim touched the fires of Muspell, the giant Ymir and a behemothic cow, Auehumla, emerged from the thaw. Then, the cow licked the god Bor and his wife into being. The couple gave birth to Buri, who fathered three sons, Odin, Vili, and Ve. The sons rose up and killed Ymir and from his corpse created from his flesh, the Earth; the mountains from his bones, trees with his hair and rivers, and the seas and lakes with his blood. Within Ymires hollowed-out skull, the gods created the starry heavens. What can we say: Pure metal magic!!
"It is also a good rule not to put overmuch confidence in the observational results that are put forward until they are confirmed by theory." -- Arthur Stanley Eddington

Debra

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The Evolution of Belief
« Reply #8 on: November 18, 2007, 07:58:21 AM »
Interestingly, like most religions it places the birthing/life giving process with men and animals. [ I wonder if that accounts for why a number of men have a 'fondness' for animals]

Anyway, I have also read that violence and abuse changes the hardwire structures of the brain. As cultures and communities strongly steeped in religion tend to be strongly steeped in violence also, most especially towards women and children, and as women and children seem to carry the strongest faiths, I wonder if there is a corelation between religious belief and violence.

The sad thing is there is no society onthis earth which could be used as a control.
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Croghan27

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The Evolution of Belief
« Reply #9 on: November 19, 2007, 07:25:01 AM »
I spoke with a Lady I know yesterday - she is from Sweden. They teach the previous 'Intelligent Design' in the schools there - but as a cultural artifact - their literature, art, and even common discourse is filled with allusions to the old Norse myths.

The next one is:

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Zoroastrianism, the Religion of Ancient Persia[/u]

The Bundahishn of the Middle Persian era tells of the world created by the deity Ahura Mazda. The great mountain, Alburz, grew for 800 years until it touched the sky. From that point, rain fell, forming the Vourukasha sea and two great rivers. The first animal, the white bull, lived on the bank of the river Veh Rod. However, the evil spirit, Angra Mainyu, killed it. Its seed was carried to the moon and purified, creating many animals and plants. Across the river lived the first man, Gayomard, bright as the sun. Angra Mainyu also killed him. Ouch! The sun purified his seed for forty years, which then sprouted a rhubarb plant. This plant grew into Mashya and Mashyanag, the first mortals. Instead of killing them, Angra Mainyu deceived them into worshipping him. After 50 years they bore twins, but they ate the twins, owing to their sin. After a very long time, two more twins were born, and from them came all humans (but specifically Persians).


crogh is sympathetic to anything that involves rhubarb, so this has some appeal.

While the Norse Gods are examples of a life and thought that the western world has passed by, Zoroastrianism or it's mind set is alive even yet in some parts of Iran and Iraq. The thought also influenced the Manichaen heresy that St. Augustine fought against and may be responsible for the duality that he hightlighted in Christainity.
"It is also a good rule not to put overmuch confidence in the observational results that are put forward until they are confirmed by theory." -- Arthur Stanley Eddington

Croghan27

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The Evolution of Belief
« Reply #10 on: November 20, 2007, 04:09:33 AM »
This one is new to me. Iraqi seems to be rather a class based place even back before and during creation: If Marduk can be translated into a Christian God the Father, then the proletariat are His direct creation, not the monied/properitied classes.

Oh well - just some more Intelligent Design.

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By the Rivers of Babylon

The Babylonian creation myth, the Enuma Elish, begins with the gods of water, Apsu (fresh), and Tiamat (salt), spawning several generations of gods, leading to Ea and his many brothers. However, these younger gods made so much noise that Apsu and Tiamat could not sleep (a complaint still common today amongst apartment-dwellers). Apsu plotted to kill them, but Ea killed him first. Tiamat vowed revenge and created many monsters, including the Mad Dog and Scorpion Man. Ea and the goddess Damkina created Marduk, a giant god with four eyes and four ears, as their protector. In tangling with Tiamat, Marduk, bearing the winds as weapons, hurled an evil wind down her gullet, incapacitating her, and then killed her with a single arrow to her heart. He then split her body in half and used it to create the heavens and the earth. Later he created man to do the drudge work that the gods refused to do, like farming, telemarketing and accounting. (Marduk currently appears on Cartoon Network's Sealab 2020!)
"It is also a good rule not to put overmuch confidence in the observational results that are put forward until they are confirmed by theory." -- Arthur Stanley Eddington

Croghan27

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The Evolution of Belief
« Reply #11 on: November 21, 2007, 12:05:40 AM »
It appears the Egypians, sane people that they were, had several versions of Intelligent Design. Here is one that involved a lot of swirrling waters, spitting, puking and crying:

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Spirits of Ancient Egypt

The ancient Egyptians had several creation myths. All begin with the swirling, chaotic waters of Nu (or Nun). Atum willed himself into being, and then created a hill, otherwise there'd be no place for him to stand. Atum was genderless and possessed an all-seeing eye. He/she spat out a son, Shu, god of the air. Atum then vomited up a daughter, Tefnut, goddess of moisture. These two were charged with the task of creating order out of chaos. Shu and Tefnut generated Geb, the earth, and Nut, the sky. First they were entwined, but Geb lifted Nut above him. Gradually the world's order formed, but Shu and Tefnut became lost in the remaining darkness. Atum removed his/her all-seeing eye and sent it in search of them. (Just how all-seeing it was, and what did Atum do without, remains a mystery.) When Shu and Tefnut returned, thanks to the eye, Atum wept with joy. (Presumably he/she re-inserted the eye first.) Where the tears struck the earth, men sprang up.
"It is also a good rule not to put overmuch confidence in the observational results that are put forward until they are confirmed by theory." -- Arthur Stanley Eddington

Croghan27

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The Evolution of Belief
« Reply #12 on: November 22, 2007, 08:23:00 AM »
Here is the first Intelligent Design from the New World .... Mexico.

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South of the Border, Down Mexico Way: The Aztecs

The earth mother of the Aztecs, Coatlicue ("skirt of snakes,") is depicted in a fearsome way, wearing a necklace of human hearts and hands, and a skirt of snakes as her name suggests. The story goes that Coatlicue was impregnated by an obsidian knife and gave birth to Coyolxauhqui, goddess of the moon, and to 400 sons, who became the stars of the southern sky. Later, a ball of feathers fell from the sky which, upon Coatlicue finding it and placing it in her waistband, caused her to become pregnant again. Coyolxauhqui and her brothers turned against their mother, whose unusual pregnancy shocked and outraged them, the origin being unknown. However, the child inside Coatlique, Huitzilopochtli, the god of war and the sun god, sprang from his mother's womb, fully-grown and armored (talk about a C-section!). He attacked Coyolxauhqui, killing her with the aid of a fire serpent. Cutting off her head, he flung it into the sky, where it became the moon. That was supposed to comfort Coatlicue, his mother--some comfort!


and you thought a flood was exciting.  :shock:
"It is also a good rule not to put overmuch confidence in the observational results that are put forward until they are confirmed by theory." -- Arthur Stanley Eddington

Caissa

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The Evolution of Belief
« Reply #13 on: November 22, 2007, 10:07:57 AM »
IMHO, Science and religion are discussing two different things.

Croghan27

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The Evolution of Belief
« Reply #14 on: November 22, 2007, 03:36:32 PM »
Quote from: Caissa
IMHO, Science and religion are discussing two different things.


Maybe so - yet religion (correction, many religions) seems to have little problem attacking science when it contradicts doctrine.

Still, if you believe the Glory of God is manifest in God's creations (even if that is a tad anthropomorphic) then they both deal with the same things - as in first causes.
"It is also a good rule not to put overmuch confidence in the observational results that are put forward until they are confirmed by theory." -- Arthur Stanley Eddington

 

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