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Posted: 16 January 2008 12:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]  
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Jefe - 16 January 2008 05:13 PM

It would be hard for ‘churches’ to profit from a deity that did not specify strict codes of behaviour.

How would they profit from those strict codes? (I used to wonder if the Catholic Church was getting kickbacks from Mrs. Paul’s or Van de Camps.) Unless you’re talking about perpetuating power instead of perpetuating income.

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Posted: 20 April 2009 04:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]  
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Richard Dawkins at American Atheist party anno domini 2009

USA is a little bit crazy as far as religion is concerned
It’s curious, far beyond possiblity of explaining wink

In my country (Poland) majority of people are catholics, very, very peaceful, very few of them mind not believing in God

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When you look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you - Friedrich Nietzsche

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Posted: 21 April 2009 09:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]  
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There’s obviously some sort of process of selection at work here.  Religion is widespread because it confers some advantage on societies in which it’s a dominant force.  Or, at least it did historically.  Religions that required worship must have conferred an advantage over religions that didn’t.  Otherwise, worship-requiring religions would be less prevalent than non-worship-requiring religions. 

The exact nature of that advantage is open to speculation.  I don’t buy the idea that religion was purely a spandrel—although it’s probably less of an advantage now than in the past.  Whether that trend continues in the face of declining standards of living, overpopulation and scarce resources remains to be seen.

Salt Creek - 16 January 2008 02:26 PM

Reality continues to hold all the trumps.

Ironically enough, the actual existence of God obviously played no role in religion’s advantage.  From that standpoint, “reality” got trumped.

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Do-gooding is like treating hemophilia—the real cure is to let hemophiliacs bleed to death, before they breed more hemophiliacs. -Robert Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land

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Posted: 21 April 2009 10:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]  
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Antisocialdarwinist - 21 April 2009 01:56 PM

Ironically enough, the actual existence of God obviously played no role in religion’s advantage.  From that standpoint, “reality” got trumped.

Now that I’m used to dealing with “your kind”, my blood pressure doesn’t rise as much as it used to upon seeing this crap position espoused in such feeble and intellectually-bankrupt terms, such as assuming one’s conclusion, to wit, that religion is demonstrated to have conferred advantage simply because the human race did not go extinct. Of course, one may deploy all the arguments presented by the sociobiologists, but the approach here is that “sociobiologists speculate that religion may have conferred an advantage, the sociobiologists are irrefutably correct, and therefore it must have done”.

I see the argument more often stated with less intellectual cowardice, to the effect that religion aids social cohesion, also not demonstrated, and utterly ignoring that for most of its history, religion enforced social cohesion by burning and beheading those who didn’t, um, “cohere”. I don’t think that makes your case very well for you.

It is, at its core, a heartwarming endorsement of religiostupidification as crowd control, also undemonstrated. The final bit of crap we see from those who believe in belief (whether or not they believe on their own recognizance) is that existential angst will quickly do away with most people who are utterly dependent on fantasies to get through the day grubbing for worms in the Sahel. Trust me, an empty stomach is sufficient to motivate one to hunt for grubs. Reality does not get trumped where an empty stomach is concerned. It must be religion that keeps people filling their bellies. Sure, if you like assuming your conclusions.

[ Edited: 21 April 2009 10:21 AM by Traces Elk]
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Posted: 21 April 2009 08:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]  
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Salt Creek - 21 April 2009 02:18 PM

Now that I’m used to dealing with “your kind”, my blood pressure doesn’t rise as much as it used to upon seeing this crap position espoused in such feeble and intellectually-bankrupt terms, such as assuming one’s conclusion, to wit, that religion is demonstrated to have conferred advantage simply because the human race did not go extinct.

That’s hardly the conclusion any rational person would come to.  You and I both know religion improves the human race’s chances for extinction.  I think of religion as a very effective weapon in the struggle of societies to prevail against each other.  Luckily for us in the West, technology (your beloved science) is an even more effective weapon.

The idea that religion conferred an advantage is the flimsiest of explanations for it’s ubiquity—except for all the others.

Jefe - 21 April 2009 07:11 PM

Now deconstruct ‘religion’.

Social groupings of like minded hominids conveys some sort of advantage to those groupings.

You think?

Religion is only one example of a social grouping of like minded hominids.  But when was the last time you saw a suicide bomber from the Rotary Club?

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Do-gooding is like treating hemophilia—the real cure is to let hemophiliacs bleed to death, before they breed more hemophiliacs. -Robert Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land

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Posted: 22 April 2009 05:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]  
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Antisocialdarwinist - 22 April 2009 12:42 AM

The idea that religion conferred an advantage is the flimsiest of explanations for it’s [sic] ubiquity—except for all the others.

The spread of deep-seated and ubiquitous hatred against sinning and foreign ways certainly qualifies as a top-notch motivator for war-mongering. But it seems to me that without the massive weaponry you mention, any Darwin-style advantage is so temporary as not to actually be there.

You’re guessing, ASD. Reasons for survival can seem ubiquitous yet be completely out of reach, due to extremely limited information about our past. All we have are collections of primarily fictional stories and highly subjective reporting. Humanity’s survival so far is a result of many things, and most of them can’t be studied with much thoroughness. Or do you have a line on some research I’m unaware of?

[ Edited: 22 April 2009 05:45 AM by nv]
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Posted: 22 April 2009 08:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]  
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Antisocialdarwinist - 22 April 2009 12:42 AM

That’s hardly the conclusion any rational person would come to.  You and I both know religion improves the human race’s chances for extinction.  I think of religion as a very effective weapon in the struggle of societies to prevail against each other.  Luckily for us in the West, technology (your beloved science) is an even more effective weapon.

The idea that religion conferred an advantage is the flimsiest of explanations for it’s ubiquity—except for all the others.

...

Religion is only one example of a social grouping of like minded hominids.  But when was the last time you saw a suicide bomber from the Rotary Club?

That’s what is so weird and wonderful about “your kind”... you know, the kind that gets such a pyromaniac buzz out of setting straw men alight. But, while we’re on the subject, let’s really take note of the nature of the neutrality of the Rotary Club, that is, its perfect uselessness with respect to anything but its own objectives. This is not what Dawkins means by “selfish gene”.

Consider the possibility that “religion”, in behavioral terms, of course, is nothing but a pointless evolutionary arms race, in a very restricted theater of competition. Religion is not really much use in your battle with bacteria. Get a fucking clue, man.

This is the end, my friend.

[ Edited: 22 April 2009 08:27 AM by Traces Elk]
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Posted: 22 April 2009 08:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]  
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‘Religion is not really much use in your battle with bacteria.’

A Jehova Witness would argue with you on that.

Besides I prayed real hard once and my Helicobacter Pylori did not colonize as well.

Well, maybe it was the broccoli sprouts actually.

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Posted: 22 April 2009 08:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]  
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unknown zone - 22 April 2009 09:43 AM
Antisocialdarwinist - 22 April 2009 12:42 AM

The idea that religion conferred an advantage is the flimsiest of explanations for it’s [sic] ubiquity—except for all the others.

The spread of deep-seated and ubiquitous hatred against sinning and foreign ways certainly qualifies as a top-notch motivator for war-mongering. But it seems to me that without the massive weaponry you mention, any Darwin-style advantage is so temporary as not to actually be there.

You’re guessing, ASD. Reasons for survival can seem ubiquitous yet be completely out of reach, due to extremely limited information about our past. All we have are collections of primarily fictional stories and highly subjective reporting. Humanity’s survival so far is a result of many things, and most of them can’t be studied with much thoroughness. Or do you have a line on some research I’m unaware of?

For most of human existence religion wasn’t much into spreading “deep-seated and ubiquitous hatred against sinning and foreign ways,” that’s a relatively modern invention coming with monotheism and the use of religion as a means of social control.

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Posted: 22 April 2009 09:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]  
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Yeah, those Pagans loved each other. Fer sure.  smirk

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‘Every reflecting mind must acknowledge that there is no proof of the existence of a Deity’

‘If ignorance of nature gave birth to gods, knowledge of nature destroys them’

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Posted: 22 April 2009 03:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]  
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burt - 22 April 2009 12:47 PM

For most of human existence religion wasn’t much into spreading “deep-seated and ubiquitous hatred against sinning and foreign ways,” that’s a relatively modern invention coming with monotheism and the use of religion as a means of social control.

I hope you don’t see Christianity as fitting into the category of Monotheism, because it very obviously is a polytheistic religion. It may be an enormous club, but Christian leaders can’t change reality merely by claiming that three gods plus an enormous assembly of angels, demons and saints equates to monotheism.

Also, Jews throughout most of their history have been too preoccupied surviving insult, rather than collecting lots of hatred and bigotry.

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Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
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Posted: 22 April 2009 08:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]  
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unknown zone - 22 April 2009 09:43 AM

All we have are collections of primarily fictional stories and highly subjective reporting. Humanity’s survival so far is a result of many things, and most of them can’t be studied with much thoroughness. Or do you have a line on some research I’m unaware of?

What we have is the phenomenon of religion.  It has not contributed to “humanity’s survival” in any way that I can see.  It facilitates the exploitation of individuals.  In short, it sucks.  So why is it so successful?  Why has it prevailed over thousands of years in nearly every culture anthropologists are aware of?  You may not like religion; you may not like the advantage it conferred on societies which adopted it.  But to deny it conferred any advantage is a little like denying nuclear weapons confer an advantage simply because you don’t like the idea of nuclear war.

Salt Creek - 22 April 2009 12:19 PM

Consider the possibility that “religion”, in behavioral terms, of course, is nothing but a pointless evolutionary arms race, in a very restricted theater of competition. Religion is not really much use in your battle with bacteria.

Consider the possibility that what you consider to be “a very restricted theater of competition” was actually the deciding factor in determining which societies prevailed over one another.  Bacteria affected them all equally; it gave none of them an advantage.  Religion may be “a pointless evolutionary arms race” in the larger view, but that was irrelevant in the struggle between groups.

Nuclear arsenals don’t contribute to mankind’s survival either, but they nevertheless confer an advantage on those countries which have them.  Up until everyone has one, of course.  Then it becomes a disadvantage not to have one.

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Posted: 23 April 2009 03:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]  
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Antisocialdarwinist - 23 April 2009 12:48 AM

So why is it so successful?

What do you mean, successful? What was it competing against, with respect to which it could be said to be “successful” in an evolutionary context? After all, we’re only talking about thousands, or tens of thousands of years. Did religion permit us to out-compete the saber toothed tigers? All by itself?

You’re making a specifically biological argument, labeled with “success” in a context where it is inappropriate. What you need is a trait that varies within sub-populations in such a way that adaptive advantage can be shown.

You’re obviously entertaining notions about “group selection”, but you have no evidence that “religion” as a group-selective trait ever competed with “irreligion” in a biological sense. In fact, your entire argument fails to be able to provide evidential support to the idea that such a situation ever occurred. And that’s good, because if you asserted otherwise, you’d look even sillier than you already do. You’re making a specifically-philosophical argument and dressing it up to look like science.

Antisocialdarwinist - 23 April 2009 12:48 AM

Why has it prevailed over thousands of years in nearly every culture anthropologists are aware of?

You think “thousands of years” are enough to establish “prevail” in a group-selection context? You’re confusing historical theories with biological ones. Again, you’re assuming your conclusions.

Antisocialdarwinist - 23 April 2009 12:48 AM

You may not like religion; you may not like the advantage it conferred on societies which adopted it.

This is just rhetorical piffle which underscores the fact that you like to assume your conclusions.

Antisocialdarwinist - 23 April 2009 12:48 AM

But to deny it conferred any advantage is a little like denying nuclear weapons confer an advantage simply because you don’t like the idea of nuclear war.

So, your analogy is that religion is a “technology”. You’re in the “not even wrong” camp, and always have been.

Antisocialdarwinist - 23 April 2009 12:48 AM

Consider the possibility that what you consider to be “a very restricted theater of competition” was actually the deciding factor in determining which societies prevailed over one another.

“Societies” are not relevant if your thesis involves sociobiological theories of “group selection”. Aside from the obvious point that history is littered with dead societies, none of which can be said to have “prevailed”, the factors that contribute to the success of societies goes well beyond religion, to matters like technology. Unless, of course you’re citing religion as a technology, my man.

Antisocialdarwinist - 23 April 2009 12:48 AM

Religion may be “a pointless evolutionary arms race” in the larger view, but that was irrelevant in the struggle between groups.

Idiocy like you’re spouting here (for about the 500th time) is hardly worth responding to, but answering idiotic arguments is largely what internet forums are about these days. You have not demonstrated that the “struggle between groups” to which you are referring here has anything to do with a varying trait that can be discussed in the context of group selection.

This is a prodigious intellectual achievement, exceeded only by the monumental incompetence of suggesting that irreligion amounts to explicit disloyalty to one’s social group. This line of thinking is very poorly-disguised crypto-fascist weebling. What we need is a race of supermen able to evolve a theology that intellectuals cannot dismantle. The point of a sword will do.

There isn’t a measure for the degree of critical contempt that would be heaped upon your so-called thesis in a heavy-traffic forum like the one that Dawkins himself sponsors. You may or may not post there, too, but if you don’t, you really should try it, instead of tossing it here where most contributors seem more inclined to discuss current politics and the incongruities of putting Mos Def on TV in an informal panel discussion with Salman Rushdie and Christopher Hitchens. Not that this is inapposite to the situation in which you presently find yourself embroiled here.

[ Edited: 23 April 2009 07:08 AM by Traces Elk]
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Posted: 23 April 2009 08:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]  
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Jefe - 23 April 2009 11:01 AM
Salt Creek - 23 April 2009 07:00 AM

You’re making a specifically biological argument, labeled with “success” in a context where it is inappropriate. What you need is a trait that varies within sub-populations in such a way that adaptive advantage can be shown.

This.


To demonstrate successful in the context you, ASD, are trying to use, you would have to show that religion does something to produce increased selection that no other societal construct could do. 

Not only does this verge into social darwinism (which, IMHO, is a waste of time - both in terms of discussion and socia usage) but is unfalsifiable.

It seems to me that there are two tracks here that are being conflated.  First off, agreeing (for once!) with Salt Creek, it isn’t really useful to talk about an “advantage” conferred by religion since there is no irreligious comparison group other than one posited theoretically.  So saying we have religion because it confers advantage is just making an adaptionist hypothesis to begin with.  On the other hand, the apparent universality of religion does call out for some sort of explanation which could be along the lines of: (a) it’s because God or Gods exist and we recognize this through some sort of innate mental quality; (b) religion is a natural consequence of the way the brain is set up to process information about the world.  In the latter case there is room for further analysis: what is the connection, for example, between the individual psychological/neurological predisposition to religious thought and the social manifestation of it?  How does this manage to appear as a coherent social belief system?  What influence does it exert in a society?  And so on.  One somewhat cynical comment is that socially organized religion might be important in providing a psychological feeling of group unity that allows people to live together in groups larger than one or two hundred without fighting with each other overly much.

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Posted: 23 April 2009 09:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]  
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burt - 23 April 2009 12:44 PM

One somewhat cynical comment is that socially organized religion might be important in providing a psychological feeling of group unity that allows people to live together in groups larger than one or two hundred without fighting with each other overly much.

How is that cynical? Antisocialdarwinist himself is known to make the more-cynical argument that something exists called “human nature”, another unfalsifiable doctrine, to be sure. When one postulates what you have, uncynically, and without devolving into greedy reductionism, there is still room to investigate or to ask what actually are the features of human anatomy and physiology which might make problems living in groups larger than one or two hundred without wasting a lot of energy on internal conflict. That would be the scientific approach, rather than taking a phenomenon (religion) and using conflict as your untested explanation for its ontology.

Rather, that is, than presupposing that such characteristics or problems exist, and then rumming up an explanation to solve the problem (not demonstrated) as if by magic. Religion already assumes that people will be in conflict without an objective morality. It seems very dicey to use religion’s own assumptions to explain religion from an external perspective.

There is such a gap between a hunter-gatherer tribe of a few dozens, and mass societies of modern nation-states. It could be that some ideas are simply obsolete and that religion operates anywhere above the scale of a congregation only in the sense that a business corporation does. I mean, there are mega-churches, after all, but even there, the membership do behave like individuals in many contexts. It’s why I insist that religious groups should be treated in exactly the same way as corporations are: Reward them for any economic output, such as wealth directed toward charity, which could be deducted from their gross income, and penalize them for abuses. We’ll soon see just how much or little religious institutions are strictly devoted to their own perpetuation.

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