Question of the Week- 01/06/2016

This week’s question comes from Peter. He asks, “Is there an evolutionary explanation as to why some groups seem more particularly prone to take life and give their own lives in defense of their religion?” Our favorite answer will win a copy of An Appetite for Wonder” by Richard Dawkins.

 

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115 COMMENTS

  1. We did evolve to be sensitive to and react to our environment. Groups with members that are prone to take life and give their own lives in defense of religion tend to be in societies with low levels of economic development – think Europe in the middle ages, parts of the contemporary middle east, etc. For young men in such poor societies, status is often hard to come by, and for those seeking status, fighting (and perhaps dying) in the name of religion is a socially approved way of obtaining it. So, for example, in Europe in the middle ages, young Christian men would go on crusade. Today, most young European men (whether Christian or otherwise) would not dream of such a thing.

  2. We only need to go back a few thousand years to see what a difference cultural evolution has made. When we lived in clans and tribes of closely related people who were at constant risk of attack from outsiders, it must have been very advantageous to encourage anything that would serve as a social “glue” to the group and prompt the members of that family group to rally to the cause at hand.

    People have a great interest in helping their own directly related family members out of danger but those with the additional “glue” of thinking – We are good and those other groups are dangerous and bad – must have created a fierce fighting force, especially in patriarchal, patrilocal tribal groups. There’s nothing like religion to program people right from the time they can walk, into understanding that “my family/clan is good and the other is treacherous, stupid and bad.

    What is different now though, is that as tribes become too populous and unwieldy they are difficult to manage on a local level by one patriarch. Soon enough they evolve into nation states and societies that outsource justice to a court like authority which hopefully makes some attempt to solve injustice and has the effect of eliminating vengeance reprisals and vigilante “justice” that tribes engage in.

    In just a few hundred years time, the West has seen the civilizing effects of the Enlightenment and humanistic values that have crept in steadily. Pinker, in his book *The Better Angels of our Nature” describes the “rights revolutions” that have moved us all forward, such as women’s rights, gay rights, children’s rights, civil rights and animal rights. When we think about how much time we spent as hunter-gatherers, these rights have come about in the modern blink of an eye.

    We now live in a time when the old rallying call of our shared invisible man in the sky is withering away due to its uselessness and if the current trend continues, it will end up in the garbage heap of time. We have better ways to solve our problems now. Some groups on this earth are still stuck in the violent tribal model. Unfortunately, we are all suffering as they work through this and hopefully come into a more just, kind, fair society that leaves religion behind. That’s social evolution.

  3. Natural selection has bestowed upon us, for good and for bad, a strong desire to be a member of a tribe with whom we share common values. When certain triggers occur, such as the 9/11 attacks on America, we band together, wave flags, donate blood, join the military and otherwise work to defend our group. We can’t help it; it’s in our genes.

    We super-cooperators have thus been able to conquer the entire planet, however our “groupish” impulse has a down side. When a group’s holy book (whether Old Testament or Koran) tells them it’s acceptable to kill members of other groups, some of them do it with glee. The fact that there is no scientific evidence to support their holy books encourages them to defend it even more strongly. How frustrating to “know” you are right but you don’t have proof!.

    We in the West were saved by the Enlightenment from the nastier side effects of extreme group loyalty, but Islam has yet to enjoy its own Enlightenment.

    I disagree with the notion that only the economically disadvantaged fall prey to violent ideologies. The 9/11 attackers were middle-class or above, as were the San Bernardino attackers. Anyone who feels alienated in the community where he lives, and who finds his true group loyalty elsewhere, is vulnerable to extreme propaganda that appeals to his/her notion of a “higher good”. Some Muslims feel morally superior to their WEIRD neighbors (Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic) and are told that it is their duty to God to punish us for our immorality.

    So we humans have a strong urge to give our lives deeper meaning through group identity. It’s all too easy for egomaniacs and megalomaniacs from Donald Trump to Osama bin Laden to deliberately trigger the ugly side of our group identification for their own purposes.

  4. “as to why some groups seem more particularly prone to take life and give their own lives in defense of their religion”

    seem?

    which groups?

    have you read “Lord of the Flies”?

    Put enough stress on any group of humans and they will rally round pretty much anything that looks like it leads to salvation – and pretty much anyone who can talk louder and longer than anyone else is likely then to be a leader.

    It’s not the religion itself that’s the problem (though religions carry nasty seeds that find fertile ground in turmoil and chaos) it’s that we often see groups of people decimated back to a point where little survives other than religion. If all the books and computers are destroyed what book is most likely still to be found? For Christians it would be the bible, for Muslims, the Quran etc. If the complex vastly inter-related infrastructures that makes up a healthy vibrant society are destroyed what is more likely to survive than simple dogma?

    Religion is not of itself the demon we must send back to hell. It is the hell in humans that we must somehow keep retrained. The best way is a healthy society, good education, low levels of human predation on other humans and some form of group (and i mean planetary) management that best achieves this for the longest possible periods of time.

    Religions will all go the way that all old religions go – into the history books and to be sources of material for novels and movies.

    pop

  5. Okay, there is a problem with the question around group vs individual selection. Evolution does not act on groups but acts on individuals. Genes are past from parents to individuals so the question should state why some individuals may be prepared to give their lives for religion.

    Pedantic statements aside, the reason individuals may gain selective advantage is not because they would give their lives for religion but that they would be prepared to give their lives for their kin.

    There is a writer I like John Hepworth who made a statement I have never forgotten about Australian soldiers in WW2. “It was not so much that our soldiers were prepared to die for their country, but they were prepared to try to get others to die for theirs”.

    Evolution works a bit like this although tendencies it may be selected for in an individual may make the recipient of these genes act against the future selection of their genes. For example…

    …An individual that has genes that make them strongly adhere to a group will generally benefit that individuals genes. Someone who when the group is attacked is prepared to fight for the group while risking death also gains status within the society, hence gains breeding opportunities (if they survive). They may in fact gain breeding opportunities having made the commitment before they go to battle. How many women married and got pregnant or just got pregnant to soldiers before they went into action in WW2? Is the instinct to give soldiers who were not in uniform a white feather (a disgusting act) an expression of the evolutionary need to punish those who do not work in the perceived interests of the group? How much did not being in a uniform at that time reduce your likelihood of breeding?

    This can of course misfire in situations that simulate and stimulate similar emotional responses even though behaviors may not directly have the result that the genes where evolved to use. This I suspect is instinctively why some sports stars whom upon being interviewed and often revealing themselves to be dumber than a plank of wood and easily distracted by moving colours, will never the less attract far more female attention than most other males in the society. It is I think a similar mis-firing of the genes for sexual selection of the women who find these me attractive and the men who are not actually defending their society but instead bashing their skulls against other sportsmen for mere entertainment. Of course put these same men in an army and ask them to risk all in defense of the country and these same people may well be exactly who you want.

    When this comes to religion we are dealing with a sudo war, a sudo threat. There is no supernatural war going on but religion (thanks to our imaginations which also has selective advantage) can trigger the same feelings and need of belonging and need to defend the group that the threat from a real external force might. In majority religious communities this might indeed have real selective pressure also. Your chance of breeding with Christian women if you are an atheist is obviously reduced, in a Christian dominated country the chances of spreading your genes may be reduced your selective pool may be reduced.

    Consider also that some cultures that endorse the ultimate sacrifice also sometimes allow the bending of the rules before hand. The hijackers of 9-11 spend the night before at a strip bar (could this have something to do with an acknowledgment that the desire to have sex – which they know they will have no opportunity to engage in but which they felt the need to express in some manner). Consider to that again these same men believed that when they were to die they would receive 72 virgins. Why does the virginity matter? Could this have come from a primitive evolutionary drive to be competitive with their spreading of their genes. Again this is a misfiring due to the extension of the group to include an imaginary being and imaginary virgins.

    This type of misfiring can be seen in moths immolating themselves in candles. It would appear they navigate with simple rules if you wish to fly north keep that bright light (moon or sun) off to one side of you (let’s say left). Now this works because the moon is a few hundred thousand kilometers away and so will move very little relative to the moths position, however this basic instinct as efficient as it is is disastrous if you get close light source like a candle which as it flys past the candle notices that it is moving behind it, following the keep it on the left rule it turns tighter and tighter until it hits the flame. Good simple rule but gets stuffed up by the local conditions which natural selection of course can not and does not foresee.

    So in sort evolution does not directly govern individual behavior, instead governing general behaviors that can misfire in certain conditions.

  6. Reckless gets the book… LIKE.

    This I suspect is instinctively why some sports stars whom upon being interviewed and often revealing themselves to be dumber than a plank of wood and easily distracted by moving colours, will never the less attract far more female attention than most other males in the society. It is I think a similar mis-firing of the genes for sexual selection of the women who find these men attractive..

    Now I understand my failure.

  7. I think the answer does not have any particular evolutionary explanation and is a consequence of some very effective forward planning and management to indoctrinate and control large groups of humans by cleverly installing durable and self managing mass indoctrination systems:
    Humans are continuously making decisions and the outcomes are often unpredictable and may have far reaching implications that were not intended at the time of the decisions being made. Islam in particular instituted, (possibly without even realising it at the time), a system of belief control that, from a management point of view, was exceptionally effective. Moslems have to publicly display adherence to routine rituals up to 5 times a day, show dedication to intensely indoctrinating their children from birth with Koranic teaching and ritual, show their commitment by going to Mecca in their lifetime, wearing very distinctive dress, beards etc etc. Other aspects such as remaining separate from other “infidels”, insisting on faith schools etc reduces the risk of “pollution” of their ideology. It is an exceptionally well organised and managed worldwide institution that is self policing and any deviation from ritual is immediately exposed and dealt with….very harshly and brutally in some cases. The Islamic “management system” is exceptional in its mind control and could well be the object of management studies! The “brilliance” of the system is such that it is able to motivate indoctrinated individuals to do things that are completely counter to their normal survival instincts (like suicide bombing).
    There are many other examples of extreme behaviours by individuals who have been strongly influenced, not necessarily by religion but I would say that the Islamic system is by far the most effective mass indoctrination system ever invented by humans. (even though sectarian differences eg Sunni/Shia exist, the same underlying control systems are maintained for each group). Catholic ritual and indoctrination, while also intense, does not display the same visible control systems of numerous daily calls to prayer etc. North Korea is another example of exceptional mind control of the masses.

  8. The #1 reason you select your religion is the religion of your parents. It looks to be mostly an accident of geography.

    Notice that Arabs who are atheists are just as rational as anyone else.

  9. I don’t think that there is an evolutionary reason for this. The god meme is being passed from generation to generation, and for a young child, there are the parents who instruct and protect, later the teachers, and still later the boss at work. So, thinking there is another boss somewhere in the sky is not altogether unreasonable. What is unreasonable is that mature people do not understand that they are being conned. Whereas christianity is nowadays pretty much optional, islam is not: “You will believe or we will kill you” , is pretty effective, and demonstrates the bloodymindedness of that religion/leaders.
    One can think of many reasons for the concept of religion, but the most pervading is the willful illusion of an afterlife; a need not to die permanently. Other reasons include: instruction, consolation, spiritual fullfilness and many others, depending on the religion. Certainly in the times where there was simply no way to explain the world around you, or even a reason for living, it might be attractive to turn to religion. Religious leaders know this very well, and have always exploited this hunkering to the limit. The analogy here is that of gullible people vs sharp operators; and that is of all times.
    Another contributing factor is inbreeding; it has a tendency to lower IQ (Great for dictators and religious leaders) and cause a variety of unique illnesses, such as the double blind- and deafness in the Cajun people. (No offense intended, just a fact)
    Still another reason may be destitution and/or social shunning; nothing left to lose, maybe something “heroic” to gain. The Paris attackers were all born and bred french and belgian.

  10. To me, the question is leading, claustrophobic and unworldly.

    Jack David Eller, an anthropologist of culture, violence, and religion
    who himself is an atheist, claims: “As we have insisted previously,
    religion is not inherently and irredeemably violent; it certainly is
    not the essence and source of all violence.” and “Religion and
    violence are clearly compatible, but they are not identical. Violence
    is one phenomenon in human (and natural existence), religion is
    another, and it is inevitable that the two would become intertwined.
    Religion is complex and modular, and violence is one of the modules –
    not universal, but recurring. As a conceptual and behavioral module,
    violence is by no means exclusive to religion. There are plenty of
    other groups, institutions, interests, and ideologies to promote
    violence. Violence is, therefore, neither essential to nor exclusive
    to religion. Nor is religious violence all alike… And virtually every
    form of religious violence has its nonreligious corollary.”

    Read more: http://the-many-names-of-god.com/religious-wars-in-the-name-of-god/#ixzz3wTgMWfqw

  11. I beg to differ about group selection, although I know Richard Dawkins has argued that it has no place in evolution. E.O. Wilson and Jonathan Haidt have made convincing arguments based on their research that, although genes of course reside only in individuals, individual humans do reside in groups and groups have competed with each other for hundreds of thousands of years. Although true that only genes in individuals change, genes that favor in-group cooperation are exactly what make us such a successful species.

    Groups whose members work together, play together and, unfortunately, pray together do stay together and produce more offspring than groups where people can’t cooperate.

    Adult mammals are all lactose intolerant EXCEPT people within human herding groups who have come to rely on dairy products for their survival. If some of us have evolved adult lactose tolerance within the past 50,000 years, it is quite probable that culture and genetics are working hand-in-hand in our continuing evolution in other areas as well. Research has shown a tight link between genes and environment, and environment historically includes your local tribe.

    The tendency to “fit in” varies by individual. Some people are “joiners” and some, like me, are not. We have apparently missed out on the “fitting into your local group” gene! (That’s a little joke, before you pounce on me!)

  12. One thought experiment conclusion one could come to on whether there is an evolutionary advantage for taking life or sacrificing ones life over a religious belief seems to be more of a social Darwinism point of view in that if one religious view is more fanatical or aggressive than others then perhaps it has a more likely chance of multiplying itself by assimilating larger numbers through fear and aggression. More subtle and peaceful beliefs may be easily pushed aside and replaced by the more aggressive thus giving the life taking and sacrificing belief an advantage. I think this is quite obvious at just looking at the dominating world religions today of Christianity and Islam, while both professing to be beliefs of peace they gained the world majority through ruthless acts of assimilating cultures through decimating pagan cultures and at the same time assimilating the remnants of them into their belief system, i.e. the adaptation of pagan Roman celebrations into the modern Christian ideology till after a period of time it is not even perceived by the contemporary society. So while this may be more of a Social Darwinism viewpoint, there seems to be a possible thread of natural selection going on, however it is difficult to often separate where natural selection and cultural evolution separate.

  13. The Sexy Son hypothesis
    From Wiki:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexy_son_hypothesis

    In 1976, prior to Weatherhead and Robertson’s paper,[4] Richard Dawkins had written in his book The Selfish Gene:
    In a society where males compete with each other to be chosen as he-men by females, one of the best things a mother can do for her genes is to make a son who will turn out in his turn to be an attractive he-man. If she can ensure that her son is one of the fortunate few males who wins most of the copulations in the society when he grows up, she will have an enormous number of grandchildren. The result of this is that one of the most desirable qualities a male can have in the eyes of a female is, quite simply, sexual attractiveness itself.[5]

  14. To me, that can be said of animals that display Laurie but not of most mammals where the females really have no choice and the ‘he-men’ short out dominance after a fight. Perhaps we are only just starting to catch up with our bird brothers and sisters in that respect?

  15. Well maybe this line of thinking maybe faulty but let me give it a go.

    Evolution had definitely favored organized religion indirectly, the advantages for the development and progress of the group far outweighing the disadvantages. Groups that may take and give life to defend religion could in general be the groups that may have been trained more rigorously by the nature to give and take life for a cause that helps to secure the progress of the group in whole. The cause could also have been memes. So why certain groups alone had this quality.

    The are two line of thought here

    Maybe we could get some idea by looking at the groups which tend to do that. That would be identifying common traits of religious extremists. This could be time consuming where in groups that tend to show such behavior when it
    comes to religion should be identified geographically. Their ancestral history could be studied along with geographical features of the area and migration trends. This indeed seems amateurish but i guess common factors could surely be identified. The concept would be the same if we tend to identify why some of the ancient civilizations tended to be more violent and blood thirsty maybe by looking at their genomes.

    The other thought could be something similar to the moth flying into the candle. I believe i read it in Dawkins’ God Delusion. Where the moth mistake the candle light for light from celestial objects which they had been using to navigate at night for thousands of years. Giving and taking life for a meme might actually be something else. And we might be failing to see the big picture.

    In a smaller level organized ideas and strict discipline with fear had helped rulers to better control their groups, which might have had evolutionary advantage in early stages of human progress. Some of these trends have still continued though the environments around has changed. Some of these traits which might have been lying dormant in certain groups have definitely woke up when their culture world feels threatened by others (thanks to recent technological advances and the internet). It is that some groups which may have been isolated tend to resolve the problem in this sort which maybe their first instinct.
    And in a higher level (Well this might be funny again), considering the real world we see is a simulation. We being simulated by an advanced species (TEDx Event -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Chfoo9NBEow ) its natural for them to simulate a group(s) which values the existence of memes to be more important than their own existence. I mean it would be relatively easy to set a low value for the variable and see how the disturbance seeps through the model, and so definitely they would try that.

  16. We live in an age when a large number of muslims are killing non-muslims for not being muslim, and killing other muslims for not being the right type of muslim.

    Not long ago, our ancestors lived in an age when a large number of christians were killing non-christians for not being christian, and killing other christians for not being the right type of christian.

    I think history shows us that there is no one race or ethnic group more prone to being vicious in the name of religion. Unfortunately, I think all people are capable of evil under the right circumstances.

    Maybe the question we should ask is: “Is there a RATIONAL explanation as to HOW some PEOPLE BECOME more particularly prone to take life and give their own lives in defense of their religion?” How do people get radicalized? That is the more important question, in my opinion.

  17. Males compete with each other for females and try to exclude other males from breeding. Where the dominant men (leaders) procreate here on Earth but encourage competing men in the name of religion an opportunity to breed in Heaven (70 virgins waiting in heaven for the martyr) they are unconsciously getting rid of male rivals, and the martyrs who are prepared to die for their religion are unconsciously consoled by the mating opportunity in heaven. The story of virgins waiting in heaven for the martyr fits the evolutionary template played out by all male animals who fight for the opportunity to exclude other males and mate with a large number of females. One ‘martyr’ was persuaded by other men to put a bomb in his underpants which would go against all male animal instincts unless one considers that he was to have his exclusive mating with females in heaven. Young men should think twice about being persuaded to blow themselves up for a mating opportunity in heaven whilst their leaders mate and reproduce on Earth. In the name of religion they have been conned and will have no descendants whilst their rival leaders will have many descendants as they breed on Earth. Bin Laden is a case in point. He had many wives and has many descendants whilst the people he encouraged to blow themselves up have no descendants. Relative to the ‘martyrs’ he was reproductively highly succesful.

  18. Peter/Rosemary,

    Why don’t we just trust the answers that they themselves give in their martyr videos?

    I might also add that in the years following 9/11 the security services typical profile of a western suicide bomber was young, middle-class, from a wealth family, married and sometimes with young children, very well educated (scientist, engineer, NHS doctor). Not a pauper and not someone seeking status.

    I might also add that you cannot hold your head up as a high status individual when you are dead.

  19. Desiderus Lachrimae
    Jan 6, 2016 at 5:34 pm

    I give plenty of passages and historical examples to do so.

    The Bible is not a history book! It is a compendium of myths!

  20. well, actually, it’s a bit of both – quite a lot of the stories have their foundation in fact. Sorting it out is not so easy. “Exegesis” is the study of such old books, it’s like detective work and can involve quite a lot of science. Lots of people make their living blending science with such books – archaeologists in particular – digging around in places that are clearly real places that existed at the time the events of such books were first recorded.

    It doesn’t help in dealing with religious people to tell them their entire foundation documents are false – when they can prove for themselves quite easily that some is true it allows them then to assume that your criticism is entirely false – which then opens the door for them to believe the stuff you might think is obviously silly.

    pop

  21. Hi Miriam,

    I think this answers your own answer.

    Although true that only genes in individuals change, genes that favor in-group cooperation are exactly what make us such a successful species.

    The genes which reside in individuals can have an impact on your ability to socialize. But the genes need to be positively selected for against a background of other genes. Group selection would make that null. Those individuals within the group that have brains suitable for cooperation have a survival and breeding advantage against those that don’t.

    The example of a tribe in which some individuals are lactose tolerance is better explained in a drought or famine in which those individuals who are able to drink milk and not have diarrhea survive to carry on their genes or at least survive in bigger numbers. No group selection required. I would look at culture as being a by product of big brains which have been individually selected for make people more stupid and culture will disappear or become Mal-adjusted to our survival.

    For years I was confused about the individual/group selection thing also. Selfish gene makes it quite clear though.

    regards

  22. There is a converse based only on my non evidentiary observations.

    A poor but competent couple start a business and make good. They become very rich. They have sons, who will inherit the business. These sons are not He Men. But they are very very rich. They marry stunners who might not be the sharpest bowling balls in the alley. The business survives being passed down to the sons, but the grand children are now shallow vapid air heads. That’s when the business fails and get sold to a merchant banker.

    Marry smart. Smart is a good survival trait. Looks will always fade but brains and personality last a life time. Smart Trumps He men. Back when we were nomadic tribes, yeah, biggest, strongest was good father material. Now it is smarts.

  23. Enes, the current “peaceful” Europeans just recently precipitated 2 world wars that killed tens of millions and “peaceful” Europeans have been waging war on middle eastern people for over a hundred years. Explaining “terrorism” is easy – it’s a label we apply to the extreme behaviour of people at the end of their tether.

    If we were to use today’s language to describe the native Americans in their failed struggle to survive against “peaceful” Europeans we would call them terrorists – without doubt. We used to call the people we wanted to destroy “savages” but that word is no longer in vogue – now we use “terrorists” and mostly the terrorists are either the people our “peaceful” Jewish Europeans in Israel are destroying or the middle eastern people we are destroying either for their oil, or to keep them from becoming strong enough to defend themselves or to keep the Israelis et al happy.

    Yes indeed, we “peaceful” Europeans are to be admired – we are the good guys and everyone else is either the current bad guys, past bad guys (eg Asians), future bad guys (eg Asians) or bad guys trying to live in our lands (eg black kids with toy guns).

    yes, very “peaceful”

    p

  24. Wait. This question does not make sense. Moslems and christians are genetically heterogeneous groups. Genetics can never explain religious violence. I do think there could be some “misfiring” as explained above. All the crusaders transmitted their genes to the now peaceful europeans.

  25. It doesn’t help in dealing with religious people to tell them their entire foundation documents are false – when they can prove for themselves quite easily that some is true it allows them then to assume that your criticism is entirely false

    Which bible stories can you quite easily prove are true?

  26. I am constantly surprised how far sighted people are when making statements about others when near sight can be corrected for as little as £10 with glasses from the supermarket. 😉

  27. one does not try to “prove” a bible “story” true so much as tease out what is truth and why the rest might have been written and by who. Most of the places mentioned in the bible are true places. Many of the people mentioned in the bible are true people. Many of the events (especially wars) actually happened. Did it all happen exactly as it is written – don’t be silly, of course not. But why? Who set what parts to writing and why so? Digging into it gives real insight (and a lot of unanswered questions which might never be answered).

    One does not throw the bible away as a worthless book, nor the Quran nor the Bagavad Git etc etc – these are all part of human historical material and to be valued as such.

    If someone held up one of those SI booklets we used to have in school (with all sorts of useful science stuff in them) and then somehow twisted it to be the foundation of a wacko religion used to murder and steal would we say that everything in that book is false or would we rather look to expose how some people are twisting it to evil purpose?

    Lots of people in our modern world think every word that Ayn Rand wrote is gospel – fundamental human truth – and on the basis of such “truth” such people precipitated the financial collapse on millions of people.

    It’s not the stupid words of a nutcase we should worry about but how twisted minds put such words to their own use so that they can prey on other humans with impunity.

    p

  28. Q. “Is there an evolutionary explanation as to why some groups seem more particularly prone to take life and give their own lives in defense of their religion?”

    A. Matt Ridley, in his book “The Evolution of Everything – How Ideas Emerge”, reviews Judith Rich Harris’ studies of personalities, which show how little parenting actually influences those of their offspring. The conclusion is that (p. 162) 50% of one’s personality is directly or indirectly determined by genetics and that the other 50% is determined by socialization. It’s safe to conclude, I think, that the genetic element of personality would not be bent on self-destruction for whatever purpose; i.e., not an evolutionary generic advantage (indeed, hard to imagine the continuation of self-destructive genes). But ideas, socialization ideas, evolve. With respect to “the ultimate sacrifice”, the evolution of US military socialization is a closer to home example, though it involves the association of Americanism, and what it represents, as a religion. From this perspective, germane questions would be: what current populations are not prone to self-sacrifice in defense of their beliefs? Is self-sacrifice germane to the evolution of beliefs?

  29. The propensity towards taking lives, including own life, in defence of religion is closely correlated with the degree to which an individual is subject to Richard Dawkins’s baseball cap meme. In other words their susceptibility to indoctrination. The types who are readily programmed to follow trends. People who could not possibly play a tennis match without reversing their cap. Such people when catching the religious virus will feel compelled to take their convictions and inclinations to the ultimate degree, including death. So the cause of religious murder and mayhem is supreme indoctrination of the vulnerable and has little to do with evolution. An evolutionary explanation would only be valid if mind control of this kind could be centred on a particular set of people over a protracted period resulting in all of the individuals showing identical behavioural patterns. In today’s more open and diverse society this would be very difficult to achieve. A better explanation is a realisation that some people are particularly prone to blind and unthinking conformation, unable to apply the checks and balances that normal people possess.

  30. particularly prone … unable to apply…

    Perhaps some of those people just don’t want to be bothered – the shortest distance between A and B is a short line.

  31. LaurieB offers good insights and takes a fine, long-range, global view of the issue. Let’s hope the rise of Islamic fundamentalism won;t inaugurate a hundred years of backsliding.

  32. Olgun

    Isn’t a fight between two males a display? Interesting how females stand around and take notice of how it’s proceeding. The human females who watch fights sometimes shout encouragement to one of the fighters. But even with the other mammals, do the females have to copulate with the winner of the fight? Why don’t they just run away or resist his intentions? Also I’ve seen (on animal shows) female mammals sneak off into the bushes with another male while the two contenders try to smash each other to bits in the foreground.

  33. I have a better, more interesting, question about evolution. When and how did humor evolve and why? My assumption is that it is a later development. By using the highly precise term “later” I have unwittingly exposed my profound and shameful ignorance. However, it is hard to imagine that, say, Homo habilis, told jokes or smiled around the fire or whatever the hell they did.
    Humor. I wonder if this question has been studied? Anyone know?
    Hitchens (who was not a scientist but could have been, I’m sure) had a hypothesis that humor was probably invented by males as a way of getting the females into…er, bed (for lack of a better, more precise word).
    Seriously, though: humor from an evolutionary biological perspective.—Interesting, right? It is possible that humor appeared much, much, later, after we had already assumed our present form, in which case the question would fall under the category of cultural evolution – but it may be that its origins go back to the earliest primates who were known to have grinned (according to the fossil records) dating back to the…uh, Late Paleocene of Africa (Altiatlasius).

  34. Yes, but even more important is the chemical process of earning, which involves adrenaline, which is how ideas can become an addiction. We all have heard about “adrenaline junkies”, but this does not just mean people who get involved in dangerous sports. If a theology, like that in the Bible (and, hence, the Koran), creates an inner world of paranoia about a god having a seemingly endless war with a devil, and the war is about who will get humans (after they die) forever!, believers do tend to develop anxiety! people, who on first hearing this theology, scoffed at the obvious illogical nature of the theology were killed. Children, seeing what happened said, “I believe!” Adrenaline. After a few generations, believers out numbered reasonable people, and here we are. The chemical process by which we learn and store what we learn in our “long-term memory banks” was first discovered by Hans Selye in the 70’s, and lo and behold the main chemical was adrenaline! The process of learning and retaining what is learned is ALWAYS triggered by a fear reaction to the unknown. Learning the alphabet is scary because EVERYTHING not known is suspect. That is the evolutionary bit about learning, about retaining what is learned, and why what is learned eventually becomes part of “self”, and therefore to be defended, often at all costs! Without the fear signal from the pituitary gland to the adrenaline gland, which then dumps adrenaline on the liver (which then causes the metabolism rate of liver cells to double) what is learned does not get into the long-term memory bank. Senile people have had their penile glands calcified, so they can no longer learn things, but can often remember things from long ago. This chemical process has its dangers. The adrenaline spike in the system can overwhelm a person, so there is a way that the body breaks it down to smaller chemicals that can be ejected from the body, like urinating, crying and so forth, People with malfunctioning adrenaline break-down systems are called epileptics! The adrenaline builds up dangerously. When they pass out, input is stopped, the system “reboots”, thus saving the person. Interestingly enough, some epileptics, on reading the Koran about the “vision in the cave ” bit, said, “Thats what happens to me in a seizure!” Of course it does because the voices that EVERYONE hears in dreams are what epileptics (and paranoid schizophrenics, or me on acid in the 60s) hear whilst having attacks…but they are not asleep….it is just that the dream state has “floated” into the waking world due to a malfunctioning in the chemical processes in the brain. Now, fill a billion people with a paranoid view of the cosmos, make them get repeatedly programmed with that paranoid thought, five times a day (with Christians, perhaps once a week), and what do we get? “Holy war”, which is really just people thinking that other people are working for this devil, whilst they are working for this god, and these people get so scared they lash out, scared of the unknown, this devil thing…this rival having a seemingly eons long war with this god…Which is a contradiction of the idea of a supposedly all-powerful being. But logic is trumped by adrenaline any old day! And now you know the evolutionary cause of learning, memory…and violent addiction to an idea…adrenaline. Aint life grand? Cheers, folks!

  35. I don’t really know what constitutes ‘choice’ in a bison, say, Laurie but, to me, the fight is purely a male thing with the females giving in to the winner. I can see how it works in evolutionary terms but not as individual choice. Those that go off into the bushes for a quick romance are severally beaten if they are caught and with the lions, can a mother be happy that her children are going to be killed if the real father loses the battle. Maybe I am just projecting here? The females in the bird family seem to have the last say, whichever chemical process deals with that ‘decision’.

  36. Perhaps the social and moral weight of concepts like persecution, punishment/aggression and self-sacrifice predates humanity. Maybe it was shaped by the conflicts of our evolutionary ancestors. Primates are generally territorial in-groupers. What if we inherited a little more aggression from our fore-bearers? What if that aggression played a role in their extinction? What if the aggression is the result of the advancement of the primate brain in the first place?

  37. A person’s religion or rather, religious thought-life could be seen as a type of intellectual territory and their fellow adherents would be occupants of the same territory. Most religiously fueled sectarian conflicts can be reduced to people fighting over the shaping of the landscape of their shared intellectual territory.

  38. Most of the places mentioned in the bible are true places. Many of the people mentioned in the bible are true people.

    You could say that about countless historical novels. Even fantasy or science fiction novels refer to true places. Did you know that Victor Frankenstein studied at the University of Ingolstadt in Germany or that Edmond Dante (The Count of Monte Cristo) was asked by his dying captain to deliver a package to General Henri Bertrand, an aide-de-camp of Napoleon.

    One does not throw the bible away as a worthless book, nor the Quran nor the Bagavad Git etc

    Nor Homer’s Odyssey. If I say that a book is not a history book, but a collection of myths, that does not imply that I think the book worthless.

    If someone held up one of those SI booklets we used to have in school (with all sorts of useful science stuff in them) and then somehow twisted it to be the foundation of a wacko religion used to murder and steal …..

    SI booklets? Assuming this is some sort of general basic education resource, can you explain how it might be used as a justification to murder and steal?

    … would we say that everything in that book is false or would we rather look to expose how some people are twisting it to evil purpose?

    If this book is part of the school curriculum, then the science stuff in there will presumably be supported by plenty of evidence from the body of scientific knowledge of the day. Why would you declare it false whether or not some nutter claims it as a reason to murder.

    Presumably none of that useful science stuff you read instructed you to murder others for any reason? On the other hand, there are some such instructions in the bible:

    A child who hits or curses his parents must be executed?

    Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live?

    If a man be found lying with a woman married to a husband, then they shall both of them die?

    It’s not the stupid words of a nutcase we should worry about but how twisted minds put such words to their own use so that they can prey on other humans with impunity.

    If they are stupid words of a nutcase, then it would be a good idea not to shy away from describing them as such. Twisted minds are better able to put such words to their own use if those who believe such words are holy are not challenged.

  39. though you seem to admit the point (and eg Homer’s myths led us to a real Troy) you also seem to think it necessary to harp about the negatives.

    It’s like saying “i don’t care how much truth is in book X, that it has just one reprehensible/dubious/wrong/archaic idea is enough for me to condemn the entire book and all who value it”

    we are going through a stage on earth where we are seeking any reasons we can to undertake yet another period of destruction of peoples and doing what we like with their land and resources – we have done all this before and we have used the same techniques before – for example in the USA we decimated the native American peoples and we used as part of our justification that their mythology/culture/behaviour was subordinate to our mythology(Christianity)/culture(European)/behavior(we had books etc) – and then we did it again to black people and now we are doing it again

    no matter how wrong a foundation document is and how backwards its adherents appear to us – we can’t cherry pick what’s useful to us to justify destroying them – no matter how nasty their behaviour might seem (especially as a consequence of us bombing them back to a state where the only thing left is their book X)

    too many “Atheists” scare the heck out of me and make me feel reluctant to continue to be “an atheist” by name – because so very many of them are seeding the grounds for current and future destruction of real living breathing loving and learning people

    did you know that the Jews basically were secular for something like 1700 years (with a hodge-podge of wacko fundamentalists) until not so long ago – now a huge percentage of fundamentalist orthodox jews have senior roles in the Israeli military?

    Did you know most of the Muslim world was secualr for a very long time – yes with a hodge podge of fundamentalists but nations like Iran, Iraq, Turkey and others were secular

    our nations seem intent on bombing and murdering the crap out of people to the extent that those fundamentalist factions rise up in power and numbers and then we use that to justify visting more fire and brimstone on them

    i think it’s important for people – especially atheists – to see things as they are and not get lost in the battle to prove that science is better than religion (stop bombing people for long enough and they figure that out for themselves) – simply because we can so so easily becomes part of the justification for the destruction of real human beings

    how do we progress?

    sheesh i don’t know – but sure as God did (or didn’t) make little green apples it’s got to be something fundamentally humane, it’s got to start with some basic principles and not killing each other is a good start

  40. Peak Oil Poet
    Jan 7, 2016 at 5:19 pm

    no matter how wrong a foundation document is and how backwards its adherents appear to us – we can’t cherry pick what’s useful to us to justify destroying them –

    Reputable scientists and historians debunking false claims by using evidence, or noting the lack of it, has nothing to do with cherry-picking!

    no matter how nasty their behaviour might seem (especially as a consequence of us bombing them back to a state where the only thing left is their book X)

    The militaristic adventures of neo-colonialists has nothing to do with atheism, and much to do with capitalist ideology, empire building, and religious complicity in colonisation and exploitation.

    i think it’s important for people – especially atheists – to see things as they are and not get lost in the battle to prove that science is better than religion

    Scientific methodology and rational thinking is vastly superior to the circular pre-suppositions of faith and dogma! We don’t need to “prove it”. Science works consistently to give the most reliable predictions and working systems available.
    “Faith” just gives entrenched ignorance, bigotry, tribalism, and the know-it-all of the gap-filler ignorance cover-up of god-delusions.

    i think it’s important for people – especially atheists – to see things as they are

    Science is precisely about seeking to see things as they are.

    Ideologies and religions, are about delusional visions, of how people wishfully think things should be, according to their unevidenced preconceptions!

    Science does appeal to those with militaristic ambitions, but this is because it provides accurate information, along with efficient and reliable systems in competitive situations.

  41. It’s like saying “i don’t care how much truth is in book X, that it has just one reprehensible/dubious/wrong/archaic idea is enough for me to condemn the entire book and all who value it”

    Just one reprehensible/dubious/wrong/archaic idea?

    Where did i condemn the entire book, or all those who value it?

    we are going through a stage on earth where we are seeking any reasons we can to undertake yet another period of destruction of peoples and doing what we like with their land and resources

    speak for yourself

    no matter how wrong a foundation document is and how backwards its adherents appear to us – we can’t cherry pick what’s useful to us to justify destroying them

    Quite right, but what’s that got to do with the historicity or truth of the various religious texts?

    especially as a consequence of us bombing them back to a state where the only thing left is their book X

    And it has nothing to do with that book X or theocratic rule of course. The Saudis recently executed 47 people in one day – did they do that because your country bombed them? Atheists bloggers have been hacked to death in Bangladesh – because you keep bombing them? Did those Natzis kill millions because we kept bombing them?

    too many “Atheists” scare the heck out of me and make me feel reluctant to continue to be “an atheist” by name – because so very many of them are seeding the grounds for current and future destruction of real living breathing loving and learning people.

    By claiming the bible is a collection of myths? How did you get from there to future destruction?

    now a huge percentage of fundamentalist orthodox jews have senior roles in the Israeli military?

    What percentage is that? And again, what does it have to do with the historicity of the bible?

    our nations seem intent on bombing and murdering the crap out of people to the extent that those fundamentalist factions rise up in power and numbers and then we use that to justify visting more fire and brimstone on them.

    Well by your own reasoning, those people must have done something really nasty to us. They should stop that and then we will all live happily ever after.

    i think it’s important for people – especially atheists – to see things as they are

    Why especially atheists?

  42. ok ok i get it – your message is simple and quite clear:

    “kill all Muslims”

    colour it any way you want that’s what 99.9% of Muslims will understand you to be saying – because that is what your bottom line is – clear as day

    great world I live in to be sharing it with people like you

  43. “Is there an evolutionary explanation as to why some groups seem more particularly prone to take life and give their own lives in defense of their religion?”

    Similar Question:
    Is there an evolutionary explanation as to why some groups seem more particularly prone to take life and give there own lives in defense of their Country?

    Before you judge me as some anti-nationalist/pseudo liberal.

    Wait…

    I am just rephrasing question as “Why do humans take a life or give their own lives to defend an ideology?

    The Obvious answer is survival.To understand this,one must understand tribal mentality/herd mentality.

    Despite celebrating year 2016,humans are still tribal in nature or I should say human brain still has this encoded primitive idea of tribe.This nature has been developed due to thousands of years of tribal living so it is not going away for centuries..Sigh..

    What this means in laymen sense is a person feels safe living among the their own people,people who follow similar culture as him or his believes the best chance of survival is to live among own tribesman.

    This is why people don’t like new culture/immigration.No body likes to live in society where one becomes minority in his life time due to invasion of foreign culture/people.This is the some reason people protest when thousands of refugees get settled in their areas.This is the reason why some mammals are territorial in nature.

    Now let me divide question in two parts
    1.Taking other lives
    2.Defending religion by sacrificing lives

    Part 1 : Taking other lives

    One has two choices either embrace new culture/people/ideas or squash them.Evolution usually prefer later as it is easy.”Why should i change myself when i can just kill him?”

    Our brains try to simplified things and not remain in conflicts that is why we believe “we are right and others are wrong”.Since Religions are part of culture or our environment people like to defend it at any extent like dogs defending their territories.

    a radical muslim brain thinks the best way to survive is in sharia controlled country where his lifestyle/ways will hardly be challenged.A radical christian thinks it would be better if all muslims get killed in crusade so christian culture can survive and so on and on.

    We normal people like to raise our kids according to our culture for the exact same reason,the only difference is we don’t get as far as killing someone but we do slap the kid if he does any morally/legally thing. don’t we?

    Part 2 : Sacrificing lives for religion

    This is the absolute case of selfishness.A person who adamantly believes he will earn a ticket of heaven for killing some one will obviously do it.And That is for eternity….

    During the crusade Pope did tell soldiers the will go to heaven for fighting for religions.Today, you hear same thing in an ISIS camps.

    Similar question : Fighting for country

    Again comes selfishness.You obviously have better chance of survival if your country wins the war that’s we see people supporting country in every case:Right or Wrong.Your offspring has better chance to survive as well if your country wins the war in case you are wondering why does one sacrifice for country.

    Mammals and Aves do care about their children as evolution has trained in such a way that they do care about own genes.Whether its about their own survival or their offspring’s survival.They will fight for it.

    So at the end, It all comes down to selfishness.Humans are selfish..Live with it…

    People did kill other people for their ideologies in past..They will do so in the future as well

  44. Was that reply to Alan4 or myself or to the OP. In any case, it’s an extraordinary interpretation. Please explain which statements led you to this “understanding” and how you got to be the spokesperson of 99.9% of Muslims.

  45. Why are humans more intelligent than animals? The answer to this question explains how extreme religious views, including those relating to killing, have evolved.

    Every animal splits its time between eating, breeding, surviving predators, and trial and error learning. Social animals learn more because the infant animals learn by trial and error copying their parents. However trial and error learning takes a lot of time and everything learnt is lost when the animal dies. This puts a ceiling on animal intelligence as no species will evolve a brain bigger than it can fill with trial and error learning in an average life time.

    Perhaps about 150,000 years ago humans, who already could make simple tools, found a way of breaking through the “animal intelligence” ceiling by inventing a powerful new tool which we call natural language. This allows information to be passed relatively quickly and efficiently from one generation to the next generation. A simple evolutionary change had the effect of converting language into a very efficient “speed learning” tool. The result is that human children bypass the automatic checks in the animal trial and error learning process and automatically accept WITHOUT CHECKING nearly everything they are taught by “responsible” adults.

    Once this has happened genetic evolution plays no further significant role and the far faster cultural evolutionary process steps in. This favours groups which have the most effective culture and survival of the cultural group becomes more significant than survival of the individual. From this point onwards genetic evolution will favour individuals who unquestioningly accept the culture promoted by the group.

    Of course any successful cultural group will need to include ways to promote harmony among the group and ways to protect the group from outside threats. There will be significant advantages in breeding more members of the group and a successful cultural group would benefit with by encouraging actively breeding females. As slightly more males are born than females males become obvious candidates for more risky activities – including the defense of the cultural group.

    This is where Religion comes in. Some species of ants have evolved non-breeding individuals whose sole reason for existence is to fight to defend the colony and there could be evolutionary advantages to any communal species or culture which develops a similar strategy. A culture which over-rides natural survival instincts by promising an ever-lasting paradise to otherwise “surplus” males has taken the first steps towards to genetically evolving the human equivalent of the soldier ant. Conformity within a culture also has survival benefits. Threatening individuals who do not conform with an ever-lasting hell will encourage them to toe the line – while physically dispatching miscreants to the promised hell for the damned strengthens the point.

    To conclude: Humans are more intelligent than animals because we invented a speed learning tool we call language. This allows us to pass cultural information rapidly from generation to generation by bypassing our natural animal instinct to trial and error check new ideas. We are especially intelligent because our children accept as factually correct what they are taught by the charismatically wise adults who bring them up. The result is extremely successful as long as the cultural information accurately reflects reality. However the speed-learning modification opens the door for the unquestioning acceptance of sometimes dangerous speculative ideas involving self-sacrifice and killing others based on the alleged and frequently re-interpreted supernatural sayings of long dead charismatic “wise men.”

  46. This is exactly what happens to the young boys in the madrassa’s in the muslim world; they’re being brainwashed with the koran from age 4 to 7, until they are automatons spreading the word of the extremist muslim movement.

  47. The possible evolutionary explanation is the selective pressure in human societies towards social behavior. You can make some Google Scholar searches, you’ll find interresting results:
    There is a connecton between oxytocin receptor polymorphism and religious behavior. Oxytocin is the social bonding neurotransmitter, which gives people a strong drive to be altruistic to their own group, but at the same time fiercly hostile to competing groups. Oxytocin is in negative relationship with dopamine- the ‘analytic neurotransmitter’. Interresting, that introverts, who are highly dopamine-sensitive, has lower levels of oxytocin than extraverts.

  48. I want to point out that psych is not the only field I draw on when I
    think about topics that interest me. I need all of the knowledge that
    comes from all of the sciences all of the time!

    (…)

    I want to point out that psych is not the only field I draw on when I
    think about topics that interest me. I need all of the knowledge that
    comes from all of the sciences all of the time! After I finished my
    B.S. I lived in a tribal society for three years and then on return to
    the States I decided that I needed to fill in around the edges with
    more college course work that I felt was lacking. What I want to point
    out here is that we can’t understand certain behaviors with just the
    knowledge that comes out of the psych dept. We need to reach for the
    big picture on these things. That big picture needs what E.O. Wilson
    calls consilience from the highest levels of a number of academic
    fields

    Sorry Laurie B for quoting you without permission or quoting what I call an interesting perspective, I would say there´s a “discipline” to deal with that matter (that happens to be transdisciplinary by the way), I mean that deals with diferente fields of knowledge with a propper special ethos.
    Your effort to teach deep biological reasons for people in urge satisfaction of their most basic needs is like a”pilgrimage”.

    Even if I abadoned my academic formation for a job, one day a professor of mine came into my work place ( I once abandoned her class room to go to the garden because she was reading a book, and I just thought, well, I will read the book alone in the garden), so she came and while resolving her personal life in a family Court as a divorced woman with four children, some autist one that her husband blamed her for the autism of the child, she paused the book she had in her hands on my desk, so that I could take my note of the book she was reading (which I don´t know exactly where it is now) but I think is this one http://www.amazon.in/From-Culture-Ethnicity-Conflict-Anthropological/dp/0472085387

    this time time i could not go out, working and fighting for basic needs.

  49. Might I urge on both of you (LaurieB also) a just published book, the product of a newly formed discipline seeking a scientifically (and mathematically) underpinned understanding of “Cultural Evolution”, from Peter Turchin.

    Ultrasociety

  50. I suspect the propensity to kill in the name of religion as a genetic feature, is pretty well equal in everyone. Have a look at how our European ancestors behaved just an eye-blink of evolutionary time ago.

    For it to express, you need an environment with a dominant blood thirsty religion or ideology. You might ask the opposite question, what suppresses it? advanced science, universal education, cosmopolitan cities, international trade.

  51. As far as to kill for “ideals”(Mein Kamft), a delusional “metaphor”.
    Oppenheimer, people quote, felt a mysthical sensation of biblical proportions with his creation.

  52. And the winner of the week, I suspect will be of the same sort of the one some weeks ago it will encourage some answer as good as “my opinion on everything”.

  53. I rather think of it like a wolf pack. The alpha is always trying to keep the rest of the clan in check by asserting his dominance any way he can through fighting or mating. This sort of behavior definitely has it’s evolutionary advantages such as ensuring a healthy gene pool and stronger generations. Some religions are enforced upon people in the same way. The follow or die method. By filtering out any knowledge other than the prescribed scripture to be adhered to and enforcing commandments of religious law, you have a perfect setting for keeping the purity of such madness. If there is descent in the ranks, one simply kills to remove the dissenting factor to maintain authority.

  54. I don’t know who this response is aimed at either but…what clear message are you referring to, Sir?

    You claim to detect a specific hatred towards a specific people permeating the discussion. Please explain why you feel there are haters here who want to “kill all muslims”. What statement are you hinging this on?

    There are several ways that one would arrive at the conclusion that any of the comments made during this discussion amount to even so much as a thickly disguised hint that we should “kill all muslims”:

    A) One hasn’t actually read the responses, or is in desperate need of a straw man.

    B) Narcotics/Alcohol have been consumed in sufficient quantity so as to warp the mind into insensibility.

    C) Firmly entrenched religious (Islamic) beliefs.

    D) All of the above

    On second thought, C is a little unfair. Im sure there are many people of the Islamic faith who’s only submission to irrationality is the religious conviction itself. Such a person may still be able to conclude that they aren’t necessarily in automatic lockstep with the thinking of precisely 99.9% of their fellow adherents. They might also not believe that all criticisms of Islam are unwarranted or that they are really just demands that all of its believers be killed.

  55. 🙂 i sure wish it was B but sadly my old body doesn’t take to well to such things. C, no, though i will concede something i read once in a Christian book on New Ageism – that being raised in an environment steeped in religious beliefs (many of which might even pre-date religion, if that is possible), it is unlikely that i have been unaffected – for example, such things as “don’t steal” i take for granted but why? That there are laws that are supposed to prohibit and penalise it? Or is it because everyone around me from the time i was born was drumming it in to me – because mostly they were from a Christian background? I’d not be prepared to assert that I have been unaffected. “Belief” or even more accurately “statement of belief” is pretty easy to assert but all that baggage from upbringing, culture…?

    so that gets rid of D too

    ok so now for A which is really A1 and A2

    A1: i will concede that i don’t read, carefully, all the responses if i detect in the general flow of the words any hint whatsoever of the issue (your straw man, but i’ll come back to that). People (and of course that includes me) have a tendency, when they are not being absolutely clinical in their management of thought, to be somewhat Freudian (sans phallic symbolism) in their deliveries. Put simply – people can’t hide their primary fears and drives.

    so that leaves your straw man (or my straw man as you would put it)

    maybe it is but if it is it is deeply entrenched in this field (that of ending dogma in favour of science). There’s a variety of people who would like to prove to themselves or to the world that they are good atheists. Bravo. That’s a step that those who have been steeped in (particularly) Christianity might take in their transition to being dogma free. I do chuckle at it sometimes – the very fundamentalist Christian trait of proselytizing carries over very well to New Atheism as if it’s a zero sum game (one minute your wrong if you say no, the next you are wrong if you say yes (i mean to questions like “do you believe in God”)).

    that’s your (my) straw man in one set of clothes

    the other set of clothes is the more nasty – it’s the one that allows people to focus on the wrong of something (in this case Islam, some of its adherents) without looking at the bigger picture of how such focus might lead to somewhere none of us really want to go (or do we?)

    war

    we are a warring species

    Steven Pinker optimistically sees the world becoming less aggressive, less warring – but what if this is a not a 3 sigma period? What if the “return to mean” is just sitting there waiting for this last century of relatively war-free times (thanks to fossil fuels i imagine) to end and precipitate us into a world wide conflagration?

    I look at what is happening in the USA with GOP candidates like Trump behaving much the same as the Nazi party did in the run up to world war 2 except this time it’s Muslims

    So, my Strawman – the one that I assert stands in the field of peaceful anti-dogma – is the one that allows people to agree tsk tsk aren’t those Muslims fools (and worse) for their obviously idiotic and ugly religion?

    because it’s only a step from such behaviour to where we find ourselves being complicit in sending them all to the modern equivalent of the gas chamber

    if you don’t think that strawman is real – go browse through some of the posts on this site and listen to some of the things my hero Dawkins have said

    let’s happily attack a book – but let’s be real careful about attacking people whose history has unfortunately made that book a central part of their cultural baggage

    such attacks can very easily end up being ammunition for the Donald Trumps of this world and the war-hungry dogs that follow his call

    pop

    ps, and now i’m kindof tired, i’ll try and get to other kind respondents if i can

  56. Peak Oil Poet
    Jan 10, 2016 at 2:21 pm

    I do chuckle at it sometimes – the very fundamentalist Christian trait of proselytizing

    Not really! Promoting the teaching of science and reasoning, is very much about how to think rather than proselytizing dogmatically what to think!

    carries over very well to New Atheism as if it’s a zero sum game (one minute your wrong if you say no, the next you are wrong if you say yes (i mean to questions like “do you believe in God”)).

    I think this is very much a theist dichotomy of “My religion/ sect” and the wrong ones!

    “do you believe in God”

    “Which one or which version of the thousands of gods?” is the response I expect from New Atheists when confronted by theists who believe in “default gods” – which require no supporting evidence of their existence or claimed activities!

    BTW: I do believe in god-delusions, and expect neuroscience to produce firmer evidence of their workings quite soon!

  57. Only now I see someone would suggest something from the same author, that´s a happy coincidence, mine was latter on but didn´t see this quote before. Yes, the question is narrow, and that´s a choice of RDF, I would think it aims to trigger “wide minded” answers, but I really doubt.Well a happy coincindence I say again.

  58. Really, reckless, risky but wonderful way of writing.The Selfish Gene is risky too and continues to be 40 years later I think, for different reasons

  59. I don’t think we’re there yet, although I have a vested interest in embracing with great enthusiasm that notion, in spite of my conviction that we are about 10,000 years away from that, David; I am not exactly Brad Pitt.
    Experience has taught me – and this is no doubt true – that women, by in large, still prefer handsome, strong men to creative, brilliant (slightly above) average (looking) guys like me. (My mother thinks I am very handsome, for what that’s worth.) And from what I have heard (from you yourself) you are something of a lady’s man – so it’s easy for you to say. (LOL)

    Maria, here’s a nice quote: “An idea that is not dangerous is hardly worthy of being called an idea at all.” —Oscar Wilde

  60. Hi Peak Oil Poet,

    Coming a bit late to the part of the thread couple of things I would like to discuss though,

    There’s a variety of people who would like to prove to themselves or to the world that they are good atheists. Bravo. That’s a step that those who have been steeped in (particularly) Christianity might take in their transition to being dogma free. I do chuckle at it sometimes – the very fundamentalist Christian trait of proselytizing carries over very well to New Atheism as if it’s a zero sum game (one minute your wrong if you say no, the next you are wrong if you say yes (i mean to questions like “do you believe in God”)).

    I think you are mistaking proselytizing, with activism. My experience of people on this site is the vast majority are fighting not so much against religious beliefs, but the effect that religious belief has on our everyday lives. An example would be people who believe that they have been abducted by aliens and subjected to anal probing. I have no doubt that most on this site would consider these claims somewhere between delusional to simply unproven. However you won’t see that much energy pointed in that general direction. I think this is because these people have limited grasp on real power to influence our lives. Religion has an enormous impact however, in the west from pedophile scandals (problem here being the seeming immunity from having to front up and deal with the issue like every other institution) to their blocking of gay marriage, euthanasia, interference in education and hospitals and so forth. This is what drives the activism, not some alternative vision that everyone should be dogmatically atheist. Most atheists have enough confidence in rational thought to believe anyone who actually makes themselves aware of the issue will get there all on their own. In fact the only times I have done what you would consider proselytizing, is when someone is irritating me enough with their attempts at proselytizing me that I ask a couple of simple questions.

    have you read the bible
    have you read the bible completely.

    if no is answered to either question I suggest they do so then talk to me about the virtues of faith.

    the other set of clothes is the more nasty – it’s the one that allows people to focus on the wrong of something (in this case Islam, some of its adherents) without looking at the bigger picture of how such focus might lead to somewhere none of us really want to go (or do we?)

    Are you suggesting rational discussion about the geopolitics of a culture who are clearly in some cases negatively being influenced by their particular religious beliefs will result in genocide? It seems to me that you are willing to look at a book and criticize it, but not look at the implications of a group of people (even a minority) believing in that book. You are the one seeking it seems to restrict the conversation. I would suggest that only through rational discussion, and disagreement will we solve this and that means many Muslims will have to be confronted with some aspects of their religious belief, this does not exclude us confronting any imperialist ambitions a minority of our culture might harbor as well, but let’s have the conversation.

    I look at what is happening in the USA with GOP candidates like Trump behaving much the same as the Nazi party did in the run up to
    world war 2 except this time it’s Muslims

    I agree Trump is an idiot. So where are the left wing voices against Islamic fundamentalism?

    So, my Strawman – the one that I assert stands in the field of
    peaceful anti-dogma – is the one that allows people to agree tsk tsk
    aren’t those Muslims fools (and worse) for their obviously idiotic and
    ugly religion?

    because it’s only a step from such behavior to where we find ourselves being complicit in sending them all to the modern equivalent of the gas chamber

    You are adding here to your strawman a slippery slope argument.

    let’s happily attack a book – but let’s be real careful about attacking people whose history has unfortunately made that book a central part of their cultural baggage

    I try to make a distinction about people of all faiths when dealing with the relative danger of their beliefs, I find it a useful distinction perhaps you could point out any flaws in my thinking.

    I blame peoples adherence to their faith only to the extent that they believe it…

    To give an example I blame Catholics only to the extent that they believe and follow Catholic Dogma, likewise Muslims. I have read both the Bible and and the Quran and both give plenty of opportunity for extreme unpleasantness if interpreted literally. So I am only worried to the extent that they follow the nonsense in their books. That leaves me open to both accept and criticize on that basis individuals who profess to hold that faith. Educating myself about their beliefs and discussing issues I find I would argue makes me less likely to participate in genocide or bigotry. It does put me in a position where I feel I can ask questions and make some judgments. If the likes of Trump (or more importantly those who would vote for him) would do the same with all the holy books I don’t believe we would have an issue.

  61. Maria and Phil

    Thanks for these recommendations. I finished Neurotribes. Now half way through The Hidden Brain by Vedantam, for bookgroup discussion tomorrow night.

  62. oooh, that’s a lot

    “I think you are mistaking proselytizing, with activism”

    yes there is a distinction i agree, if you will agree that there might be erstwhile Christians who, in their enthusiasm to embrace their new atheism might tend towards the same behaviour they exhibited as Christians (ie trying to convert people to their way of seeing the world)

    i was an “activist” (in my own eyes (though honestly i can’t swear to a clear distinction) when i used to enjoy baling up extremist Christians with the intent of swaying them (or just brow-beating them) with my awesomeness as an atheist

    “but the effect that religious belief has on our everyday lives”

    sure, i grok it – people who have been badly effected by the worst of their religion need places to go to find people to help them rebuild their world – one without their religious crutch – totally agree

    “Are you suggesting rational discussion about the geopolitics of a culture who are clearly in some cases negatively being influenced by their particular religious beliefs will result in genocide?”

    short answer? Yes.

    longer – who knows, but there sure are a lot of Muslim haters out there and i bet 99.9% know next to nothing of Islam and have never lived in a Muslim region of the world. It’s easy to just look at some blowback and leap to hatred

    and it’s damned well sure that war-mongering types who stand to profit might make use of that

    “You are the one seeking it seems to restrict the conversation”

    kindof yes

    it’s not that i want to restrict conversation – especially about the silliness of foundation doctrine – it’s that i would have it that we tease out the truth of people’s words when those words are negative and might lead to negative consequences – lots of people cloak fear (or blatant ill-will) in fair words or slippery

    typically: [i have nothing against Muslims] BUT IF [some of them do something bad] THEN [it’s kindof OK to murder them all in the name of (insert your foundation belief here)]

    there are lots of variations – go look even just on this page and you will see it if you look with completely open eyes

    ” I would suggest that only through rational discussion, and disagreement will we solve this…”

    actually i kind of disagree – i think the major ingredient is time – yes we need discussion etc but most of all we need lots and lots of time. I watched secularization of my own country and it happened over 50 years or so and still there are many who are fundamentalist in their core beliefs

    it takes generations i think

    and that period of time has to be free from war-mongering assholes like Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Clinton, Trump et al et all

    “his does not exclude us confronting any imperialist ambitions a minority of our culture might harbor as well, but let’s have the conversation”

    sheesh – a minority? you mean the minority with all the power who constantly create carnage?

    let’s see hmm, if i had a choice between destroying Islam as a faith or stopping the US war machine from constantly breaking the law and destroying millions of lives and creating generations of enemies through the blowback (not to mention supporting asshole regimes like Saudi)? Gee, that’s a hard one!!!

    “I agree Trump is an idiot. So where are the left wing voices against Islamic fundamentalism?”

    Trump is in no way an idiot – he’s a very dangerous man running on a platform of war – because he knows he can get a lot of support for it from both the elites who have massive investment in war industries and dis-empowered righteous types who know something is wrong but don’t know (or wont accept) what it is and will happily push us into yet more warefare

    left wing? what on earth is that? Hilliary? She’s a, gee i can’t find any better words than, fucking asshole bitch warmongering self-serving slimebag. Worse than Trump et al? No, just exactly the same.

    “You are adding here to your strawman a slippery slope argument.”

    aint i just 🙂

    “Educating myself about their beliefs and discussing issues I find I would argue makes me less likely to participate in genocide or bigotry”

    really? and what if you were complicit, indirectly, if not participatory?

    my tack? let’s all really really try to stop the war machine first – foremost – by a long margin

    in every way we can

    and then, when the world is at peace – let’s then start to pull down silly beliefs

    if we don’t then we will be without doubt complicit in genocide

    and looking back afterward you at least (as well as other readers here) can’t say you didn’t see it coming

    i can see it coming

    it’s coming

    and it’s nasty

    pop

  63. HI All

    thanks for the interesting and sometimes splendid answers to my question. There seems to be some consensus here that there is NOT an evolutionary natural selection aspect to this and that cultural or religious memes are almost certainly at the root of the problem- see Richard01 and Chris Rohe, for example. If this is true this is good news as, with care, there should be political solutions. On the other hand, it is predominantly males that engage in this, and since most agree that Arab males are genetically pretty much the same as any other males, we have to conclude that males from any culture are equally capable of such behaviour- see will knutsen with his “adrenaline” argument. The quote from Reckless Monkey regarding Australian soldiers has the ring of truth about it as does his observations about 72 virgins as sexual inducement. LaurieB and Miriam make a closely related point quite concisely: genetically inherited tribal instincts being confused in our global tribes being the possible culprit.

  64. Peak Oil Poet,

    First thanks for the reply, I know I can come across as combative (at least my wife tells me so) and I have some areas of disagreement, some questions and some areas where we probably agree in part. So please don’t take any personal offense – none is intended.

    On distinction between atheistic evangelicalism I’d say we are mostly in agreement but I’d emphasize that in my opinion is is both subtle and and in a sense foundational and this is what I am concerned about. I have listed the obvious ones like gay marriage, stem cell research and education. But there is a subtle undercurrent which is in place because most religions believe in spreading their message actively, and this will mean that proponents of secular democracies (not just atheists) will need to be constantly keeping this at bay. Here in very secular Australia for example we have been funding chaplaincy programs in schools which have had some conditions set but it is clear that the evangelical Christians who have taken up the roll (almost exclusively) have been trying to get around the rules. For example they are not allowed to push their religion, but they do things like bring in a Christian rock band and then advertise events in which they will push religion down the throats of the kids. This is subtle but if I brought an evolutionary biologist to school to talk about evolution and then handed out brochures advertising a talk which would talk about evolution but that really was pushing atheism, I’d rightly have some serious questions to answer, and it would be rightly pointed out that pushing my own agenda in a secular school was beyond my job description and inappropriate. But this is how religions behave in a number of ways.

    short answer? Yes.

    &

    ” I would suggest that only through rational discussion, and disagreement will we solve this…”

    actually i kind of disagree – i think the major ingredient is time – yes we need discussion etc but most of all we need lots and lots of time. I watched secularization of my own country and it happened over 50 years or so and still there are many who are fundamentalist in their core beliefs

    it takes generations i think

    and that period of time has to be free from war-mongering assholes like Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Clinton, Trump et al et all

    First thanks for not pretending that this isn’t what you think. This is refreshing.

    I obviously have more confidence in humanity to be able to deal with issues when they understand them. The problem I think you have is a little too black and white.

    You are both painting the west here as entirely evil and giving them complete responsibility for the current state of the Middle East and at the same time giving no credit or blame to the majority of civilians in the populations of these countries that vote in elections.

    You are painting a picture of Muslims that is too narrow I feel. I would suggest that the majority can hold more than one point of view at a time and it is at least possible that they can be convinced that both the American government is doing stupid things and understand that many in the west disagree. At the same time you are assuming all the evil is as a direct result of Western interference in the Mid East.

    Well if that is the case then please explain how Mohamed managed to spread Islam over much of the world, was this with kind words and discussion, no read the Quran and you will find chapters where Mohamed is bitching about those tribes that refused to participate in conquests with him, and the hell fire that awaited them if they continued to refuse. He was threatening death and hell to any tribe that did not join with him to invade foreign lands. You were either with him or against him, sounds exactly like the Bush doctrine to me. Remember this is before the USA even existed so you cannot claim this was a peaceful religion. You will also need to explain to me how western imperialism is responsible for Muslims killing other Muslims, how western imperialism is responsible for female genital mutilation, veiling women on pain of death. I can explain these behaviors very easily while seeking to offer refuge for those of Muslim faith who are at risk from different versions of that faith. You can walk and chew gum at the same time.

    In relation to Bush, Cheney et al. well it is only through rational discussion that we can expose these people for what they are. Voters need to take responsibility, they can only do so if they feel it is unpatriotic to be stupid or at least deliberately ignorant.

    left wing? what on earth is that? Hilliary? She’s a, gee i can’t find any better words than, fucking asshole bitch warmongering self-serving slimebag. Worse than Trump et al? No, just exactly the same.

    Who said Hilary is the left wing?! I agree the left is in a crisis. It seems to me to be a crisis bourne of an overreach of philosophies of cultural relativism and post modernism. The left used to be made up of people like Germain Greer who disagree or not were at least raising awareness and making you think. Something similar needs to happen in the West and in the Middle East. The left currently is made up of people it seems to me that are too ready to throw blame about and not look at their own positions critically. Basically we need to talk, that it ultimately the only weapon that will work.

    really? and what if you were complicit, indirectly, if not participatory?

    I am complicit whether I like it or not. So are you. Every time I fill up my tank with gasoline I’m involved in middle east politics. This is why I am passionate to address issues like getting off oil, it is part of the reason I am now buying an electric push bike, why I am saving for solar cells, not only from an environmental point of view but also the most responsible thing I can personally do is wean myself off fossil fuels. If my govenrment won’t I can at least be part of the tide that gradually does the right thing in-spite of governments. But these pathetic contributions and speaking out among my friends and family and voting and writing emails to my local and federal politicians is the best I can do. But throwing up my hands and saying that nothing can be done seems counter productive.

    sheesh – a minority? you mean the minority with all the power who constantly create carnage?

    Yes and that minority who hold power in the west only do so because the majority vote them in for selfish reasons, so my local goal is when sitting in my staffroom to call people out when they claim for example they are being taxed too much or deny global warming, or simply blame the west for all the worlds problems.

    my tack? let’s all really really try to stop the war machine first – foremost – by a long margin

    in every way we can

    and then, when the world is at peace – let’s then start to pull down silly beliefs

    And how do you propose we stop the war machine? Revolution? Or convincing the population to vote for politicians who will reduce spending in this area. Talk is all the majority have. Trump is a buffoon playing to the buffoons who will vote for him. I know a number of people in the older generation than me who have a difficult time with education they have mixed feelings of insecurity or shame. Some are a bit ashamed of their lack of education others are defensive and criticize the educated. A bit more talk about their kids and most will reveal that they have told their kids to get a university education because they could not/did not. What we see in the far right is a desire to not only be proud of ignorance but to try to vote for someone as ignorant as oneself. Personally on important matters I’d rather know there was someone far smarter than me in charge. If I’m getting surgery, I want the surgeon to be smarter then me, if I’m flying overseas I hope the pilot is smarter than me, if I voting for someone I want them to be both my moral and intellectual superior. Trump is neither and that is scary, but I do not have a vote, I can only encourage those that do to be ashamed to remain ignorant of the politics and engage in the debate. Like it or not in a democracy conversation and comparison of ideas is all we have.

    regards

  65. i’m only going to address a bit of the above

    “because most religions believe in spreading their message actively”

    false – 100% false. ONLY Christianity does it. Only*. You might leap to think factions of Islam do it – but this is a mistake because it’s not a religious thing in general – it’s an ethic issue and it’s not about spreading a message but more about retribution by the sword for what happened when the shoe was on the other foot.

    Buddhism does not Proselytize – Judaism strictly forbids it, Zoroastrianism is constrained to a blood line, Sikhs do not.

    Hindus do not. Bahai? Well, kindof but only if adherents were previously western Christians.

    It is ONLY Christians and what is more it is ONLY USA evangelist sects of the last 50 years or so (yes some have spread elsewhere) – i had never seen it in Christianity until i encountered “Children of God”

    *One exception – Scientology does but it’s a US Christianity offshoot in my opinion because it uses the same tech

    next

    “You are both painting the west here as entirely evil and giving them complete responsibility for the current state of the Middle East and at the same time giving no credit or blame to the majority of civilians in the populations of these countries that vote in elections.”

    correct – the west is entirely to blame – when the middle eastern countries were secular and had democracy – we fucking systematically destroyed it – name one place that has working democracy now? How do you dare suggest they should have VOTED for more peaceful behaviour after what we did and how they had to deal with it. Sheesh – go spend a few days reading the history of middle eastern countries.

    ….

    buy an electric pushbike etc: go look up Jevons paradox and also the tragedy of the commons

    you don’t fix things that way – it doesn’t work, in fact it can actually make things worse

    i’ll skip the rest – i am a bit tired

    look, the bottom line is that you folk in the USA (ditto for us here) have to address issues in the USA first and foremost and get out of foreign policy – don’t ask me how but actively working towards that goal is a start – any pointing fingers at anyone else is just silly – you can’t rip down Islam while the US shows itself to be CHRISTIAN – start by getting Christianity out of the US especially out of politics – any politician who claims to believe in God is a liar or damned fool and should never be voted in – so somehow that’s got to be addressed. Muslims are never going to see it as anything but what they have experienced in their long history otherwise – they’ll just see it as an ethic thing cloaked in religion – the anglos at it again

    how do we stop it?

    revolution?

    yes, that’s what it really needs and the US is ripe for it and the elites know it

    i believe the only true freedom comes from continuously pulling down power structures – perpetual revolution

    how?

    might not need a how – it might just emerge as a consequence of the way of things – systems eventually fail when they are so incestuous and so self destructive that elites build their lives on the destruction of more and more people – eventually it fails and they all get the chop

    i’m hoping (and damn it yes, even praying) that it will be sooner than later because the longer it takes, the more devastating it will be

    pop, exhausted

  66. buy an electric pushbike etc: go look up Jevons paradox and also the tragedy of the commons

    you don’t fix things that way – it doesn’t work, in fact it can actually make things worse.

    Then you have misunderstood both concepts.

  67. Again Peak Oil Poet, thanks for the direct responses.

    I won’t talk long as I too have to go to bed. Just a couple of things because on fundamental issues I just think I plain disagree.

    false – 100% false. ONLY Christianity does it. Only*. You might leap to think factions of Islam do it – but this is a mistake because it’s not a religious thing in general – it’s an ethic issue and it’s not about spreading a message but more about retribution by the sword for what happened when the shoe was on the other foot.

    buy an electric pushbike etc: go look up Jevons paradox and also the tragedy of the commons

    you don’t fix things that way – it doesn’t work, in fact it can actually make things worse

    I’d not heard of Jevons paradox (although I’d heard the argument before) so thanks for that. I was aware of the tragedy of the commons although I don’t see how me vastly reducing the amount of energy I consume by riding a more efficient bike fits into either paradox. I assume (because you haven’t stated why I should believe what you say) that you are referring to Lithium batteries being a limited commodity. While I agree that that may in fact be a problem (although there are other less rare alternatives that will likely be available in the near future such as super caps), unless lithium happens to be found in massive quantities in Muslim majority countries then I don’t see how it in anyway counteracts my argument. Please outline why I am actually wrong.

    Sorry even on the basis of what you are saying Christianity is about a third of all people worldwide so at best you could say false – 70% false. But you are wrong that Islam is not trying to gain and has never tried to gain converts.

    Here are some relevant quotes from the Quran.

    The Qur’an:

    Qur’an (8:39) – “And fight them until there is no more Fitnah
    (disbelief and polytheism: i.e. worshipping others besides Allah) and
    the religion (worship) will all be for Allah Alone [in the whole of
    the world ]. But if they cease (worshipping others besides Allah),
    then certainly, Allah is All-Seer of what they do.” Translation from
    the Noble Quran

    Qur’an (9:29) – “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last
    Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and
    His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they
    are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing
    submission, and feel themselves subdued.” Suras 9 and 5 are the last
    “revelations” that Muhammad narrated – hence abrogating what came
    before, including the oft-quoted verse 2:256 -“There is no compulsion
    in religion…”.

    Qur’an (9:5) “But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and
    slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them,
    and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they
    repent, and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity,
    then open the way for them…” Prayer and charity are among the Five
    Pillars of Islam, as salat and zakat. (See below). The Quran thus
    sanctions violence as a means of coercing religion.

    Qur’an (9:11) – (Continued from above) “But if they repent and
    establish worship and pay the poor-due, then are they your brethren in
    religion” In conjunction with the preceding passage, this confirms
    that Muhammad is speaking of conversion to Islam.

    Quran (9:56-57) – “And they swear by Allah that they are most surely
    of you, and they are not of you, but they are a people who are afraid
    (of you). If they could find a refuge or cave or a place to enter
    into, they would certainly have turned thereto, running away in all
    haste.” This refers to people living with the Muslim tribe who may
    not be true believers, but must pretend to be in order to survive.
    They have no safe refuge to escape the Muslims. If Islam were a
    religion of peace, then why the fear?

    Qur’an (2:193) – “And fight them until persecution is no more, and
    religion be only for Allah. But if they desist, then let there be no
    hostility except against wrong-doers.” The key phrase here is to
    fight until “religion be only for Allah.”

    Qur’an (3:83) – “Are they seeking a religion other than Allah’s, when
    every soul in the heavens and the earth has submitted to Him,
    willingly or by compulsion?” But didn’t the earlier verse (2:256)
    state that there is “no compulsion in religion”? This contradiction
    is resolved by abrogation – where the later verse supersedes the
    earlier one.

    You will if you acknowledge the history of Islam know that it was spread in this manner through much of the world which is why Islam now spread out across the world.

    look, the bottom line is that you folk in the USA…

    I’m Australian not American I don’t get a vote in US foreign policy.

    Muslims are never going to see it as anything but what they have experienced in their long history otherwise
    – they’ll just see it as an ethic thing cloaked in religion – the
    anglos at it again

    As I have said in the last post and above, nothing they (fundamentalist Islam) would not recognize from their own past history of invading other lands and forcing them to convert or die. Look at what ISIS is doing now, not to the west but to other Muslims. You give the impression of someone who is screaming about the evils of the West and closing your eyes and ears to any problems with Islam. I am not against Islam per-se (or at least any more than any other religion) except to the degree to which they believe and attempt to follow to evil nonsense in their holy books (which is the same criticism I have for Judaism and Christianity – can’t comment on the rest as I haven’t read their books). If moderate Mulsims want to share my world, my country, my neighborhood, they are genuinely welcome. As long as they don’t attempt to shoot up coffee shops, threaten decapitation, cut of the clitorises of their girls and force their women into bags (this is far from all of them I am speaking about I’ll add again). Then they will give me no concern whatsoever. But I’m not going to be silenced because of some stupid misadventure into the the middle east which I was personally against. US stupidity is not my responsibility other than to attempt to convince people that they have a vote and should use it wisely, and they have a voice and should use it wisely.

    revolution?

    yes, that’s what it really needs and the US is ripe for it and the
    elites know it

    i believe the only true freedom comes from continuously pulling down
    power structures – perpetual revolution

    how?

    might not need a how – it might just emerge as a consequence of the
    way of things – systems eventually fail when they are so incestuous
    and so self destructive that elites build their lives on the
    destruction of more and more people – eventually it fails and they all
    get the chop

    i’m hoping (and damn it yes, even praying) that it will be sooner than
    later because the longer it takes, the more devastating it will be

    I’m sorry you don’t believe in democracy, what do you intend to replace it with? If you’re not very careful you’ll end up with theocracy.

  68. Maybe we are defining group selection differently, and maybe I don’t understand Wilson or Haidt, but here’s my reply:

    If it is true that prehuman and human groups whose members cooperated to the extent that they put the good of the group before their own won battles and territory over groups whose members allowed their selfish interests to override group goals, then individual members of such groups would pass their cooperative genes to the next generation and individuals in selfish groups would be more likely to die out. So there would be a layering of evolutionary pressures.
    Genes in individuals also reside in the group where the individual lives, so group reproductive success influences natural selection in addition to individual reproductive success. Many members of groups are also related, which makes it more likely that a group would contain more of the same genetic material.
    Game theory shows that if you put a person who cooperates all the time into a group where people are selfish all of the time, the cooperator loses all of the time. Primitive human tribes, on the other hand, tended to be egalitarian, punishing selfish members with expulsion or death, which would benefit cooperators. Which group you were in mattered to your reproductive success.
    It’s that layered aspect of group selection in humans, as opposed to strictly group vs. group selection like social insects, that I think Wilson and Haidt are talking about.
    it seems like common sense to me, so I don’t know what the fuss is about.

  69. Miriam
    Jan 12, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    Genes in individuals also reside in the group where the individual lives, so group reproductive success influences natural selection in addition to individual reproductive success. Many members of groups are also related, which makes it more likely that a group would contain more of the same genetic material.

    I think you need to check out the differences between “group selection” and “kin selection”!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kin_selection

  70. buy an electric pushbike etc:

    Happy to report that after doing the post it got me motivated to look again at the electric bikes (money’s an issue but it will save me much more over the year). Ordered one shortly after, confirmed it is now on it’s way – should have it early next week. Crank driven engine 250 watt motor, 5 power settings, should get about 50km range if I pedal with it certainly enough to get me work and back every day more quickly and once we have our panels fitted will be carbon neutral as well (at least as far as the energy used to drive it), and I won’t be too sweaty climbing the big hills to get to my work. So thanks, you’ve given me a much needed kick in the backside.

  71. I think you are making a valid point about how culture works, however evolution through natural selection relies on those genes being preferentially chosen against the background of the group they reside in. So in the same population there will be different strategies which may be behaviorally expressed for example through for example aggressive tendencies in individuals such as the football player I referred to, as opposed to the more cooperative albeit less aggressive male. Natural selection works by increasing the frequency of in this case the cooperative genes against the level of the aggressive gene (both though may exist in different numbers within a gene pool). So different situations like those in which the game theory explains may give different outcomes in relation to what happen to the frequency of those genes within the population as a whole. For example as a mother choosing to breed with an aggressive male may increase you genes chances of making it into the next generation to breed by him being a better provider or a better protector. However the additional levels of testosterone my make him a poor parent (too agressive) or likely to spread his genes about and abandon you and thus not provide for your children (who carry your genes). The less aggressive male however may be more likely to devote more time, and a greater proportion of his albeit lower level of resources on his young. He may stay with you and devote more time to parenting thus having a direct impact on the spreading of both your genes. The exact balance of these and numerous others will help individuals and may also make it possible that the society as a whole works.

    Probably the crucial part to remember is that mutations which drive evolution must occur in individuals thus, that genes survival relies on the individuals ability to transmit that gene to the next generation among a population that by definition does not hold these genes.

    this might help

  72. Not read every response, so please excuse if others have beaten me to it.

    I think it is helpful to consider the role of cultural “memes”, especially religion.
    Taking religion as a “meme”, natural selection within “meme space” may favour the more aggressive meme over more peaceful ones, as long as the aggression isn’t so extreme that it kills off the population that plays host to the meme. The aggression benefits the meme (by spreading it), not the host (who does the convert-or-die conquest dirty work).

    Like a virus, but a virus-of-the-mind, the aggressive one will die out if it’s too damaging to its host. Or rather, it it damages the host too much before it’s managed to infect another. Many viruses seem to evolve into less virulent (?) strains, which is good for their own long term survival.

    Many strands of Christianity, which is about 700 years older than Islam, have evolved into less aggressive forms than they once were. Given time, one might expect Islam to evolve likewise. If it doesn’t wipe out its hosts, or its potential hosts, or be wiped out by the equivalent of an immune response first. The danger, of course, is we have an additional 700 years worth of technological development, weapons and such, to contend with this time around, making the meme potentially more dangerous to the entire population of hosts and potential hosts – ie, all of humanity. Apes, dolphins and other creatures so far seem to be immune.

  73. there’s a recurrent theme coming out where people seem to leap to the foundation document in attacking Islam

    here’s the problem – if you are going to use a foundation document to judge millions if not a billion people today then you have to judge all Christians and all Jews and all Hindus and all Buddhist on their various historical documents

    Islam sure has some nasty stuff in the Q’ran but so does the Tanakh (think Old Testament), and the Gospels and this list is probably endless

    So we had these mostly secular Islamic nations of various Islamic sects and they were secular and they were democratic.

    So then we bombed the shit out of them and we executed various government overthrows and we did everything we could to destroy their infrastructure, economies, institutions etc

    when out of that rubble emerged radicals and fundamentalists we then used them as an excuse to further screw them over making things ever worse

    and then we have the gall to hold them to account for all the consequences including the blowback

    and to justify that we believe we have the right to obliterate them we point to their old books

    sheesh

    let’s say China decides the USA is now to big a threat to allow to continue and nukes the hell out of the place (the US systems being the mess it is i would not be surprised if none of our retaliatory systems worked – especially if China took out some strategic coms links and rendered the whole lot dead as a duck)

    and then it invaded and screwed over a whole bunch of the mostly secular population

    it could justify the whole shebang by pointing to the Old Testament and to all our God invoking politicians

    please oh please before you judge a billion people – especially a billion people of whom we have been decimating and screwing over a few hundred million one way or another – by pointing at their religious foundation documents for justification – please imagine it’s them or someone else screwing you over and pointing to the bible

    i can hardly imagine a small number of people waving their hands and claiming to be atheists and therefore not to be included in the pogrom would be left in whatever peace might be left after it all

    as for me not believing in democracy – i sure as hell do – but the USA and allies seems to have a huge problem with anyone having it except the USA and if the USA’s version of democracy is what you are claiming is the best there is then you can keep it because all i see is a nation taxed to the hilt, ripped off and misled day after day after day so a bunch of scum bags like the Koch brothers and the Bush family (and the Clintons) and all their relatives and friends can enjoy incredible power and privilege

    sheesh, it’s amazing just how the war-mongering has seeped into pretty much everywhere and everyone

    it’s black and white to me – war is wrong, murder is wrong, theft is wrong, carpet bombing is wrong, torture is wrong, selling weapons of huge and mass destruction to scum bags is wrong and the list goes on and on

    if the only things that are consistent in pointing out such things are religions – then please bring them back

    and if the price we have to pay to bring assholes like the Bush family to justice is Sharia Law for a century or two – please bring it on

    “if moderate Muslims want to share my world” – Moderate Muslims are probably terrified of your world because your world is endless bloodletting and theft

    stop falling for the bullshit that is making up the game that these assholes are playing to drag us into endless war to keep the war machine going and all its cronies in Lear jets and Cocaine

    pop, mad as hell 🙂

  74. Islam sure has some nasty stuff in the Q’ran but so does the Tanakh (think Old Testament), and the Gospels and this list is probably endless

    Agreed, but this goes against your basic hypothesis that these were peaceful religion/nations that have been screwed up royalty by the West. They were doing a good job of that long before we got involved with them.

    So we had these mostly secular Islamic nations of various Islamic sects and they were secular and they were democratic.

    So then we bombed the shit out of them and we executed various
    government overthrows and we did everything we could to destroy their
    infrastructure, economies, institutions etc

    Please name the secular Islamic democracy that we have bombed. The closest example I can think about is Indonesia, who we have not bombed the shit out of in fact we happily stood back and let them invade East Timor modern (imperialism in action by a Muslim nation) so that we could share in the East Timor oil fields, moral whores (statement probably a bit rough on the whores) that successive governments including my own were on this issue. This secular nation Indonesia that killed millions of its communists and Chinese nationals. Watch the act of killing for a feel of what happened here. I agree this had little to do with Islam but it shows that these so called moderate Muslim majority countries are just are bloodthirsty as the west.

    when out of that rubble emerged radicals and fundamentalists we then used them as an excuse to further screw them over making things ever worse

    We have just established that the fundamentalism has been there from the start in the text and in the living example of the Prophet.

    please oh please before you judge a billion people – especially a
    billion people of whom we have been decimating and screwing over a few
    hundred million one way or another – by pointing at their religious
    foundation documents for justification – please imagine it’s them or
    someone else screwing you over and pointing to the bible

    I have bent over backwards to explain that I don’t, I agree it is nuanced. What I am objecting to is you characterizing Islam as a completely innocent party in this mess. It is not there are problems with the foundational documents that give ammunition for those such as IS who follow it literally. Please tell me where I have said it is all Muslims that are at fault. The people who need to saved (not necessarily by us) most are Muslims – from other Mulsims.

    having it except the USA and if the USA’s version of democracy

    agree with some of this,

    is what you are claiming is the best

    I have made no such claim, just asking citizens to engage in their democracy, mandatory voting would be a good start.

    all i see is a nation taxed to the hilt

    Hardly taxed to the hilt, I’d argue they need to pay a hell of enough more tax.

    sheesh, it’s amazing just how the war-mongering has seeped into pretty much everywhere and everyone

    Please tell me where I have said anything that indicates I believe that war is the answer.

    and if the price we have to pay to bring assholes like the Bush family
    to justice is Sharia Law for a century or two – please bring it on

    Perhaps you should try moving to a Muslim majority country and subject yourself to it for a while and see how you feel about it then, and why is this the only alternative to Bush, how about we vote for better candidates or stand for representation?

    “if moderate Muslims want to share my world” – Moderate Muslims are
    probably terrified of your world because your world is endless
    bloodletting and theft

    Again where have I suggested any bloodletting? Please stop making assumptions about my political motives simpl;y because I disagree with much of what you are saying.

    What I have proposed is removing the oil money from the equation which I suspect might shift the balance of power particularly in Sudi Arabia, which is causes many of the radicalization that is occurring in the west. The country that they are fleeing have plenty of bloodletting to go around from fellow Muslims. They are not running towards the west because it is better where they have come from. I’m saying welcome but, please respect our laws and our right to freedom of speech. Simple.

    stop falling for the bullshit that is making up the game that these
    assholes are playing to drag us into endless war to keep the war
    machine going and all its cronies in Lear jets and Cocaine

    So far you haven’t established any facts that I believe are bullshit. So if I’m going to be accused of falling for it I’m afraid I’m going to need more than blanket assertions.

    I’ll sign out now, I’ve enjoyed this but I’m worried we’ve strayed way off the topic, the moderators haven’t pulled up up on it so they must feel it has been somewhat productive. However we may end up outstaying our welcome on this thread if we keep this sidetrack up. However please feel free to pull me up and start a discussion on any other thread you see me on, even if we disagree completely I find the exercise mentally stimulating. Particularly if it is on this topic. Again hope I have not caused any offense.

    Regards.

  75. Rules for starting an overthrow in a country of your choice.

    Start by causing internal mistrust with backing and finance for small groups within who, have the luxury of producing meaningless declarations of idealogical impracticalities.

    Watch as shootings and bombs kill innocent people by their own.

    Create and exaggerate problems with neighbouring countries who are your allies(mish)

    Once the conflict starts in earnest, supply weapons and training to one of the sides that has come out on top from your list of possibilities.

    Important: Don’t forget to collect as much gas and oil as you can in return for support and weapons. And, make sure you make new friends with countries that you were not friends with before all of this because they MUST have seen the consequences, Right?

    Watch, as people in turmoil, turn to religion and in turn, religion throws up its clerics to utilise their new found power of control that one side or the other can put to good use through centralisation. This then cuts out the voices of the moderates.

    All other details are TOP SECRET and on a need to know basis.

    Please ensure, before doing any of this, that you promise yourself you will throw your hands up and declare surprise at the outcome at all times during and after the campaign. If propaganda material, like, holy books and any revised material comes to hand, they must be utilised with no embarrassment even though our own materials exists in this department. All religious incidents should hit western news with a resounding thud but surprise must be expressed. Buzzwords people……..we need buzzwords like, sharia or hadith or the one that gets most peoples attention…beheading!!!

    Now, cry havoc and let loose the dogs of war and get those damned bombers off the ground.

  76. It’s true, of course, that in different circumstances religion can
    either restrain the urge to fight or exacerbate it. Both factors are
    sometimes underestimated by people of a secular cast of mind. And
    sometimes, both factors are at work simultaneously. Religion can
    mitigate conflict within a large group (say, Christendom or the Muslim
    ummah) but also increase the chances of conflict between those large
    groups. A century on from the Great War, religion seems in many places
    to have retained its power to exacerbate strife but lost its capacity
    to calm and restrain.

    http://www.economist.com/blogs/erasmus/2014/05/religion-and-first-world-war

  77. I am not sure I am going to explain this very well but I need a name and/or links to a possible psychological study that is based on resolution. In my case it is about territory and how to get the two extremes in peoples minds and have them satisfied by a middle ground decision.

  78. a possible psychological study that is based on resolution.

    Scott Atran did the best work on this. His studies on conciliation and how a sacrifice of something held dear cut through the mistrust.

    This stuff was indeed his best work e.g.

    http://www-personal.umich.edu/~axe/research/Atran%20Axelrod%20Davis%20Sacred%20Barriers%20Sci%2007.pdf

    His later field work talking to terrorists and rather discounting the significance religion I judge somewhat flawed through poor (and self-serving) questionaire formation. It also rather flies in the face of this earlier work by discounting the importance of the sacred.

  79. azsgI2IyS45
    Jan 6, 2016 at 1:06 pm

    We live in an age when a large number of muslims are killing non-muslims for not being muslim, and killing other muslims for not being the right type of muslim.

    The age goes back a long way with the Ottoman Caliphate killing and enslaving vast numbers from surrounding states.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavery_in_the_Ottoman_Empire

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imperial_Harem
    The word harem is derived from the Arabic harim or haram which give connotations of the sacred and forbidden.[3] The female quarters of Turkish households were then referred to as haremlik due to their prevailing exclusivity.

    The harem was the ultimate symbol of the Sultan’s power. His ownership of women, mostly slaves, was a sign of wealth, power, and sexual prowess. The institution was introduced in the Turkish society with adoption of Islam, under the influence of the Arab Caliphate, which the Turkish Ottomans emulated.

    For the perpetuation and service of the Ottoman Dynasty, beautiful and intelligent slave girls were either captured in war (mainly Christian Europeans in the Balkans), recruited within the empire, or procured from neighbouring countries to become imperial concubines (Cariyes)

  80. To me Alan, the Chinese influence has been greater than Arab. The red flag and the system of consorts which came long before. The origins of the Turkish speaking people as well. The word Harem could also have come from the Chinese hougong as in the link to ‘Harem” on Wiki, an English translation. The word translating as ‘at the back’ as in a palace at the back for the consorts.

  81. Very well-written and interesting response. I particularly liked the WEIRD and believe the guilt complex held by many Westerners (Marxists/leftists?) is unhelpful.

  82. Oddly enough, not to long ago while travelling in train to go home after work, talked to some afro woman, and I have been repoterded with the behaviour of an afro-man that when noticing his child was not a so tan skin as he, immeatily killed the child, the report of such behaviou to me is a chance in a million to have been reported with it by a stranger occasionally. I always take note.

    (notice that I am not a lier)

    When occuring infanticide in woman, maybe a single mother or abandonement, it seems not to be a reproductive female strategy but the result of sad conditions of living.

  83. Peak Oil Poet
    Jan 7, 2016 at 5:19 pm

    It’s like saying “i don’t care how much truth is in book X, that it has just one reprehensible/dubious/wrong/archaic idea is enough for me to condemn the entire book and all who value it”

    As in some previous posts, you have this backwards. Independent records show that many biblical claims are unevidenced or simply wrong. Other evidence shows mistranslations and fraudulent embellishment. As far as the new Testament goes, it is on record who chose and edited the 4 gospels and discarded the rival versions in the fourth century.

    It’s like saying, “i don’t care how much truth is in book X

    If you are going to make claims like this, you are going to have to produce some examples and evidence to support them.
    You could start with evidence that an actual biblical physical person called “Jesus” actually existed. –
    There are no contemporary records of such a person or of any spectacular events claimed in the bible! It was all oral folklaw for decades or centuries! – Much of it made up from epileptic visions of the Roman preacher Paul – perhaps?

  84. “If all the books and computers are destroyed what book is most likely still to be found? For Christians it would be the bible, for Muslims, the Quran”

    For Muslims the koran supersedes ALL other media- and is to dominate all of humanity.

    1- why does ‘bible’ not get initial uppercase but ‘Quran’ does?? Freudian slip?

    2- I refuse to bastardise/Arabise English; ‘koran’ works much better for me. SMALL ‘k’.

    3- “It’s not the religion itself that’s the problem” sounds like typical Islamic apologist talk…
    OF COURSE it’s religion that’s the problem which is why this entry won.

  85. Religion is not inherently violent

    “Guns don’t kill people” – NRA

    Guns aren’t inherently violent, but they sure help make the job easier. Likewise religion, methinks.

  86. Olgun
    Jan 6, 2016 at 10:23 am

    Jack David Eller, an anthropologist of culture, violence, and religion
    who himself is an atheist, claims: “As we have insisted previously,
    religion is not inherently and irredeemably violent;

    While there are undoubtedly some non-religious sources of violence, this claim is simply a denial or down-playing of the fact that some religions are inherently and irredeemably violent in their present (and past) forms.
    Furthermore, those that are inherently violent, have extensive and far reaching effects on surrounding populations.

  87. humans are inherently violent – this is nature – and not just violence – we exhibit a number of natural traits that many of us might condemn (adultery, theft, fraud etc)

    if we don’t accept that then there is no place for common ground when discussing what Eller is saying. I think his words are somewhat generous towards human nature.

    we come together to form systems that are meant to moderate/manage/control this violence (sometimes only for the benefit of the rich)

    some of these systems are hierarchical with something like a president, king, pope, CEO or such at the top – with various ways that the top is changed (eg democracy, coup, takover)

    some are more flat believing hierarchical systems are inherently corruptible (some wars have been fought over this) – Orthodox Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism…

    the nature of these systems changes with time – as we become socially more sophisticated we shed one form for another – eg, at one stage we attributed natural occurrences to a variety of gods/spirits/pixies whatever which morphed into either single gods or hierarchies of gods or some sort of godness intrinsic in the nature of all things – much of this still going on while new systems evolve to supplant much of what those systems encapsulated or at least were heavily involved with (eg Law moved from religion to “the state”)

    all of these systems are about trying to control something about us that is impossible to control – our animal nature

    and this is so we can live together

    all religions have in them a moral code

    these moral codes are stated in different ways and have a wide range of possible interpretations as is befitting the difficult task of managing human nature

    some of the codes contain “rules” that today seem (or undoubtedly are) completely stupid (eg some of the Kosher laws). Some include rules that might have, at one time in the distant past, been essential for the survival of small tribes but now are irrelevant if not completely contrary to our current morality

    so back to violence

    all systems have their rules for inflicting violence – the state can execute “criminals”, the Pope can excommunicate – which i imagine in the past was as good as execution

    so now let’s go back to Islam – the one religion everyone seems to agree is inherently violent (even though the Golden Age of Islam was one of the longest times of peace and development of science in history)

    who are Muslims? Are they nothing more than people who follow Islam or is there more to it?

    Who are the Pakistanis? What is their history? Did they come to Islam because it was imposed on them through violence and the sword as so many seem to think is the nature of Islam?

    Who was Malcolm X? Was he as Muslim because he was given the choice to follow Islam or be put to the sword?

    How did Islam become the predominant religion in Malaysia? Was it by the sword?

    the more you dig into the history of people and the history of religions the more fascinating it is – Islam no less than any

    ask yourself this question

    why have so many people of the world become Muslims? What was in it for them?

    violence?

    pop (not a Muslim, not religious, not a whacko, not naive….)

  88. Islamic religion and culture are synonymous because they’re the same thing

    Buddhist religion is Buddhist culture

    Christian religion is Christian culture

    Hindu religion is Hindu culture

    i think your statement is nonsensical

    “Islamic belief management” sounds like some sort of evil big brother thing

    and it sounds incredibly ignorant and racist (though i’m sure that’s not your intent)

    “USA belief management system” – is far more real – Fox and most of the MSM – reinforced by Hollywood, most of the politicians and most of all reinforced by the way the racist elements, the ignorant and the easily led reinforce it because it forms part of group identity

    be a white atheist or Christian or Hindu or even a Buddhist and defend Muslims?

    you are immediately likely to be targeted for non-group behaviour – (though other terms are used: naive, moronic but most often accusations of being a Muslim or a Muslim lover)

    go hang out on some places on the net where hundreds of white racist Islamaphobes hang out and get a taste of it

    if getting it from people like Trump is not enough

    Islamic belief management system

    nasty turn of phrase

    if you’d have said Saudi belief management system – OK – because it has less to do with it being Islam as much as it has to do with how a small group of super-wealthy maintain power

    pop

    ps, going into the mountains for a few days to commune with nature and get away from this computer – horrible window into a frightful world that it can be 🙂

  89. Peak Oil Poet
    Jan 16, 2016 at 3:40 pm

    Islamic belief management system

    nasty turn of phrase

    if you’d have said Saudi belief management system – OK – because it has less to do with it being Islam as much as it has to do with how a small group of super-wealthy maintain power.

    Really???
    Last I heard, there were no pilgrimages to worship the Saudi Royals, but many Muslims who feel obligated to pray 4 times a day, visit Mecca on a pilgrimage, and send their children to madrassas for indoctrination.

  90. **ABSOLUTELY NOT. **

    Brainwashing, indoctrination, pure and simple.
    Kamikaze- pseudo-religion, WW2; Emperor is literally “God on Earth”
    Tamil Tigers- non-religious
    Almost all others- trained, motivated by ISLAM and the concept of jihad,
    forcible conversion or death; 99.5% of suicide attacks were carried out by
    the “Religion of Peace” last year-

    http://www.ijreview.com/2016/01/514130-if-anyone-says-islam-doesnt-have-a-radicalism-problem-show-them-this-one-stat/

    Muslims are the most numerous victims- far from hating them [IS, Al Shabaa, Boko Haram, AlQuaeda, etc. excepted] I pity them for being brainwashed at their mothers’ knees and reinforced by their Imam taqiyya preachers in mosques…

  91. actually JimFox, the “greatest” evil cult is probably the USA. Followed maybe by Israel, Saudi and a few others. I wonder how many people have dies in the last century as a direct consequence of Islam as opposed to the number who have dies as a direct consequence of actions by the USA? Let’s see you blow hard on that question for me – maybe you have an answer?

  92. Sadly, all true. This is the elephant I alluded to in the thread about “in god we trust” on the currency. And the so called 5th estate plays its part to perfection. War is such a profitable business, there’s always an opening for a new target. Who wants to be next? Come, one and all, join in. Either side will do, as long as we can keep on making those profits.

  93. when i lived in a region with 80% Muslims it was certainly not the case that anything like the majority prayed 5 times a day or any times a day. Some sure but most seemed pretty secular to me in pretty much every way. It seemed to vary from village to village – but certainly the more urban the more secular. I’ve not been to a lot of Muslim countries but i have been to a few. Big variety in actual day-to-day behaviour – same as in Buddhist, Christian etc – Some Buddhists I know do merit regularly but most don’t have much to do with it other than on special occasions like funerals – and there’s a lot of food provided at such events and even though Buddhism’s Sila says you should not intoxicate yourself many do even at temples on such occasions.

    I’m sure the more stressed a population the more likely it is to embrace strictness of ritual – especially if there’s the issue of ethnicity or in-group identification and survival.

    Again, i reiterate a basic lesson from the past – the US drove native Americans from their land – stealing their resources and treating them as below the law – when some retaliated they were seen a frightful savages and then treated as such.

    Humans are humans – I do not think it matters much what their belief system is – if you screw them over they will react – stress a population and there will be consequences.

    Islam is not inherently evil – humans are or nothing is.

    We seem to like repeating a pattern – and it seems to me so very few people realise that they are doing so

    or

    they do and they are in full support of it

    is it evil to exterminate an identifiable and isolatable group of humans or not?

    If not then just what is acceptable behaviour? Is it OK for us to marginalise a group and let it starve to death? Or isolate two groups and let them wipe each other out?

    Unless we have a clear idea as to what our moral code should be vis a vis human life it’s very hard to argue about fringe issues like religion, culture, ethnicity, wealth….

    some very obviously believe it’s OK to wipe out “lesser” humans, “other” humans

    some very obviously don’t

    i’m in that group

    p

  94. Original Question: [looking for] … an evolutionary explanation as to why some groups seem more particularly prone to take life and give their own lives in defense of their religion?

    .

    Rosemary: Groups with members that are prone to take life and give their own lives in defense of religion tend to be in societies with low levels of economic development …

    Rosemary’s response is about social development, not about biological evolution. Is it true? Steven Pinker, in his book The Better Angels of our Nature, agrees with Rosemary’s outline: “Gentle Commerce” is one of five forces Pinker identifies as driving societies towards less violence. Rosemary is only giving us a very small part of the picture.

    This response begs the question: Is the behaviour of a species, including homo sapiens (that’s you and me), to any degree guided by our species’ evolved form (the way we are today)? Sorry, but I couldn’t think of a short answer …

    Ethology, the study of animal behaviour from a biological perspective – including social organization – currently, as I understand it, concludes that cognitive abilities are evolved. In short: Thinking is a trait that has evolved in all animal species, and related species demonstrate related behaviours that indicate related thinking techniques and, therefore, abilities.

    The thinking abilities of each species can be plotted onto a range or scale. Insect species don’t demonstrate much in the way of thinking – they appear to live largely steered by instinct. Animals with larger brains demonstrate more abilities: theory of mind, anticipation, language, problem-solving, decision making, memory, self-regulation and so on.

    Nevertheless, larger-brained species still demonstrate instinctive behaviour. Put someone at the top of a cliff and their alertness noticeably improves.

    Larger-brained species also demonstrate that they have access to a mid-scale ability: Intuition. Daniel Kahneman’s description in Thinking, Fast and Slow, uses the labels System 1: Immediate, holistic, and (probably) mostly unconscious. Kahneman compares this to our System 2 thinking: Requires effort, is analytic, takes time, we apply logic and other critical thinking techniques.

    My own interpretation is that we humans have the ability to think deeply about things – but it takes effort. Thus, if we’ve thought deeply about something once (Kahneman’s System 2) , we’re not inclined to think about it in depth again. Meanwhile, we get by on the easy (Kahneman’s System 1).

    But System 1 is faulty. Instinct (from which System 1 – intuition – appears to be evolved, and indeed is still based on) leads other animals, which rely on instinct, into our traps for them. So too do our intuitions fail us. Although we may use critical thinking when learning, we then summarize the lesson into a ‘next time I’ll do B, not A’. But, B is not relevant in all circumstances …

    For this next bit I have to assume that the Reader is familiar with the gene-centred view of evolution – see Richard Dawkin’s The Selfish Gene for details. It makes perfect sense, with the evidence before us, for genes to have evolved with flexibility – capable of allowing the survival-reproduction engine (like you and me, individuals) to fine tune ourselves to a dynamic environment. Each species has evolved this ability in varying strengths, and that tells us something about the environmental pressures that pushed on their ancestor’s.

    Rosemary now focuses on a limited social contract to give an example:

    For young men … status is often hard to come by …

    Status gives opportunities to breed (impressing the opposite sex) by cornering more resources. The gender is unimportant; either gender is likely to be inclined towards breeding with someone that can exhibit the ability to look after the resulting children. This is particularly important for humans – our children take longer to mature.

    … for those seeking status, fighting (and perhaps dying) in the name of religion is a socially approved way of obtaining it.

    Except that once you’re dead how do you, or your offspring, cash in that status? Rosemary appears to have lost the thread at this point, but bear with us.

    Setting aside the biology, the evolution of societies – their memetic and psychological development – is founded in the dynamics between individuals.

    Psychologies are individual, the options, the arbitration between those options and psychological references (such as instincts) are found in genetics.

    Memes – cultural elements – are created by the interaction of psychologies. Like all other types of interaction, memes therefore form a part of the environment which the survival-replication engines must navigate.

    Returning then, to the OP: How would brains evolve that sacrifice the individual to a meme?

    Tribes feature co-operation between related individuals.

    The basis on which kin selection works began with a simple mechanism: Helping my Brother out of the river, at risk to myself, is to support half my own genes (coefficient of relationship 50%). If my chances of surviving are low (the Crocodile will have me for lunch whatever I do) then my own life (potential to reproduce: zero) is worth whatever the risk to ensure my Brother survives.

    Providing … that my Brother’s genes include the necessary alleles to make the same intuitive/instinctive calculation then he passes on our joint instinct (X, the ability to sacrifice oneself for a relative) to his children.

    Clearly, my family’s tendency to self-sacrifice is a winning strategy in many situations, compared to watching my Brother drown then being eaten by the Croc..

    Time passes, generations come and go.

    With each generation X is tested more and more, and ensures the survival of more and more distant relatives, half-siblings (25% shared genes), cousins (12.5%), second cousins (3.13%), fourth cousins (0.2%), and so on …

    Tribe: A group of people organized largely on the basis of social, especially familial, descent. A distinct people bound by kinship relations, reciprocal exchange, laws and customs and strong ties to their land. Self-sufficient, and not fully integrated with (or isolated from) the surrounding societies.

    By definition people who live in tribes are therefore related to almost everyone else in the tribe. Even where someone started as a stranger they may be responsible for one of your blood relations – an Uncle who married into your family, and who therefore cares for your cousins, for example. Here is the way in which altruistic behaviour becomes spread so thinly that it pays to help almost anyone and everyone.

    What of friendship? If X evolved to support seeming strangers in my tribe, why not also to those with whom we have an emotional attachment. It begins with Mother, evolves to siblings, Father, cousins, other tribal children we play with – grow up with – and then becomes so ubiquitous, and so powerful, that those we are attached to by mere familiarity can trigger the X response.

    It is important to remember that the spread of the instinct X will be gradual. It probably took several generations – and it might have had to out-compete other genetically transferred traits which means that a lot of people had to rescue a lot of other people over many years.

    Reciprocal behaviour is a different instinct (though, perhaps, shares some genes with X?), and it’s evolution has clearly followed a similar trajectory. I forget where I read it but someone wrote a paper on how we keep a mental score card of favors …

    From the above I draw the conclusion that using the modern synthesis (modern evolutionary theories) to model culture and sociology is a step too far. Certainly, memetics emerge from social science which emerges from psychology which emerges from brains which emerge from biology. So too do brains emerge from biochemistry which emerges from chemistry which emerges from atomic physics which emerges from the Standard Model.

    Just as I do not refer to the Standard Model to describe a brain, I do not refer to biology to describe group ethology and sociology. To do so is simply nonsense.
    Nevertheless, society runs on brains, and brains have instincts and learned intuitions which are frequently faulty. Brains have evolved this way, because that’s how our ancestors survived to give us life.
    Religion: The belief in, and worship of, a superhuman controlling power, especially a God or gods.
    Organized Religion: A social structure, or social order, designed to regulate the behaviour of a set of individuals within society. Transcending individuals and their intentions, organized religion mediates between individuals and the god or gods and divines the rules that govern behaviour to the benefit of the individual and the organization.

    Except, of course, where an action benefits the religion more than the individual.

    Priests / Imams / Rabbis are human: They are constantly tempted to use our natural tendency to support family and reciprocity – why not the ultimate altruistic act: Sacrifice your life for ours.

    Many, such as the Catholic Church and many forms of Islam, even openly identify belief as like belonging to a family.

    This is the evolutionary basis on which Rosemary based her response. But what of the anthropological basis – “those seeking status, fighting (and perhaps dying) in the name of religion is … socially approved”?

    Once evolution put the basic ingredients in place altruism has spread into the meme-pool, the basic social structure. But, as the Physicist Steven Weinberg noted:

    Good people will do good things, and bad people will do bad things. But for good people to do bad things – that takes religion.

    It is religions themselves that deliberately misfire our instincts and teach our children such that they build on those instincts to live by intuitions that are deadly.

    The real experts on the next step claim many caveats, many influences, many nuances. Time for me to hand over to Scott Atran. On 23 April, 2015, Prof. Atran addressed the UN Security Council on The Role of Youth in Countering Violent Extremism and Promoting Peace. Reading his report is well worth your time, I promise.

    So too is this response from Prof. Pervez Hoodbhoy.

    Peace.

  95. maria, LaurieB,

    Had some time to take this (Ultrasociety) up again.

    It suddenly goes horribly wrong! Turchin egregiously misunderstands the Selfish Gene (in part because a key villain the boss of Enron likes it because he misunderstands it also.)

    Don’t spend any dollars or euros yet.

    I’m too queasy to go on…

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