“If god belief helped our ancestors’ survival…” That’s a pretty big if. What you’re suggesting is that there was some evolutionary advantage to god-belief such that our genes were selected to promote a propensity for faith. That’s a pretty complex assertion and it would be very difficult to prove. Keep in mind that evolutionary time is measured on a geological scale. Human history since agriculture really isn’t enough time for significant genetic selection.
To my knowledge, there is evidence of ceremonial burial among pre-agricultural humans, which suggests that religion was present over a long enough period for it to have some impact on natural selection, but not necessarily that its impact was significant.
However, I think you’re not entirely off base. I see religion as a byproduct of the (evolutionarily selected) human need to explain the world. What I mean is that as language developed, early humans were devising ways to understand such things as the precession of the planets, the sun, the seasons, birth, death, etc. Naturally, we should expect that some of the ideas that the early humans had weren’t entirely accurate, but the important thing is that they were trying to understand the world.
So humans are amazing at pattern recognition, problem solving, etc. So I think religion isn’t evolutionarily advantageous per se. Reason clearly is advantageous, and it is reason that creates a need for world-ordering systems such as relgion, philosophy, and science.
I hope this answers the question.
I have 'God moments’ too, by the way. I don’t see anything wrong with it as long as you can tell the difference between your unconscious speaking to you and an invisible man in the sky speaking to you.
Posted: October 27th 2007
See all questions answered by George Locke