The Relevance of the Concept of God

Discussion in 'Religion' started by Syne, Oct 15, 2013.

  1. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    ? No. The concept of God is attributed to evolution, by many atheists.
    Just ask Fraggle or Aqueous Id, for example. They'll be more than happy to again explain how primitive people developed a concept of God to explain the unknown etc.

    There's also the concept of karma, which I suggested as an alternative mechanism whereby people can further develop/exercise conscience.
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  3. Robittybob1 Banned Banned

    I am thinking it is more than that. Any of the things we now sense were once from the organisms point of view not present.
    Birds learned how to pick up the Earth's magnetic field.
    Animals sense some sort of change in the Earth strain prior to Earthquakes.
    And humans have learned how to sense God. The sensing of God becomes an evolving thing which gives some humans a biological advantage. Premonitions for one.
    The story of Noah's ark is one extreme example (where one family and a few selected animals survive a catastrophe).
    Every culture would have stories like this where the ones who had the ability to sense God save themselves and others (classic survival of the fittest).
    Maybe we are a species that is branching again into two varieties the Spiritual Man and the Physical man. If you believe in Evolution then modern man could quite easily be the common ancestor of many branches of humans variations in the future.

    I believe and have seen it myself that the ability to sense God is a worthwhile trait to reproduce and it appears to be passed down through the family.
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  5. Balerion Banned Banned

    Ignorance of the origins of the Biblical flood story? Check.

    Ignorance of basic biology? Check.

    Dehumanizing non-believers? Check.

    Congratulations! You've achieved Zealot status!
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  7. Robittybob1 Banned Banned

    "Ignorance of the origins of the Biblical flood story? Check." What did you think I said about Noah? I was saying it is typifying a generalised story, it is true only in the sense of a general feature. Like the ones who decided not to go to work on the 9/11 day and survived.
    Anyone who is acting on a premonition and saving their lives passes on that genetic trait. It has survival value. Evolution at work on a daily basis.

    "Ignorance of basic biology? Check." Do you know more about biology than me? Doubt it!

    "Dehumanizing non-believers? Check" No; we are all humans but we are diverging into two future strains, The Spiritual and the Physical Humans. This process has been going on for many millennia already.

    "Congratulations! You've achieved Zealot status!" I knew that already.
  8. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

    I'm following up on the link you posted. Research into, and observation of, animal behaviour and social pressures on selection, does not require the identification of a 'conscience' as causative agent. Biology and natural selection can't be measured by the same criteria as morality. Morality is a product of those social pressures and chains of kin selection.
    (I have seen 'conscience' at work in dogs, even when they don't know they're being watched, but that's probably just because they're so in thrall to their human masters. In other domestic animals, wild and feral ones, the rules of behaviour are determined by the social organization of the species, which are different from ours, but no less internalized in early life: a combination of [hereditary] instinct and learned [from the mother] protocol.)

    I thought your god concept had to be something that can see you when you don't see it - otherwise how is it a conscience? The tribal spirits and classical gods didn't watch people all the time, and mostly didn't care how people behaved, except toward them or their sacred tree or pet project or whatever: as long as you made the required sacrifice, they were okay. And, of course, wood and water spirits really don't care about morality.

    Yes, I remember. Your and my disbelief has no bearing on the thesis.
  9. Syne Sine qua non Valued Senior Member

    How is the concept of god not a conceptualization of a higher being? Those two offer no significant or useable differentiation. It seems you have avoided the question with trivial semantics. So I will repeat:

    Why is it almost every other persisting biological and social trait is attributed to evolution but not the concept of god conceptualization of a higher being?

    But I will happily agree that the "ability to conceptualize a higher being" has evolutionary value. After all, the concept of god is incomprehensible without the ability to conceptualize it.

    Now why has it persisted? Because it has no value? Come on, evolution is supposed to be an atheist's bread and butter.

    And he [Daniel Dennett] thinks that everything about us can be explained within the framework of the theory of evolution. -

    Once again, you are erroneously attributing claims to me. I said, "...other human institutions that lead people to believe that something is only wrong if you get caught". Nowhere have I said they "only work when someone is watching". At the very least, you are jumping on the band-wagon of Magical Realist's strawman.

    But since you brought it up, perhaps you would like to give some examples of human institutions that do not rely heavily on social interaction to establish/maintain morality.

    Who are you quoting there? It is definitely not me, not even "suggested". You keep doggedly missing that I have been talking about developing conscience, not utilizing it (I even specified in the OP "exercise (work to strengthen)").

    Fair enough, it is the strawman you borrowed from Magical Realist.

    But how on earth is any of what you quoted there even vaguely related to your comment [bolded]. Random synaptic firing?


    Despite being able to show some signs of empathy, such as attempting to comfort a crying baby, from as early as 18 months to two years, most children do not show a fully fledged theory of mind until around the age of four. Theory of mind involves the ability to understand that other people may have beliefs that are different from one's own, and is thought to involve the cognitive component of empathy. -

    Yes I have, and the operative phrase there is "virtually always" (and I am honestly shocked that you managed to qualify that at all). And I challenge you to show any proof of the "angrily" characterization you are attempting to use to poison the well. Since I know there is none, I will assume it an admission instead of an accusation.

    How on earth do you manage to make that wild stretch? Why not simply put two and two together by reading your post that was a response to?

    It is shockingly simple. If psychopaths live in society then society may not be a good way to develop conscience.
  10. elte Valued Senior Member

    A god that can reward bravery might promote tribe members' motivation to take life-threatening risks to increase the survival chances of the tribe as a whole.
  11. Syne Sine qua non Valued Senior Member

    I guess I am missing what your point may be. I never said anything required identification of conscience, nor that biological evolution could be measured by such.

    Since I stipulated a god not existing, it is moot whether it could "see you" or not. And I never equated a god concept as a conscience. It is not, itself, a conscience.
  12. Balerion Banned Banned

    Read it again: The ability to conceptualize. You're attempting to say that God as a concept has been selected naturally; I'm saying that our intelligence has been selected, and that intelligence has created God as a byproduct, much is the same way it has created cinema or music.

    Obviously, but you're not agreeing to what you think you're agreeing to.

    Why has the ability to conceptualize God persisted? Because the main functions of the mechanisms behind it have actual value. You're trying to say that the concept of God itself has value; this is incorrect.

    Pointless nitpick. Whether your claim is that things are only wrong if you are caught, or that people will believe it to be true in the absence of a God concept, it amounts to the same thing. And it's wrong, to boot.

    That's not what I said, nor was it your claim. Morality and ethics are human institutions that operate independently of one's anonymity. We are taught that stealing is bad not because we could go to jail for it, but because, among other things, the negative impact it has on the victim. This same rationale applies, in various forms, across the board.

    Except where you were talking about utilizing it:


    It's related because you're using terms interchangeably. For instance, I said that ethics and morality do not require a witness. You then replied by saying that morality isn't synonymous with conscience, and then claiming that I had said conscience required a witness. You continually argue that these are separate, non-overlapping terms, but continually hot-swap one for the other.

    Where does that say anything about empathy requiring learned behavior? In fact, it says the opposite, right there in your quote. Empathy is innate.

    Your hostile interactions with just about everyone you're conversing with in this thread is proof. Should I quote all of the unprovoked dickishness you've displayed here, or can you just drop the act?

    I guess I didn't come to that conclusion because it's so stupid. I mean, I even tried to imagine a couple of stupid notions that you might be suggesting, but they paled in comparison to the outrageously idiotic one you settled on.

    How is it that the existence of psychopathy (a mental disorder) affects the ability of society to develop conscience?
  13. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    My own view, which is largely speculation, is that our human religious modes of thinking arise as what we might call an 'unintended consequence' of other deeper features of human cognition. It is these other features, such as our innate ability to read and understand other people's thinking, emotions, purposes and motivations, and our universal human ability to learn and use natural language, that possess direct survival value.

    The majority of human beings just naturally find it easier and more pleasurable to think in personal terms than to think about impersonal abstractions. That's why teenagers find it easier and much more fun to text their friends than to solve their homework algebra problems. (Remember that communicating with other people is the vastly more complex and demanding neurological task.) One kind of cognitive activity comes easily, naturally and almost effortlessly, while the other is a struggle with a much more alien mode of thinking.

    So when prehistoric people were faced with inevitable questions about why events in the natural environment proceed as they do, these people might have naturally turned to personalistic concepts to explain nature, explaining nature in terms of the purposes and motivations of extraordinarily powerful unseen cognitive agents like themselves. Design arguments and evidences of purposiveness just naturally seem fall out of the way that human beings think.

    Obviously the origins of religion and religiosity are a lot more complex than that. But I do think that theory might neatly capture the seemingly universal human propensity to believe in the existence of occult (hidden) purposive supernatural agents.
  14. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    I think religion also exploits a basic kind of experience and thinking we all have as children--a habitual overestimation of the relevance of events to our own existence. For instance children will instinctively attribute their parents' separation or divorce to something THEY did. Likewise there might be tendency to ascribe personal motives to all sorts of events. A sense of connection between how they have been behaving or misbehaving with say someone getting sick or injured. A sound in the darkness? Must be the lurking boogeyman in the closet.

    This is the primitive magical thinking that operates within the egocentric world of the child. Religion imposes itself over this template, manipulating this overmoralistic view of life with the condemnation or approbation of an ever-watchful skydaddy and the paranoia of hoardes of demons and their followers always out to get them in one way or another. This is how religion manages to embed itself so powerfully into the psyches of its adherents. It imprints itself on their developing minds when they are still young and vulnerable, enforcing this whole mindset of a conspiratorial universe revolving totally around them and always responsive to their own moral or immoral behavior.
  15. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

    In that case, I have completely misunderstood and no idea what you are talking about.
  16. Syne Sine qua non Valued Senior Member

    Read it again? Sure. You said:

    "The ability to conceptualize a higher being obviously evolved"

    Unless you can prove otherwise, there is no other value to that specific "ability to conceptualize a higher being" other than the concept it facilitates. But if you misspoke earlier, just admit it. Here it seems you want to make a much more general, and vague/digressing, argument about intelligence, where earlier you seemed happy to argue the point least until it seemed to be failing you.

    By extension, I guess you would also say that there is no value in "cinema or music" that promotes its persistent? Remember, I asked about its persistence, not its creation.

    Why is it almost every other persisting biological and social trait is attributed to evolution but not the conceptualization of ability to conceptualize a higher being?

    Well? Are you satisfied to agree on that or not? I know what I am agreeing to, do you?

    What, the mechanism of the ability to conceptualize a higher being which you have yet to show has any other value than facilitating the concept itself? In evolution, abilities develop in direct response to specific pressures, and are thus goal/result driven. Even if the initial ability is a random mutation, it does not generally persist (and definitely not at the magnitude of this concept) without environmental reinforcement.

    Again, I have asserted neither, so your objection is only an invented strawman (whether by your misunderstanding or intention). I said: "A postulated view that does not have the shortcoming inherent in all other human institutions that lead people to believe that something is only wrong if you get caught."

    I did not address morality in general, but only its relation to human institutions (which necessarily includes the institutions of church, BTW).

    Finally, you admit that you were wrong when you said:
    You make this claim based on the fallacy that all other human institutions only work when someone is watching.

    What you are talking about is empathy, which I have repeatedly told you cannot fully develop independent of social interaction. How else would you be aware of any "negative impact it has on the victim"?

    I have, not once, asserted anything about anonymity. Seems you keep conflating the existence with the development of conscience. I have been solely talking about the former.

    And I have repeatedly told you that conscience and empathy (which necessarily requires social interaction to develop) are not synonymous. So?

    I never said they were "non-overlapping terms", as it is trivially obvious that conscience informs both morality and empathy. The only "hot-swapping" has been your own. You did claim that conscience required a witness because you insisted on not differentiating the terms.

    An honest conversation requires that at least one party try to communicate in language the other understands. You seem to have a problem understanding "conscience", but I have consistently distinguished it as separate from empathy (which requires some social interaction).

    I give you the links to anything I cite for a reason, but I really expected you were capable of understanding statements such as "most children do not show a fully fledged theory of mind until around the age of four." That literally means that it is developing, but following the link in that quote:

    The study of which animals are capable of attributing knowledge and mental states to others, as well as when in human ontogeny and phylogeny this ability developed, has identified a number of precursory behaviors to a theory of mind. Understanding attention, understanding of others' intentions, and imitative experience with other people are hallmarks of a theory of mind that may be observed early in the development of what later becomes a full-fledged theory. -

    "Understanding attention, understanding of others' intentions, and imitative experience" are all things that must be learned.

    So I have provided you with ample citations about empathy not being 100% innate. Where are your counter-citations? Do you have anything to support your proclamation/bare assertion that "empathy is innate"?

    This is a debate, and nothing I have said in this thread is objectively hostile. Or do you claim some erroneous, psychic insight?

    Quote away. You will find that where I have hit the nail on the head others have responded by assuming hostility that was not there (poisoning the well), and when pressed begged off.

    Who is sounding hostile now?

    Society develops conscience? I thought you said conscience was innate? (And before you get pedantic about "hot-swapping" again, it is trivial that if conscience informs empathy and you assume empathy is innate, so must conscience be.)

    Ah, so physiological defect, huh?

    A study by Farrington of a sample of London males followed between age 8 and 48 included studying which factors predicted scoring 10 or more on the PCL[Psychopathy Checklist]: SV at age 48. The strongest factors were "having a convicted father or mother, physical neglect of the boy, low involvement of the father with the boy, low family income, and coming from a disrupted family." Other significant factors included poor supervision, harsh discipline, large family size, delinquent sibling, young mother, depressed mother, low social class, and poor housing. -

    Here is an idea. Why not try to support your views with anything other than bare assertion?
  17. Balerion Banned Banned

    The specific ability to conceptualize a higher being is a byproduct of our intelligence. It isn't a standalone evolutionary trait, no more than the ability to write music or make movies are. And no, there is no evolutionary value in either of those things.

    You obviously don't know what you're agreeing to.

    So what evolutionary value does music have? What pressures brought it about, and what niche does it fit that allows it to persist?

    Now you're lying because you've nowhere else to go with your argument.

    Game over. I'm not wasting another six or seven posts fighting against a liar and an intellectual midget.

    Oh, and just so you know I know you're full of shit about the psychopathy bit: You omitted the following from the wiki page:

    Proponents of the triarchic model described earlier see psychopathy as due to the interaction of an adverse environment and genetic predispositions. What is adverse may differ depending on the underlying predisposition. Thus, persons having high boldness may respond poorly to punishment but may respond better to rewards and secure attachments

    Enjoy the silence.
  18. Robittybob1 Banned Banned

    You are so wrong here it isn't funny. Art and culture are as much a part of evolution as any other trait. Advantage - come on get real.Think of the situation with Elvis and the Beatles, One Direction and Justin Bieber? What happens to them?
  19. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    What does any of that have to do with evolution?
  20. Robittybob1 Banned Banned

    How does evolution work? I thought you'd know. Like if you were a genius and never had kids then that would not have much evolutionary advantage, but if you are artistic and romantic and have mates and breed your genes are likely to be passed on. Did I have to spell out the facts of life to you?
  21. Syne Sine qua non Valued Senior Member

    Again, without anything other than bare assertion. I will give that argument the same effort you put into it...none. But you are still evading the question of why such a concept persists.

    But as far as music goes, see Darwin's Descent of Man, where he talks about Voice and Musical Powers in relation to sexual selection and attraction. "No evolutionary value", huh?

    Apparently you cannot manage to answer a simple question, and feel you must resort to these little diversions. You seem too gun-shy to even agree with a statement you already made, i.e. "The ability to conceptualize a higher being obviously evolved."

    Like birds and some insects use sounds to, among other things, attract a mate, pre-language man could have first developed it for the same or similar purpose. Modern love songs serve the same basic purpose, and music in general bonds social groups. Plenty of possible reasons for music to evolve and persist.

    Another bare assertion, without a shred of evidence. As usual, when you get stumped enough you throw some ad hominems as diversion in your obvious attempt to beg off. Fine by me.

    And? That does not dispute environmental factors entirely.

    And if you can remain silent, it will be a first.
  22. Syne Sine qua non Valued Senior Member

    Here is a highly related study:

    God Is Watching You
    Priming God Concepts Increases Prosocial Behavior in an Anonymous Economic Game

    Several things are worth noting in this study, both backing my arguments here.

    1. While the study sought to examine god concepts, its priming words (spirit, divine, God, sacred, and prophet) were not sufficiently narrow to assure that religion in general was not primed in the subjects (they even called it the "religious-prime"). At best, the god concept was only weakly primed.

    2. "The secular prime [using the words civic, jury, court, police, and contract] had nearly as large an effect as the religious one."

    Since the "god" priming evoked religion in general, the similarity between its effect and that of the "secular" priming is to be expected, as both evoke human institutions which have a similar impact on morality (i.e. prosocial behavior). I suspect a stronger "god" priming would make for a larger difference, and it could be that the weak priming accounted for the small, but inconclusive, difference.
  23. Capracus Valued Senior Member

    The overall implications of the study are that theists respond to suggestion based in ignorance and superstition, and atheists respond to that based in reality. Do you want to cultivate ignorance so that religion can continue to be used as a tool for social conditioning, or would you opt for the secular approach that is more consistent with a contemporary rational cosmology?

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