Self-isolating today, so unable to make it in to the comic factory. Hence the flashback to December 2005, and the first time the Barmaid ever spoke to the boys.
Normal service will be resumed next week, insh.
EDIT: If you’re wondering where the Barmaid got her theory from, I believe this article from The Atlantic is a likely candidate: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2005/12/is-god-an-accident/304425/
Have to argue that only an academic needs to waste public money by trying to find a way of using the word “dualism” in the context of how a child interprets what goes on around them. The reality is that religions only survive if they can brainwash and rule with fear over children. Dualism my backside.
Magic moment. I hope self isolation is brief and brings peace
Hmm, what’d she say?
The barmaid explained it to the superstitious idiots fifteen years ago and they didn’t and still don’t get it!
The best explanation of this that I’ve read is “Future of an Illusion” which elucidates how one’s first interpretation of the world must account for the all powerful beings (adults) in control of everything. The author S Freud was mostly brilliant, while making big mistakes, but is now universally knee-jerk libelled and slandered by people who have never read anything by him, and later psychologists who wanted to displace him and grab his fame.
I wish Author the same as “Henry Ford”.
The author (through the barmaid) is right that evolution had something to do with it. But not only because we were biologically predisposed to look for explanations. That’s only part of it.
The other part is social. It created a cohesive message for early tribes (like “our gods love us and will destroy our enemies”). Tribes with that kind of psychological reinforcement might have been slightly better at passing on their genes, because the message reinforced tribal loyalty, and increased the avidity for fighting for the common cause of survival.
Not lots better… but we’re taking about tiny changes over evolutionary time, so it gets magnified. Tribal cohesiveness had survival benefit.
The “childish dualism” explanation addresses the mechanics, which is a different question from the survival advantage. You could write a book about the possible survival advantages conferred by religion, and some disadvantages too (see “Gnosticism”.)
The mechanics are interesting though. Naturally it would involve childhood cognitive development, but I’m not sure what “childish dualism” means. To me it implies that children naturally see things in terms of an opposition between good and evil, which I find kind of surprising … so “dualism” could refer to something else, which would not be surprising as it’s kind of a broad concept.
I would have said that it comes from internalizing one’s parents. Right about the time you begin to reject the absolute supremacy of your parents, you find that some supernatural being is on hand to replace them as the omnipotence they clearly are not.
Oops, it seems that the answers are out there if one but looks. The dualism in question here is between material existence and souls; the argument is that you will not naturally understand your consciousness as a solely material neurophysical phenomenon, and instead you’ll much more likely think in terms that are compatible with the idea of a soul as advocated by religion.
That doesn’t automatically put Jehovah in the picture – Buddhism for example doesn’t seem to revolve around any personal deity – but for me that stuff is more accidents of a theology built to provide a story for your soul. I still think there’s an element of parent/child psychology in there, though.
Donn: “You could write a book about the possible survival advantages conferred by religion,”
I think several have already been written!
The only way that anyone has a god-shaped-hole in their heart is if god is shoved into them at an early age and their heart grows around it.
@Son of Glenner & Donn: Most of those books can be reduced to “follow this religion and we won’t kill you”. So yes, possible survival advantages conferred by religion.
Most people are scared of dying, or rather, no longer existing after becoming self-aware and acknowledging both the world around them and what they have contributed to said world, not to mention a future of unlimited possibilities.
It’s why many people inherently want to live forever, or have an afterlife where they can still be aware of their surroundings.
Because the knowledge of dying, losing all that was experienced and achieved and not being able to continue further, or to see how one’s legacy is appreciated, but instead fading into permanent nothingness instills a feeling that said life ultimately had no meaning in the grand universe.
This can be a very frightening thought, even to an atheist. And since religion thrives on fear and comfort through a false sense of security, they have mastered rhetoric to manipulate people into surrendering what relative little time they have in the promise that after death, they will go on and survive, just not in the corporeal sense.
That there makes religion probably the most disgusting facet of our shared existence. It might inspire great art and fiction, and I suppose coping mechanisms, but no reward at the very end for your devotion.
Someone – Even fear of dying is an evolved trait. Humans and animals that feared death struggled to avoid it more fervently, resulting in a slightly greater survival rate than those with less fear of death.
Atheism is a more or less modern trait. In 100,000 years we’ll begin to see whether it’s adaptive it not. Stick around, it’ll be fun to find out. 🙂
Laripu, that’s the plan. 😉
In the who-done-it story of life, Darwin played Poirot and explained (to a disbelieving public) that Evolution was to blame for homo sapiens. I for one don’t believe him, since everybody knows that it’s always the suspicious looking butler that is the real culprit…
M27Holts: 2 min penalty for cross-checking Teh Wholly Goast. 😉
One fairly obvious weakness of the immortality explanation for the appeal of religion: the religious all seem to be as eager to preserve their lives as we do.
As for the “God shaped hole” – that’s what happens somewhere along the line in childhood when your parents are discovered to be wretched mortals. (Either that, or it’s the one people can see when you bend over – but more strictly speaking that would be a priest shaped hole.)
There is still a lot of debate about the origin of religion, and the question is hardly closed. My own feeling is that it derives from: 1) a predilection of human beings to see intentionality in the world (because there really is a lot of intentionality where it matters — e.g., that leopard really does intend to eat you if it can); 2) the fact that storytelling is central to human thinking; and 3) the fact that children tend to uncritically accept whatever “the old people” tell them (huge survival advantage there!). So adults sitting around the fire come up with speculative stories to explain things they’d like to understand (I saw grandma in my dream last night, but where is she now?), and the children accept these stories the same way they accept everything else they are told (don’t eat that berry, it will make you sick), elaborate them, and pass them on.
I don’t think religion is something that evolved because it had any survival advantage in itself. It’s true that in advanced societies religion often has benefits for the group (it can make it more cohesive) and the individual (many people really have turned their lives around after finding religion). But moralizing big gods are a late development; if you look at the most primitive hunter-gatherer societies, their gods generally aren’t interested in you and don’t want anything from you. They’re just something to tell stories about around the campfire.
jb, thanks for the link to the article! It included a link to Seshat (http://seshatdatabank.info/), a new database of world history, named after the Egyptian goddess of record keeping. Another internet rabbit hole to explore!
Religion’s last throw of the dice…is it’s supposed “moral compass”. When the majority of people start to laugh at the stupid muppet in the frock spouting shite, religion will be finished….still far too much respect given to mentalists with invisible friends….
How about hallucinogens, as a factor in the origins of religions? Botanical sources found just about everywhere in the world, and used with appreciation where available.
For men women have the God shaped hole.
We all worship Aphrodite,
Even tho we know she’s flighty,
But she looks great in a see through nighty,
And it’s good enough for me.
Gib me dat ol’ time religion.
After reading the cartoon I wondered whether the qualifier “childish” to refer to “dualism” could not be somewhat, well… how should I say this, simplistic? childish?, wishful thinking perhaps?
After about 1 hour searching the internet I think there is enough evidence to suggest that the notion of soul is anything but childish.
Scientists offer quantum theory of soul’s existence (news.com.au)
Sir Roger Penrose and Dr. Stuart Hameroff “…argue that our experience of consciousness is the result of quantum gravity effects inside these microtubules – a process they call orchestrated objective reduction (Orch-OR).
In a near-death experience the microtubules lose their quantum state, but the information within them is not destroyed. Or in layman’s terms, the soul does not die but returns to the universe.”
Sir Roger Penrose & Dr. Stuart Hameroff: CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE PHYSICS OF THE BRAIN
“Sir Roger Penrose describe examples of ‘non-computability’ in human consciousness, thoughts and actions such as the way we evaluate particular chess positions which cast doubt on ‘Turing’ computation as a complete explanation of brain function. As a source of non-computability, Roger discuss his ‘objective reduction’ (‘OR’) self-collapse of the quantum wavefunction which is a potential resolution for the ‘measurement problem’ in quantum mechanics, and a mechanism for non-computable physics. Dr. Stuart Hameroff reviews neuronal and biophysical aspects of Orch OR, in which ‘orchestrated’ quantum vibrations occur among entangled brain microtubules and evolve toward Orch OR threshold and consciousness. The nature, feasibility, decoherence times and evidence for quantum vibrations in microtubules, their role and correlation with consciousness, effects upon them of anesthetic gases and psychedelic drug molecules will be discussed, along with Orch OR criticisms and predictions of microtubule quantum vibrations as therapeutic targets for mental and cognitive disorders. ”
Scientists offer quantum theory of soul’s existence (news.com.au)
“They argue that our experience of consciousness is the result of quantum gravity effects inside these microtubules – a process they call orchestrated objective reduction (Orch-OR).
In a near-death experience the microtubules lose their quantum state, but the information within them is not destroyed. Or in layman’s terms, the soul does not die but returns to the universe.”
Sir Roger Penrose — The quantum nature of consciousness
“There is a current view that consciousness is something which arises from some complicated computation. So we have our computers, and people think that because they can do things amazingly fast, and they can calculate very quickly, and they can play chess extremely well, that they are superior to us even, and it is only some complicated aspect of this computational activity that somehow consciousness arises from that. Now my view is quite different from this. I think there is a lot of computational activity going on in the brain, but this is basically unconscious. So consciousness seems to me to be something quite different.”
Biography: Sir Roger Penrose OM FRS, Emeritus Professor at the Mathematical Institute of the University of Oxford, Emeritus Fellow at Wadham College, and winner of the Wolf Prize in Physics, has made profound contributions across a broad range of scientific disciplines. His work encompasses geometry, black hole singularities, the unification of quantum mechanics and gravity, the structure of space-time, and the origin of our Universe. His geometric creations inspired the works of Escher, and the Penrose steps have been featured in several movies. His tilings adorn many public buildings, including the Oxford Mathematics Institute, and will soon decorate the San Francisco Transbay Terminal. The five-fold symmetry, initially thought impossible or a mathematical curiosity, has now been found in nature. In 1989 Penrose wrote The Emperor’s New Mind which challenged the premise that consciousness is computation and proposes we need new physics to understand it. Biography: Stuart Hameroff MD is an anesthesiologist at the University of Arizona in Tucson. In the mid 1990s Hameroff teamed with famed British physicist Sir Roger Penrose to develop a quantum theory of consciousness (‘orchestrated objective reduction’, ‘Orch OR’) based on microtubule quantum computing. Highly controversial and harshly criticized, Orch OR is now supported by evidence, e.g. that anesthetics act in quantum channels in microtubules, and that microtubules have multi-scalar resonances, e.g. in megahertz. He and anesthesiology colleagues performed and published the first clinical trial of transcranial ultrasound (‘TUS’) on mental states in human volunteers, showing mood enhancement from brief, low intensity TUS. Beginning in 1994 Hameroff was the lead in starting an interdisciplinary, international conference series ‘Toward a Science of Consciousness’ held in even-numbered years in Tucson, and odd-numbered years elsewhere around the world. Hameroff has written or edited 5 books, over a hundred scientific articles and book chapters, lectured around the world, and appeared in the film ‘WhattheBleep?’ and numerous TV shows about consciousness on BBC, PBS, Discovery, OWN and History Channel.
jb says: “if you look at the most primitive hunter-gatherer societies, their gods generally aren’t interested in you and don’t want anything from you. They’re just something to tell stories about around the campfire.”
In preliterate societies these stories, songs, totems, and rituals were means for memorising and passing on knowledge acquired over centuries. I refer you to Lynn Kelly’s “Memory Code” and her TEDX talk, Modern memory, ancient methods | Lynne Kelly | TEDxMelbourne
Come to think of it, the evidence from Lynne Kelly’s research into preliterate societies (see previous post) may very well undermine the research findings reported in the
big gods article referenced by jb. It is likely that much of what the researchers have interpreted as “religion” are, in reality, powerful tools for storing and classifying information.
Not a big fan of Penrose – I mean, I’m sure he’s way out there on tiling geometries, but his mysteries around artificial intelligence and consciousness are a lot of smoke and mirrors. I bought the Emperor’s New Mind, would like to have my money back. That quote about computers is quite illustrative of a mental block that he exhibits there – that the computations of the human mind are unconscious and therefore different in nature from an artificial intelligence. In any case of intelligence, there’s a level on which consciousness is built, that the consciousness itself isn’t aware of. Duh. If you’re looking at the algorithm that produces an intelligence that can appreciate music, and complaining that the algorithm itself doesn’t incorporate any of the logic of music appreciation, then you’ve just discovered an important fact about intelligence. I doubt you could profitably discuss subjects like this with Penrose, because I think he’s here with an essentially theological agenda to “prove” that artificial intelligence is fundamentally impossible and is happy to use whatever he thinks will work.
“Or in layman’s terms, the soul does not die but returns to the universe.” I assume we shouldn’t blame that howler on Penrose, but rather on some journalist. That said, he clearly recognizes the potential of the quantum microtubule memory theory as a source of smoke and mirrors.
Penrose is a fundamental christian. He is a very gifted mathematician. His fanatical desire to ( verify denial) this cognitive dissonance has caused him to visit the theories that are labelled (not even wrong) because they cannot be tested and must therefor be treated as supernatural till proven otherwise….his search to.prove the bible correct is a waste of his intellect the deluded tosspot…
I searched for criticism of the Hameroff and Penrose’s Orch-OR approach to consciousness and found this detailed reply to criticism: Reply to criticism of the ‘Orch OR qubit’ – ‘Orchestrated objective reduction’ is scientifically justified (Physics of Life Review, 2014 (11))
This is how they conclude their reply:
“We believe that Orch OR is a detailed, testable, falsifiable and reasonably rigorous approach to a theory of consciousness, and microtubule function. Supportive evidence for Orch OR from microtubules (Bandyopadhyay coherence [10,11], Eckenhoff anesthetic effects [36–38], quantum channels ) is of a kind not yet found in other relevant theories. Orch OR has been repeatedly challenged, but we do not feel that it has yet been seriously threatened.”
Yo Glenn. Stop with tje confirmation bias. Show the link to the feckin criticism…you clearly ard one of thosr nutters using the opaque nature of quantum mechanics to find a made up explanation of the nonexistant soul…get over it. When you die. You cease to exist. No proof of experience after brain-death has ever been given…end of…
Right, experience after brain death. Going back to the childish dualism question – the paper I looked at cited a study where they asked people if there might be any awareness in this dead guy – in a hypothetical scenario where the medic is trying to revive him. That study seized on the ambiguity to decide that people aren’t really sure, even if they declare themselves to disbelieve in such things. Had they made the scenario one where the guy is laying embalmed in his coffin for final inspection during the funeral, they would have gotten the real story. People do come back, from heart death, but when you start to rot, it’s over.
For the opposing view on Penrose et al., you can pick up some trails at the wikipedia article on Quantum Mind – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_mind. The quote that begins with “Roger Penrose has given lots of new-age crackpots ammunition …” reminds me of a book I read back in the ’70s, sure wish I could remember enough about it to check for any trace of it today. This one involved a lot of physics hocus pocus, attached to the fairly reasonable and I think possibly current idea that brain storage follows a distributed model at least vaguely similar to holograms. The only other thing I actually remember about it was that the (2) authors wandered into a discussion of whether physical laws were themselves guaranteed – meaning, the laws of physics guarantee for example that two masses will exert a certain gravitational attraction on each other, but all we can say about whether this law will hold true tomorrow, is that so far it has. Wish I could remember how that tied in, but at any rate – the intersection of modern science and new age crackpots has been selling books for many decades.
Wow Glenn, it took you a whole hour to find a scientist you could quote to support your own beliefs? Your Google-Fu is less than impressive! 🙂
Seriously, Penrose is a brilliant physicist (and not, according to his Wikipedia page, religious), but most scientists find his ideas about consciousness and the soul to be speculative and unpersuasive, and those ideas have gained little traction in the scientific community. Plenty of scientists have oddball ideas about this or that, but that doesn’t mean those ideas all have the backing of ~Science~. Rather than hanging everything on one guy, if you want to use science to defend religion you are probably better off just pointing out that a non-trivial minority of scientists actually do believe in some sort of God. (There are considerably fewer believers among the truly eminent, but still, they are there).
Also, once again, you have not made a positive argument for anything. Would ti be asking too much for you to simply state what you yourself believe and why you believe it?
jb, you really do seem to require a lot of assumptions to put together an argument. All I was doing was testing whether the notion of soul could be dismissed so flippantly based on science. The work of Hameroff and Penrose suggests not.
Thanks Donn. I expect Krause is right about the crackpots but I don’t think he is accusing Penrose of being a crackpot.
jb you say: “Also, once again, you have not made a positive argument for anything. Would ti be asking too much for you to simply state what you yourself believe and why you believe it?”
Once again? The previous week you said: ““Well if you are here to “test your assumptions” it would, as I said before, help a lot if you let us know what those assumptions are. ”
and I replied
“Fair enough. My assumption is that the Prophet was of high moral character and this is supported by serious scholarship (see below)…”.
…to which you responded :”Glenn — OK, I’m satisfied.”
So I’m not sure what you mean by “once again”.
Anyways, jb, I believe I can be forced to eat, drink, act or even think against my will but my will still exists and it is what I choose it to be. In other words, I have the freedom to choose.
Your experience of freedom of choice is like the billiard ball saying “but of course I wanted to bounce that way.” Had things been different, you might have chosen differently, but that’s in a different universe. To have anything besides the precise weight of events behind your choice, you’d need a literally supernatural faculty that amounts to a meaningful motivation for choice based on something outside the current of events. If you’re going that far, you might as well believe in angels and stuff. This is a bit like Penrose’s blind spot viewed from the other side – we have a vivid experience of choice, and it’s meaningful as could be on the level we experience it, but we don’t experience the level we’re constructed at, any more than for example we see our retinas.
Penrose may or may not be a crackpot, but his excursions into mind are of the essence of crackpotry, cloaked in a mass of abstruse physics to awe the townspeople.
GA. Is a practicing muslim. Probably a convert. He is entitled to believe what he wants. But he cannot possibly attempt to whitewash a murdering paedophile, when the balance of evidence suggests he was what he was and nothing more…
Donn said: Your experience of freedom of choice is like the billiard ball saying “but of course I wanted to bounce that way.”
That would be an example of someone not being honest with themselves about themselves.
GA. Read. Consiousness Explained by D. Dennett. He takes apart the Cartesian theatre argument and replaces it with a better solution based on time boxed revisions within the algorithms that control the illusion of the ID. These seem to tie in with the cunning experiments described in the book…come back when you have digested that…
Not honest with themselves? Just submerged in their subjective experience. You can’t see the strings, but you can’t exist without them.
Donn: “Not honest with themselves? ”
In the sense that they attribute agency to themselves when, as you argue, the reality is quite different. I see this as a battle with the ego. The ego always wants to lay claim to being the agent of change which ignores the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. For some of us it can be a constant struggle, something fundamental to how we see themselves and therefore our personal well-being. Others don’t seem to care. You explain it.
You may be familiar with Warren Buffet’s remarks reflecting on the extent to which he could claim credit for where he is today: “I was lucky. I was born in the United States. The odds were 30 or 40-to-1 against that. I had some lucky genes. I was born at the right time. If I’d been born thousands of years ago I’d be some animal’s lunch because I can’t run very fast or climb trees. So there’s so much chance in how we enter the world. ”
Just correcting a typo:
For some of us it can be a constant struggle, something fundamental to how we see ourselves and therefore our personal well-being.
In Dan Dennett’s article, An Evolutionary Account of Religion, he writes: “To sum up the story so far: The memorable nymphs and fairies and goblins and demons that crowed the mythologies of every people are the imaginative offspring of a hyperactive habit of finding agency wherever anything puzzles or frightens us. This mindlessly generates a vast overpopulation of agent-ideas, most of which are too stupid to hold our attention for an instant”
The research of Lynne Kelly (stemming from her PhD on preliterate cultures) tells a different story (some references are below).
Imagine if some alien observed that humans seem to follow a religion involving the worship of devises we call computers. We’d set the record straight. We’d explain that these are not objects of worship but tools necessary for the storage and dissemination of information. Previous generations used ink and paper, or scratched images on caves. And prior to that? Well they erected totems, created fables that could easily be remembered, anthropomorphised nature and so on. In other words the “memorable nymphs and fairies and goblins and demons that crowed the mythologies” which Dennett describes as “too stupid to hold our attention for an instant” have been shown to be the means by which preliterate societies were able to maintain and transfer “so much information about the thousands of species of plants and animals—without writing it down”. Where this leaves his evolutionary explanation for religion is anyone’s guess.
Lynne Kelly is a dyed-in-the-wool atheist. For a summary of her work see: The Indigenous memory code, Lynn Kelly’s “Memory Code”, or her TEDX talk, Modern memory, ancient methods)
I don’t know that Warren Buffet’s really going the same place. It’s one thing to notice that you’re to some extent subject to circumstances, it’s another to understand that there’s nothing else. “Ego”, shmego. This is not a thing we can be aware of in any useful way, beyond possibly a certain philosophical detachment, and of course fatalism can cut both ways.
As for the ancients … who knows, but they seem to have missed a bet when they invented writing but neglected to burn the temples.
I see that GA is still in post-modernist mode! Definately a true believer or a WUM. I reckon he’s just acting out another persona he has found on t’internet….said nothing, yet waffled for hours….
Recently we’ve witnessed how one man’s “ego shmego” can wreck havoc on the institutions of a democracy and plant seeds for its destruction.
However, its also an opportunity to learn the importance of good character. Our collective future will depend critically on whether there are enough people willing to exercise their free will for the better by disciplining the ego and keeping the sociopaths in our midst tethered by social expectations. In “The Sociopath Next Door”, in a section titled “Culture”, Martha Stout argues it ” is entirely possible that the environmental influences on sociopathy are more reliably linked with broad cultural characteristics than with any particular child-rearing factors.” Interesting.
Hey, thanks for the Martha Stout link! At some point in the past I came across that observation about Eskimos dealing with sociopaths by pushing them off the edge of the ice when no one was looking, and I’ve repeated it on various occasions (possibly even here), but I didn’t remember where it came from.
Wow, Glenn … are you aware of how completely and utterly you’re missing my point, and just eager to talk about something else? It wasn’t, practically speaking, a particularly important point, but it has nothing at all to do with the ego vs. discipline. Ego is part of a structure that is determined by events. What disciplines the discipliner? Nothing/everything.
As for Martha Stout – I see she hypothesizes that Asian theology may moderate sociopathy, citing low incidence in Taiwan. I personally am somewhat sympathetic to some of that stuff that has made it out to the West, but I think it’s worth checking what beliefs the masses actually have, there, before jumping to conclusions about the consequences of their subtle philosophies.
For the extreme example, in the West we appreciate Taoism in terms of the subtle and hard to translate Lao Tsu, Chuang Tsu et al., but it’s my impression that in Taiwan what they know as Taoism is tin pot sorcery and ceremonial hocus pocus. I could be wrong, and anyway that’s fringe stuff either way, the action is probably more in Buddhism – but with similar caveats about Westerners imagining what it’s like to be raised in that tradition, based on having read Suzuki. Since there are also many Christians in Taiwan, it might be more instructive to correlate sociopathy and religious upbringing. I think Arthur C Clarke long ago promoted the peaceable nature of Buddhist societies … I wonder what he’d think about current events in his adopted Sri Lanka. It sure seems like recent events in the US cast some doubt on the power of the commonly understood ideas of Christian theology to improve social cohesion – but is the theology really what you get from that upbringing?
Donn…Glenn thinks that mo is mis-represented by history…he was a diamond geezer who always bought his mother flowers…
Donn: “Wow, Glenn … are you aware of how completely and utterly you’re missing my point, and just eager to talk about something else?”
I don’t think that’s fair. Search this page for the term ‘ego’ and it first appears in my post in the following context:
“Donn: “Not honest with themselves? ”.
In the sense that they attribute agency to themselves when, as you argue, the reality is quite different. I see this as a battle with the ego. The ego always wants to lay claim to being the agent of change which ignores the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. For some of us it can be a constant struggle, something fundamental to how we see themselves and therefore our personal well-being. Others don’t seem to care. You explain it.”
So you’ve decided to use the term in response to my post on ego and therefore seem “eager to talk about something else”…. which is fine. Just let me know next time. Perhaps we agree. I dunno. No big drama.
jb : Hey, thanks for the Martha Stout link!
your welcome 🙂
If I have to draw a diagram … when you use “ego shmego” in a post following my use of that term, it is an apparent reference to the thought behind it. If so, not so.
The point I’ve been trying to carry across what has turned into a fairly lengthy and evidently futile exchange, is that when you say “but my will still exists and it is what I choose it to be”, you’re kidding yourself. There’s nothing there.
Donn: “There’s nothing there.”
Even if there is ‘nothing there’ (which, we’ve seen, is disputed by some scientists), I can still act as if something is there.
Isn’t this what Dennett is saying? He accepts that there is no coherent notion of moral accountability without some conception of the soul (even if it is a pure fiction) and indeed natural selection will result in societies in which the bulk of the population act AS IF they are morally accountable.
The contrapositive of this is also true: If a major part of the population start to believe that there is no moral accountability (perhaps because they believe there is no soul or they get a free ticket to heaven by believing Jesus is god) then that society is not likely to survive in the long run.
This, by the way, is constitent with the 9 (or so) principles of collective action originally developed through Elinor Olstrom’s Nobel Prize winning empirical research. Think ‘tragedy of the commons’: each member of a community bears the full cost of holding ourselves to account while the marginal benefit is contingent on others holding to their side of the ‘bargain’. When a significant number fail to hold themselves to account then all bets are off and the social system collapses.
The point I was making above about Dennett’s evolutionary approach to religion was that its explanation for earlier, preliterate rituals is in conflict with more recent evidence through the research of the anthropologist Lynne Kelly.
So attempts to construct a coherent explanation of our existence without some notion of the soul (for humans and non-humans) still has a long way to travel.
My apologies for the long post.
If a major part of the population start to believe that there is no moral accountability (perhaps because they believe there is no soul or they get a free ticket to heaven by believing Jesus is god) then that society is not likely to survive in the long run.
That’s really the common case. You can easily satisfy yourself of this by observing how people behave. They appear to conform to some extent to the dictates of whatever religion, but with so many exceptions and lapses that it should be obvious, the religion is only posing as a moral guide – the real thing is something far more complex and less overt. Meanwhile, people exhibit remarkably similar moral judgement in societies with altogether different religions, or no religion at all – not identical to be sure, but same can be said of societies with the same religion.
You can also get there by imagining how unlikely this accountable soul myth would have been in the earliest human societies, which nonetheless must have had plenty of survival value. Or for that matter perhaps by considering the Gnostics, whose belief in an immortal soul in some sects did not at all prescribe virtuous behavior, and for all of them was a direct cause of their low survival value. Or your Islamic friends who expect to be feted by virgins after they blow themselves up at the train station.
There are plenty of sociopaths out there – apparently more every day – but there’s no correlation at all with believing one has a soul. None. Whether Dennett said any such thing I can’t say for sure, but I rather think you have the wrong author.
What I can say is that I don’t have “Islamic friends who expect to be feted by virgins after they blow themselves up at the train station” and if it is the case that a significant proportion of the population do not hold themselves morally accountable then we are in for a rough ride. All the more reason to seek out the company of those who are sincere and hold themselves personally accountable.
Glen – “What I can say is that I don’t have “Islamic friends who expect to be feted by virgins after they blow themselves up at the train station”
How do you know this?
Annnnnd it’s Wednesday, time for new comic, and we still don’t know whether or not Glenn is a Muslim, or whether he believes that there is a such thing as the soul. Come on Glenn, just spit it out and be done with it!
“Those who are sincere and hold themselves personally accountable” really sounds more like people who prefer the truth to religious pablum.
We’re in for a rougher ride all right, but religious moral influence has always been a flag that flies only in the wind of societal mores. That’s eroding at this point because of a combination of things. Pick some of your favorites, or add more: overpopulation, a growing awareness that succeeding generations will live in a worse world due to things like climate change, an end to the optimism that comes from frontiers, sophisticated manipulative use of communications technology …
I think he’s a lost soul – like I suppose most, he’s fairly sure religious faith is bunk, but he’s been thoroughly indoctrinated in the phony world view in which it’s the foundation of civilization and humanity. So he comes here to wrestle with the infidels hoping they’ll in some antagonist way resuscitate his religious fantasy. That seems to be the only answer for him, because the indoctrination is too deep. I guess it’s surprising so many of us have no problem here, which casts some doubt on my theory, but it takes all kinds.