The God Delusion - Chapter 5

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otseng
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The God Delusion - Chapter 5

Post #1

Post by otseng »

According to Dawkins, how did religion arise?

McCulloch's question:
Is religion as an accidental by-product – a misfiring of something useful?

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Re: The God Delusion - Chapter 5

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Post by otseng »

According to Dawkins, how did religion arise?

Throughout the book, I am reminded of "for someone with a hammer, every problem is a nail." Dawkins carries the hammer of natural selection and uses it to explain everything. And in this case, he believes that religion is the result of natural selection.
page 188 wrote:The general theory of religion as an accidental by-product - a misfiring of something useful - is the one I wish to advocate. The details are various, complicated and disputable.
I'd also add that the details are lacking. I don't see where he clearly states what it is a by-product of.

Further, suppose that it is a product of natural selection, how does he know that religion is not the final useful product rather than a by-product?

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Re: The God Delusion - Chapter 5

Post #3

Post by McCulloch »

otseng wrote:According to Dawkins, how did religion arise?

Throughout the book, I am reminded of "for someone with a hammer, every problem is a nail." Dawkins carries the hammer of natural selection and uses it to explain everything. And in this case, he believes that religion is the result of natural selection.
page 188 wrote:The general theory of religion as an accidental by-product - a misfiring of something useful - is the one I wish to advocate. The details are various, complicated and disputable.
I'd also add that the details are lacking. I don't see where he clearly states what it is a by-product of.

Further, suppose that it is a product of natural selection, how does he know that religion is not the final useful product rather than a by-product?
Dennett goes into some detail on this area. It is clear to me that religion, or perhaps religions (all except the one true religion ;) ) is dysfunctional and tends to lead to greater strife and injustice than peace and justice. If that impression is true, then one should be seeking to find a suitable explanation for the persistence of religious thought and institutions in human society. Memetic selection seems to be one such explanation. Supernatural demons and fallen angels is another.
Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.
First Epistle to the Church of the Thessalonians
The truth will make you free.
Gospel of John

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Re: The God Delusion - Chapter 5

Post #4

Post by otseng »

McCulloch wrote:Memetic selection seems to be one such explanation.
I don't accept this explanation, but for argument purposes let's suppose it is true.

If religion is the result of natural selection, then religion would be "positively useful" for society.
page 164 wrote:'That is the one point which I think all evolutionists are agreed upon, that it is virtually impossible to do a better job than an organism is doing in its own environment.' If anting wasn't positively useful for survival and reproduction, natural selection would long ago have favoured individuals who refrained from it. A Darwinian might be tempted to say the same of religion; hence the need for this discussion.
He goes on to try to discuss this, but does not address the point that "it is virtually impossible to do a better job than an organism is doing in its own environment". And if religion is a result of natural selection, then it would be virtually impossible for humans to have a better alternative than religion. If religion wasn't positively useful for survival and reproduction, natural selection would long ago have favoured individuals who refrained from it.

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Re: The God Delusion - Chapter 5

Post #5

Post by FinalEnigma »

[quote="otseng"
I'd also add that the details are lacking. I don't see where he clearly states what it is a by-product of.
[/quote]

Actually, he does.
page 174.

My specific hypothesis is about children. More than any other species, we survive by the accumulated experience of previous generations, and that expecience need to be passed on to children for their protection and well-being...
...But, to say the least, there will be a selective advantage to child brain that posess the rule of thumb: believe, without question, what your grown-ups tell you.
He goes on to try to discuss this, but does not address the point that "it is virtually impossible to do a better job than an organism is doing in its own environment". And if religion is a result of natural selection, then it would be virtually impossible for humans to have a better alternative than religion. If religion wasn't positively useful for survival and reproduction, natural selection would long ago have favoured individuals who refrained from it.
I can just go back to dawkins moth analogy for this one. A moth flying into a candle or lamp and killing itself is obviously not useful, but they do it anyway. Because it is the by product of something that has a net positive effect.

Religion, if it was the by product of some other thing, which was more important in the long run than religion, but inevitably lead to it, would still be around despite its negative effects.

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Re: The God Delusion - Chapter 5

Post #6

Post by otseng »

FinalEnigma wrote:
otseng wrote: I'd also add that the details are lacking. I don't see where he clearly states what it is a by-product of.
Actually, he does.
page 174.

My specific hypothesis is about children. More than any other species, we survive by the accumulated experience of previous generations, and that expecience need to be passed on to children for their protection and well-being...
...But, to say the least, there will be a selective advantage to child brain that posess the rule of thumb: believe, without question, what your grown-ups tell you.
Religion is the by-product of believing what your grown-ups tell you?

It does not explain the origin of religion. How did the first grown-up come up with the idea of religion to pass on to all the future generations?

Further, this would imply that passing down religion would be for their protection and well-being.

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Re: The God Delusion - Chapter 5

Post #7

Post by McCulloch »

McCulloch wrote:Memetic selection seems to be one such explanation.
otseng wrote:I don't accept this explanation, but for argument purposes let's suppose it is true.

If religion is the result of natural selection, then religion would be "positively useful" for society.
False. Religion could not be the result of the genetic natural selection of the human species. The idea of memetic selection is that ideas, what Dawkins and Dennett call memes, are like genes. They exist in an environment. In the case of genes, the environment is Earth's biosphere; in the case of memes, the environment is the network of human society. Like genes, memes are copied and occasionally mutate. Some mutations will help the meme to survive and spread, others will inhibit their spread. The selection criteria which results in the spread, the development and the persistence of an idea, is not how the characteristics of the idea may or may not benefit human society, but how the characteristics of the idea may or may not benefit the spread of the idea itself.
Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.
First Epistle to the Church of the Thessalonians
The truth will make you free.
Gospel of John

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Re: The God Delusion - Chapter 5

Post #8

Post by McCulloch »

otseng wrote:Religion is the by-product of believing what your grown-ups tell you?
That is the hypothesis.
otseng wrote:It does not explain the origin of religion.
It does not need to. Evolution does not explain the origin of life, just its development from what was to what is.
otseng wrote:How did the first grown-up come up with the idea of religion to pass on to all the future generations?
This is an interesting but separate area of research. I believe that is has something to do with the useful mental construct of intentionality.
otseng wrote:Further, this would imply that passing down religion would be for their protection and well-being.
No. It would imply the passing down religion would be for the benefit and protection of religion. The already developed attribute of believing what grown-ups tell you is for the benefit of human society. Religion, so the hypothesis goes, has used that attribute in human society for its own survival.
Forgive my anthropomorphism, it is a product of the idea of intentionality.
Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.
First Epistle to the Church of the Thessalonians
The truth will make you free.
Gospel of John

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Re: The God Delusion - Chapter 5

Post #9

Post by otseng »

McCulloch wrote:
McCulloch wrote:Memetic selection seems to be one such explanation.
otseng wrote:I don't accept this explanation, but for argument purposes let's suppose it is true.

If religion is the result of natural selection, then religion would be "positively useful" for society.
False. Religion could not be the result of the genetic natural selection of the human species. The idea of memetic selection is that ideas, what Dawkins and Dennett call memes, are like genes.
Of course religion would not be the result of genetic natural selection (but perhaps the inclination to believe in a God is somehow built into us, but that's another topic). It would fall under Dawkins memes. But memes would also follow under the principles of natural selection.
The selection criteria which results in the spread, the development and the persistence of an idea, is not how the characteristics of the idea may or may not benefit human society, but how the characteristics of the idea may or may not benefit the spread of the idea itself.
So it would not address the origination of the idea, but simply the propagation of the idea?
McCulloch wrote:
otseng wrote:It does not explain the origin of religion.
It does not need to. Evolution does not explain the origin of life, just its development from what was to what is.
If he is not explaining the origin of religion in this chapter, then what is he trying to explain? Simply how it propagates? If so, then the title for the chapter "The roots of religion" would be misleading.

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Re: The God Delusion - Chapter 5

Post #10

Post by McCulloch »

otseng wrote:If he is not explaining the origin of religion in this chapter, then what is he trying to explain? Simply how it propagates? If so, then the title for the chapter "The roots of religion" would be misleading.
Are roots the same as seeds?
Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.
First Epistle to the Church of the Thessalonians
The truth will make you free.
Gospel of John

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