What do we think of this !? 
It can explain why Melanesian frog worship is on a par with the superstitions of christianity and other religions. 
"Belief in gods is part of human nature" ---an Oxford study suggests
Some brief extracts:
The project involved 57 academics in 20 countries around the world, and spanned disciplines including anthropology, psychology, and philosophy.
It wanted to establish whether belief in divine beings and an afterlife were ideas simply learned from society or integral to human nature.
Professor Roger Trigg from Oxford said the research showed that religion was “not just something for a peculiar few to do on Sundays instead of playing golf”.
“We have gathered a body of evidence that suggests that religion is a common fact of human nature across different societies. This suggests that attempts to suppress religion are likely to be short-lived because human thought seems to be rooted to religious concepts, like the existence of supernatural agents or gods, and the possibility of an afterlife or pre-life.”
Dr Justin Barrett, from the University of Oxford’s Centre for Anthropology and Mind, who directed the project, said faith may persist in diverse cultures across the world because people who share the bonds of religion “might be more likely to cooperate as societies . . . Interestingly, we found that religion is less likely to thrive in populations living in cities in developed nations where there is already a strong social support network.”

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yup, it sure is easier - says a lot about a lot of people. . .

hi Scott -  

what you say is true - except that way back in pre-history, mankind did make up spirituality as reasons for events - no rain, too much rain, floods, hurricanes, volcanoes, death - just look at any 'tribal' religion.  has there ever been a tribe found anywhere that does not have some sort of 'religion'?  As a child i made up my own, as we were areligious - it involved a very strong connection with the earth and its spirits.  as an adult, i have studied Judaism, paganism, Buddha, and, of course, atheism.   But, i still have that connection to earth which i will never lose and i don't want to.  there's a group on this site called Naturalism - it has a lot of followers.  when i look at stars at night, i see astronomy and the wonder and beauty of it.


there is a dragon hidden in this nebula in Orion - (from an astronomy site):


I like your metaphor, Park. Although, I think an appendix might be better. Like religion we no longer need it at all, not even before birth. We no longer eat rocks and wood and don't have a need for the vestigial organ, but it can become inflamed and like religion, cause morbidity and mortality.
I like your starter kit analogy, Park.

So, are those who perpetuate their religious views, are they not at some arrested stage of development? We as humans still have the reptilian cerebellum, necessary also for humans that presently exist. I wonder how many non-theists were actually hardcore Xian fundamentalists, before they evolved? For me, when there are scientists who claim to believe in the Xian god, I have to question what the implications are for that kind of thing. For example, where scientific knowledge is concerned these folks have to suspend their rationality to believe in something, as in an invisible god, other than the feedback of their senses, which is what science is based on.

So, would it be like this for a scientist who believes in God?

1)All things are knowable.

2)The world is based on cause and effect relationships.

3)Senses are reality.

4)The principles of nature are consistent and have a logical pattern.

5)God exists, trumping 1-4 above.

I guess I have misgivings about that notion of a scientist who is a believer in god.

I could see this as an advantageous evolutionary trait for young children. When the world is a complete mystery, adults are the equivalent of gods. This type of trust and reliance would keep the child from wondering off and reduce its stress. I wonder if our predisposition to believe in gods is in any way, a remnant of an evolved trait meant to help us bond with our parents?


J. Anderson (Andy) Thomson Jr., M.D., is a psychiatrist who wrote the book “Why We Believe In God(s)” His current research interest is evolutionary psychology and using its principles to understand depression, suicide terrorism, and religious belief. He will be speaking at an event that I'm hosting on Sunday, so maybe I'll have more insight on the subject afterwards. You can find a video of one of his presentations here.

A similar possible evolutionary trait was described in "The God delusion."  However, it was proposed that children have evolved a natural propensity to believe whatever their parents or adults tell them.  This would be useful for avoiding danger.  "Don't play with that big scary lion."  But as a side-effect, children will also believe, "God will punish you if you're bad."


I'm not sure about this but it does seem a plausible reason as to why we still have religion when it is no longer needed.

I think there needs to be more of a discussion around symbolic thought and Theory of Mind in this context of essential belief. The same "prescience" that allows your brain to form words without being consciously aware of them I hypothesize has something to do with this observation of belief as an essential quality. There's something about tacit-ness regarding social constructions that are linked - I believe - to this thing in the brain/consciousness that assumes our reality around us. I could be way off. I'm really just thinking out loud here. I know what I'm saying leaves the door open for Believers to say, "see? we were created this way", but surely there's another explaination for I would have problems with a creator who created his creation with the intrinsic quality of belief. It just makes that creator all the more sinister.

I wouldn't say this has as much to do with age even.  It's more like gullibility is a survival trait in a pre-civilized, pack species.

It doesn't mean that adults will automatically gain reason as they mature.  I know plenty of adults who are gullible as hell.  It just doesn't factor in as heavily, for survival purposes, in adults, since they have more experience to rely upon.  Children lack the experience to know what's dangerous and what isn't, so they gain a survival advantage by accepting what the adults tell them at face value.  So, gullible people survive at a higher rate and pass their genes on.

Or, here's another point.  Gullibility in a child will help them survive, since a pack species is genetically predisposed to take care of their children.  Gullibility may in fact have a negative influence on the survival of adults, but it doesn't matter.  Once someone hits 15 or 20 years old, they've probably already parented several children, in a pre-civilized society.  After that point, it doesn't matter if they die or not.  The pack will take care of their children, and their genes will survive, because of pack mentality.

That's one of the reasons that we have so many diseases in old age.  There's no evolutionary selection against them.  Once someone is beyond child-rearing age, Evolution doesn't give a damn.

"...it only needs to be slightly more beneficial for that to have been the default,". Good point.
Rather than a belief in an afterlife and god(s) being part of human nature I think the desires to live and be treated fairly are. I think many people are not emotionally mature enough to face that their lives might end nor accept that they might be mistreated without ultimate justice. Accordingly, I think the applicable dynamic is that, in a state of denial that their lives could end or they could on a permanent basis be treated unfairly, they turn to religion for the comfort of assurance it provides to the contrary. Consistent with evidence presented in the study I think residents of urban areas tend to be less religious because their experiences harden them more against the notion of an everlasting paradise. As such, I think the researchers at Oxford misinterpreted their data.

I agree john, to "I think many people are not emotionally mature enough to face that their lives might end nor accept that they might be mistreated without ultimate justice. Accordingly, I think the applicable dynamic is that, in a state of denial that their lives could end or they could on a permanent basis be treated unfairly, they turn to religion for the comfort of assurance it provides to the contrary." Kari Marie Norgaard studied the social organization of denial. Social groups, such as religious groups, create ontological stability and meaning, helping us to control feelings such as helplessness.


I think the safety nets in developed urban areas are more important than emotional hardening. Research suggests that religion rises as people feel more anxiety without safety nets. Emotional hardening happens in all settings.




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