Thursday, October 11, 2012

Why kill heretics?

Religious people might kill heretics in order to protect genetically related adherents. If those adherents are made conscious of the falsity of their religious memes, they lose their biological fitness. This killing improves biological fitness as a sort of perverted kin-altruism.

Consequences of Ego

As I thought about this model, I could not help but wonder how this increased ego-tism would manifest. Hypothetically, it decreases the emotional intelligence of the population. Such emotional intelligence is not necessary because the behavior generated by the memes substitutes for communal understanding. Another way of visualizing this is that religion could lead to an increased frequency of sociopaths, as sociopaths also do not want to go to hell.

Basically, religion operates as a social technology, anagalous to eye-glasses or anti-biotics. And just like how humans with poor vision or immune systems can survive in a world with glasses or anti-biotics, humans with poor social skills can survive in a world with religion. One might even expect parts of the human social brain being diverted to other tasks, such as finding a way to provide for the billions of people created by religion's general rules of thumb.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Ego as a Source of Denialism

In my last post, I discussed a hypothetical model for the emergence of religion. After having talked to one of my friends about this idea, he came to the conclusion that ego is the source of denial-ism.  According to the model, a genetic propensity to be egotistical evolved or increased in frequency dramatically after the advent of religion. Once the individual has invested in believing the memes, ego causes him or her not to be able to question them. Doing so would be to admit having been wrong, which is a threat to the ego.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Denialism as a Source of Religion

Richard Dawkins suggests in The Selfish Gene that cultural memes function like genes in that they are subject to natural selection. In The God Delusion Dawkins further argues that because religious truths cannot be questioned, their very nature encourages religions to spread like "mind viruses". In such a conception, it is necessary that the individuals who are unable to question their beliefs are more biologically fit than individuals who are capable of questioning their beliefs. Thus, it could be concluded that sacred scriptures or oral traditions created a behavioral pattern that elevated biological fitness for believing individuals. Individuals who were capable of challenging such beliefs, even if the beliefs were enormously improbable, became rarer and rarer in the population. (See denialism.)

Also, any gene that contributes to denialism allows an otherwise preposterous meme to increase in frequency as long as the resulting behavior increases biological fitness. The individual simply denies that the meme is untrue, behaves as if it were, and benefits from the elevated fitness. While general intelligence and denialism are inversely related, the two are not directly related. A highly intelligent individual can become a denier, though this more rarely occurs. [15] It is worth noting that while denialism can have a genetic origin, there are other reasons someone might become a denier. For instance, a psychopath may deny climate change because he or she does not care what happens to the world or anyone else in it. However, it is fallacious to assume that all such deniers are psychopaths, and in fact, most of them probably are not. Only about 1 in 25 people in the United States suffer from anti-social personality disorder, and far fewer suffer from this malady in less individualistic cultures, such as those in East Asia. [16] One can see how a religious adherence to ideas can be beneficial to the individual by imagining, for instance, the behavioral result of denying overpopulation.[17]

Ironically, if the world ever became atheist and then if scientific evidence for the existence of God became available, scientists would hypothetically have trouble convincing a mass of deniers. More sadly, violent individuals might then commit acts of terrorism against individuals who do not ascribe to atheism. The point here is that the alternatives to be denied, sometimes referred to as heresy, are not constrained by "objective reality". They are constrained by those ideas that reduce biological fitness or undermine the integrity of the system.