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The evolution of religion


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What I would like to do is treat religion as a behavior, and look at this behavior in the context of evolution, to see if this new behavior brought selective advantage. Instead of treating religion as pro or con, I am treating religion as a new human behavior that suddenly appears.

 

Here is the scenario; it is 10,000 years ago or so and humans are an extension of the apes and evolution, things moving slowly forward. Suddenly a new behavior appears in some of the pre-humans. Did this bring these humans a selective advantage?

 

One way to answer this is to compare the two states of mind. The one with the religion or god effect will begin to see some version of divine subjectivity overlaying reality. For example, if his god was of the forest, that god could be in any tree or behind any bush. This would add something extra to his awareness beyond the cause and effect of the sensory systems.

 

Someone without this new behavior would be more in touch with cause and effect, being triggered by the sensory system as it has always been; slow evolution. The other guy not only reacts to the conservative sensory button pushing, but also the subjectivities of his imagination. Will this extra give him a selective advantage?

 

At the very least, this will exercise his imagination more, until the ancient cause and effect of instincts starts to break down; new man.

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No it doesn't. Determinism is not at odds with free will. In fact, free will depends upon some level of determinism. It doesn't make much sense to speak of someone making a choice when the choice is b

Are they? What you seem to be arguing is that free will really is determinism, which leads you to the conclusion that free will is deterministic. That's not the view of free will most people hold: a p

no, but you can assess the liklihood of his making a useful, or even coherent contribution. also, by the miracle of literacy, we can read and analyse pioneers post and determine, yep, he's displaying

I would suspect that it would go along the lines of first speech and abstract thought emerging, followed by trying to figure out how the world works. Natural patterns would be easily identified by early humans, but their causes would not.

 

For example, the seasons, the length of the day, the sun and moon and star movements are all easy to observe and that they adhere to predictable patterns, but for early humans the reasons why these patterns are present would be almost impossible.

As such, we have a natural tendency to not only want to know what happens, but why it happens.

Anyone who has been 6 yrs old can attest to how often the word "But why?" comes up in a day.

 

So, they began sharing ideas, stories, anything that could make sense of the world. The stories existed within the framework of their experiential world - many early religions involve animal spirits, when you get to societies with chariots, they invent a sun god in a flaming chariot.

Most consistently though, each group created and told stories that explained their world in terms they could understand.

 

 

As for evolutionary advantages, we all are aware of how helpful explanations are to remembering patterns, even when the explanation is false. When you are really little, (or, at least if you had parents like mine) you get all kinds of stories about how little people live in your stomach who take your food and use it to feed your body, but if you eat sweets they stop to eat them themselves, and it spoils your appetite for dinner.

It's patently untrue, but having an explanation makes it easier to swallow. Similarly, having explanations with a religious bent tend to be more strictly adhered to. Not long ago some Inuit hunters prepared some meat they killed, and decided to forgo the 3 day offering ritual. They got sick and died. When the researchers investigated, they found that part of the ritual actually stopped some food borne illness risks, and they died of food poisoning.

 

They never knew why the ritual was important, and it was used long before microbiology was understood, but the patterns kept people from dying.

 

Stories and weighty religious connotations helped insure the patterns were not deviated from for thousands of years.

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It's an interesting but old idea. It may get some traction, but likely only after free will and choice are first successfully shown to have an evolutionary/genetic cause and thus is illusionary. The reason is that our experience and observations inform us that religion is a choice. In addition one would have to show that cognitive processes and system are reducible to material.

 

As far as human propensity to make sense of the world in terms of the frameworks they think they understand, I note that in modern times, evolution is atheist creation narrative, so nothing as really changed in this respect. Humans continue to be constrained by their experience.

 

When it comes to explaining common beliefs in terms of selective advantage, I don't see any way to do this without changing the concept of evolution from scientific explanation into that of metaphysics. How could one falsify the proposed explanations? How could one provide confirmation? I suppose that is why this thread is in the religious section.

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In context with the explanation afterwards, it seems to follow. Perhaps I was too brief.

 

I was talking about the 'shown to have an evolutionary/genetic cause and thus is illusionary' part. thus is illusionary does not follow from shown to have an evolutionary/genetic cause. Free Will isn't magic. Knowing how Free Will works doesn't make it any more illusory than knowing that love isn't Cupid shooting arrows makes love illusory.

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and not a mercury-poisoned pioneer based wild analogy set...

 

That's a decent description of the majority of his posts. I actually thought about that thread upon reading the OP.

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I was talking about the 'shown to have an evolutionary/genetic cause and thus is illusionary' part. thus is illusionary does not follow from shown to have an evolutionary/genetic cause. Free Will isn't magic. Knowing how Free Will works doesn't make it any more illusory than knowing that love isn't Cupid shooting arrows makes love illusory.

 

As I said, I explained it in the text afterward, but now it is clear, that I was too brief for your understanding.

 

If cognition, including the processes that lead to making choices are a product of evolutionary processes then they are determined by our genetic makeup and resultant development. It would follow then that our choices are not free choices at all, rather they are determined and free will is thus illusionary.

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If cognition, including the processes that lead to making choices are a product of evolutionary processes then they are determined by our genetic makeup and resultant development. It would follow then that our choices are not free choices at all, rather they are determined and free will is thus illusionary.

No it doesn't. Determinism is not at odds with free will. In fact, free will depends upon some level of determinism. It doesn't make much sense to speak of someone making a choice when the choice is based on the roll of the dice.

 

Let's just take some elementary thought about what free will is for a moment. Free will is the ability for 'you' to contemplate multiple options and choose one output. For any 'you' to be distinct from 'Bob' or 'Ashley' or 'him' or 'her', there must be some regularity; there must be a pattern in the choices(otherwise the phrase 'out of character' is rather meaningless, no?). In fact, that is exactly what we see in practice. If you spend enough time around someone you can pretty well predict their choices given a set of circumstances.

 

How do we make choices? A basic overview of psychology(and just common sense) reveals that our choices are quite unsurprisingly based upon factors including our beliefs, values, and past experiences. These can be seen as some of the inputs into the decision generating algorithm we call Free Will.

 

The neurons in the brains are classical structures, so QM is really irrelevant. In fact, we have a pretty good idea of how the relevant part of the brain(the neocortex) functions. If you're interested in the functions of the neocortex and how we can use what we know about it to make truly intelligent machines, you should read 'On Intelligence' by Jeff Hawkins(he also has a good lecture called 'Computing Beyond Turing' available on YouTube).

 

So, we can see that Free will:

1)produces a predictable pattern of results

2)requires known inputs

3)functions in a classical rather than quantum computation device

 

That sounds pretty deterministic to me.

 

If you're interested in Free Will and whether it conflicts with determinism, I suggest reading 'Freedom Evolves' by Daniel Dennett.

 

Free Will isn't magic. Knowing how Free Will works doesn't make it any more illusory than knowing that love isn't Cupid shooting arrows makes love illusory. It's time for you to replace your sky hook with a crane.

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No it doesn't. Determinism is not at odds with free will. In fact, free will depends upon some level of determinism. It doesn't make much sense to speak of someone making a choice when the choice is based on the roll of the dice.

 

Let's just take some elementary thought about what free will is for a moment. Free will is the ability for 'you' to contemplate multiple options and choose one output. For any 'you' to be distinct from 'Bob' or 'Ashley' or 'him' or 'her', there must be some regularity; there must be a pattern in the choices(otherwise the phrase 'out of character' is rather meaningless, no?). In fact, that is exactly what we see in practice. If you spend enough time around someone you can pretty well predict their choices given a set of circumstances.

 

How do we make choices? A basic overview of psychology(and just common sense) reveals that our choices are quite unsurprisingly based upon factors including our beliefs, values, and past experiences. These can be seen as some of the inputs into the decision generating algorithm we call Free Will.

 

Are they? What you seem to be arguing is that free will really is determinism, which leads you to the conclusion that free will is deterministic. That's not the view of free will most people hold: a person with free will can consciously make decisions that cannot be predicted despite an infinite amount of knowledge of all prior experiences and values.

 

Certainly there is some regularity to each individual's actions, but in a world of free will, past experiences and beliefs would not be sufficient to predict outcomes.

 

What you're really arguing is that free will doesn't exist, not that it's compatible with determinism.

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That's not the view of free will most people hold: a person with free will can consciously make decisions that cannot be predicted despite an infinite amount of knowledge of all prior experiences and values.
Because most people don't actually think it through to see that their magic free will is meaningless. What you described negates the individuality we observe.

 

Certainly there is some regularity to each individual's actions, but in a world of free will, past experiences and beliefs would not be sufficient to predict outcomes.
Except that they ARE.

 

What you're really arguing is that free will doesn't exist, not that it's compatible with determinism.

 

Not at all. I'm arguing that the free will you think you understand is like love as described by Cupid shooting arrows. Removing the magic doesn't negate the phenomena. You're reading Popper, right?

 

[acr=Problem Situation]PS[/acr]1->[acr= Tentative Theory]TT[/acr]1->[acr=Error Elimination]EE[/acr]1->PS2

 

I'm way past PS1. When I argue Evolution, do you think it is exactly as Darwin described? Theories are tweaked over time and become more and more accurate; lay man's concept of Free Will is the dark ages version.

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For people who want a science based discussion of the subject's question,

we're not in a scientific subfora.

we're in philosophy.

and not a mercury-poisoned pioneer based wild analogy set...
and that^, is his philosophy..

 

learn to accept others' philosophies, as there is no objectively right outtake of life, like in science.

and take lessons from your failures, then let them go.

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No it doesn't. Determinism is not at odds with free will. In fact, free will depends upon some level of determinism. It doesn't make much sense to speak of someone making a choice when the choice is based on the roll of the dice.

 

You seemed to have dodged the argument by attempting to argue that events involving choice can have elements of other causal modes including deterministic and perhaps random factors. However the contingent portion does not require deterministic modes. Determinism is not a necessary or sufficient component of choice. They are independent modes that often work together in complex causal situations. In these situations the outcome is influenced by all modes.

 

If the cause of the process we call choice is deterministic, then it follows that choice is illusionary. We can say this because uniform experience and logic both inform us that deterministic causes always have non-contingent outcomes. Perhaps you can provide clear examples where deterministic causes lead to purposed contingent events. Do you have any examples of this?

 

 

So, we can see that Free will:

1)produces a predictable pattern of results

2)requires known inputs

3)functions in a classical rather than quantum computation device

 

That sounds pretty deterministic to me.

 

I concur with Cap'n Refsmmat in his response. You are clearly arguing that choice is deterministic and thus contingency is illusionary, as I originally stated.

 

 

Free Will isn't magic. Knowing how Free Will works doesn't make it any more illusory than knowing that love isn't Cupid shooting arrows makes love illusory. It's time for you to replace your sky hook with a crane.

 

Your follow on argument that choice, as we have framed it, is like accept Cupid's arrow as the cause of love, lacks support and seems as if it is nothing more than an attempt to poison the well by reframing choice as if it were magic. To accept your argument we would also have to accept that anything we have not identified a source for is magic. This is quite obviously wrong.

 

Now this puts us back to the original post which has a fundamental issue in that the premise that religion may be considered a behavior similar to a genetically programmed instinct falls short because it lacks necessary and sufficient causal explanation. this is because religion involves choice, choice requires cognition, and cognition cannot be reduced to material cause.

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This looks like a merely semantic dispute. ydoaps (as well as I, FWIW) define "free will" to simply mean consciously making choices. If, on the other hand, "free will" is defined as something independent of both determinism and chance, then I would go beyond saying that it doesn't exist and say that the term is meaningless.

 

So, to elaborate my own view, "determinism" and "randomness" are possible descriptions of objective reality, and are a true dichotomy. Either a particular event occurred for a reason, or it did not. "Free will" is a subjective phenomenon that requires no more proof of its existence than the fact that we experience it. Whatever actual mechanism by which it emerges - deterministic or random, materialistic or magic - does nothing to change that.

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we're not in a scientific subfora.

we're in philosophy.

So? I was merely giving a head's up to readers that there was a more science based discussion elsewhere IF they were interested. I wasn't holding people to scientific standards in this thread or berating people for lack of evidence. Good grief, man.

 

 

and that^, is his philosophy..

I've been interacting with Pioneer on this forum and others for years, and I'm just going to trust that I have read more of his posts than you. His posts have some consistent issues that you are clearly unaware of. I don't, however, wish to take his thread completely off track by discussing his style. Let's just agree to disagree since we're working from different understandings and sets of information.

 

 

and take lessons from your failures, then let them go.

Uh huh. Thanks for your guidance there, Obi-wan.

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Because most people don't actually think it through to see that their magic free will is meaningless. What you described negates the individuality we observe.

No, not necessarily. Free will demands that I be capable of making decisions unpredictable through prior cause, not that I do so all the time.

 

Except that they ARE.

So then, you're saying that free will, as defined by many people, doesn't exist. If free will requires that outcomes be unpredictable, but they are not, then free will doesn't exist.

 

Do note the loophole I provided above, though.

 

I'm way past PS1. When I argue Evolution, do you think it is exactly as Darwin described? Theories are tweaked over time and become more and more accurate; lay man's concept of Free Will is the dark ages version.

 

So... the lay man's concept cannot be true, yes? That's what you're arguing?

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So? I was merely giving a head's up to readers that there was a more science based discussion elsewhere IF they were interested. I wasn't holding people to scientific standards in this thread or berating people for lack of evidence. Good grief, man.

you wouldn't tell them there was a science-based argument elsewhere unless you thought that's how this one should be and how it's not..or are you having a certain number of views for your baby thread in mind to be reached?

 

 

 

I've been interacting with Pioneer on this forum and others for years, and I'm just going to trust that I have read more of his posts than you. His posts have some consistent issues that you are clearly unaware of. I don't, however, wish to take his thread completely off track by discussing his style. Let's just agree to disagree since we're working from different understandings and sets of information.

THAT, is the definition of an ad hominum.:D

i don't care(neither does anybody, including you supposedly) about the debater's other views and other said false arguments, discuss only the present argument here, not the arguer nor his previous arguments.

 

 

Uh huh. Thanks for your guidance there, Obi-wan.

no problem luke.

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For people who want [MY better version which is actually scientific although this is the philosophy section] of the subject's question, and not a mercury-poisoned pioneer based wild analogy set...

 

Read here: [pop up blocked]

 

How do you figure?

 

hmm..how do i figure...

let's consult (for me it's return to)wiki, shall we?

Ad hominem circumstantial

 

Ad hominem circumstantial points out that someone is in circumstances such that he is disposed to take a particular position. Ad hominem circumstantial constitutes an attack on the bias of a source. This is fallacious because a disposition to make a certain argument does not make the argument false; this overlaps with the genetic fallacy (an argument that a claim is incorrect due to its source).

 

Where the source taking a position seeks to convince us by a claim of authority, or personal observation, observation of their circumstances may reduce the evidentiary weight of the claims, sometimes to zero.[4]

i chose this one although the others worked fine too.

 

you can't dismiss(or call for the dismissal of) a person's current argument because of his previous arguments, simple as that.

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no, but you can assess the liklihood of his making a useful, or even coherent contribution. also, by the miracle of literacy, we can read and analyse pioneers post and determine, yep, he's displaying his usual standard of post.

Edited by insane_alien
forgot an s in a crucial place. asses could be taken out of context.
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No, not necessarily. Free will demands that I be capable of making decisions unpredictable through prior cause, not that I do so all the time.

 

Right, decisions involve both contingency and purpose. Determinism is fixed and random chance cannot have purpose. It is not enough to claim free will is a product of some combination of these other modes. Claims are cheap.

 

So then, you're saying that free will, as defined by many people, doesn't exist. If free will requires that outcomes be unpredictable, but they are not, then free will doesn't exist.

 

Do note the loophole I provided above, though.

 

Alternate definitions do not offer solutions, they are cheap debate tricks.

 

So... the lay man's concept cannot be true, yes? That's what you're arguing?

 

It seems so, perhaps because they are having difficulty with a proper argument.

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No, not necessarily. Free will demands that I be capable of making decisions unpredictable through prior cause, not that I do so all the time.

 

What does "capable" mean here? If it is predictable through prior cause, it is deterministic. If it is not and there is no particular reason this "capability" activates in one way over another, then it is random.

 

I should bring up statistical determinism, which resembles that supposed requirement and is in fact how the universe appears to operate. If you flip a 1 billion coins, any combination of heads and tails is technically possible, though you have an extremely high confidence that it will be very close to 50% heads and 50% tails. A decision engine based on statistical determinism could definitely function coherently, but would have the ability to surprise.

 

I'm not sure how that fits in this discussion except perhaps to show a way in which a choice might be based on "you" without being strictly deterministic, contrary to ydoaps' initial claim. I don't believe that randomness is incompatible with free will or with individuality.

 

So then, you're saying that free will, as defined by many people, doesn't exist.

 

I think he's saying - as would I - that the common definition of free will is not even coherent. It is an attempt to describe a subjective phenomenon (conscious choice) in terms of objective categories. You could say there there is nothing that exists that corresponds with that "definition," which is a (perhaps pedantic) way of getting around assigning a truth value to a meaningless statement while still getting the point across.


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Consecutive posts merged
Right, decisions involve both contingency and purpose.

 

How about you define "contingency" and "purpose" in the context of this discussion? Right now I'm not following you.

 

Alternate definitions do not offer solutions, they are cheap debate tricks.

 

This isn't a debate. Are you trying to prove the statement "free will doesn't exist?"

Edited by Sisyphus
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The onset of the religious experience added subjective awareness, beyond the cause and effect associated with prehuman traditions. The pre-humans were connected to a long but slow process of change. With the rise of the subjectivities of religion, this all change allowing civilization to appear.

 

One possible way to compare the change in humanity, may be to compare a small child who has a lot of active imagination, to child who reacts in a purely sensory way. The imaginary child can make up a game using only a string. The sensory child needs a more specific toy with enough sensory appeal to push his attention button. The latter is more in touch with sensory reality and specific personal tradition, while the former is more in touch with possibilities that do not directly equate in a sensory way.

 

The imaginary friend of a small child demonstrates how the human brain can generate interactive simulation. This is socially taboo after a certain age and the child will be conditioned to repress the effect, both by science and modern religion. But consider a time, when this imaginary effect was just beginning to occur. This could cause individuals to detach from conservative evolutionary traditions still practiced by most pre-humans.

 

The old group of pre-humans is picking off fleas based on sensory stimulation using the same conservative hand-eye coordination skills that evolved over thousands of years, all the way back to ape ancestors. The new imaginative human is messing up the simple task, because he is wondering how god is able to fit into such a small living thing. Biology appears in embryonic form.

 

The tools needed for the change into civilization is part subjective and part objective. With objective we have science, math and engineering. With the subjective we have philosophy, religion, politics, cultural traditions such as festivals, art, music, dance, marketing, advertising, propaganda, spin, opinion, etc. Once these subjectivities coordinate, via a central hub, large groups of humans begin to coexist.

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