Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Eyes Wide Shut
Professor Jim Chen has an exploration of creationist mythology as an adaptive exercise over at Jurisdynamics.
On closer examination, religious belief appears to be adaptive. In other words, religion persists because at some point in the natural history of the human species, religious belief conferred an advantage at the margin. Believers lived and reproduced. Their counterparts fared less well.
Thanks to the adaptive instincts that enabled our ancestors to survive and reproduce more successfully at the margin, we humans systematically interpret ambiguous evidence as being caused by a living agent rather than an abiotic alternative. Put simply, we never wonder what went bump in the night, but who.
Professor Chen, therefore, dismisses the notion that the reason religion is successful is because it comforts the believer:
Comfort? Like hell. Entire swaths of religious dogma are dedicated to scaring the bejesus out of adherents. Believers might try to persuade themselves that the reward of faith is a guarantee of eternal life. In evolutionary terms, the price of faith is eternal vigilance . . . which in turn might lead to a marginally longer life with enhanced reproductive prospects.
... Karl Marx totally misunderstood the origins of a belief in God and the impact of that belief on broader human society. Stay awake and watch, therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour of the coming of the Lord. Religion is not the opiate of the masses, but rather the ephedrine.
I haven't spent a sleepless night worrying about my children going to hell since I stopped believing! And what scared me "into the kingdom" as a child in the first place was a series of sleepless nights worrying about myself and hell because I had told a lie.
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