• Welcome to the new Internet Infidels Discussion Board, formerly Talk Freethought.
  • 2021 Internet Infidels Fundraising Drive
    Greetings! Time for the annual fundraiser.Sorry for the late update, we normally start this early in October. Funds are needed to keep II and IIDB online. I was not able to get an IIDB based donations addon implemented for this year, I will make sure to have that done for next year. You can help support II in several ways, please visit the Support Us page for more info. Or just click:

    I will try to track all donations from IIDB. Many thanks to those that have already donated. The current total is $550. If everyone dontated just $5, we would easily hit our goal.

Why Religion?

Jarhyn

Contributor
Are we all forgetting, somehow, here, that trees have done about as bad to the environment WRT lignin?

Species do stupid shit all the time. It's a craps shoot every time whether the error is fatal or not.

What the fuck?...over. Trees? Sounds like Tucker Carlson or Sean Hannity.

Serendipity is part of evolution and the inverse. You may be the best adapted fish in the lake, but if the lake dries up you are history.

The difference is we are aggressively draining the lake we live in knowing the consequences.

You may not like to hear it, but lignin almost destroyed the entire ecosphere because nothing could eat it for a very long time. And as it is, the lake was mostly drained before we were even aware consequences were a thing, much like all the trees burning because sometimes, BIG mistakes happen before understanding of why they are problematic.

It does not take intelligence OR a lack of it to cause the apocalypse. It only takes a lack of foresight, a lack of understanding, and a lack of consideration of the products of those things.
 

ideologyhunter

Veteran Member
I just looked over the wikipedia entry for lignin. It is a substance found in the cell walls of all vascular plants. Among other things, it allows for efficient transfer of water into cells. What's your source for the claim you make about lignin? Just curious & willing to read further.
 

Copernicus

Industrial Grade Linguist
I think of a religion as a social movement that plays at least the following functional roles:
  • Promotion of a moral code
  • Theory of how nature works
  • Origin story
  • Promotion of social cohesion
  • Social welfare program
  • Coping mechanism

Since we first learn morality--a code of conduct for safe and comfortable social interactions--by authoritarian means, i.e. from parents, caregivers, and role models, religion continues that model (in loco parentis) for individuals who become adults. Because our first experiences in life are sensations and control over our bodies and events outside of the body, it is natural to explain natural forces as controlled by other spirits. Religion provides a narrative to satisfy our curiosity as to how we came to exist and what our place is in the world. Religion also enforces a sense of public duty and altruistic behavior. Even before government welfare, religious institutions cared for the poor, the unhealthy, and those faced with personal crises.

Over time, traditional religious institutions have been eroded by the emergence of secular governments, more sophisticated understanding of natural forces, the evolution of cosmology, and their failure to help us cope adequately with modern problems. So secularism has been on the increase and religion has been suffering a decline in popularity, particularly in younger generations. I suspect that religion will make a strong comeback as the global environment degrades further. Under stress, people have a harder time coping, and religion is still the default for those in need of a coping mechanism. Many secularists tend to gravitate towards institutions like the UU church, which is more tolerant of, if not welcoming to, those who have rejected belief in deities.
 

steve_bank

Contributor
Are we all forgetting, somehow, here, that trees have done about as bad to the environment WRT lignin?

Species do stupid shit all the time. It's a craps shoot every time whether the error is fatal or not.

What the fuck?...over. Trees? Sounds like Tucker Carlson or Sean Hannity.

Serendipity is part of evolution and the inverse. You may be the best adapted fish in the lake, but if the lake dries up you are history.

The difference is we are aggressively draining the lake we live in knowing the consequences.

You may not like to hear it, but lignin almost destroyed the entire ecosphere because nothing could eat it for a very long time. And as it is, the lake was mostly drained before we were even aware consequences were a thing, much like all the trees burning because sometimes, BIG mistakes happen before understanding of why they are problematic.

It does not take intelligence OR a lack of it to cause the apocalypse. It only takes a lack of foresight, a lack of understanding, and a lack of consideration of the products of those things.

But tees do not make active decisions nor can they cause smog.

Yu can argue that us humans are just acting IAW with our generic nature, but then that negates the idea we can make a decision not to be self destructive. Humans are now reacting to climate change, in no small part because it is affecting economics.

Plants compete in slow motion for resources. Bring a plant or fish in from abroad and it can devastate other indigenous life. Numerous examples.

The ecosystem has no defense against our excesses. It can not compensate.
 
I think of a religion as a social movement that plays at least the following functional roles:
  • Promotion of a moral code
  • Theory of how nature works
  • Origin story
  • Promotion of social cohesion
  • Social welfare program
  • Coping mechanism

Since we first learn morality--a code of conduct for safe and comfortable social interactions--by authoritarian means, i.e. from parents, caregivers, and role models, religion continues that model (in loco parentis) for individuals who become adults. Because our first experiences in life are sensations and control over our bodies and events outside of the body, it is natural to explain natural forces as controlled by other spirits. Religion provides a narrative to satisfy our curiosity as to how we came to exist and what our place is in the world. Religion also enforces a sense of public duty and altruistic behavior. Even before government welfare, religious institutions cared for the poor, the unhealthy, and those faced with personal crises.

Over time, traditional religious institutions have been eroded by the emergence of secular governments, more sophisticated understanding of natural forces, the evolution of cosmology, and their failure to help us cope adequately with modern problems. So secularism has been on the increase and religion has been suffering a decline in popularity, particularly in younger generations. I suspect that religion will make a strong comeback as the global environment degrades further. Under stress, people have a harder time coping, and religion is still the default for those in need of a coping mechanism. Many secularists tend to gravitate towards institutions like the UU church, which is more tolerant of, if not welcoming to, those who have rejected belief in deities.

I agree with some of your opinions, but ---


[*]Promotion of a moral code

As I write, secular law favors equality, while religions preach homophobia and misogyny.


[*]Theory of how nature works

While positing a supernatural god who created un-naturally, talking serpents and donkeys and all.


[*]Origin story

Too foolish a notion to speak to, both historically and scientifically.


[*]Promotion of social cohesion

Yes. For the in group only. Not for the out group, including gay children and the second class women that bore them.


[*]Social welfare program

Yes. Promise women support before abortion and then desert her afterwards.

Christianity used to be a great religion. Supernatural belief took it's goodness away.

Think inquisitions for the better religions of those days, like Gnostic Christianity. Where people who grow a Christ mind go.


[*]Coping mechanism

There are better ways to cope with the realities of life than paying a con man or woman to lie to us.

The right wing of Christianity is sinking all of Christianity.

The Christian moral code, as practiced with homophobia and misogyny are clearly immoral.

All moral people will agree.


Regards
DL
 
Humanists may consider themselves secular or religious. Many of us who grew up in a church may miss the spiritual support it provides. In college, I often went to the Unitarian Coffee House, an area for talks, games, and snacks on Friday nights.

When it was time to marry, we called on Reverend Gold from the UU church in Richmond who counseled us and performed the service in the park.

A church, any church, provides spiritual support for moral people seeking to be good and to do good. The camaraderie, the music, the message, all contribute to maintaining a “holy spirit”, that is to say, “feeling good about doing good and being good”.

And it helps to have that support in a world where the wicked often profit at the expense of the rest of us.

But a formal church is not a necessity. We also have the camaraderie of the authors we read, the discussions with like-minded people, and even discussions with people who disagree but help us clarify our faith.

And, yes, it is a matter of faith. All churches that claim to follow God, also declare God to be Good. And it is our faith in Good that sustains us.

I've stopped seeing religion as necessarily being about God or the supernatural. Today I see it in functional terms. A religion is any kind of nucleus to meet around. Could be ideological, a shared interest or a shared goal. The point is that it allows us to let go of our individuality for a bit and become part of a greater whole. We like it because we're a social species and it feels nice.

The point isn't to reach the goal. The point is to meet people and do stuff together. To create a space where we feel safe and we can express a part of ourselves.

The stuff we do creates a shared identity. We like putting symbols and names onto the identity.

For various reasons some of these we institutionalized.

The awesome feeling we get from being part of these associations have led some of us to insert magical reasons. So these are often, but not always, places for spiritual exploration. Which often leads to belief in gods. We also like being part of these groups that in part are mysterious. Which adds to the need to make it magical.

That's my view of religion. Super vague. Super open. Nebulous.

And most importantly, everybody with a functioning social life is religious in some way or another. It's unavoidable IMHO.

I've stopped slamming Christians for being religious. One day I realized my glass house was windy. I too have had (and probably still have) a bunch of beliefs I hold only because it grants me access to people I want to hang out with. I think it's normal for socially competent people

Yes yes.

We are all sinners, thank all the God like us.

We all share in singing with Christians of Adam's sin being a happy fault and necessary to God's plan.

You seem to forget that while you praise the good side of the god religions, those bastards continue to promote homophobia and misogyny and that a genocidal god is somehow a good God.

Gotta love um. Cant respect um; given the harm the right wing supernatural believing fools continue to do to us.

Regards
DL

Still, there is progress, such as Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson.
 
The best way to end human sacrifice is by asking a person to sacrifice their son?

It's a story. The story conveys a lesson. The lesson is to abandon the practice of human sacrifices.

Or by creating a clone that is brutally sacrificed to allow god to forgive all the broken humans he created? How could any of this be consistent with a step forward in the evolution of morality?

Well, they had to explain how the "son of God" ended up being crucified. And after the temple was destroyed, I suppose animal sacrifices were no longer possible. And the story of the crucifixion became God's sacrifice for our sake, an act of love.

Forgiveness wins over vengeance and retribution. Ya gotta love the theme.

An all-powerful god has no way to achieve his objectives without harming humans? Sounds like a weak-ass god to me.

Well, after all, He is only human.

And the plagues upon Egypt's Pharaoh were specifically aimed to free the slaves. There were rules in the OT about how long a person could be held as a slave, and I think some rules required offering marriage to female slaves after a period of time, or if the slave chose not to marry she would be released.


Instead of providing rules to slave-owners about how slaves should be treated, why not just say "Slavery is immoral. No human shall ever own another human as a slave"? I mean he did ban eating shellfish and wearing clothes made from mixed fabrics, but he couldn't tell us not to own slaves?

I suspect that slavery was a moral improvement over killing your enemies, their women, and their children (to avoid them rebuilding their tribe and coming after you).
 
How intriguing to see desperate biblical misrepresentation. Has anyone ever noticed that there's also hetrosexual 'fornication' on the list, also not accepted? Few more on the list for you... Drunkards, thieves and liars too.

Why should fornicators be placed in the same bucket as drunkards, thieves and liars? While drunkards, thieves and liars may be harming others or themselves through such activities, fornication between consenting adults can and does increase the well being of humans. Why should fornication be banned? What is wrong with two or more consenting adults having sex?

Marriage imposes an ethical structure upon mating. This stops the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and insures that any children that result will have two adults responsible for their well-being.
 

Jarhyn

Contributor
I just looked over the wikipedia entry for lignin. It is a substance found in the cell walls of all vascular plants. Among other things, it allows for efficient transfer of water into cells. What's your source for the claim you make about lignin? Just curious & willing to read further.

Oh I might be wrong about lignin. But not about trees. Look at the history of mass extinctions on earth.

For a very long period of time, indigestible tree bodies just piled up, to the point giant peat bogs would form, and then eventually they would start burning.

And because nothing was there to eat it, the burning wouldn't stop.

It happened so regularly for such a long time that whole species of trees evolved that had fire resistant seeds, and then that had seeds that only released from fire, and these are some of the most common trees on earth.

It is my understanding that the Devonian extinction is the one that can be most readily attributed to trees, but that later events also owed largely to trees as well.

The issue is that before lignin was "a useful thing that stuff can eat" it was "a useful thing that stuff cannot eat", a plastic.
 

T.G.G. Moogly

Formerly Joedad
I think of a religion as a social movement that plays at least the following functional roles:
  • Promotion of a moral code
  • Theory of how nature works
  • Origin story
  • Promotion of social cohesion
  • Social welfare program
  • Coping mechanism

Since we first learn morality--a code of conduct for safe and comfortable social interactions--by authoritarian means, i.e. from parents, caregivers, and role models, religion continues that model (in loco parentis) for individuals who become adults. Because our first experiences in life are sensations and control over our bodies and events outside of the body, it is natural to explain natural forces as controlled by other spirits. Religion provides a narrative to satisfy our curiosity as to how we came to exist and what our place is in the world. Religion also enforces a sense of public duty and altruistic behavior. Even before government welfare, religious institutions cared for the poor, the unhealthy, and those faced with personal crises.

Over time, traditional religious institutions have been eroded by the emergence of secular governments, more sophisticated understanding of natural forces, the evolution of cosmology, and their failure to help us cope adequately with modern problems. So secularism has been on the increase and religion has been suffering a decline in popularity, particularly in younger generations. I suspect that religion will make a strong comeback as the global environment degrades further. Under stress, people have a harder time coping, and religion is still the default for those in need of a coping mechanism. Many secularists tend to gravitate towards institutions like the UU church, which is more tolerant of, if not welcoming to, those who have rejected belief in deities.

But why do humans practice woo throughout their lives? Why is it even there? Why do kids believe in Santa and adults think there are creatures with super powers that defy explanation? I don't think your explanation answers that basic question.

Our species is reward/punishment based, that's simply how it has evolved, but why is the woo there? If it is just a social vehicle then lots of people are going about their lives badly misinformed because they certainly think the woo is as real as their fingernails when you and I know it isn't.

The answer to "Why religion?" must be the human brain. Given two brains, one that knows woo is imaginary and one that knows woo is real, how exactly and physically are those two brains different? They must be quantifiably different to account for the different behaviors. Science is telling us it is in the makeup of the prefontal cortex.

Religious fundamentalism is partly the result of a functional impairment in the prefrontal cortex, new study finds

Religious beliefs can be thought of as socially transmitted mental representations that consist of supernatural events and entities assumed to be real. Religious beliefs differ from empirical beliefs, which are based on how the world appears to be and are updated as new evidence accumulates or when new theories with better predictive power emerge. On the other hand, religious beliefs are not usually updated in response to new evidence or scientific explanations, and are therefore strongly associated with conservatism. They are fixed and rigid, which helps promote predictability and coherence to the rules of society among individuals within the group.
 

ideologyhunter

Veteran Member
But at my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near:
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found...
-Andrew Marvell, To His Coy Mistress (ca. 1650)
 

Copernicus

Industrial Grade Linguist
I think of a religion as a social movement that plays at least the following functional roles:
  • Promotion of a moral code
  • Theory of how nature works
  • Origin story
  • Promotion of social cohesion
  • Social welfare program
  • Coping mechanism

Since we first learn morality--a code of conduct for safe and comfortable social interactions--by authoritarian means, i.e. from parents, caregivers, and role models, religion continues that model (in loco parentis) for individuals who become adults. Because our first experiences in life are sensations and control over our bodies and events outside of the body, it is natural to explain natural forces as controlled by other spirits. Religion provides a narrative to satisfy our curiosity as to how we came to exist and what our place is in the world. Religion also enforces a sense of public duty and altruistic behavior. Even before government welfare, religious institutions cared for the poor, the unhealthy, and those faced with personal crises.

Over time, traditional religious institutions have been eroded by the emergence of secular governments, more sophisticated understanding of natural forces, the evolution of cosmology, and their failure to help us cope adequately with modern problems. So secularism has been on the increase and religion has been suffering a decline in popularity, particularly in younger generations. I suspect that religion will make a strong comeback as the global environment degrades further. Under stress, people have a harder time coping, and religion is still the default for those in need of a coping mechanism. Many secularists tend to gravitate towards institutions like the UU church, which is more tolerant of, if not welcoming to, those who have rejected belief in deities.

But why do humans practice woo throughout their lives? Why is it even there? Why do kids believe in Santa and adults think there are creatures with super powers that defy explanation? I don't think your explanation answers that basic question.

"Woo" is a pejorative label for some types of behavior associated with religion--mysticism, ritual, spiritualism, etc. I was mainly responding to the question in the OP and wasn't trying to explain all aspects of religion and religious behavior. People also use the term "scientism" to describe an exaggerated trust in scientific methodology or just using scientific language inappropriately.

I tend to see religion as grounded in Cartesian dualism--the belief that reality is divided between spiritual and physical realms. Since we directly experience the movement of body parts through pure volition, it is not unreasonable to speculate that external forces are also caused by other "spirits" using the same method to cause things to happen. Animism gives rise to belief in powerful agencies such as demons and gods, which are humanlike beings that are amenable to human influences. They can be cajoled, persuaded, and intimidated. Since they are exotic imaginary beings, people often develop ritual forms of behavior to communicate with them, strike bargains, and offer devotion. Ancient Semites actually formed legal "covenants" with deities. That's how Abraham got involved with Yahweh. He offered Yahweh the loyalty, devotion, and worship that gods seem to desire in exchange for protection, guidance, and good fortune.

Our species is reward/punishment based, that's simply how it has evolved, but why is the woo there? If it is just a social vehicle then lots of people are going about their lives badly misinformed because they certainly think the woo is as real as their fingernails when you and I know it isn't.

Reward and punishment works for all animals with brains, because that is what shapes their model of reality. They learn to avoid punishment and seek reward in all aspects of life. We all have a flawed understanding of reality, but that understanding evolves over time. Sometimes our flawed understanding leads us to do good things for the wrong reasons. As I said earlier, religion plays a variety of roles that can have beneficial effects. The model doesn't have to be perfect in order to have value.

The answer to "Why religion?" must be the human brain. Given two brains, one that knows woo is imaginary and one that knows woo is real, how exactly and physically are those two brains different? They must be quantifiably different to account for the different behaviors. Science is telling us it is in the makeup of the prefontal cortex.

Religious fundamentalism is partly the result of a functional impairment in the prefrontal cortex, new study finds

Religious beliefs can be thought of as socially transmitted mental representations that consist of supernatural events and entities assumed to be real. Religious beliefs differ from empirical beliefs, which are based on how the world appears to be and are updated as new evidence accumulates or when new theories with better predictive power emerge. On the other hand, religious beliefs are not usually updated in response to new evidence or scientific explanations, and are therefore strongly associated with conservatism. They are fixed and rigid, which helps promote predictability and coherence to the rules of society among individuals within the group.

I think that you may have read more into that study than the authors intended. They were talking about a type of brain damage that they believe predisposes people to religious fundamentalism. It doesn't follow that religion or even religious fundamentalism is generally caused by brain damage. That type of brain damage might also predispose people to other forms of behavior akin to religious fundamentalism, e.g. radical devotion to Donald Trump. :) I don't honestly think that the brains of believers and nonbelievers are different. Even atheists can be pigheaded, stubborn, stupid, and just plain wrong sometimes.
 
Yes yes.

We are all sinners, thank all the God like us.

We all share in singing with Christians of Adam's sin being a happy fault and necessary to God's plan.

You seem to forget that while you praise the good side of the god religions, those bastards continue to promote homophobia and misogyny and that a genocidal god is somehow a good God.

Gotta love um. Cant respect um; given the harm the right wing supernatural believing fools continue to do to us.

Regards
DL

Still, there is progress, such as Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson.

As modernization and education help the right falls off the spectrum, progress at the lower echelons will escalate.

Is Robinson as good as Spong.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SF6I5VSZVqc

Regards
DL
 
"Woo" is a pejorative label for some types of behavior associated with religion--mysticism, ritual, spiritualism, etc. I was mainly responding to the question in the OP and wasn't trying to explain all aspects of religion and religious behavior. People also use the term "scientism" to describe an exaggerated trust in scientific methodology or just using scientific language inappropriately.

I tend to see religion as grounded in Cartesian dualism--the belief that reality is divided between spiritual and physical realms. Since we directly experience the movement of body parts through pure volition, it is not unreasonable to speculate that external forces are also caused by other "spirits" using the same method to cause things to happen. Animism gives rise to belief in powerful agencies such as demons and gods, which are humanlike beings that are amenable to human influences. They can be cajoled, persuaded, and intimidated. Since they are exotic imaginary beings, people often develop ritual forms of behavior to communicate with them, strike bargains, and offer devotion. Ancient Semites actually formed legal "covenants" with deities. That's how Abraham got involved with Yahweh. He offered Yahweh the loyalty, devotion, and worship that gods seem to desire in exchange for protection, guidance, and good fortune.

Our species is reward/punishment based, that's simply how it has evolved, but why is the woo there? If it is just a social vehicle then lots of people are going about their lives badly misinformed because they certainly think the woo is as real as their fingernails when you and I know it isn't.

Reward and punishment works for all animals with brains, because that is what shapes their model of reality. They learn to avoid punishment and seek reward in all aspects of life. We all have a flawed understanding of reality, but that understanding evolves over time. Sometimes our flawed understanding leads us to do good things for the wrong reasons. As I said earlier, religion plays a variety of roles that can have beneficial effects. The model doesn't have to be perfect in order to have value.

The answer to "Why religion?" must be the human brain. Given two brains, one that knows woo is imaginary and one that knows woo is real, how exactly and physically are those two brains different? They must be quantifiably different to account for the different behaviors. Science is telling us it is in the makeup of the prefontal cortex.

Religious fundamentalism is partly the result of a functional impairment in the prefrontal cortex, new study finds

Religious beliefs can be thought of as socially transmitted mental representations that consist of supernatural events and entities assumed to be real. Religious beliefs differ from empirical beliefs, which are based on how the world appears to be and are updated as new evidence accumulates or when new theories with better predictive power emerge. On the other hand, religious beliefs are not usually updated in response to new evidence or scientific explanations, and are therefore strongly associated with conservatism. They are fixed and rigid, which helps promote predictability and coherence to the rules of society among individuals within the group.

I think that you may have read more into that study than the authors intended. They were talking about a type of brain damage that they believe predisposes people to religious fundamentalism. It doesn't follow that religion or even religious fundamentalism is generally caused by brain damage. That type of brain damage might also predispose people to other forms of behavior akin to religious fundamentalism, e.g. radical devotion to Donald Trump. :) I don't honestly think that the brains of believers and nonbelievers are different. Even atheists can be pigheaded, stubborn, stupid, and just plain wrong sometimes.

Interesting read.

I think what you describe ----- "I tend to see religion as grounded in Cartesian dualism--the belief that reality is divided between spiritual and physical realms. Since we directly experience the movement of body parts through pure volition, it is not unreasonable to speculate that external forces are also caused by other "spirits" using the same method to cause things to happen." --------describes Gnostic Christianity but not Christianity and their non-duaslistic god of love.

The people accept their dualism but do not extend it to Yahweh/Jesus. They/he is all good.

Perhaps I miss-read the dogma.

Regards
DL
 

steve_bank

Contributor
Yes yes.

We are all sinners, thank all the God like us.

We all share in singing with Christians of Adam's sin being a happy fault and necessary to God's plan.

You seem to forget that while you praise the good side of the god religions, those bastards continue to promote homophobia and misogyny and that a genocidal god is somehow a good God.

Gotta love um. Cant respect um; given the harm the right wing supernatural believing fools continue to do to us.

Regards
DL

Still, there is progress, such as Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson.

As modernization and education help the right falls off the spectrum, progress at the lower echelons will escalate.

Is Robinson as good as Spong.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SF6I5VSZVqc

Why relgion? Why Agnostic Chritins?

Regards
DL


Quoting scripture just like the regions do.

Saw your thread on the other Freethought forum, there were no replies. A Gnostic Christian proselytizing across the net, like Christians.

Why religion? Why the Gnostic Christian tribe?
 

bilby

Fair dinkum thinkum
I don't honestly think that the brains of believers and nonbelievers are different. Even atheists can be pigheaded, stubborn, stupid, and just plain wrong sometimes.

If those brains are all the same how do you account for differences in behavior?

The same way you account for the difference between a computer running Windows 10, and identical hardware running RHEL 7.

There need not be a single hardware difference in order for an Operating System to be very noticeably different. And even identical hardware with an identical OS might behave very differently according to what peripherals are connected, and other environmental factors.

In this analogy, religion might just as easily be malware as any physical difference in hardware or even OS. Sure, there's a 'physical difference', but it's limited to the configuration of bits in RAM and/or storage; Interpreting why and how the different pattern of magnetic domains within an HDD lead to the precise behaviour seen when the system runs would be almost impossible, despite being easy to reproduce by simply watching the machine run.

Brains are poorly understood, because we aren't ethically able to mess around with them while they are operational, so our very limited understanding of them comes mostly from observing what happens when one goes wrong, or gets damaged, unintentionally. There are very few opportunities or techniques that allow us a particularly refined understanding of a working brain - imagine trying to diagnose and repair a computer virus, without access to the user interface - all you're allowed to do is look at the differences between the infected machines and uninfected ones, and try to match that (mis)behaviour to the behaviour of broken machines whose damaged components you've been allowed to examine in greater detail, and then adjust the bits on the HDD one at a time based on your findings.

It's astonishing that we know anything at all about neuroscience. It's certainly not possible at our current state of knowledge to ascribe particular beliefs to particular physical changes in brains.

It's absolutely certain that there are physical differences between religious and non-religious brains. It's also almost certainly impossible for that fact to have any useful applications in the real world, or to give us any helpful insights into how religious beliefs arise or persist.
 
As modernization and education help the right falls off the spectrum, progress at the lower echelons will escalate.

Is Robinson as good as Spong.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SF6I5VSZVqc

Why relgion? Why Agnostic Chritins?

Regards
DL


Quoting scripture just like the regions do.

Saw your thread on the other Freethought forum, there were no replies. A Gnostic Christian proselytizing across the net, like Christians.

Why religion? Why the Gnostic Christian tribe?


Gnostic Christianity has a superior moral code and universal ideology. That is why the religious run from debating us.

It demands equality of opportunity under the law without negative discrimination without a just cause.

The reverse of our mainstream homophobic and misogynous lot.

The Cathars thrived to where the inquisitions had to be used to, eh, convert them to the better Christian fascist ways that Rome put into place.

Prove me wrong with a better ideology and I ma bound as a free thinker to either cherry pick anything better and add it to my ideology, or I am happy to switch, as long as I do not have to destroy my mind with some supernatural belief.

Reality, is strange enough, telepathy and all, for even I to dither it all out.


Regards
DL
 
It's absolutely certain that there are physical differences between religious and non-religious brains. It's also almost certainly impossible for that fact to have any useful applications in the real world, or to give us any helpful insights into how religious beliefs arise or persist.

A religious brain, given that all a religion is is a tribe, is a tribal brain and given that we are a tribal species, we are the norm or better standard, and those who are less tribal may be the deficient ones.

The gift of variety says we should embrace those deficiencies.

That is why the brighter atheists are opening churches.

Atheists are acting like Gnostic Christians did way back when.

That superior morality is what is fuelling Laïcité. Most don't see the big picture but given the huge numbers of fence sitters, the gods are dead.

Born non-tribal I would put in the what, 5%of us?

Regardless, no one can live without a tribe, be he have the instinct or not.

Regards
DL
 

Copernicus

Industrial Grade Linguist
I don't honestly think that the brains of believers and nonbelievers are different. Even atheists can be pigheaded, stubborn, stupid, and just plain wrong sometimes.

If those brains are all the same how do you account for differences in behavior?

Technically, what I meant was that the brains of believers and nonbelievers are not significantly different. Of course, every individual brain is different from all the others, and every individual is shaped by different experiences from other individuals. The underlying structure of cognition in all animals is the same--chains of associations grounded ultimately in sensory experiences. We build models of reality based primarily on observations of how we interact with it (see  affordance). People just come to rely on different models of how reality works. For example, most atheists tend to be physicalists, whereas people of religious faith tend to believe in substance dualism--the idea that reality comes in two distinct flavors: spiritual and physical.

People like to compare brains with computers, but the metaphorical analogy breaks down in at least one important way. Brains are, at best, analog computing devices, not digital ones. That is, they are not general computing devices (Turing machines) that can be loaded with different operating systems and programs. All "computations" (i.e. thoughts) depend on changes that occur in neural "hardware". The thoughts and beliefs that people have ultimately rely on physical differences, but there is no reason to believe that religious faith is the result of a physical brain disorder of any kind. It's more likely that things classified as physical disorders can lead to unusual or extreme behavior, but it is normal for people to have radically different beliefs, attitudes, and outlooks on life.
 

Copernicus

Industrial Grade Linguist
...It's astonishing that we know anything at all about neuroscience. It's certainly not possible at our current state of knowledge to ascribe particular beliefs to particular physical changes in brains...

I would quibble with that generalization, although I am no expert in the neurosciences. We can use MRI scans to take snapshots and moving pictures of blood flow patterns in brains. That tells us where neural activity is located, and we can do experiments to associate those patterns with simple mental tasks. I don't actually know what the current state of the art is, since it has been years since I have been in contact with folks who work in that area. I also think that reports in popular media about how MRI scans can be used to "read thoughts" are overhyped and overblown.
 

steve_bank

Contributor
I have posted this before. I listened to a neuroscientist talk about an experiment on religion. He did brain scans on religious praying and contemplating god and so on. Unintentionally he had secular scientists in his control group.

He found religions contemplation and scientists contemplating the cosmos lit up the same areas in the brain.

I have thought for a while all the experiences are the same, people attribute the experience to different causes. An atheist can chat Om until he or she entyrs inter spiritual bliss, or a Catholica can say the Rosary 'mantra' over and over until one 'experiences god'. Six of one half a dozen the other.

It is not what you believe it is how you believe it. That is what opportunists use to crete a following. Mesmer in the 19th century had a bogus magnetic device said to cure, He wore a costume and had rituals. Oen person had seizures. When the word spread others had seizures. The placebo effct and expectation bias.

Allister Crowley convinced a following he was a real magician. There is a weak link between Crowley and Hubbard who fabricated Dyane tics and Scientology. The E Meter is a bogus prop that followers believe in.

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


Nature vs nurture? A lot depends on how we grow up and the twists and turns, IMO.

Religion exists across all human variations, times, and civilizations, that should say something.
 

T.G.G. Moogly

Formerly Joedad
I don't honestly think that the brains of believers and nonbelievers are different. Even atheists can be pigheaded, stubborn, stupid, and just plain wrong sometimes.

If those brains are all the same how do you account for differences in behavior?

Technically, what I meant was that the brains of believers and nonbelievers are not significantly different. Of course, every individual brain is different from all the others, and every individual is shaped by different experiences from other individuals. The underlying structure of cognition in all animals is the same--chains of associations grounded ultimately in sensory experiences. We build models of reality based primarily on observations of how we interact with it (see  affordance). People just come to rely on different models of how reality works. For example, most atheists tend to be physicalists, whereas people of religious faith tend to believe in substance dualism--the idea that reality comes in two distinct flavors: spiritual and physical.

People like to compare brains with computers, but the metaphorical analogy breaks down in at least one important way. Brains are, at best, analog computing devices, not digital ones. That is, they are not general computing devices (Turing machines) that can be loaded with different operating systems and programs. All "computations" (i.e. thoughts) depend on changes that occur in neural "hardware". The thoughts and beliefs that people have ultimately rely on physical differences, but there is no reason to believe that religious faith is the result of a physical brain disorder of any kind. It's more likely that things classified as physical disorders can lead to unusual or extreme behavior, but it is normal for people to have radically different beliefs, attitudes, and outlooks on life.
Not sure how you are using that word "significantly," whether you're talking statistics or not. If one male is 6'10" tall, is there a "significant" difference in genetic inheritance compared to another male person who is 5'2" tall, all other things being equal of course? Humans vary a lot in physical characteristics, certainly you are not arguing that the causes of these differences are all external to their genetic inheritance. Environment and exposure are certainly measurable influences, no sane person will argue that.

Some brains are obviously tuned to be more empirical than others, or do you disagree? As I see it such a difference is no different than variation in height, muscularity, build, eye color, etc. We're not all capable of Einstein's accomplishments. Some of us have brains with limitations in that regard. Do you disagree?

So why are we so hesitant to admit as much? I know highly successful people who are type 1 diabetics - through no fault of their own, obviously. Aren't brains just like other organs, can't they be genetically predisposed to be "significantly" different than the next brain? Isn't that perfectly natural to accept? When we observe these differences in abilities and interests and behavior among people isn't it perfectly natural to conclude that they are genetically different with limitations and advantages right out of the gate?

And brains change, of course. And it's true no doubt that some brains are more likely to change than others and that such a propensity has its roots in genetic inheritance. In my own family there is quite a range of religious belief, from atheist to hardcore religious talking to a god all the time. Doesn't that point to an underlying mechanism, not external to the brain?

I have posted this before. I listened to a neuroscientist talk about an experiment on religion. He did brain scans on religious praying and contemplating god and so on. Unintentionally he had secular scientists in his control group.

He found religions contemplation and scientists contemplating the cosmos lit up the same areas in the brain.

The awe I experience and the awe a religious person experiences light up the same brain area. That makes sense to me. A man who is 6'10" can walk. A man who is 5'2" can walk. When they walk the same brain areas light up. What does that demonstrate other than when we walk (or experience awe) the same brain areas light up? Clearly there are other differences causing different behaviors, rationally speaking.
 

Copernicus

Industrial Grade Linguist
Technically, what I meant was that the brains of believers and nonbelievers are not significantly different. Of course, every individual brain is different from all the others, and every individual is shaped by different experiences from other individuals. The underlying structure of cognition in all animals is the same--chains of associations grounded ultimately in sensory experiences. We build models of reality based primarily on observations of how we interact with it (see  affordance). People just come to rely on different models of how reality works. For example, most atheists tend to be physicalists, whereas people of religious faith tend to believe in substance dualism--the idea that reality comes in two distinct flavors: spiritual and physical.

People like to compare brains with computers, but the metaphorical analogy breaks down in at least one important way. Brains are, at best, analog computing devices, not digital ones. That is, they are not general computing devices (Turing machines) that can be loaded with different operating systems and programs. All "computations" (i.e. thoughts) depend on changes that occur in neural "hardware". The thoughts and beliefs that people have ultimately rely on physical differences, but there is no reason to believe that religious faith is the result of a physical brain disorder of any kind. It's more likely that things classified as physical disorders can lead to unusual or extreme behavior, but it is normal for people to have radically different beliefs, attitudes, and outlooks on life.

Not sure how you are using that word "significantly," whether you're talking statistics or not. If one male is 6'10" tall, is there a "significant" difference in genetic inheritance compared to another male person who is 5'2" tall, all other things being equal of course? Humans vary a lot in physical characteristics, certainly you are not arguing that the causes of these differences are all external to their genetic inheritance. Environment and exposure are certainly measurable influences, no sane person will argue that.

I would argue that the main question is not nature vs nurture, but whether it is nature or nurture that is responsible for any particular noticeable difference and also to what extent it is one and not the other. You can't conclude that, just because there are heritable traits, a particular feature or behavior in an individual must have been inherited. No sane person would argue that, right?

Some brains are obviously tuned to be more empirical than others, or do you disagree? As I see it such a difference is no different than variation in height, muscularity, build, eye color, etc. We're not all capable of Einstein's accomplishments. Some of us have brains with limitations in that regard. Do you disagree?

I don't agree that "some brains are...tuned to be more empirical than others." I have only a vague idea how you define "empirical", and I really think that it mostly depends on how one is trained to think. But, again, the real question is "how much nature vs how much nurture", isn't it? You can't simply jump to the conclusion that the fact of evolution proves your case.

So why are we so hesitant to admit as much? I know highly successful people who are type 1 diabetics - through no fault of their own, obviously. Aren't brains just like other organs, can't they be genetically predisposed to be "significantly" different than the next brain? Isn't that perfectly natural to accept? When we observe these differences in abilities and interests and behavior among people isn't it perfectly natural to conclude that they are genetically different with limitations and advantages right out of the gate?

Absolutely not. You need to do some empirical research first. You can't just jump to conclusions about what is caused by nature and what is caused by nurture.

And brains change, of course. And it's true no doubt that some brains are more likely to change than others and that such a propensity has its roots in genetic inheritance. In my own family there is quite a range of religious belief, from atheist to hardcore religious talking to a god all the time. Doesn't that point to an underlying mechanism, not external to the brain?

I disagree with the boldface text above. The tendency may have more to do with how your parents raised you or how teachers at school influenced you to think more critically. You can't just assume that a propensity for changing one's mind is a matter of genetic transmission. It is true that brains are a product of nature's genetic engineering, but you are going beyond just that fact and jumping to the conclusion that some particular form of behavior is linked to inheritance and not environmental exposure. It is likely that it is a little of both, but how much one and how much the other?
 

bilby

Fair dinkum thinkum
...It's astonishing that we know anything at all about neuroscience. It's certainly not possible at our current state of knowledge to ascribe particular beliefs to particular physical changes in brains...

I would quibble with that generalization, although I am no expert in the neurosciences. We can use MRI scans to take snapshots and moving pictures of blood flow patterns in brains. That tells us where neural activity is located, and we can do experiments to associate those patterns with simple mental tasks. I don't actually know what the current state of the art is, since it has been years since I have been in contact with folks who work in that area. I also think that reports in popular media about how MRI scans can be used to "read thoughts" are overhyped and overblown.

It's now possible to assign classes of thinking to fairly well defined areas of a given individual's brain; So we can say that subject A showed activity here and here when thinking about sex, and there and there when thinking about football.

We can even broaden this to say that most people show very similar patterns of neural activity for given classes of thinking.

But brains are very plastic, and if the sex centres of the cortex are damaged, not all patients report reduced libido - some simply show that the activity when thinking sexy thoughts has shifted to an undamaged region.

We are certainly not able to study fMRI scans and say "this subject was thinking about Marilyn Monroe, and that one was thinking about Rock Hudson"; much less to say "this person is religious and that one is an atheist", or "this person is an epidemiologist and that one is an anti-vaccination campaigner".
 

Copernicus

Industrial Grade Linguist
...
We are certainly not able to study fMRI scans and say "this subject was thinking about Marilyn Monroe, and that one was thinking about Rock Hudson"; much less to say "this person is religious and that one is an atheist", or "this person is an epidemiologist and that one is an anti-vaccination campaigner".

Not yet, but we also don't yet fully understand how brains recognize simple objects, so it is hard to imagine how one could relate brain activity to specific thoughts about objects. MRI scans will probably never be of use in pinpointing such information, since they do not directly detect or measure neural activity. They just illuminate where a lot of activity is taking place, i.e. where there is a lot of blood flow activity.
 

T.G.G. Moogly

Formerly Joedad
@Copernicus
So how do you justify stating that different behaviors in individuals are probably not primarily a result of genetic inheritance, while accepting that physical differences most certainly are, for example blue eyes vs brown eyes, height, build, sex, hair color, ethnic characteristics, etc.? That seems an odd position to take. Aren't you putting the brain in a special category?
 

Copernicus

Industrial Grade Linguist
@Copernicus
So how do you justify stating that different behaviors in individuals are probably not primarily a result of genetic inheritance, while accepting that physical differences most certainly are, for example blue eyes vs brown eyes, height, build, sex, hair color, ethnic characteristics, etc.? That seems an odd position to take. Aren't you putting the brain in a special category?

Not in the slightest. Brains generate minds that can learn from experiences. Eyes, rate of growth, sex, ethnic characteristics, etc., cannot be acquired through learning. Again, you can't simply jump to the conclusion that because some things are inherited, certain specific behaviors are. You have no basis for doing that.

Also, note that I never said that different behaviors in individuals are "probably not a result of genetic inheritance". Behavior is acquired through a mixture of genetically acquired traits and environmental exposure. The issue I'm having with your apparent position is that you seem to jump to the conclusion that religious behavior is a genetic predisposition. There is no evidence of a genetic difference between atheists and theists. Such speculation is groundless. All your article showed was that some researchers concluded that a brain disfunction was connected to dogmatic thinking in some individuals, which can be associated with other types of behavior than religious fundamentalism. FTR, I've met quite a few atheists that strike me as prone to dogmatic or doctrinaire thinking. I find it hard to believe that all of them had some kind of defect in their brains that made them that way.
 

T.G.G. Moogly

Formerly Joedad
@Copernicus
So how do you justify stating that different behaviors in individuals are probably not primarily a result of genetic inheritance, while accepting that physical differences most certainly are, for example blue eyes vs brown eyes, height, build, sex, hair color, ethnic characteristics, etc.? That seems an odd position to take. Aren't you putting the brain in a special category?

Not in the slightest. Brains generate minds that can learn from experiences. Eyes, rate of growth, sex, ethnic characteristics, etc., cannot be acquired through learning. Again, you can't simply jump to the conclusion that because some things are inherited, certain specific behaviors are. You have no basis for doing that.

Also, note that I never said that different behaviors in individuals are "probably not a result of genetic inheritance". Behavior is acquired through a mixture of genetically acquired traits and environmental exposure. The issue I'm having with your apparent position is that you seem to jump to the conclusion that religious behavior is a genetic predisposition. There is no evidence of a genetic difference between atheists and theists. Such speculation is groundless. All your article showed was that some researchers concluded that a brain disfunction was connected to dogmatic thinking in some individuals, which can be associated with other types of behavior than religious fundamentalism. FTR, I've met quite a few atheists that strike me as prone to dogmatic or doctrinaire thinking. I find it hard to believe that all of them had some kind of defect in their brains that made them that way.
I'm not saying there's a defect. Natural selection is natural selection. A short person is not defective either, nor is someone less coordinated and less athletic than the next person. What I am saying is that being dogmatic is an inherited trait as much as is having brown eyes. Some people are naturally better at math because of their brains. I don't see how being dogmatic or being prone to religious thinking is any different. I know you would not argue that we are all equally gifted at math or scientific thought. So why would you claim that we are all equally gifted when it comes to being religious or being dogmatic? What's the difference?
 

Copernicus

Industrial Grade Linguist
I'm not saying there's a defect. Natural selection is natural selection. A short person is not defective either, nor is someone less coordinated and less athletic than the next person. What I am saying is that being dogmatic is an inherited trait as much as is having brown eyes. Some people are naturally better at math because of their brains. I don't see how being dogmatic or being prone to religious thinking is any different. I know you would not argue that we are all equally gifted at math or scientific thought. So why would you claim that we are all equally gifted when it comes to being religious or being dogmatic? What's the difference?
The fact that some people seem more gifted at math than others is not sufficient evidence to warrant a claim that they inherited the ability. We can speculate that, but you need evidence to support such a claim. The fact is that everyone experiences life differently, and innate abilities are only one factor that contributes to intellectual development. What you need to do is eliminate the possibility that environmental factors did not create the motivation and mental discipline that led to superior performance. As I pointed out above, we can observe dogmatic behavior in all sorts of communities, including our secular community.

In fact, whether or not we judge someone to have a dogmatic attitude is a very subjective judgment. And the same person who is dogmatic regarding some subject may very well be open-minded and reasonable in another. For example, a deeply religious person can actually be a brilliant scientist and very good at judging all sides of debates in physics yet be utterly closed-minded when it comes to belief in God. A good example would be Newton, who revolutionized the field of physics, yet he had some boneheadedly stupid ideas about religion. The ultimate question isn't whether genius is created by superior genes. It is whether those genes played a larger role than environment in actually creating that genius.
 

rousseau

Contributor
I don't honestly think that the brains of believers and nonbelievers are different. Even atheists can be pigheaded, stubborn, stupid, and just plain wrong sometimes.

If you look at demographics where people are more religious than not, you see clear trends, or at least associations. Conservatives are more likely to be religious than liberals, and women are more likely to be religious than men.

If there wasn't at least a small correlation between brain function and propensity for religiosity then trends like these wouldn't exist.

Granted, I doubt that propensity for belief is confined to ipso facto religion, and extends to other concepts like liberalism, marxism etc. But it's pretty clear that a certain type of mind is more likely to be persuaded by religious arguments in a world where materialistic explanations run large, and another kind of mind that is able to see through them.

Study the differences between the membership of this and a Christian forum and I'm sure you'd see clear patterns emerge. But I do agree with you that even atheists can demonstrate the same dogmatic stubbornness that the religious can, maybe a question of degree.
 

Copernicus

Industrial Grade Linguist
If you look at demographics where people are more religious than not, you see clear trends, or at least associations. Conservatives are more likely to be religious than liberals, and women are more likely to be religious than men.

I agree with both of these subjective impressions, but both could have more to do with cultural demographics, level of education, age, etc., than genetic inheritance. So I am hesitant to start attributing such differences to causes that are without some kind of objective basis.

If there wasn't at least a small correlation between brain function and propensity for religiosity then trends like these wouldn't exist.

This statement begs the question.

Granted, I doubt that propensity for belief is confined to ipso facto religion, and extends to other concepts like liberalism, marxism etc. But it's pretty clear that a certain type of mind is more likely to be persuaded by religious arguments in a world where materialistic explanations run large, and another kind of mind that is able to see through them.

The question is what gives rise to "a certain type of mind" or "another kind of mind". Nature or nurture? To what extent does the direction a mind swings in depend on the brain structure one inherits and to what extent does it depend on serendipitous experiences, mentoring, training, education, and other purely environmental factors?

Study the differences between the membership of this and a Christian forum and I'm sure you'd see clear patterns emerge. But I do agree with you that even atheists can demonstrate the same dogmatic stubbornness that the religious can, maybe a question of degree.

I am not denying differences of behavior between members of Christian debate forums and members of this forum, but I am questioning that we can so easily attribute those differences to some kind of difference in heritable brain structure. It is almost like we are arguing a religious version of  The Bell Curve. We notice behavior differences between whites and non-whites, so some are tempted to interpret those differences as caused by genetic differences rather than environmental factors. Similarly, those of us who notice differences between the behavior of a secular community and a religious community can be tempted to attribute differences to inherited mental capacity.
 

rousseau

Contributor
I agree with both of these subjective impressions, but both could have more to do with cultural demographics, level of education, age, etc., than genetic inheritance. So I am hesitant to start attributing such differences to causes that are without some kind of objective basis.



This statement begs the question.



The question is what gives rise to "a certain type of mind" or "another kind of mind". Nature or nurture? To what extent does the direction a mind swings in depend on the brain structure one inherits and to what extent does it depend on serendipitous experiences, mentoring, training, education, and other purely environmental factors?



I am not denying differences of behavior between members of Christian debate forums and members of this forum, but I am questioning that we can so easily attribute those differences to some kind of difference in heritable brain structure. It is almost like we are arguing a religious version of  The Bell Curve. We notice behavior differences between whites and non-whites, so some are tempted to interpret those differences as caused by genetic differences rather than environmental factors. Similarly, those of us who notice differences between the behavior of a secular community and a religious community can be tempted to attribute differences to inherited mental capacity.
To me it seems like you're going to great lengths to skirt around what is a pretty obvious fact. Of course environmental factors play a part in how we develop, but you can't put the cart before the horse. Heritable and genetic factors are the parent of environmental influences, so for the most part environmental influence is also genetic

Take a red state. Those who jive with that culture (have cognitive similarities) tend to stay while those who don't tend to leave. It is the genetic qualities that set the framework for the environment, meaning genetics reinforce themselves twice.

Of course something as complicated as religious belief doesn't have a simple formula underlying it, but even just a few minutes of quick googling will highlight cognitive differences between the religious and non-religious. That being said I don't think religious belief is literally inherited, but rather more commonly associated with certain cognitive qualities.
 

Copernicus

Industrial Grade Linguist
To me it seems like you're going to great lengths to skirt around what is a pretty obvious fact. Of course environmental factors play a part in how we develop, but you can't put the cart before the horse. Heritable and genetic factors are the parent of environmental influences, so for the most part environmental influence is also genetic

I don't think that environmental factors are heritable traits, but environmental factors certainly favor some genetic configurations over others. So I would say that you are confusing the roles of parent and child. In any case, I suspect that you are flirting too much with a  genetic fallacy here. :)

Take a red state. Those who jive with that culture (have cognitive similarities) tend to stay while those who don't tend to leave. It is the genetic qualities that set the framework for the environment, meaning genetics reinforce themselves twice.

Leaving aside the questionable assumption that people tend to move on the basis of their cognitive sympathies (and less so for factors such as job opportunities and family matters), you are again begging the question by claiming that "genetic qualities set the framework for the environment". That is the conclusion that your argument is supposed to support, but it appears as just a bald assertion. Stable environments tend to favor and disfavor heritable traits, but you haven't proven that religious behavior is even remotely correlated with genetic inheritance.

Of course something as complicated as religious belief doesn't have a simple formula underlying it, but even just a few minutes of quick googling will highlight cognitive differences between the religious and non-religious. That being said I don't think religious belief is literally inherited, but rather more commonly associated with certain cognitive qualities.

It bears repeating that I am not denying differences in the behavior of religious and non-religious people. The issue is over what causes those differences, and rank speculation gets very low marks as a premise when it comes to drawing a reasonable conclusion.

Look, I once took a seminar in language acquisition from the noted developmental psychologist,  Brian MacWhinney. We got to discussing Noam Chomsky's claim that the language faculty is innate in human beings--a claim that is considered one of his hallmark contributions to the study of language. Chomsky's claim was based largely on the existence of linguistic universals--traits that one could claim to exist across all human languages. Chomsky conjectured that there was no other good explanation for them other than the existence of some kind of "Language Acquisition Device" (LAD) in the brains of human beings. MacWhinney was quite unimpressed by that claim, because, as a developmental psychologist, he never questioned that the linguistic faculty was at least partially attributable to human genetics. Our brains are predisposed to acquire spoken languages. At the very least, it helps us understand why there are no human communities anywhere that lack a naturally-acquired language. And we can observe a schedule of maturation with recognizable environmental trigger points to mature language behavior. However, MacWhinney dismissed a great many of Chomsky's more substantive claims about specific linguistic properties. He said that there needed to be more than the fact that a given property was ubiquitous (i.e. universal) in human language. Some could easily be attributed to other factors in human society. The question was always what was inherited or innate versus what was learned solely through environmental exposure. You can't simply jump to facile conclusions the way Chomsky was prone to doing. And it seems to me that several folks have been doing that in this thread.
 

rousseau

Contributor
I don't think that environmental factors are heritable traits, but environmental factors certainly favor some genetic configurations over others. So I would say that you are confusing the roles of parent and child. In any case, I suspect that you are flirting too much with a  genetic fallacy here. :)



Leaving aside the questionable assumption that people tend to move on the basis of their cognitive sympathies (and less so for factors such as job opportunities and family matters), you are again begging the question by claiming that "genetic qualities set the framework for the environment". That is the conclusion that your argument is supposed to support, but it appears as just a bald assertion. Stable environments tend to favor and disfavor heritable traits, but you haven't proven that religious behavior is even remotely correlated with genetic inheritance.



It bears repeating that I am not denying differences in the behavior of religious and non-religious people. The issue is over what causes those differences, and rank speculation gets very low marks as a premise when it comes to drawing a reasonable conclusion.

Look, I once took a seminar in language acquisition from the noted developmental psychologist,  Brian MacWhinney. We got to discussing Noam Chomsky's claim that the language faculty is innate in human beings--a claim that is considered one of his hallmark contributions to the study of language. Chomsky's claim was based largely on the existence of linguistic universals--traits that one could claim to exist across all human languages. Chomsky conjectured that there was no other good explanation for them other than the existence of some kind of "Language Acquisition Device" (LAD) in the brains of human beings. MacWhinney was quite unimpressed by that claim, because, as a developmental psychologist, he never questioned that the linguistic faculty was at least partially attributable to human genetics. Our brains are predisposed to acquire spoken languages. At the very least, it helps us understand why there are no human communities anywhere that lack a naturally-acquired language. And we can observe a schedule of maturation with recognizable environmental trigger points to mature language behavior. However, MacWhinney dismissed a great many of Chomsky's more substantive claims about specific linguistic properties. He said that there needed to be more than the fact that a given property was ubiquitous (i.e. universal) in human language. Some could easily be attributed to other factors in human society. The question was always what was inherited or innate versus what was learned solely through environmental exposure. You can't simply jump to facile conclusions the way Chomsky was prone to doing. And it seems to me that several folks have been doing that in this thread.

You seem to have misunderstood my post in a number of places. Unfortunately I don't really have the time to prove anything to you, but you are the one making a strong assertion despite contrary evidence existing (which I've pointed you to).

You've made a pretty bold claim that there is no significant difference in brain architecture between the religious and non-religious, despite religiosity being correlated with gender, political orientation, and IQ. If you think that comes entirely down to the environment and not neural architecture I really don't know what else to tell you.

But if it wasn't clear already I'm not arguing that religious belief is heritable, I'm arguing that certain cognitive faculties make belief more likely.
 

Copernicus

Industrial Grade Linguist
I don't think that environmental factors are heritable traits, but environmental factors certainly favor some genetic configurations over others. So I would say that you are confusing the roles of parent and child. In any case, I suspect that you are flirting too much with a  genetic fallacy here. :)



Leaving aside the questionable assumption that people tend to move on the basis of their cognitive sympathies (and less so for factors such as job opportunities and family matters), you are again begging the question by claiming that "genetic qualities set the framework for the environment". That is the conclusion that your argument is supposed to support, but it appears as just a bald assertion. Stable environments tend to favor and disfavor heritable traits, but you haven't proven that religious behavior is even remotely correlated with genetic inheritance.



It bears repeating that I am not denying differences in the behavior of religious and non-religious people. The issue is over what causes those differences, and rank speculation gets very low marks as a premise when it comes to drawing a reasonable conclusion.

Look, I once took a seminar in language acquisition from the noted developmental psychologist,  Brian MacWhinney. We got to discussing Noam Chomsky's claim that the language faculty is innate in human beings--a claim that is considered one of his hallmark contributions to the study of language. Chomsky's claim was based largely on the existence of linguistic universals--traits that one could claim to exist across all human languages. Chomsky conjectured that there was no other good explanation for them other than the existence of some kind of "Language Acquisition Device" (LAD) in the brains of human beings. MacWhinney was quite unimpressed by that claim, because, as a developmental psychologist, he never questioned that the linguistic faculty was at least partially attributable to human genetics. Our brains are predisposed to acquire spoken languages. At the very least, it helps us understand why there are no human communities anywhere that lack a naturally-acquired language. And we can observe a schedule of maturation with recognizable environmental trigger points to mature language behavior. However, MacWhinney dismissed a great many of Chomsky's more substantive claims about specific linguistic properties. He said that there needed to be more than the fact that a given property was ubiquitous (i.e. universal) in human language. Some could easily be attributed to other factors in human society. The question was always what was inherited or innate versus what was learned solely through environmental exposure. You can't simply jump to facile conclusions the way Chomsky was prone to doing. And it seems to me that several folks have been doing that in this thread.

You seem to have misunderstood my post in a number of places. Unfortunately I don't really have the time to prove anything to you, but you are the one making a strong assertion despite contrary evidence existing (which I've pointed you to).

You've made a pretty bold claim that there is no significant difference in brain architecture between the religious and non-religious, despite religiosity being correlated with gender, political orientation, and IQ. If you think that comes entirely down to the environment and not neural architecture I really don't know what else to tell you.

But if it wasn't clear already I'm not arguing that religious belief is heritable, I'm arguing that certain cognitive faculties make belief more likely.
I guess we'll have to let it go at that, since you aren't directing me to anything specific that I've missed or misrepresented in your posts. We can certainly agree that "certain cognitive faculties make belief more likely", but maybe we disagree on how individuals come to have those faculties. It is very easy to attribute differences between communities of believers to genetic, rather than environmental factors, as we've seen in debates over differences among racial, ethnic, and national groups. Therefore, I believe we should exercise extreme caution before trying to make the case, for example, that religious fanatics or political fanatics are genetically predisposed to be that way. That's not to deny that they could be, but we need some reasonably good evidence to support that conclusion. Merely observing that different groups are statistically more likely to exhibit certain behaviors is not enough.
 

steve_bank

Contributor
I have listened to Condoleezza Rice speak and in interviews. She is educated and IMO brilliant. She worked up to the top the pollical world, no small feat, highly competitive. An accomplished piano player. Stanford prof.

You may not like her politics but an intelligent thinking person to say the least. Yet in an interview she said she did not plan how her life went, she trusts in god.

Religion is not just about the ignorant uneducated peasants-masses.
 

rousseau

Contributor
I don't think that environmental factors are heritable traits, but environmental factors certainly favor some genetic configurations over others. So I would say that you are confusing the roles of parent and child. In any case, I suspect that you are flirting too much with a  genetic fallacy here. :)



Leaving aside the questionable assumption that people tend to move on the basis of their cognitive sympathies (and less so for factors such as job opportunities and family matters), you are again begging the question by claiming that "genetic qualities set the framework for the environment". That is the conclusion that your argument is supposed to support, but it appears as just a bald assertion. Stable environments tend to favor and disfavor heritable traits, but you haven't proven that religious behavior is even remotely correlated with genetic inheritance.



It bears repeating that I am not denying differences in the behavior of religious and non-religious people. The issue is over what causes those differences, and rank speculation gets very low marks as a premise when it comes to drawing a reasonable conclusion.

Look, I once took a seminar in language acquisition from the noted developmental psychologist,  Brian MacWhinney. We got to discussing Noam Chomsky's claim that the language faculty is innate in human beings--a claim that is considered one of his hallmark contributions to the study of language. Chomsky's claim was based largely on the existence of linguistic universals--traits that one could claim to exist across all human languages. Chomsky conjectured that there was no other good explanation for them other than the existence of some kind of "Language Acquisition Device" (LAD) in the brains of human beings. MacWhinney was quite unimpressed by that claim, because, as a developmental psychologist, he never questioned that the linguistic faculty was at least partially attributable to human genetics. Our brains are predisposed to acquire spoken languages. At the very least, it helps us understand why there are no human communities anywhere that lack a naturally-acquired language. And we can observe a schedule of maturation with recognizable environmental trigger points to mature language behavior. However, MacWhinney dismissed a great many of Chomsky's more substantive claims about specific linguistic properties. He said that there needed to be more than the fact that a given property was ubiquitous (i.e. universal) in human language. Some could easily be attributed to other factors in human society. The question was always what was inherited or innate versus what was learned solely through environmental exposure. You can't simply jump to facile conclusions the way Chomsky was prone to doing. And it seems to me that several folks have been doing that in this thread.

You seem to have misunderstood my post in a number of places. Unfortunately I don't really have the time to prove anything to you, but you are the one making a strong assertion despite contrary evidence existing (which I've pointed you to).

You've made a pretty bold claim that there is no significant difference in brain architecture between the religious and non-religious, despite religiosity being correlated with gender, political orientation, and IQ. If you think that comes entirely down to the environment and not neural architecture I really don't know what else to tell you.

But if it wasn't clear already I'm not arguing that religious belief is heritable, I'm arguing that certain cognitive faculties make belief more likely.
I guess we'll have to let it go at that, since you aren't directing me to anything specific that I've missed or misrepresented in your posts. We can certainly agree that "certain cognitive faculties make belief more likely", but maybe we disagree on how individuals come to have those faculties. It is very easy to attribute differences between communities of believers to genetic, rather than environmental factors, as we've seen in debates over differences among racial, ethnic, and national groups. Therefore, I believe we should exercise extreme caution before trying to make the case, for example, that religious fanatics or political fanatics are genetically predisposed to be that way. That's not to deny that they could be, but we need some reasonably good evidence to support that conclusion. Merely observing that different groups are statistically more likely to exhibit certain behaviors is not enough.

Unfortunately with a one year old in tow and another on the way I get diminishing returns with more and more effort to convince people of something online.

I believe if you were to do some quick Googling on Google Scholar for something like 'cognitive differences between the religious/non-religious' the answer would be sitting right there. To me all I really need to see are the clear associations and trends, and the reality of a neural explanation is intuitively obvious.

I would also be careful in drawing an analogy between religion and racial, ethnic, and national groups with regards to cognitive differences. Religion is in an entirely different class, and it's identity isn't even well-defined. Your argument applies very well to race/ethnicity/nationality, but religion is cross-cultural and doesn't really respect any clear boundaries.

In my view, if you break it down, religious thought is pretty much just a puzzle that some people are able to break through, and others aren't. I could go into quite a bit of depth about how most of us aren't able to break through it, and how this is completely normal, but that's another thread. The overarching point is that some people are never able to figure it out, while others are. Some people are deep into delusion, while others experience more subtle forms.

In my father's family there are 5 siblings, all identical upbringing, all went to church every week, all lived in the same town, none of them went on to higher education. But some of them are devoutly religious while others aren't. Some of them.. even after many decades are true believers. Of course this is just a single anecdote, but I think it demonstrates the point well: essentially identical upbringing and environment, but different outcomes. So what do we attribute the difference in outcomes to if not genetic cause? Randomness? Some people are unlucky enough to not be exposed to materialistic thought? That sounds a lot more far-fetched to me than some people just think differently and experience the world differently than others due to innate qualities.
 

Copernicus

Industrial Grade Linguist
Rousseau, I completely understand your point about the distraction that a discussion like this can cause while you are dealing with raising a family, and congratulations on the pending arrival of another.

Both of us are materialists and can certainly agree that everything mental is ultimately grounded in, and generated by, physical brain activity. So I'm not denying a "neural explanation" for belief systems. For me, the discussion has always been about what causes people to acquire and maintain religious beliefs. My own opinion is that there is nothing at all fundamentally different in the brains of those with deep religious faith and those who reject religion. It all derives from the associative nature of human cognition--the fact that we build models of reality purely on the basis of experiences--but that we all use roughly the same neural "toolbox" to build those models. I certainly don't rule out the possibility that some people are more genetically predisposed than others to cling doggedly or become obsessed with their faith-based belief systems. However, we are a long way from establishing that, and there seem to me to be other equally good explanations.

Your family experience is quite common, and it is certainly true of my family. My three siblings are more religious than I am, and my paternal grandparents were even Jehovah's Witnesses. I believe that I inherited by father's tendency to proselytize, as did he from his parents (although he rejected his religious upbringing early in life). But was that because of our DNA or because my father was exposed to that behavior early in life and so was I? Everyone in a biological family shares genetic material, but they can all have very different sets of friends and experiences with religious communities. Siblings can have very different personalities, but are those differences attributable solely to genetic differences? It strikes me as absurd to come to such a conclusion without some evidence to support the conjecture. If everything isn't attributable to genetics, then what is? That is the question.
 
Last edited:

T.G.G. Moogly

Formerly Joedad
I don't think that environmental factors are heritable traits, but environmental factors certainly favor some genetic configurations over others. So I would say that you are confusing the roles of parent and child. In any case, I suspect that you are flirting too much with a  genetic fallacy here. :)



Leaving aside the questionable assumption that people tend to move on the basis of their cognitive sympathies (and less so for factors such as job opportunities and family matters), you are again begging the question by claiming that "genetic qualities set the framework for the environment". That is the conclusion that your argument is supposed to support, but it appears as just a bald assertion. Stable environments tend to favor and disfavor heritable traits, but you haven't proven that religious behavior is even remotely correlated with genetic inheritance.



It bears repeating that I am not denying differences in the behavior of religious and non-religious people. The issue is over what causes those differences, and rank speculation gets very low marks as a premise when it comes to drawing a reasonable conclusion.

Look, I once took a seminar in language acquisition from the noted developmental psychologist,  Brian MacWhinney. We got to discussing Noam Chomsky's claim that the language faculty is innate in human beings--a claim that is considered one of his hallmark contributions to the study of language. Chomsky's claim was based largely on the existence of linguistic universals--traits that one could claim to exist across all human languages. Chomsky conjectured that there was no other good explanation for them other than the existence of some kind of "Language Acquisition Device" (LAD) in the brains of human beings. MacWhinney was quite unimpressed by that claim, because, as a developmental psychologist, he never questioned that the linguistic faculty was at least partially attributable to human genetics. Our brains are predisposed to acquire spoken languages. At the very least, it helps us understand why there are no human communities anywhere that lack a naturally-acquired language. And we can observe a schedule of maturation with recognizable environmental trigger points to mature language behavior. However, MacWhinney dismissed a great many of Chomsky's more substantive claims about specific linguistic properties. He said that there needed to be more than the fact that a given property was ubiquitous (i.e. universal) in human language. Some could easily be attributed to other factors in human society. The question was always what was inherited or innate versus what was learned solely through environmental exposure. You can't simply jump to facile conclusions the way Chomsky was prone to doing. And it seems to me that several folks have been doing that in this thread.

You seem to have misunderstood my post in a number of places. Unfortunately I don't really have the time to prove anything to you, but you are the one making a strong assertion despite contrary evidence existing (which I've pointed you to).

You've made a pretty bold claim that there is no significant difference in brain architecture between the religious and non-religious, despite religiosity being correlated with gender, political orientation, and IQ. If you think that comes entirely down to the environment and not neural architecture I really don't know what else to tell you.

But if it wasn't clear already I'm not arguing that religious belief is heritable, I'm arguing that certain cognitive faculties make belief more likely.
I guess we'll have to let it go at that, since you aren't directing me to anything specific that I've missed or misrepresented in your posts. We can certainly agree that "certain cognitive faculties make belief more likely", but maybe we disagree on how individuals come to have those faculties. It is very easy to attribute differences between communities of believers to genetic, rather than environmental factors, as we've seen in debates over differences among racial, ethnic, and national groups. Therefore, I believe we should exercise extreme caution before trying to make the case, for example, that religious fanatics or political fanatics are genetically predisposed to be that way. That's not to deny that they could be, but we need some reasonably good evidence to support that conclusion. Merely observing that different groups are statistically more likely to exhibit certain behaviors is not enough.

Unfortunately with a one year old in tow and another on the way I get diminishing returns with more and more effort to convince people of something online.

I believe if you were to do some quick Googling on Google Scholar for something like 'cognitive differences between the religious/non-religious' the answer would be sitting right there. To me all I really need to see are the clear associations and trends, and the reality of a neural explanation is intuitively obvious.

I would also be careful in drawing an analogy between religion and racial, ethnic, and national groups with regards to cognitive differences. Religion is in an entirely different class, and it's identity isn't even well-defined. Your argument applies very well to race/ethnicity/nationality, but religion is cross-cultural and doesn't really respect any clear boundaries.

In my view, if you break it down, religious thought is pretty much just a puzzle that some people are able to break through, and others aren't. I could go into quite a bit of depth about how most of us aren't able to break through it, and how this is completely normal, but that's another thread. The overarching point is that some people are never able to figure it out, while others are. Some people are deep into delusion, while others experience more subtle forms.

In my father's family there are 5 siblings, all identical upbringing, all went to church every week, all lived in the same town, none of them went on to higher education. But some of them are devoutly religious while others aren't. Some of them.. even after many decades are true believers. Of course this is just a single anecdote, but I think it demonstrates the point well: essentially identical upbringing and environment, but different outcomes. So what do we attribute the difference in outcomes to if not genetic cause? Randomness? Some people are unlucky enough to not be exposed to materialistic thought? That sounds a lot more far-fetched to me than some people just think differently and experience the world differently than others due to innate qualities.
Agree 100% Same family experiences. It's obvious we are born with tremendously different cognitive abilities, interests and predispositions. The brain isn't some kind of magic organ. It's physical and lots of what it is is preset and determined just like height and eye color is in other parts of the organism.
 

none

Banned
yandex duckduck baidu and the one that crawls this site...the internet is where religion dies.
of course there is Facebook.
 

Copernicus

Industrial Grade Linguist

...

In my father's family there are 5 siblings, all identical upbringing, all went to church every week, all lived in the same town, none of them went on to higher education. But some of them are devoutly religious while others aren't. Some of them.. even after many decades are true believers. Of course this is just a single anecdote, but I think it demonstrates the point well: essentially identical upbringing and environment, but different outcomes. So what do we attribute the difference in outcomes to if not genetic cause? Randomness? Some people are unlucky enough to not be exposed to materialistic thought? That sounds a lot more far-fetched to me than some people just think differently and experience the world differently than others due to innate qualities.
Agree 100% Same family experiences. It's obvious we are born with tremendously different cognitive abilities, interests and predispositions. The brain isn't some kind of magic organ. It's physical and lots of what it is is preset and determined just like height and eye color is in other parts of the organism.
It is obvious that we are born with different cognitive abilities, yet do those genetically inherited abilities make a difference when it comes to the acquisition and maintenance of religious faith? After all, it is also obvious that our beliefs and behaviors are also strongly affected by experiences after we are born, and even siblings can have very different experiences that have a bearing on what they come to believe. I continue to worry that this tendency to attribute behavioral differences to genes rather than experiences is not really much different from the infamous attempts to build up stereotypes of racial behavior. The mistakes made in The Bell Curve should serve as a cautionary tale when we go down that route. The premise there was that statistical differences were a sufficient basis for branding some racial groups as cognitively inferior to others.
 

T.G.G. Moogly

Formerly Joedad

...

In my father's family there are 5 siblings, all identical upbringing, all went to church every week, all lived in the same town, none of them went on to higher education. But some of them are devoutly religious while others aren't. Some of them.. even after many decades are true believers. Of course this is just a single anecdote, but I think it demonstrates the point well: essentially identical upbringing and environment, but different outcomes. So what do we attribute the difference in outcomes to if not genetic cause? Randomness? Some people are unlucky enough to not be exposed to materialistic thought? That sounds a lot more far-fetched to me than some people just think differently and experience the world differently than others due to innate qualities.
Agree 100% Same family experiences. It's obvious we are born with tremendously different cognitive abilities, interests and predispositions. The brain isn't some kind of magic organ. It's physical and lots of what it is is preset and determined just like height and eye color is in other parts of the organism.
It is obvious that we are born with different cognitive abilities, yet do those genetically inherited abilities make a difference when it comes to the acquisition and maintenance of religious faith?
You are saying we're different but still all the same. Alright then.
 

rousseau

Contributor
My own opinion is that there is nothing at all fundamentally different in the brains of those with deep religious faith and those who reject religion.

I don't disagree with this. Fundamentally, we all have the same brain structure that for most of us does very similar things. Statistically, the majority of us should think in a fairly similar way, with tails at both ends of the spectrum (of course this is a simplification).

With regards to religious thought I don't think it's so much ipso facto religion that we're talking about, but dogmatic thinking, that is prevalent across our species. Very few of us are good at questioning our core beliefs, whatever they may be, and so end up being persuaded by whatever cultural element we find the most attractive. It's my view that we've evolved to learn about, accept, and internalize the world we're born into, and not question that world in a fundamental way. Most peoples opinions, thoughts, and habits, then, are a reflection of the popular culture they live in. This speaks to your point in that it may be Christianity, or it may be atheism, in both cases the underlying framework is often a result of dogma.

But I do think that variation in brain structure has major explanatory power in what kind of behaviours people will actually express throughout their lives, in a number of ways. Propensity to rely on emotion and intuition versus logic, introversion versus extroversion, memory capacity, how the endocrine system expresses itself, and on and on. A lot of this is hard-wired in a very real way.
 

bilby

Fair dinkum thinkum
I don't think that environmental factors are heritable traits, but environmental factors certainly favor some genetic configurations over others. So I would say that you are confusing the roles of parent and child. In any case, I suspect that you are flirting too much with a  genetic fallacy here. :)



Leaving aside the questionable assumption that people tend to move on the basis of their cognitive sympathies (and less so for factors such as job opportunities and family matters), you are again begging the question by claiming that "genetic qualities set the framework for the environment". That is the conclusion that your argument is supposed to support, but it appears as just a bald assertion. Stable environments tend to favor and disfavor heritable traits, but you haven't proven that religious behavior is even remotely correlated with genetic inheritance.



It bears repeating that I am not denying differences in the behavior of religious and non-religious people. The issue is over what causes those differences, and rank speculation gets very low marks as a premise when it comes to drawing a reasonable conclusion.

Look, I once took a seminar in language acquisition from the noted developmental psychologist,  Brian MacWhinney. We got to discussing Noam Chomsky's claim that the language faculty is innate in human beings--a claim that is considered one of his hallmark contributions to the study of language. Chomsky's claim was based largely on the existence of linguistic universals--traits that one could claim to exist across all human languages. Chomsky conjectured that there was no other good explanation for them other than the existence of some kind of "Language Acquisition Device" (LAD) in the brains of human beings. MacWhinney was quite unimpressed by that claim, because, as a developmental psychologist, he never questioned that the linguistic faculty was at least partially attributable to human genetics. Our brains are predisposed to acquire spoken languages. At the very least, it helps us understand why there are no human communities anywhere that lack a naturally-acquired language. And we can observe a schedule of maturation with recognizable environmental trigger points to mature language behavior. However, MacWhinney dismissed a great many of Chomsky's more substantive claims about specific linguistic properties. He said that there needed to be more than the fact that a given property was ubiquitous (i.e. universal) in human language. Some could easily be attributed to other factors in human society. The question was always what was inherited or innate versus what was learned solely through environmental exposure. You can't simply jump to facile conclusions the way Chomsky was prone to doing. And it seems to me that several folks have been doing that in this thread.

You seem to have misunderstood my post in a number of places. Unfortunately I don't really have the time to prove anything to you, but you are the one making a strong assertion despite contrary evidence existing (which I've pointed you to).

You've made a pretty bold claim that there is no significant difference in brain architecture between the religious and non-religious, despite religiosity being correlated with gender, political orientation, and IQ. If you think that comes entirely down to the environment and not neural architecture I really don't know what else to tell you.

But if it wasn't clear already I'm not arguing that religious belief is heritable, I'm arguing that certain cognitive faculties make belief more likely.
I guess we'll have to let it go at that, since you aren't directing me to anything specific that I've missed or misrepresented in your posts. We can certainly agree that "certain cognitive faculties make belief more likely", but maybe we disagree on how individuals come to have those faculties. It is very easy to attribute differences between communities of believers to genetic, rather than environmental factors, as we've seen in debates over differences among racial, ethnic, and national groups. Therefore, I believe we should exercise extreme caution before trying to make the case, for example, that religious fanatics or political fanatics are genetically predisposed to be that way. That's not to deny that they could be, but we need some reasonably good evidence to support that conclusion. Merely observing that different groups are statistically more likely to exhibit certain behaviors is not enough.

Unfortunately with a one year old in tow and another on the way I get diminishing returns with more and more effort to convince people of something online.

I believe if you were to do some quick Googling on Google Scholar for something like 'cognitive differences between the religious/non-religious' the answer would be sitting right there. To me all I really need to see are the clear associations and trends, and the reality of a neural explanation is intuitively obvious.

I would also be careful in drawing an analogy between religion and racial, ethnic, and national groups with regards to cognitive differences. Religion is in an entirely different class, and it's identity isn't even well-defined. Your argument applies very well to race/ethnicity/nationality, but religion is cross-cultural and doesn't really respect any clear boundaries.

In my view, if you break it down, religious thought is pretty much just a puzzle that some people are able to break through, and others aren't. I could go into quite a bit of depth about how most of us aren't able to break through it, and how this is completely normal, but that's another thread. The overarching point is that some people are never able to figure it out, while others are. Some people are deep into delusion, while others experience more subtle forms.

In my father's family there are 5 siblings, all identical upbringing, all went to church every week, all lived in the same town, none of them went on to higher education. But some of them are devoutly religious while others aren't. Some of them.. even after many decades are true believers. Of course this is just a single anecdote, but I think it demonstrates the point well: essentially identical upbringing and environment, but different outcomes. So what do we attribute the difference in outcomes to if not genetic cause? Randomness? Some people are unlucky enough to not be exposed to materialistic thought? That sounds a lot more far-fetched to me than some people just think differently and experience the world differently than others due to innate qualities.
Agree 100% Same family experiences. It's obvious we are born with tremendously different cognitive abilities, interests and predispositions. The brain isn't some kind of magic organ. It's physical and lots of what it is is preset and determined just like height and eye color is in other parts of the organism.
And lots is environmental.

Usain Bolt was doubtless born with some traits that predisposed him to be a fast sprinter. But equally he doubtless would not have been anything like as fast as he is had his culture not set high store by athletic excellence, nor if he had failed to train effectively, eat an appropriate diet, and have the mental resilience to recover from setbacks.

Similarly, a person's predisposition to superstition is a combination of genetic and environmental factors; And it is likely futile and certainly foolish to attempt to determine which is more important - the degree to which each is important is likely different from one individual to the next.
 

rousseau

Contributor
I don't think that environmental factors are heritable traits, but environmental factors certainly favor some genetic configurations over others. So I would say that you are confusing the roles of parent and child. In any case, I suspect that you are flirting too much with a  genetic fallacy here. :)



Leaving aside the questionable assumption that people tend to move on the basis of their cognitive sympathies (and less so for factors such as job opportunities and family matters), you are again begging the question by claiming that "genetic qualities set the framework for the environment". That is the conclusion that your argument is supposed to support, but it appears as just a bald assertion. Stable environments tend to favor and disfavor heritable traits, but you haven't proven that religious behavior is even remotely correlated with genetic inheritance.



It bears repeating that I am not denying differences in the behavior of religious and non-religious people. The issue is over what causes those differences, and rank speculation gets very low marks as a premise when it comes to drawing a reasonable conclusion.

Look, I once took a seminar in language acquisition from the noted developmental psychologist,  Brian MacWhinney. We got to discussing Noam Chomsky's claim that the language faculty is innate in human beings--a claim that is considered one of his hallmark contributions to the study of language. Chomsky's claim was based largely on the existence of linguistic universals--traits that one could claim to exist across all human languages. Chomsky conjectured that there was no other good explanation for them other than the existence of some kind of "Language Acquisition Device" (LAD) in the brains of human beings. MacWhinney was quite unimpressed by that claim, because, as a developmental psychologist, he never questioned that the linguistic faculty was at least partially attributable to human genetics. Our brains are predisposed to acquire spoken languages. At the very least, it helps us understand why there are no human communities anywhere that lack a naturally-acquired language. And we can observe a schedule of maturation with recognizable environmental trigger points to mature language behavior. However, MacWhinney dismissed a great many of Chomsky's more substantive claims about specific linguistic properties. He said that there needed to be more than the fact that a given property was ubiquitous (i.e. universal) in human language. Some could easily be attributed to other factors in human society. The question was always what was inherited or innate versus what was learned solely through environmental exposure. You can't simply jump to facile conclusions the way Chomsky was prone to doing. And it seems to me that several folks have been doing that in this thread.

You seem to have misunderstood my post in a number of places. Unfortunately I don't really have the time to prove anything to you, but you are the one making a strong assertion despite contrary evidence existing (which I've pointed you to).

You've made a pretty bold claim that there is no significant difference in brain architecture between the religious and non-religious, despite religiosity being correlated with gender, political orientation, and IQ. If you think that comes entirely down to the environment and not neural architecture I really don't know what else to tell you.

But if it wasn't clear already I'm not arguing that religious belief is heritable, I'm arguing that certain cognitive faculties make belief more likely.
I guess we'll have to let it go at that, since you aren't directing me to anything specific that I've missed or misrepresented in your posts. We can certainly agree that "certain cognitive faculties make belief more likely", but maybe we disagree on how individuals come to have those faculties. It is very easy to attribute differences between communities of believers to genetic, rather than environmental factors, as we've seen in debates over differences among racial, ethnic, and national groups. Therefore, I believe we should exercise extreme caution before trying to make the case, for example, that religious fanatics or political fanatics are genetically predisposed to be that way. That's not to deny that they could be, but we need some reasonably good evidence to support that conclusion. Merely observing that different groups are statistically more likely to exhibit certain behaviors is not enough.

Unfortunately with a one year old in tow and another on the way I get diminishing returns with more and more effort to convince people of something online.

I believe if you were to do some quick Googling on Google Scholar for something like 'cognitive differences between the religious/non-religious' the answer would be sitting right there. To me all I really need to see are the clear associations and trends, and the reality of a neural explanation is intuitively obvious.

I would also be careful in drawing an analogy between religion and racial, ethnic, and national groups with regards to cognitive differences. Religion is in an entirely different class, and it's identity isn't even well-defined. Your argument applies very well to race/ethnicity/nationality, but religion is cross-cultural and doesn't really respect any clear boundaries.

In my view, if you break it down, religious thought is pretty much just a puzzle that some people are able to break through, and others aren't. I could go into quite a bit of depth about how most of us aren't able to break through it, and how this is completely normal, but that's another thread. The overarching point is that some people are never able to figure it out, while others are. Some people are deep into delusion, while others experience more subtle forms.

In my father's family there are 5 siblings, all identical upbringing, all went to church every week, all lived in the same town, none of them went on to higher education. But some of them are devoutly religious while others aren't. Some of them.. even after many decades are true believers. Of course this is just a single anecdote, but I think it demonstrates the point well: essentially identical upbringing and environment, but different outcomes. So what do we attribute the difference in outcomes to if not genetic cause? Randomness? Some people are unlucky enough to not be exposed to materialistic thought? That sounds a lot more far-fetched to me than some people just think differently and experience the world differently than others due to innate qualities.
Agree 100% Same family experiences. It's obvious we are born with tremendously different cognitive abilities, interests and predispositions. The brain isn't some kind of magic organ. It's physical and lots of what it is is preset and determined just like height and eye color is in other parts of the organism.
And lots is environmental.

Similarly, a person's predisposition to superstition is a combination of genetic and environmental factors; And it is likely futile and certainly foolish to attempt to determine which is more important - the degree to which each is important is likely different from one individual to the next.

I don't think a predisposition can be environmental, I suspect what you mean is that a person's likelihood of acquiring belief comes from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. I don't disagree, but I think it's also true that in our current culture people tend to underestimate (or not even understand) genetic influence, and overestimate environmental influence. Steven Pinker wrote an entire book about it (The Blank Slate), and how the idea has origins deeply rooted in history.

A great example of this is parenting. Most parents assume that they have reasonable control over how their kids turn out, and how successful they become, but research shows that genetics (assuming a reasonably normal environment) accounts for almost all of it. Parents can do basically nothing but provide food/warmth/shelter/love for their kid, and assuming they can afford post-secondary education it's pretty much up to the child how they'll turn out. The assumption that environment is important is a good one to make, because it ensures that parents try to do a good job. But in reality it really doesn't matter that much.

Of course a person is going to be influenced by their environment, but genetic predisposition does exist. That's how evolution works: some people are more likely to be successful and find niches due to innate attributes, some are more likely to be drawn to certain parts of a culture due to innate attributes. And not only is the human brain included in this, it's genetic variation is likely central to human competition.

And I'd re-iterate my former point that genetics also plays a role in shaping the environment that houses it, it reinforces itself twice. This is because people with similar attributes (and consequently beliefs) tend to group together, while people with dissimilar attributes (and consequently beliefs) tend to repel each other. You can see this happen in almost any context: Christians will find each other, people of a similar race will find each other, people of a similar nationality. IOW, environment isn't arbitrary, genetic attributes typically underlie it.
 

Copernicus

Industrial Grade Linguist
Nobody is denying that there are genetic predispositions. That's how evolution works. It selects for the predispositions that lead to more offspring over the long run. However, it is still an unwarranted leap to go from the observation of different behaviors to the conclusion that those behaviors were entirely or partially because of genetic predispositions. To validate an empirical claim of that sort, one needs to have confirmable evidence.

If religious faith is a genetic predisposition in humans, then why has secularism spread so widely throughout Europe and North America in just a few generations? A rapidly spreading genetic change? One can go to absurd lengths to try to attribute behavior to genetic predispositions, and it has never worked out well in the past when people have let their imaginations run in that direction. As I pointed out earlier in this thread, there are plenty of good environmental conditions that promote the spread of religious faith. I think that the Darwinian apostle, Richard Dawkins, was closer to the mark when he suggested that the propensity for faith in God had more to do with an evolutionary misfire than a God gene.
 

T.G.G. Moogly

Formerly Joedad
...
It is obvious that we are born with different cognitive abilities, yet do those genetically inherited abilities make a difference when it comes to the acquisition and maintenance of religious faith?
You are saying we're different but still all the same. Alright then.
That isn't even remotely what I said, but nice try. ;)
You've said exactly that just not using the same words. It's as if you think the brain isn't something physical like the rest of the body, that it's some kind of magic organ that determines its own path. If you've ever coached kids you know that kids vary tremendously in their physical abilities. Why exactly do you think the brains in those kids are any different? Some will have a natural gift for math and languages or something else. Some will have difficulties concentrating. You maintain that all these differences are primarily external to the brain. Are you afraid of the truth?
 

rousseau

Contributor
Nobody is denying that there are genetic predispositions. That's how evolution works. It selects for the predispositions that lead to more offspring over the long run. However, it is still an unwarranted leap to go from the observation of different behaviors to the conclusion that those behaviors were entirely or partially because of genetic predispositions. To validate an empirical claim of that sort, one needs to have confirmable evidence.

If religious faith is a genetic predisposition in humans, then why has secularism spread so widely throughout Europe and North America in just a few generations? A rapidly spreading genetic change? One can go to absurd lengths to try to attribute behavior to genetic predispositions, and it has never worked out well in the past when people have let their imaginations run in that direction. As I pointed out earlier in this thread, there are plenty of good environmental conditions that promote the spread of religious faith. I think that the Darwinian apostle, Richard Dawkins, was closer to the mark when he suggested that the propensity for faith in God had more to do with an evolutionary misfire than a God gene.

Nobody is denying that there are genetic predispositions. That's how evolution works. It selects for the predispositions that lead to more offspring over the long run. However, it is still an unwarranted leap to go from the observation of different behaviors to the conclusion that those behaviors were entirely or partially because of genetic predispositions. To validate an empirical claim of that sort, one needs to have confirmable evidence.

If religious faith is a genetic predisposition in humans, then why has secularism spread so widely throughout Europe and North America in just a few generations? A rapidly spreading genetic change? One can go to absurd lengths to try to attribute behavior to genetic predispositions, and it has never worked out well in the past when people have let their imaginations run in that direction. As I pointed out earlier in this thread, there are plenty of good environmental conditions that promote the spread of religious faith. I think that the Darwinian apostle, Richard Dawkins, was closer to the mark when he suggested that the propensity for faith in God had more to do with an evolutionary misfire than a God gene.
Likewise nobody is arguing that ipso facto religious belief is a genetic predisposition. The genetic predisposition is what makes some people likely to take up religious belief. Those aren't the same statements. Genetics aren't destiny with regards to beliefs. On that we seem to be on the same page. You keep asking me for evidence of this and I've pointed you to Google Scholar where that evidence is.

To go along with the 'brains are the same' analogy, it is very likely that many of us have a propensity for religiosity, but it exists in varying degrees. Some are easily swayed by ridiculous Christian arguments while others are more savvy but still give undue reverence to something like science. The pattern is similar but exists at different degrees.
 
Top Bottom