The Human Brain Evolved to Believe in Gods

By Bridget Alex | October 15, 2018 2:00 pm
Michelangelo’s depiction of God in the Sistine Chapel (Credit: Creative Commons)

My favorite stock image of God, from Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel (Credit: Creative Commons)

It’s natural to believe in the supernatural. Consider how many people worldwide belong to a religion: nearly 6 billion, or 84 percent of the global population, and these figures are expected to rise in the coming decades. In the U.S., surveys show 90 percent of adults believe in some higher power, spiritual force or God with a capital G. Even self-proclaimed atheists have supernatural leanings. The same study found all atheists reject God, but one-in-five accept higher powers or spiritual forces.

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In short, humans are a believing bunch. And evolutionary anthropologists say that’s no miracle. The origins and ubiquity of religious beliefs can be explained by evolutionary theory.

So how does evolution explain religion?

Leading scholars propose a two-phase hypothesis (here, here): First, our ancestors evolved certain mental abilities, useful for survival and reproduction, which predisposed them to religious beliefs. Then, from the multitude of beliefs that emerged, particular religions spread and persisted because their deities and rituals promoted cooperation among practitioners.

In my next post, I’ll discuss phase two. Here, let’s review evidence for phase one, the idea that religion is an accidental by-product of cognitive capacities, evolved for other reasons.

Psychological Prerequisites for Religion

Many mental ingredients are necessary for religion as-we-know-it. But scholars emphasize three tendencies in particular, which are pronounced in humans, but minimally expressed in other species: We seek patterns, infer intentions and learn by imitation.

These are cognitive adaptations that helped our ancestors survive. For example, it’s obviously useful to notice paw prints (a pattern) laid by a lion planning to eat you (an intention), and to deter the predator with tactics others have successfully used (imitation, at least before you could read how-to online). However, people overextend these tendencies. We also find patterns in randomness — like reading tea leaves — ascribe intentions to nonexistent beings — like blaming disasters on angry deities — and copy others even when it’s costly — like fasting and sacrifice. In this way adaptive mental abilities could have led to religious beliefs.

A grilled cheese bearing an image said to look like the Virgin Mary sold for $28,000 on eBay in 2004 (Credit: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/4034787.stm)

A grilled cheese sandwich with an image resembling the Virgin Mary sold for $28,000 on eBay in 2004 (Credit: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/4034787.stm)

The first prerequisite, pattern seeking, has obvious benefits for finding food, avoiding predators, predicting weather, etc. We constantly observe the world, trying to derive cause-and-effect relationships. And we demonstrably overdo it: wearing lucky socks to every football game, telling fortunes from palm lines, and seeing the Virgin Mary on a grilled cheese.

The next prereq, inferring intentions, is known to psychologists as Theory of Mind (ToM), the understanding that others have beliefs, desires and goals, influencing their actions. ToM allows us to have sophisticated social relationships and to predict how others will behave. You couldn’t “put yourself in someone else’s shoes” without it.

Our closest primate relative, chimpanzees show some degree of ToM. Researchers have tested this by concealing food in plain view of some chimps, but out of sight of others. Then, the scientists observed if informed apes took advantage of their peer’s ignorance to nab more snacks. Based on these experiments, chimps likely understand that others can be informed or uninformed about facts, like the location of food. But, it’s debated if apes grasp that others can be misinformed, or hold false beliefs.

triangles

Subjects interpreted moving shapes as goal-driven characters (Credit: Heider and Simmel; The American Journal of Psychology Volume 45, April 1944)

Humans, on the other hand, show extreme ToM, ascribing minds to inanimate or imagined things. A classic psychology experiment showed people even do this for geometric shapes. In the study, college students interpreted a circle and two triangles moving about a screen as goal-driven, emotion-ridden characters (for a more recent version, see here). In real life, people apply ToM to forces of nature, ancestor spirits and invisible gods. And they seem to think about these supernatural actors the same way they conceive of fellow humans: fMRI studies have found ToM-related regions of the brain activate when people hear statements about God’s emotions and involvement in worldly affairs.

Chimpanzees skip unnecessary steps to get a treat, whereas human children will repeat every step adults showed them (Credit:

A 2005 study showed chimpanzees skip unnecessary steps to get a treat, whereas human children repeat every step adults showed them (Credit: Horner and Whiten; Animal Cognition Volume 8, 2005)

Finally, our natural tendency to over-imitate predisposes us to adopt religious practices. Rather than relying on experience and trial-and-error, humans learn most behaviors and skills from other people. Our success depends on so much cultural knowledge, accumulated over many generations, that figuring things out alone is impossible. Moreover, some of this knowledge contradicts what you would assume from personal observations or intuition. For instance, many cultures have developed methods to make toxic plants edible (like Aboriginal Australians processing poisonous seeds of cycad plants). They’ve passed on these ritualized techniques, without necessarily understanding why the complicated, time-consuming steps are needed. But skipping seemingly unnecessary steps would lead to gradual poisoning. Thus, copying others, even when the reasons are unapparent, can benefit survival. This mentality gets extended to religious practices; if prestigious members of your community sacrificed deer every solstice, you probably would too.

Our propensity to over-imitate is well demonstrated by experiments comparing the problem-solving strategies of human kids and chimps. Researchers performed a series of unnecessary steps to release a prize from a box with a trap door. Kids diligently repeated every step, whereas chimps skipped to the final one, the only action required to get the reward.

When watching the experiments, I assume the chimps were thinking, “Why are these stupid Homo sapiens wasting their time?” And by assuming that, here I am, exemplifying extreme ToM, how prone we are to infer the thoughts of others.

Evolved features of our brains, such as Theory of Mind and over-imitation, likely caused the emergence of religions in human societies. It doesn’t take supernatural beings to explain why so many people believe in them — just natural evolutionary processes.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, Mind & Brain, Top Posts
MORE ABOUT: evolution, religion
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  • FirstAmongEquals

    The percentage of non believers is increasing in the US and in many countries all over the world.

    • radicalrepublican

      They evolved that way.

    • Graeme Harrison

      I too thought that the projections of believers for each religion missed the fact that over the past half-century, there has been a huge shift in the developed world from ‘believers’ to ‘cultural affiliation’. So many people may tick the box as being ‘associated’ with the religion of their parents, but when surveyed confirm they hold almost none of the prerequisite beliefs that are part of that faith, such as virgin births, resurrection, heaven/hell, stigmata, sacred texts being actually written by deities, through to holy underwear or flying carpets. This is reflected in their infrequent attendance at relevant places of worship (eg returning for weddings, baptisms, funerals and perhaps major holidays, like Easter or Eid).

      • radicalrepublican

        What happened to evolution then? I thought we evolved to be religious. Now we are un-evolving to be religious, or evolving to be un-religious. This evolution thing is tricky, lurching hither and thither.

        • Red Wine Please

          We didn’t lose it. it’s still in play.
          We’ve turned our religious attentions to sports figures, entertainers, highly successful entrepreneurs, scientists (e.g. pro/anti GW), and politicians (e.g. Trump or Hillary rally).
          Their every word is repeated as gospel and their actions as heroic and unquestionable.

          • radicalrepublican

            Haha! Feeling a little cynical. Me too.

          • jonathanpulliam

            Possibly if you are, like your stable genius Benedict Donald President, morbidly addicted to the behavior of marinating your ill-informed pea-brain in copious amounts of aspartame, whose metabolic by-products include wood alcohol and formaldehyde known to cause mental confusion your cynicism has a chemical-induced component, homie. Sad.

          • radicalrepublican

            You are a clever one: “Benedict Donald”, “pea-brain”, “homie”.
            You have a future in writing for sure. If I were you I would parlay my skills into a career with the KKK, perhaps editing their newsletter?

          • Ligaya Barlow

            That has nothing to do with belief in the supernatural sorry.

          • jonathanpulliam

            Yes it most certainly does as branding experts like Warren Buffet have posited for decades.

      • 🌠 Carlin 🌠

        I’ve observed many instances where folks don’t believe in anything supernatural, yet still attend services for merely the networking and socializing benefits. Totally understandable.

      • jonathanpulliam

        That’s some mighty high thread-count BS there, Pilgrim.

    • Rich Phonology

      Many of these same people believe we are living in a simulated universe and so it goes.

      • FirstAmongEquals

        Yes, you make up these things you believe. It’s quite childish, Richie boy.

        • radicalrepublican

          Projection is a true psychological phenomenon.

          • Rich Phonology

            He’s the most inane troll ever – he needs a better way to protest too much – it belies his actual beliefs.

          • FirstAmongEquals

            That doesn’t make it real at all. Self delusion is destructive.

        • Rich Phonology

          Just for that I’m hitting delete! ha ha ha

    • jxxx mxxx

      I disagree. A lot of my self-proclaimed “non-religious” friends falsely believe organic foods are better and healthier that just plain food and that GMOs are in fact inherently evil.

      Instead of church on sundays, they go to Whole Foods on Wednesdays (where they see their equally pious friends)

      This is not so diff from pagan animism: Animism (from Latin anima, “breath, spirit, life”) is the religious belief that objects, places and creatures all possess a distinct spiritual essence. Potentially, animism perceives all things—animals, plants, rocks, rivers, weather systems, human handiwork and perhaps even words—as animated and alive.

      • 🌠 Carlin 🌠

        Well, 2 of those are definitely animated. LoL at the rest though.

      • FirstAmongEquals

        Those are rarely the same crowds.

  • radicalrepublican

    I love these articles that purport to explain the inexplicable. Nobody, least of all this author, understands human consciousness, and reducing psychic phenomena to “evolutionary forces” really explains nothing, since he assumes in the first place that evolution explains all phenomena. Why did I just type this paragraph? Because I evolved to do so. Oh…..

    • traeh

      The author’s belief seems to be that everything is matter, nothing is non-material, religion is BS, everything can be explained by material processes. Thus people, strictly speaking, do not have minds or souls. What they have is the skull’s grey matter that creates an illusion of a non-physical entity called “consciousness,” though we don’t yet quite know how. But consciousness, in that view, is really just a non-existent ghost, an old superstition, circulating for evolutionary reasons in the bio-machine of the body. Perhaps the best explanation for such materialist theories of consciousness is that our world is tragically short of love. Love, when experienced with sufficient strength and intensity, is impossible for the experiencer reasonably to reduce to matter. The experiencer fortunate enough to love fully enough, discovers directly the meaning of the statement that “God is love.” Love is irreducibly a non-physical or spiritual reality, but one can only judge that statement adequately if one has a sufficiently concentrated experiential basis on which to make the judgement.

      • radicalrepublican

        Agreed. The materialist explanation eliminates free will. If the author wants to argue this point I would simply say to him that my brain must have evolved to believe that I have a free will and there is nothing he can do to change my mind, so why is he trying to do so?

        • traeh

          If I understand and accept his view of things, I guess I must conclude that reasons are not what lead him to try to change your mind. Instead, biological causes operative within his brain and body make him try to change your mind. His article is not based on truth or reason, but on electro-chemical processes. But I guess he might believe in mind as an “emergent property” of matter, and try to conjure up consciousness and free will that way, though to me that seems equivalent to the old scientific view that certain kinds of insects came from mud. Later it was realized that life comes only from other life, not from dead mud. Likewise, consciousness cannot be derived from matter. The brain does not cause consciousness any more than a radio produces the music one hears emanating from it. Break the radio, and you won’t hear the music, but that doesn’t change the fact that the music was not created by the radio. Some musicians in another place, perhaps at another time, produced it. Damage the brain, and aspects of consciousness disappear to ordinary observers. That does not mean the brain produces consciousness. That is the fallacy of confusing conditions with causes. If the floor supporting me suddenly gives way, I will disappear from view. Does that mean the floor created me? No, it means the floor was a condition of my presence in the room I’m in.

          • radicalrepublican

            You’ve given me analogies and a perspective that I had not considered. I have to think about that!
            I do agree that consciousness is not reducible to purely electro-chemical processes and genetics. We have a free will and can elect to change ourselves and our thinking through thought itself. We are not reducible to purely physical, deterministic processes.

          • FirstAmongEquals

            Wrong, wrong and wrong. See my comment above.

        • Stephen Ede

          The Materialist explanation doesn’t eliminate the possibility of free will.
          Your argument is just a variant of that old chestnut that you can’t be moral if you don’t believe in god.

          • radicalrepublican

            No, my argument has nothing to do with belief in God. My argument is that if the brain is a deterministic organ, determined to think a certain way based on pure genetic and physico-chemical processes, then there is no free will.

          • Stephen Ede

            The author didn’t say the brain was a deterministic organ.
            He said that it meant we had biases in how we approached things.
            That’s not the same thing as saying humans are purely deterministic.

            You are making up a strawman, putting the authors name tag on it and then defeating it in argument and saying “see, I’ve proved the Author is wrong/silly”.

          • radicalrepublican

            Well fair enough, but I was merely extrapolating his arguments to their logical conclusions.

          • Mike55_Mahoney

            Are they biases? How do we know right from wrong in the moral sense? How is a choice to pick a moral one and not the other at one time and reverse that choice at another time and be fully aware of the difference a biological construct?

          • jonathanpulliam

            You are wasting time arguing with a person who conceals:

            1.) His identity, as would a hooded Klansman.
            2.) His comment history.

            As you yourself noted, his argument is specious.

            Use your time wisely for trump’s space force has designs on Uranus

          • radicalrepublican

            Nonsequiturs are your forte.
            (Use you momma’s dictionary)

          • FirstAmongEquals

            Correct. There is no free will, even though we think we do. If everything is exactly the same, you will make the same decision as last time. Everything you know, hear, see, read and experience get mixed into a determination. Same input exactly results in same decision.

          • jonathanpulliam

            A lot of what the brain does, actually, is to filter OUT stimuli that would become burdensome in some fashion. There is more measurable electrical activity during REM sleep than during waking hours and dreaming itself is believed to have evolved as a “rehearsal mechanism” so that that early hominids could have some response if attacked while sleeping.

          • radicalrepublican

            Your brain is one piece of evidence that cannabis is damaging to the adolescent brain. Get a few of your friends together and we could string this into a “study”.

          • Chaz d

            Stephen: The argument is NOT that you can’t be moral if you don’t believe in god. The argument is that you cannot have objective morality if god does not exist. Big difference.

      • Mike55_Mahoney

        IOW, what we don’t know we know isn’t because there is a God. But we don’t know how we don’t know it. We just do because “belief”. Stunning.

      • jonathanpulliam

        This comment is nuts. Good for you. The love shortage. Perfect.

  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/EquivPrinFail.pdf Uncle Al

    It’s natural to believe in the supernatural.” It is profoundly ignorant, downright stupid, and lethally counterproductive to believe that something violating all observation and forever silent gives a rat’s patootie about less than a dust mote in an ever so large universe, much less you yourself. Consider all the altar boys whose perspectives have been widened by a consecrated priest.

    Christians worship a zombie. Muslims fancy themselves the Borg with serrated knives, Hiindus cherish cow excrement. Forever starving Buddhists revere a fat boy. Jewish heads simultaneously contain Darwinian Capitalism and Scientific Socialism.

    Or, adopt the Mormon perspective that whatever resurrected family rules the Earth finds the likes of Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao whatever, Pol Pot, the Clinton Foundation…Ocasio-Cortez, Mad Maxine Waters, upChuck Schumer, Diane Feinkenstein, Nancy Gibberish Pelosi… amusing.

    • nonlin.org

      Cheer up. Someone cares for you even if you’re not worth it.

    • jxxx mxxx

      I am religious (culturally christian but now a deist) and I agree with you 100%

      A lot of my self-proclaimed “non-religious” friends, who mock my religiosity, agree with you too…. but then they falsely believe organic whack foods are better and healthier that just plain food and that GMOs are in fact inherently evil, despite overwhelming consensus that GMOs are safe and organic whacko food is a con

      Then instead of church on sundays, they go to Whole Foods on Wednesdays (where they see their equally pious friends)

      Europeans overwhelmingly claim themselves secular but eat organic foods religiously and ban US GMO corn.

      Many West coasters are “anti-vaxxers”. People are not as secular/rational as they believe

      • FirstAmongEquals

        Those are not alternate religions, they are symptoms of ignorance, some of it willful ignorance. Organic food is just food, although better than highly processed food-like substances.GMO is no different than farmer altered crops or livestock. Some genetically modified foods are wrong, just like some regular food can be poisonous to some people in some concentrations. Most GMO are beneficial, in my view.

        • jxxx mxxx

          Organic Quack Food believers think there is magic power in their food or alternately that their is evil power in regular food. It is a religion.

          And the fact that they commune together at Whole Foods if further proof.

          And the fact that they think they know what animals think/feel when they are housed in factory farms vs organic farms is a form of anthropomorphism.

          In Europe, if you go to the main square of many cities, you see statues appealing to god to save us from the innate evil of man (usually built after a plague or war). Organic food beliefs are the same thing.

        • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/EquivPrinFail.pdf Uncle Al

          “symptoms of ignorance, some of it willful ignorance.” Wine into blood, starch into flesh. If your snake handler serves club soda rather than wine, does Christ get aplastic anemia?

          Satmar Hasidic Jews belveve that return of the (circumcised) Savior cannot proceed until Israel is destroyed. They’re cute when they are young.

          “Organic” occupies the same FDA gilded palanquin as “hypoallergenic” – a toilet seat.

          • jonathanpulliam

            I’m sure Satmar Hasidic Jews must be tickled pink that you’ve taken it upon yourself to relate for the world the tenets of their faith. I’ll bet your DNA is all screwed up like spaghetti-o’s

      • radicalrepublican

        GK Chesterton warned us that those who disbelieve in God will believe in just about anything. The irrationality of secular Man drives me to daily Mass, where I get my dose of sanity.

    • micahnewman

      The article doesn’t say it isn’t ignorant, downright stupid, and all the rest. It says it’s natural. You’re committing the naturalistic fallacy by equating “natural” with “(morally) good”. The point of the article is simply that religion emerged for naturalistically-explicable reasons. That means, whatever someone’s antipathy toward religion may be, it’s no more rational than religion itself to think of religion as some kind of alien invading force that took over people’s minds. It comes from common human characteristics that themselves evolved for a reason. You and I that understand this are basically freaks, from an evolutionary perspective.

    • jonathanpulliam

      You are a degenerate. We knew that. A high-function degenerate, but a degenerate nonetheless. Sad, as your hero Trummpler would say.

  • nonlin.org

    “Evolution” explains everything, but the real question is “can religion explain evolution? Actually, very nicely.

    • FirstAmongEquals

      Religion has never explained anything in the real world except people trying to control other people.

      • nonlin.org

        “Nothing in Evolution Makes Sense Except in the Light of Religion” – someone smarter than Theodosius Dobzhansky

        • FirstAmongEquals

          Completely asinine and childish bullshit. Grow up.

          • radicalrepublican

            Ad hominems are fun but not arguments. Get back to us when you can make logical arguments.

          • FirstAmongEquals

            Look up the definition of ad hominem. I talked about your words, not your person.You show those defects all by yourself.

          • radicalrepublican

            No, your words were addressed to another post, not mine.
            Calling his post “asinine and childish” and then asking him to “grow up” is ad hominem any way you look at it.

      • radicalrepublican

        Science has never explained anything in the “real world” either. Please do explain quantum realities for us, the world awaits your genius.

        • FirstAmongEquals

          Your statement is completely wrong. Go read some science textbooks which explains most things in the real world of physics, chemistry, biology and evolution as well as geology, astronomy, thermodynamics, QCD, etc., etc. You should not remain so willfully ignorant.

          • radicalrepublican

            Already been there and done that, but thanks.
            Go study quantum physics and get back to me. Philosophically, science explains nothing. If you understood what science is, you would understand this statement. For example, no one can explain why gravity exists. No one can explain why matter exists. You know NOTHING.

          • FirstAmongEquals

            Neither can religion. Oh wait…what does religion and superstition explain? Absolutely nothing. Valid resolution score: science – 639568596849845845, religion and superstition – 0.

          • radicalrepublican

            Science is wonderful. My life was a science-based endeavor. It does great things. But it is the wrong tool to explain ultimate questions. It describes phenomena and quantifies phenomena but it cannot answer questions of meaning or purpose. It cannot even explain its own experiments! Quantum entanglements defy explanation; gravity defies explanation, etc. You need to be a philosopher as well as a scientist.
            Everybody sees the same data, but when it comes to interpreting ultimate realities, there is no single interpretation. “Love” is not a scientific question and you should not use science to “explain” it. You will try though because you just have to…..

  • Ligaya Barlow

    The notion that only material causality is valid flies in the face of quantum physics sorry.

    • radicalrepublican

      Just so! Quantum physics means that we understand almost nothing. We inhabit an enchanted universe but our eyes are blinded to the enchantment. I fell for it in college and medical school but I was cured slowly as the realization hit me that teleological considerations make the whole abiogenesis/self-creating and “evolving” organisms theory a bunch of baloney.

      • jonathanpulliam

        Quantum physics does NOT mean we understand almost nothing. It means we have to reconcile that some premises will be “testable/verifiable/replicable” in Einstein space-time and some will not. We’ll be “flying on instruments”, to use a airplane analogy.

        • radicalrepublican

          Utilizing and understanding are very separate phenomena. I never said that quantum realities would not be utilized. Nobody understands Libtards, but that did not stop Hitler from utilizing your kind for his purposes.

  • Ligaya Barlow

    If we are evolved to be spiritual, then isn’t atheism a devolutionary regression of the species?

    • 🌠 Carlin 🌠

      Your question erroneously assumes that evolution has an end goal.

  • FredO

    Hmmm–so the vast majority of people have a false belief because evolution by natural selection put it there.

    So why should we accept any other beliefs we have as true ?

    • radicalrepublican

      Perfect! Concise and trenchant.

  • FredO

    Also, can any of the evolutionary behaviorists propose any test of their hypotheses ? Can they identify the genes selected for that give rise to religious belief ? Can they even propose a plausible mechanism how these genes might work ?

    I didn’t think so…..

    • radicalrepublican

      They know nothing but pretend to know everything. The mind cannot be reduced to the sum of its parts. Evolutionary psychology is garbage and not worthy of the name “Science”.

      • OWilson

        There are the hard sciences, and the soft sciences.

        Physicists, chemists, vs the plethora of “ologists”

        The former requires rigorous experimental and demonstrable proofs, while the latter depends on primarily on the latest consensus!

        Religion is a consensus. :)

        • radicalrepublican

          Oh I agree about everything you said. Religion too, although there are sacred texts, for whatever weight you choose to give them…..

          • OWilson

            Religions (shared beliefs) played a big part in civilization. They appropriated enough natural human experience (do unto others, thou shalt not etc) to allow large populations to live together without stealing goods, wives, and even manservants from each other! :)

            In this scientific age, we have largely tossed out, religious beliefs, we have also tossed out the baby with the bathwater, and have yet to find a replacement philosophy, that can hold a society together.

            Today, there is no absolute right or wrong, morality is what makes you feel good, and you can justify taking away another’s goods, if you believe it serves your own particular “higher purpose”! :)

          • radicalrepublican

            I have yet to be proffered a rational explanation for fashioning a morality without God. Many atheists have argue with me about this, but ultimately, an ethical system without God is just one man’s opinion, and devolves into “might makes right”.

          • OWilson

            Government is the new religion, including it’s priests, various factions, denominations protest -ants and reformers.

            But, there is still a yearning for religious approval and moral acceptance, demanding gay marriage be accepted by the church and third world deference to the Pope for example. The churches, of course, if they are to stay viable, will always bow to the consensus.

            The new religious wars are between Fundamentalists, Marxists and Capitalist.

            Who has the answer? :)

          • jonathanpulliam

            Your entire premise, starting with your first sentence, is false. Your observational skill-set is tragically deficient, yo.

          • KonZill

            And an ethical system with god. still boils down to one man’s opinion vs antoher, and might makes right. If all religious people agreed with eachother we wouldn’t have so many different religions, each divided into multiple sects.

          • radicalrepublican

            It’s true that religion per se does not resolve the issue. But God does resolve the issue. He is like the Supreme Court: moral law is what He says it is. It doesn’t matter what you or I think, His word is final. And in our hearts we can perceive that some things are just morally wrong, period, the end. There is much to dispute, but that doesn’t change that there is a Truth “out there”. Our responsibility is to seek it.

          • KonZill

            Which god would that be? Out of all the gods that humans have invented, how are you working out which one eixists and what he, she or it expets of humans?

            The heart is a muscle that pumps blood, it is not capable of perceiving anything. Looking at the world it is very clear to me that we don’t all agree on moral issues. Heck, we don’t even agree on which questions are moral questions. If we did we wouldn’t spend so much time arguing about it.

          • radicalrepublican

            You would agree about many things. Is rape morally wrong? How do you know? Hitler? Morally wrong? I could go on but do you acknowledge that there are some things “just wrong”? The mass shooting in Vegas?

          • KonZill

            Weather you and I happen to agree on some moral judgement or not is irrelvant here. As just because we both agree it does not follow that everyone agrees. I agree that the holocaust was wrong and evil, what about the many similar events described in the Book of Exodus. If the story is to be belived the Isralites under Moses waged campaigns of genoside against the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites.

          • radicalrepublican

            Ok, so we agree on some cases as being morally wrong. You proceed to find the story of the Hittites etc. to be morally wrong. Good! So what you believe is that murder is morally wrong! Agreed. And we know that because it is true, not because we give assent to it, but because there is TRUTH that exists independently of our OPINIONS! Now we are getting to the truth of the situation, that morality exists independently of man’s beliefs.
            It exists only because there is Moral Truth that transcends our beliefs. That moral truth is God’s truth, not your truth or my truth. To rape women and children in war is morally wrong EVEN IF GENGHIS KHAN says it is good.

          • KonZill

            Humans are a social species. we will find murder morlally wrong because we evolved to live in groups and condoning murder, at least withnin the group is not condusive to group survival. Altruism emerges in social species for the same reason, it is good for group survival. Thiis has noting to do with the existance of any gods.

          • radicalrepublican

            I am not inventing a god. I am saying that there is God. Your job is to seek His truth. Not everyone discovers gold or oil, but gold and oil do exist. Not everyone believes in calculus because they cannot “do” it, but calculus goes on being true regardless. You might disbelieve in gravity, but that won’t help you in a dive off a cliff.

          • KonZill

            I have seen evidence of gold, oil and calculus. I have not seen any evidene that any gods exist. When I see evidence that some god exists I’ll reavaluate my opinions.

          • radicalrepublican

            Calculus? You can prove calculus to someone who cannot do math?! Good luck with that.
            Those who have seen or experienced miracles cannot prove them to you any more than you can prove calculus to a non-mathematician. 2+2= 4 is not provably true to one who denies it.
            I know of many “proven” miracles, but you would dismiss the evidence out of hand. So why bother ? I know how hard it is to believe, I was once an atheist, but I got better when I looked for truth. You can’t find what you reject out of hand.
            Google “Gutierrez healed of blindness in Phoenix AZ through intercession of St. Charbel”.
            It was in the secular press. I happen to be an eye surgeon and know her condition etc. I know she had a miracle but you will not because you are not familiar with her disease.
            See? It’s all about evidence and perception of evidence.
            You have to LOOK. Seek! God gives evidence for those who seek.

          • jonathanpulliam

            This is absurd drivel. I should counsel that if this is all you’ve got, you should just call it quits.

        • jonathanpulliam

          Your comments remind one of phrenology.

          • OWilson

            Multiple trolling of dead threads, after all the adults have left, is a cheap and intellectually bankrupt way to get all the last insults and name calling in.

            (So transparent, even our pal Mikey, stopped doing it out of shame!)

            Lol

          • Mike Richardson

            (V)

      • jonathanpulliam

        You need to bone up on your Andrea Dworkin. Famously noted the inherent invasiveness of the sex act itself has accompanying analogues in human behaviors. The differences in hormones/ pheromone receptors and the still poorly understood role of circadian cycles are assuredly relevant and Ms. Dworkin has the courage, unlike you, to posit her ideas in public under the full scrutiny of the marketplace.

        • radicalrepublican

          If Andrea Dworkin is your idea of an intellectual, then I am confident that you are not worth engaging. Was her insanity ever treated? She was a few tubes of Vagisil shy of a date with a man.

    • jonathanpulliam

      The mechanism could be mutagenic based on exposure to cosmic radiation. Or it might be on account of witchcraft or some random Trummpler space-force covefery.

  • StanChaz

    Geeeez, if that’s the case, how did those damn atheists “evolve”- myself included?
    Did they spring full-born from the head of mighty Zeus?
    Or an alien invasion ‘seeding” perhaps, ala Scientology? – an oxymoron label indeed.
    Species evolve, cultures and belief systems rise and fall.
    Witness how we’ve fallen with Trump for example.
    On second thought, he does look like a big de-volving me-know-words-grunt-grunt-grunt orange baboon, as per Bill Maher.
    As for religion itself in general evolving, so to speak:
    heck it’s going backwards instead, with increasing violence, hate and bitter divisions.
    that tear us apart instead of bringing us together.

  • okiejoe

    I think at least half of those polled lied to the poll taker. On religion many people won’t admit what they truly feel.

  • jonathanpulliam

    I’m curious to learn more about how plants have evolved ability to communicate underground via molds. I’d like to understand what a networked entity’s sense of self is derived from, and if it could somehow be informed to some purpose. I love articles like this. I wish it went on for more pages, frankly. Two thumbs’s up.

  • jonathanpulliam

    We’ve carbon-dated weapons and tools to 2.5 million years.
    Only comparatively recently, just in the past 100 years have we, humankind, begun, in earnest abandon, to heedlessly tamper with and degrade our gene pool with a host of life prolonging medical miracles which then allow traits that would have been selected out to instead load the gene pool with deleterious genes. Kismet.

    • radicalrepublican

      Eugenics does not work because of recurrent mutations.

  • jonathanpulliam

    Why do you suppose it is painful for humans to lie. It causes measurable discomfort. That’s been of interest to CIA for use in their counter-intelligence work. They study vids of corporate CEO-speaks at corporate quarterly announcements for listed concerns to measure duplititous intent.

  • Galen Flynn

    Did you really just write an entire article on consciousness without using the word consciousness? Amazing
    Julian Jaynes spent 30 years at Princeton and wrote the preeminent book on consciousness called, “The Origin Of Consciousness In The Breakdown Of The Bicameral Mind”. Even psychologists will mention the father of psychology when writing on his works. Why not mention Julian Jaynes when speaking of his work? He is the father of consciousness definition and research

  • KonZill

    A self described atheist who believes in a higher power or spiritual force, does not understand what the word atheist means. Someone who belives in a higher power is at best a deist, while someone who belives in a spiritual force could be a deist or some kind of pantheist. What they are not is an atheist.

  • Erik Bosma

    I go with Freud and his Totem and Taboo on this one.

  • Sean

    Proto-sanitation behaviors where often in religion. Lot of times religion could be fitness tests like birds go through for mates. Isolationism from outside groups, even extreme hostility could be evolved to try to create a barrier towards diseases. However open systems spread ideas, spread resources, allows greater access to weapons, etc..etc.. I tend to consider Florence Nightingale as the start of the Open World system, which in under 200 years dominates the earth now militarily and economically. One can see this in expressions without facts that politicians make, by such comments as illegal immigrants may spread diseases. Closed system evolution.. wither the statement is true or not doesn’t mean it doesn’t form some sort of barrier effect. :-p

  • Bruce Lee Livingston

    ToM looks for an agent with dangerous intentions in one’s environment and leads groups to belief in aliens, ghosts, conspiracy theories as well as religion. In no way does it mean that we have an evolutionary preference towards religion. Religions are contingent and social constructs often associated with the patriarchal controllers of societies. We have also evolved to have very scientific minds, which can lead us past religion to investigate material causation and create our own democratic ethics not dictated by jaded priests and dated myths.

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