Author Topic: Is Religiosity Hereditary? Did It Evolve Through Natural Selection?  (Read 4637 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline John Albert

  • Too Much Spare Time
  • ********
  • Posts: 6843
Re: Is Religiosity Hereditary? Did It Evolve Through Natural Selection?
« Reply #30 on: December 20, 2018, 08:14:25 AM »
I don't understand how you get the impression that my views bear any similarity whatsoever to the ID "watchmaker" argument.

I mostly agree with you about religion's harm, but I think it's far more damaging than just an impediment to reaching our fullest human potential. There's plenty of historical evidence of religion being leveraged to oppress and deprive people of the most basic needs.

The fact that religion creates a shared delusion is not a bug, it's a feature. Religion convinces people to abandon reason, morality, and in some cases even basic human compassion in favor of the warm feeling of security that comes from letting others do their thinking for them. That's very dangerous. Religion can convince people to do great evil under the total conviction that they're performing the greatest possible good. Sure, religion can also be used to convince people to do good. But people can be convinced to do good without all the trickery that short-circuits their capacity for critical thinking.

Calling Evolution an "economist" shows a basic misunderstanding of the underlying theory. Economists study the movements of money and resources, then recommend courses of action according to some preferred theory. Saying that evolution works that way is to implicate a guiding intelligence for which no evidence exists.

I haven't seen any evidence of a gene that imparts a predilection for religion. In the absence of such evidence, it seems that the most parsimonious view would reject any genetic predisposition to religion. Religion is taught and learned like any other ideology. We know this because just as religion can be learned, it can also be unlearned. People raised as atheists sometimes become religious, and religious people can deconvert to atheism. I wouldn't expect to see that happen if religion was genetically determined.

How religion originally developed is not even so mysterious. We all have burning questions that go unanswered, and some that simply cannot be answered. There also exist people who are all too willing to dream up comforting, awe inspiring, or otherwise emotionally satisfying answers to those questions, in order to gain followers for their own vanity and profit. We see this in our society today, and we see evidence of it going back to the earliest civilizations in the world. The earliest known civilizations were city-states, and each one had a king who was revered as either a god or the earthly representative of a god. Religion and political power were inextricably intertwined. Now we're trying to disentangle them, with very mixed results.
« Last Edit: December 20, 2018, 04:39:28 PM by John Albert »

Offline haudace

  • Keeps Priorities Straight
  • ***
  • Posts: 343
  • Reality under scrutiny
Re: Is Religiosity Hereditary? Did It Evolve Through Natural Selection?
« Reply #31 on: December 20, 2018, 08:05:17 PM »
I don't understand how you get the impression that my views bear any similarity whatsoever to the ID "watchmaker" argument.

ID people wouldn't hesitate to tell everyone the eye is too complex to have evolved. You are saying religiosity is too against your own personal expectations/standards to have evolved. The reasoning behind these two ideas is essentially the same and also suffers the same weakness in logic, imho.

I mostly agree with you about religion's harm, but I think it's far more damaging than just an impediment to reaching our fullest human potential. There's plenty of historical evidence of religion being leveraged to oppress and deprive people of the most basic needs.

Again, I am aware of the negative impact of religion. In my view, negativity in this context is not enough of a rebuttal to convince me otherwise. For instance, humans have gone to war. War is also a product of biological processes pushing for competition, aggression and ultimately survival. Just because warring behavior doesn't directly link to one specific gene doesn't mean it is not a result of evolution. But I wouldn't be surprised if there were sequences of interacting genes that play into this whole mess. Anger, ego and all these other complex emotional state with negative impact to human experience are also the result of human evolution. I am arguing that religiosity is another one of those traits that give the illusion of being abstract but it definitely has a biological origin.

The fact that religion creates a shared delusion is not a bug, it's a feature. Religion convinces people to abandon reason, morality, and in some cases even basic human compassion in favor of the warm feeling of security that comes from letting others do their thinking for them. That's very dangerous. Religion can convince people to do great evil under the total conviction that they're performing the greatest possible good. Sure, religion can also be used to convince people to do good. But people can be convinced to do good without all the trickery that short-circuits their capacity for critical thinking.

Preaching to the choir. Your efforts to convince me of the above are futile. I am already on your side on this point.

Let me rephrase your paragraph a little bit. This should be a fun exercise.

The fact that emotions creates a shared delusion is not a bug, it's a feature. Emotion convinces people to abandon reason, morality, and in some cases even basic human compassion in favor of the warm feeling of security that comes from letting others do their thinking for them. That's very dangerous. Emotions can convince people to do great evil under the total conviction that they're performing the greatest possible good. Sure, emotions can also be used to convince people to do good. But people can be convinced to do good without all the trickery that short-circuits their capacity for critical thinking.

Totally makes sense, right? Until you plug in the context "therefore, emotions did not evolve".

Calling Evolution an "economist" shows a basic misunderstanding of the underlying theory. Economists study the movements of money and resources, then recommend courses of action according to some preferred theory. Saying that evolution works that way is to implicate a guiding intelligence for which no evidence exists.

Seriously? Totally a straw man, dude LOL. Figure of speech, buddy! Sure, I might as well be arguing for a God, even though I came out as an atheist a few posts earlier.

I have to admit - It's kind of hard to converse with someone that sees things very black and white, outright dismissing the nuances or the substance of what is being said.

Edit: To clarify, what I meant here is that processes of evolution follow the path of least resistance. Evolution is not completely random, it is subject to strong forces of nature such as environmental stresses, natural selection, genetic drift, mutation rates, new found niches etc. Processes of evolution work with the resources already available to adapt, and whatever trait works for survival at the time become fixed / prevalent. Evolution will use biological precursors to incrementally build on new adaptations. Phenotypes / phenome that are no longer needed / used for survival tend to be evolved out to not waste resources.

I haven't seen any evidence of a gene that imparts a predilection for religion. In the absence of such evidence, it seems that the most parsimonious view would reject any genetic predisposition to religion. Religion is taught and learned like any other ideology. We know this because just as religion can be learned, it can also be unlearned. People raised as atheists sometimes become religious, and religious people can deconvert to atheism. I wouldn't expect to see that happen if religion was genetically determined.

You won't find a single gene "imparting" religiosity, much like you won't find just a couple of small units of DNA dictating personality. Usually complex phenomes are not expressed by small units of DNA. It is a complex concert of genes/phenotypes/proteome all interacting and interwoven to express a complex behavior. I am insinuating, much like those other NCBI articles you have dismissed, that religiosity has such a biological process.

Btw, individuals forget their mother tongue, learn a new language etc. Are you saying the capacity to speak is now no longer an evolved feature of the human species?

How religion originally developed is not even so mysterious. We all have burning questions that go unanswered, and some that simply cannot be answered.

These two sentences are a contradiction to me, assuming those burning questions are about religion?

There also exist people who are all too willing to dream up comforting, awe inspiring, or otherwise emotionally satisfying answers to those questions, in order to gain followers for their own vanity and profit. We see this in our society today, and we see evidence of it going back to the earliest civilizations in the world. The earliest known civilizations were city-states, and each one had a king who was revered as either a god or the earthly representative of a god. Religion and political power were inextricably intertwined. Now we're trying to disentangle them, with very mixed results.

We also need to be objective in our view of religion, religiosity and religious people. We need to understand what drives people to religion otherwise we are making it harder for ourselves to get rid of it. The same way a good skeptic needs to understand why human brain is prone to confirmation bias, illusion, prejudice, the many fallacies which are all products of million of years of evolution - all totally successful before but definitely hindering our skeptical movement nowadays. In the same light, we have to see religion as deeply ingrained in biology and acknowledge that for some people rejection of religion can be difficult or it would be comparable to denying their nature.

To reiterate, the mere fact that religion goes so far back and it is so pervasive in human society suggests a biological source.
« Last Edit: December 21, 2018, 07:26:41 AM by haudace »

Online Awatsjr

  • Keeps Priorities Straight
  • ***
  • Posts: 341
Re: Is Religiosity Hereditary? Did It Evolve Through Natural Selection?
« Reply #32 on: December 21, 2018, 07:26:22 PM »
Sorry, what?

Offline John Albert

  • Too Much Spare Time
  • ********
  • Posts: 6843
Re: Is Religiosity Hereditary? Did It Evolve Through Natural Selection?
« Reply #33 on: December 21, 2018, 11:08:02 PM »
ID people wouldn't hesitate to tell everyone the eye is too complex to have evolved. You are saying religiosity is too against your own personal expectations/standards to have evolved.

No, that's not what I'm saying at all.

I'm saying there's no evidence that a predilection for religion has evolved.


I mostly agree with you about religion's harm, but I think it's far more damaging than just an impediment to reaching our fullest human potential. There's plenty of historical evidence of religion being leveraged to oppress and deprive people of the most basic needs.

Again, I am aware of the negative impact of religion. In my view, negativity in this context is not enough of a rebuttal to convince me otherwise. For instance, humans have gone to war. War is also a product of biological processes pushing for competition, aggression and ultimately survival.

War is a product of different human populations pushing for competition. Given that the benefits of diversity and cooperation among humans are well understood, I see no good reason to believe that widespread, deadly infighting among human populations is beneficial to our species on the whole. 


Just because warring behavior doesn't directly link to one specific gene doesn't mean it is not a result of evolution.

I never argued that it is not a result of evolution if it doesn't directly link to one specific gene.


Anger, ego and all these other complex emotional state with negative impact to human experience are also the result of human evolution.

Agreed.


I am arguing that religiosity is another one of those traits that give the illusion of being abstract but it definitely has a biological origin.

That depends on what you mean by "a biological origin." Humans are biological beings, therefore all our behaviors have a biological origin.

Even the process of learning is "biological" in nature. Religion is a learned set of tenets, attitudes and behaviors, so in that sense it is indeed biological in origin.

But that doesn't mean that religion is an inborn biological human trait. I'm more inclined to describe it as an emergent property of other evolved characteristics (emotions, communication, social bonds, intellectual curiosity, personal ambition) which themselves are products of human evolution.
 

Let me rephrase your paragraph a little bit. This should be a fun exercise.

The fact that emotions creates a shared delusion is not a bug, it's a feature. Emotion convinces people to abandon reason, morality, and in some cases even basic human compassion in favor of the warm feeling of security that comes from letting others do their thinking for them. That's very dangerous. Emotions can convince people to do great evil under the total conviction that they're performing the greatest possible good. Sure, emotions can also be used to convince people to do good. But people can be convinced to do good without all the trickery that short-circuits their capacity for critical thinking.

What is this intended to prove? Religion is not synonymous with emotions.

Atheist skeptics have emotions too, but we don't believe in gods or the supernatural.


Totally makes sense, right? Until you plug in the context "therefore, emotions did not evolve".

A false analogy leads to a false conclusion. 

I'm arguing that religion is not a direct consequential product of evolution. I'm suggesting that religion is a consequence of some wily humans exploiting our natural inclinations and weaknesses to trick others into bowing down to some supernatural authority of their creation.

But I don't see any reason to believe that religion itself is a direct consequence of some biological human needs to believe in fanciful supernatural bullshit. People learn that stuff by having it taught to them by others. 


I have to admit - It's kind of hard to converse with someone that sees things very black and white, outright dismissing the nuances or the substance of what is being said.

I don't "see things as black and white." I just disagree with you on a few very specific points.


Edit: To clarify, what I meant here is that processes of evolution follow the path of least resistance.

I don't know what "processes of evolution follow the path of least resistance" is intended to mean.

What makes you think that evolution has multiple "processes"? When you say they "follow the path of least resistance," what do you think is leading them, and to where do you think they are being led?

You still seem to be implying some sort of desirable or predetermined end point(s) for evolution. That's a fundamental misunderstanding of how evolution works.


Evolution is not completely random

I don't think anybody in this thread has argued that evolution is completely random. I certainly haven't.


You won't find a single gene "imparting" religiosity, much like you won't find just a couple of small units of DNA dictating personality. Usually complex phenomes are not expressed by small units of DNA. It is a complex concert of genes/phenotypes/proteome all interacting and interwoven to express a complex behavior. I am insinuating, much like those other NCBI articles you have dismissed, that religiosity has such a biological process.

Two out of those 3 articles were just studies on modern birth rates of religious people. Only one of them actually stated that its conclusion operated on the tacit assumption that genetic factors determine one's predisposition towards religion. I don't know if you actually read that paper's conclusion, but it was a confused mess of correlation-causality errors. Which is not surprising, considering it was published in a journal called Spirituality in Clinical Practice and recommended spirituality therapy for treatment of depression.

Like I said, humans have evolved the ability to communicate, to feel emotions, respond to proposed threats, and accept narratives and mores embedded within their dominant culture. The fact that some humans have developed specific ways to exploit those traits to leverage an advantage over others, does not indicate that humans evolved a predilection for religion per se. Humans are just as prone to manipulation via indoctrination other types of ideology besides religion. 


Btw, individuals forget their mother tongue, learn a new language etc. Are you saying the capacity to speak is now no longer an evolved feature of the human species?

First of all, forgetting one's mother tongue only happens as a consequence of some brain injury or disease such as dementia, or from being estranged from other speakers at a very young age. 

I don't know how you got to the conclusion that just because people can learn a new language, that would somehow indicate speech is not an evolved feature. The ability to think abstractly, form communicable ideas and vocalize those ideas are indeed evolved traits.

But acquiring a language is a process of learning, just as converting to a religion is a process of learning. People are not born religious. Religions are learned ideologies, and can be unlearned just as well. 


We also need to be objective in our view of religion, religiosity and religious people. We need to understand what drives people to religion otherwise we are making it harder for ourselves to get rid of it. The same way a good skeptic needs to understand why human brain is prone to confirmation bias, illusion, prejudice, the many fallacies which are all products of million of years of evolution - all totally successful before but definitely hindering our skeptical movement nowadays.

OK so this statement gets to the very heart of the debate between the "nature or nurture" theory of religion that we're discussing here.

If as you say, religion is an evolved, biological trait, then the only way to rid ourselves of religion would be through changing our human genome.

And we know for a fact that's not true, because people can and often do reject religion through education and cultural adaptation. That would appear to indicate that religion is not an inborn biological trait as you have been suggesting. 


In the same light, we have to see religion as deeply ingrained in biology and acknowledge that for some people rejection of religion can be difficult or it would be comparable to denying their nature.

Do we really have to see religion as deeply ingrained in biology, even though there's no evidence to support that view? I don't think we do.

I've known many atheists who say that they used to think that rejecting religion would be comparable to denying their nature, and guess what? They somehow managed to do it anyway.

I don't doubt that some religious people have a hard time deconverting. Everybody feels resistance when questioning their deepest, most cherished beliefs. Nobody's saying it's easy. But fighting cancer is not easy either. At the end of the day it's about what's best for humankind as a whole. 


To reiterate, the mere fact that religion goes so far back and it is so pervasive in human society suggests a biological source.

You can reiterate it all you want; that won't make it true. I'm asking for evidence, not arguments by assertion.
« Last Edit: December 21, 2018, 11:47:33 PM by John Albert »

Offline haudace

  • Keeps Priorities Straight
  • ***
  • Posts: 343
  • Reality under scrutiny
Re: Is Religiosity Hereditary? Did It Evolve Through Natural Selection?
« Reply #34 on: December 22, 2018, 04:56:18 AM »
Good point I barely offered any supporting scientific work to my "assertions". I did look around for other articles in pubmed but juicy papers I have found thus far are locked behind a pay wall.

I think these two wikipedia articles more concretely describe my perspective on this topic ...

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_science_of_religion

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionary_psychology_of_religion


Juicy paywall article.
https://www.cell.com/trends/cognitive-sciences/fulltext/S1364-6613(99)01419-9?_returnURL=https%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS1364661399014199%3Fshowall%3Dtrue

Hopefully the above offers a better idea where I am coming from.
« Last Edit: December 22, 2018, 05:28:35 AM by haudace »

Offline haudace

  • Keeps Priorities Straight
  • ***
  • Posts: 343
  • Reality under scrutiny
Re: Is Religiosity Hereditary? Did It Evolve Through Natural Selection?
« Reply #35 on: December 22, 2018, 01:19:11 PM »
I'm saying there's no evidence that a predilection for religion has evolved.

Maybe not, but there is very compelling evidence that hints at the evolution of predilection to religion. See my post above.

War is a product of different human populations pushing for competition. Given that the benefits of diversity and cooperation among humans are well understood, I see no good reason to believe that widespread, deadly infighting among human populations is beneficial to our species on the whole. 

You arrived at this conclusion through the lens of a secular humanist - which ignores other factors that play into the scenario. For instance, evolutionary processes are not concerned one way or the other with the general well-being of individuals, nothing beyond the propagation/survival of genes no matter the cost... The cost sometimes does reach extreme levels to the point of species extinction.

Just because warring behavior doesn't directly link to one specific gene doesn't mean it is not a result of evolution.

I never argued that it is not a result of evolution if it doesn't directly link to one specific gene.

I was comparing religious behavior to warring behavior and personality states, making an analogy. Part of the reason I made that comment is because of the following:
I haven't seen any evidence of a gene that imparts a predilection for religion. In the absence of such evidence, it seems that the most parsimonious view would reject any genetic predisposition to religion. Religion is taught and learned like any other ideology. We know this because just as religion can be learned, it can also be unlearned. People raised as atheists sometimes become religious, and religious people can deconvert to atheism. I wouldn't expect to see that happen if religion was genetically determined.

Disclaimer: I assumed, in the post above, you used religion as synonymous to religiosity in this instance.

I am arguing that religiosity is another one of those traits that give the illusion of being abstract but it definitely has a biological origin.

That depends on what you mean by "a biological origin." Humans are biological beings, therefore all our behaviors have a biological origin.

Even the process of learning is "biological" in nature. Religion is a learned set of tenets, attitudes and behaviors, so in that sense it is indeed biological in origin.

But that doesn't mean that religion is an inborn biological human trait. I'm more inclined to describe it as an emergent property of other evolved characteristics (emotions, communication, social bonds, intellectual curiosity, personal ambition) which themselves are products of human evolution.

The way I described religious phenomenon as an inborn biological human trait was a mistake on my part, I forgot to take into account diversity. Obviously, some people experience religiosity more strongly than others. I agree with the rest above, especially the part "about emergent property of other evolved characteristics". I see predilection of religiousness as an emergent property coming together from a concert of interacting/interwoven genome/phenome/proteome expression. For some people, it's weak (birthing atheists/agnostics) for others it's very strong (Shintoist/Catholic/Hindu) and then there is the middle (deists, pantheists etc...).

Let me rephrase your paragraph a little bit. This should be a fun exercise.

The fact that emotions creates a shared delusion is not a bug, it's a feature. Emotion convinces people to abandon reason, morality, and in some cases even basic human compassion in favor of the warm feeling of security that comes from letting others do their thinking for them. That's very dangerous. Emotions can convince people to do great evil under the total conviction that they're performing the greatest possible good. Sure, emotions can also be used to convince people to do good. But people can be convinced to do good without all the trickery that short-circuits their capacity for critical thinking.

What is this intended to prove? Religion is not synonymous with emotions.

Atheist skeptics have emotions too, but we don't believe in gods or the supernatural.

Totally makes sense, right? Until you plug in the context "therefore, emotions did not evolve".

A false analogy leads to a false conclusion. 

There is one connection between emotions and religiosity: both are personality traits. Personality has cognitive pathways in the brain, which is biological. Genetics may very well play an important role. But that was not the point of the argument. The context of our back and forth is whether or not religiosity or predilection to religiosity are evolved features. I am attempting to show you the way how you worded (and replacing religion/emotions) that paragraph wouldn't work to convince me of your stance.

I'm arguing that religion is not a direct consequential product of evolution. I'm suggesting that religion is a consequence of some wily humans exploiting our natural inclinations and weaknesses to trick others into bowing down to some supernatural authority of their creation.

But I don't see any reason to believe that religion itself is a direct consequence of some biological human needs to believe in fanciful supernatural bullshit. People learn that stuff by having it taught to them by others. 

The problem here is we're talking about different things and trying to debunk each other on the wrong thing. Can we agree on these definitions?

Religion = system of beliefs. I concur this is not evolved, it's a human invention (in the same way that cars are not evolved).

Religious rituals = also part of religion. This too is not evolved - human invention.

Religiousness or religiosity = any predilection to religious thinking, personality trait, cognitive impact are biological. The biology behind these traits is evolved.

Even if you don't agree with the above, I will continue interpreting the terms as such from now on.

I have to admit - It's kind of hard to converse with someone that sees things very black and white, outright dismissing the nuances or the substance of what is being said.

I don't "see things as black and white." I just disagree with you on a few very specific points.

The problem with this is you dismissed a lot of things on very specific points that are not related or even necessarily pertinent to the argument being made. For instance, one of the article that you didn't find compelling had found this:

"Findings on VMAT1, 5HT1B, OXTR, and DRD2 in the low-risk sample are consistent with previous literature that relates these genes with spirituality or closely related constructs. Interestingly, these genetic associations and their expression map onto three distinct domains related to spirituality: mood, bonding, and transcendence. As with VMAT and 5HT1B, which are linked to mood, spirituality has been linked with positive mood and thriving and as both conferring protective benefit against depression and other forms of psychopathology (Akrawi, Bartrop, Potter, & Touyz, 2015; Lucette, Ironson, Pargament, & Krause, 2016; Miller, 1998; in this sample, Miller et al 2014; Miller, Davies & Greenwald, 2000; Miller, Weissman, Gur & Adams, 2001). Spirituality, like OXTR, has been implicated in outcomes of bonding including prosocial behavior and empathy (Rew & Wong, 2006; Giordano, Prosek & Lankford, 2014). Dopamine receptor genes (here DRD2), like spirituality, have been linked to transcendence through previous studies (Comings et al, 2000; 2002)."

You found the paper's conclusion and the credibility of the source lacking (of which you are probably correct to do so) but why don't you consider the merits of what is being said in the above paragraph?

Below is an example of you seeing things black and white:

Two out of those 3 articles were just studies on modern birth rates of religious people. Only one of them actually stated that its conclusion operated on the tacit assumption that genetic factors determine one's predisposition towards religion. I don't know if you actually read that paper's conclusion, but it was a confused mess of correlation-causality errors. Which is not surprising, considering it was published in a journal called Spirituality in Clinical Practice and recommended spirituality therapy for treatment of depression.



Edit: To clarify, what I meant here is that processes of evolution follow the path of least resistance.

I don't know what "processes of evolution follow the path of least resistance" is intended to mean.

https://www.pnas.org/content/112/41/12553
https://www.newhistorian.com/evidence-evolution-follows-path-least-resistance/6806/


What makes you think that evolution has multiple "processes"? When you say they "follow the path of least resistance," what do you think is leading them, and to where do you think they are being led?

Already answered here: "Evolution is not completely random, it is subject to strong forces of nature such as environmental stresses, natural selection, genetic drift, mutation rates, new found niches etc. Processes of evolution work with the resources already available to adapt, and whatever trait works for survival at the time become fixed / prevalent. Evolution will use biological precursors to incrementally build on new adaptations. Phenotypes / phenome that are no longer needed / used for survival tend to be evolved out to not waste resources."

I'll forgive you - Perhaps you didn't catch the edit.

You still seem to be implying some sort of desirable or predetermined end point(s) for evolution.

Not at all what I am saying. I am invoking concepts in chaos theory, where a dynamical system (in this case evolution) is very sensitive to initial conditions (forces of nature).

Evolution is not completely random

I don't think anybody in this thread has argued that evolution is completely random. I certainly haven't.

You implied it here:

I do not think a trait will make an appearance so strong without some kind of environmental pressure causing an organism/population to adapt. I think laws of nature in place forces evolution phenomena to behave like an expert economist.

The process of evolution does not require any kind of guidance by nebulous "forces of nature." Some behavioral traits can develop even without any express evolutionary purpose.

There is a chance I could have misunderstood what you meant.

You won't find a single gene "imparting" religiosity, much like you won't find just a couple of small units of DNA dictating personality. Usually complex phenomes are not expressed by small units of DNA. It is a complex concert of genes/phenotypes/proteome all interacting and interwoven to express a complex behavior. I am insinuating, much like those other NCBI articles you have dismissed, that religiosity has such a biological process.

Two out of those 3 articles were just studies on modern birth rates of religious people. Only one of them actually stated that its conclusion operated on the tacit assumption that genetic factors determine one's predisposition towards religion. I don't know if you actually read that paper's conclusion, but it was a confused mess of correlation-causality errors. Which is not surprising, considering it was published in a journal called Spirituality in Clinical Practice and recommended spirituality therapy for treatment of depression.

Yes, it maybe arrived at the wrong conclusion... Maybe! What do you think of the rest of the paper though, the study itself? Don't fall prey to fallacy of origin/virtue.

Like I said, humans have evolved the ability to communicate, to feel emotions, respond to proposed threats, and accept narratives and mores embedded within their dominant culture. The fact that some humans have developed specific ways to exploit those traits to leverage an advantage over others, does not indicate that humans evolved a predilection for religion per se. Humans are just as prone to manipulation via indoctrination other types of ideology besides religion. 

Since you have already accepted that human behavior is biological in origin, including religious behavior. Do you contend that biology is evolved?

Keep in mind of these definitions that I subscribe to:

Religion = system of beliefs. I concur this is not evolved.

Religious rituals = also part of religion. I concur this is not evolved.

Religiousness or religiosity = any predilection to religious thinking, personality trait, cognitive impact are biological. The biology behind these traits is evolved.

Btw, individuals forget their mother tongue, learn a new language etc. Are you saying the capacity to speak is now no longer an evolved feature of the human species?

First of all, forgetting one's mother tongue only happens as a consequence of some brain injury or disease such as dementia, or from being estranged from other speakers at a very young age.

...I don't know how you got to the conclusion that just because people can learn a new language, that would somehow indicate speech is not an evolved feature. The ability to think abstractly, form communicable ideas and vocalize those ideas are indeed evolved traits.

But acquiring a language is a process of learning, just as converting to a religion is a process of learning. People are not born religious. Religions are learned ideologies, and can be unlearned just as well. 
 

You insinuated that a changing behavior leads to the conclusion it is not evolved. See below.

I haven't seen any evidence of a gene that imparts a predilection for religion. In the absence of such evidence, it seems that the most parsimonious view would reject any genetic predisposition to religion. Religion is taught and learned like any other ideology. We know this because just as religion can be learned, it can also be unlearned. People raised as atheists sometimes become religious, and religious people can deconvert to atheism. I wouldn't expect to see that happen if religion was genetically determined.



We also need to be objective in our view of religion, religiosity and religious people. We need to understand what drives people to religion otherwise we are making it harder for ourselves to get rid of it. The same way a good skeptic needs to understand why human brain is prone to confirmation bias, illusion, prejudice, the many fallacies which are all products of million of years of evolution - all totally successful before but definitely hindering our skeptical movement nowadays.

OK so this statement gets to the very heart of the debate between the "nature or nurture" theory of religion that we're discussing here.

If as you say, religion is an evolved, biological trait, then the only way to rid ourselves of religion would be through changing our human genome.

There are a number of other options available such as counselling or changing educational system to enhance critical thinking skills and evidence based decision making. These options have the potential to arm people with the tools to resist their own natural inclinations.

More drastic solutions are not optional or even optimal. Practicing religion is a right which has legal protections which I, among others, fully support. People cannot be forced into abandoning religion.

And we know for a fact that's not true, because people can and often do reject religion through education and cultural adaptation. That would appear to indicate that religion is not an inborn biological trait as you have been suggesting. 

In the same light, we have to see religion as deeply ingrained in biology and acknowledge that for some people rejection of religion can be difficult or it would be comparable to denying their nature.

Do we really have to see religion as deeply ingrained in biology, even though there's no evidence to support that view? I don't think we do.

I've known many atheists who say that they used to think that rejecting religion would be comparable to denying their nature, and guess what? They somehow managed to do it anyway.

I don't doubt that some religious people have a hard time deconverting. Everybody feels resistance when questioning their deepest, most cherished beliefs. Nobody's saying it's easy. But fighting cancer is not easy either. At the end of the day it's about what's best for humankind as a whole. 

Evidently, due to diversity factors in biology, some people experience religiosity more strongly than others.

Offline John Albert

  • Too Much Spare Time
  • ********
  • Posts: 6843
Re: Is Religiosity Hereditary? Did It Evolve Through Natural Selection?
« Reply #36 on: December 22, 2018, 05:54:29 PM »
I'm saying there's no evidence that a predilection for religion has evolved.

Maybe not, but there is very compelling evidence that hints at the evolution of predilection to religion. See my post above.

Adding the word "hints" only weakens an already unevidenced position. All along you've been asserting a firm conclusion despite a lack of evidence, and now you're admitting that the alleged evidence (which you have thus far failed to show) only hints at your conclusion.

I think that one could say religion has "evolved" in the sense that a technology or culture might tend to "evolve" over time (ie. being periodically updated and redesigned to better suit its purposes). But I don't see any reason to believe that the tendency for religiosity has a coded genetic component.


You arrived at this conclusion through the lens of a secular humanist

No, I did not. I'm evaluating your empirical claims as a basic, plain vanilla skeptic who requires evidence before believing empirical claims. I have not yet arrived at any firm conclusion on the matter.
 

The way I described religious phenomenon as an inborn biological human trait was a mistake on my part

Not sure what you mean by "religious phenomenon." Do you mean alleged experiences of religious visions, hearing "the Voice of God," etc.?

Or are you saying you were mistaken about the tendency for religiosity being an inborn, biological, human trait? 


Obviously, some people experience religiosity more strongly than others.

Another reason why some people experience religiosity more strongly could be because they've been more strongly indoctrinated, perhaps from a very young age; or maybe they've deliberately chosen to devote more mental concentration to meditating on religion. Maybe religion is really no more ingrained than any other talent or interest, such as art or science or politics or business.


I agree with the rest above, especially the part "about emergent property of other evolved characteristics".

I'm glad we agree on this. Would you deem it fair to say that religion is not an evolved human trait in itself, but a cultural construct that has emerged out of circumstances that arose by a collection of evolved traits? Or are you still holding to the belief that there's a specific set of coded genes that predetermine one's predilection for religiosity?


I see predilection of religiousness as an emergent property coming together from a concert of interacting/interwoven genome/phenome/proteome expression. For some people, it's weak (birthing atheists/agnostics) for others it's very strong (Shintoist/Catholic/Hindu) and then there is the middle (deists, pantheists etc...).

This sounds like the kind of claim that demands evidence.

What exactly do you mean by "a concert of interacting/interwoven genome/phenome/proteome expression"?


There is one connection between emotions and religiosity: both are personality traits. Personality has cognitive pathways in the brain, which is biological. Genetics may very well play an important role. But that was not the point of the argument. The context of our back and forth is whether or not religiosity or predilection to religiosity are evolved features.

I generally agree with all of this. Genetics almost certainly play an important role in the development of neural pathways, which are also influenced by sensory experiences and learning.

I don't believe that religiosity (or even "predilection to religiosity") is a discrete feature of human nature that developed specifically through evolution.

But I do find it credible that the tendency for religiosity may be dependent upon a number of personal inclinations that undoubtedly have genetic components. Just the same, I suspect that culture plays a much more significant role in whether somebody becomes religious.


Can we agree on these definitions?

Religion = system of beliefs. I concur this is not evolved, it's a human invention (in the same way that cars are not evolved).

Religious rituals = also part of religion. This too is not evolved - human invention.

Religiousness or religiosity = any predilection to religious thinking, personality trait, cognitive impact are biological. The biology behind these traits is evolved.

I mostly agree with those definitions, but I reject your conditions that "any predilection to religious thinking, personality trait, cognitive impact are biological" and "the biology behind these traits is evolved."

You appear to be trying to redefine the terminology ad hoc, for the purpose of inserting your own conclusion into the definition. That's a dishonest rhetorical tactic, and I'm not going to fall for it. 


one of the article that you didn't find compelling had found this:

"Findings on VMAT1, 5HT1B, OXTR, and DRD2 in the low-risk sample are consistent with previous literature that relates these genes with spirituality or closely related constructs. Interestingly, these genetic associations and their expression map onto three distinct domains related to spirituality: mood, bonding, and transcendence. As with VMAT and 5HT1B, which are linked to mood, spirituality has been linked with positive mood and thriving and as both conferring protective benefit against depression and other forms of psychopathology (Akrawi, Bartrop, Potter, & Touyz, 2015; Lucette, Ironson, Pargament, & Krause, 2016; Miller, 1998; in this sample, Miller et al 2014; Miller, Davies & Greenwald, 2000; Miller, Weissman, Gur & Adams, 2001). Spirituality, like OXTR, has been implicated in outcomes of bonding including prosocial behavior and empathy (Rew & Wong, 2006; Giordano, Prosek & Lankford, 2014). Dopamine receptor genes (here DRD2), like spirituality, have been linked to transcendence through previous studies (Comings et al, 2000; 2002)."

You found the paper's conclusion and the credibility of the source lacking (of which you are probably correct to do so) but why don't you consider the merits of what is being said in the above paragraph?

That's a cool story, but that one paper is not much to go on. That paper itself is not even a study on the genetic predilection for religiosity. Why don't you post those?

I would like to see the other studies, and additional research on the subject as well. But if the cited sources are just as questionable as this one, I wouldn't put too much faith into them.

As SGU listeners we know that lots of pseudoscientific organizations operate by performing fake or faulty "research" seeking confirmatory evidence of their preferential conclusions, and then they publish and promote those beliefs as science. One such organization repeatedly covered by the SGU is Cosmology Science Publishers, which puts out a number of professional-looking journals filled with pseudoscientific claims.

Sorry, but I don't find it convincing to read through a bunch of unrelated studies from questionable sources, which just may happen to incidentally mention your conclusion.


Below is an example of you seeing things black and white:

Two out of those 3 articles were just studies on modern birth rates of religious people. Only one of them actually stated that its conclusion operated on the tacit assumption that genetic factors determine one's predisposition towards religion. I don't know if you actually read that paper's conclusion, but it was a confused mess of correlation-causality errors. Which is not surprising, considering it was published in a journal called Spirituality in Clinical Practice and recommended spirituality therapy for treatment of depression.

How do you figure "black and white"? That's just an example of me being skeptical of your sources, examining them and finding them faulty and inconclusive of your original claim.


You still seem to be implying some sort of desirable or predetermined end point(s) for evolution.

Not at all what I am saying. I am invoking concepts in chaos theory, where a dynamical system (in this case evolution) is very sensitive to initial conditions (forces of nature).

The way you're framing these statements seems to strongly imply that evolution is a process that operates toward some end purpose. You've expressed that in a number of different ways over the last few posts.


Evolution is not completely random

I don't think anybody in this thread has argued that evolution is completely random. I certainly haven't.

You implied it here:

I do not think a trait will make an appearance so strong without some kind of environmental pressure causing an organism/population to adapt. I think laws of nature in place forces evolution phenomena to behave like an expert economist.

The process of evolution does not require any kind of guidance by nebulous "forces of nature." Some behavioral traits can develop even without any express evolutionary purpose.

There is a chance I could have misunderstood what you meant.

You've obviously misunderstood, because nothing I've said even carries the implication that evolution is completely random.


Like I said, humans have evolved the ability to communicate, to feel emotions, respond to proposed threats, and accept narratives and mores embedded within their dominant culture. The fact that some humans have developed specific ways to exploit those traits to leverage an advantage over others, does not indicate that humans evolved a predilection for religion per se. Humans are just as prone to manipulation via indoctrination other types of ideology besides religion. 

Since you have already accepted that human behavior is biological in origin, including religious behavior. Do you contend that biology is evolved?

Biology is "evolved," yes. And human behavior is biological in origin, but that's a trivial statement in the context of what we're discussing here.

It would be a compositional fallacy to say that biology is "evolved" and human behavior is has a biological origin, and religion is a product of human behavior, therefore religion is "evolved."

By that logic one could just as easily argue the Parthenon is "evolved," as opposed to being a product of the collective work of human individuals who themselves are the biological products of evolution.


Practicing religion is a right which has legal protections which I, among others, fully support. People cannot be forced into abandoning religion.

I agree. The right to believe whatever you prefer to believe is a basic human right. Even if the given belief is stupid and destructive (as some religions evidently are).


Evidently, due to diversity factors in biology, some people experience religiosity more strongly than others.

Among other factors, perhaps.

You say "evidently," but where's your evidence?
« Last Edit: December 22, 2018, 09:31:25 PM by John Albert »

Offline haudace

  • Keeps Priorities Straight
  • ***
  • Posts: 343
  • Reality under scrutiny
Re: Is Religiosity Hereditary? Did It Evolve Through Natural Selection?
« Reply #37 on: December 23, 2018, 05:49:00 AM »
(which you have thus far failed to show)

You have dismissed every single ncbi article I have shown you without considering the merits of the studies or their results because you did not agree with one of conclusions and the paper's publishing source. This is just ad hominem fallacy to get you out of commenting on any other salient points that were presented to you in those studies. Additionally, you have not yet commented on the wikipedia articles about cognitive science of religion and evolutionary psychology of religions. I cannot be at fault for "failing to show evidence" if you have not completed the reviewing exercise of the material presented to you.

All along you've been asserting a firm conclusion despite a lack of evidence, and now you're admitting that the alleged evidence (which you have thus far failed to show) only hints at your conclusion.

I am not sure I understand what you are doing here.... If compelling evidence hints at the truth - that makes that piece of evidence very valuable.

You arrived at this conclusion through the lens of a secular humanist

No, I did not. I'm evaluating your empirical claims as a basic, plain vanilla skeptic who requires evidence before believing empirical claims. I have not yet arrived at any firm conclusion on the matter.

But you did say: "I see no good reason to believe that widespread, deadly infighting among human populations is beneficial to our species on the whole. "

Talking about the well being of our species and global pacifism reeks of humanism though. This completely ignores that aggressiveness is an evolved trait and the multiple historical accounts of widespread/deadly infighting among human populations.

Let me remind that evolution has no moral agency.

The main issue I have here is that you are using humanist ethics to refute the claim that religiosity is an evolved trait. I think you are doing the same to warring behavior. This is starting to feel a lot like moralistic fallacy.

The way I described religious phenomenon as an inborn biological human trait was a mistake on my part

Not sure what you mean by "religious phenomenon." Do you mean alleged experiences of religious visions, hearing "the Voice of God," etc.?

Or are you saying you were mistaken about the tendency for religiosity being an inborn, biological, human trait? 

The mistake is the way I described religiosity as an inborn trait without taking variation/diversity of religiosity into account. You drove this point home when you brought up atheists. File this one under failure of communication.

Obviously, some people experience religiosity more strongly than others.

Another reason why some people experience religiosity more strongly could be because they've been more strongly indoctrinated, perhaps from a very young age; or maybe they've deliberately chosen to devote more mental concentration to meditating on religion. Maybe religion is really no more ingrained than any other talent or interest, such as art or science or politics or business.

Depends... Traits such as intelligence or an analytical mind are evolved features of the brain which are directly correlated with scientific prowess.

I agree with the rest above, especially the part "about emergent property of other evolved characteristics".

I'm glad we agree on this. Would you deem it fair to say that religion is not an evolved human trait in itself, but a cultural construct that has emerged out of circumstances that arose by a collection of evolved traits? Or are you still holding to the belief that there's a specific set of coded genes that predetermine one's predilection for religiosity?

Religion = system of beliefs. I concur this is not evolved, it's a human invention (in the same way that cars are not evolved).

Religious rituals = also part of religion. This too is not evolved - human invention.

Religiousness or religiosity = any predilection to religious thinking, personality trait, cognitive impact are biological. The biology behind these traits is evolved.

I see predilection of religiousness as an emergent property coming together from a concert of interacting/interwoven genome/phenome/proteome expression. For some people, it's weak (birthing atheists/agnostics) for others it's very strong (Shintoist/Catholic/Hindu) and then there is the middle (deists, pantheists etc...).

This sounds like the kind of claim that demands evidence.

I have to provide evidence for the existence of atheists, agnostics, shintoist, deists etc... ???? I have to prove that atheists are not religious?

Fine - Why does schizophrenia enforce religious delusion?

What exactly do you mean by "a concert of interacting/interwoven genome/phenome/proteome expression"?

The general misconception people have about genetics is the idea that a trait can be traced back to single basic unit of DNA sequence. This is too reductionist. For instance, eye color is expressed by a multitude of genes working together, modulated by proteins or by other genes acting as either biochemical catalysts or inhibitors. There are groups of factors that play the part in the genetic expression of eye color.

For religiosity, it could a combination of the following but not limited to
  • Higher sensitivity to Apophenia
  • Stronger psychological urge to reconcile anxiety/terror of death
  • evolutionary byproduct of other mental adaptations
  • Neurological pathways conducive to religiosity are associated with strong attachment to social groups

There is one connection between emotions and religiosity: both are personality traits. Personality has cognitive pathways in the brain, which is biological. Genetics may very well play an important role. But that was not the point of the argument. The context of our back and forth is whether or not religiosity or predilection to religiosity are evolved features.

I generally agree with all of this. Genetics almost certainly play an important role in the development of neural pathways, which are also influenced by sensory experiences and learning.

I don't believe that religiosity (or even "predilection to religiosity") is a discrete feature of human nature that developed specifically through evolution.

But I do find it credible that the tendency for religiosity may be dependent upon a number of personal inclinations that undoubtedly have genetic components. Just the same, I suspect that culture plays a much more significant role in whether somebody becomes religious.

Nothing wrong with both nature and nurture playing a role. It's a balancing act of both for sure...

I do not know which of the two has a more significant role. I can only say the nature portion is not so trivial due to a considerable amount of human societies which became religious all over the world.

I mostly agree with those definitions, but I reject your conditions that "any predilection to religious thinking, personality trait, cognitive impact are biological" and "the biology behind these traits is evolved."

You appear to be trying to redefine the terminology ad hoc, for the purpose of inserting your own conclusion into the definition. That's a dishonest rhetorical tactic, and I'm not going to fall for it. 

Huh? Dishonest rhetorical tactic, really? I think you meant difference of opinion...

one of the article that you didn't find compelling had found this:

"Findings on VMAT1, 5HT1B, OXTR, and DRD2 in the low-risk sample are consistent with previous literature that relates these genes with spirituality or closely related constructs. Interestingly, these genetic associations and their expression map onto three distinct domains related to spirituality: mood, bonding, and transcendence. As with VMAT and 5HT1B, which are linked to mood, spirituality has been linked with positive mood and thriving and as both conferring protective benefit against depression and other forms of psychopathology (Akrawi, Bartrop, Potter, & Touyz, 2015; Lucette, Ironson, Pargament, & Krause, 2016; Miller, 1998; in this sample, Miller et al 2014; Miller, Davies & Greenwald, 2000; Miller, Weissman, Gur & Adams, 2001). Spirituality, like OXTR, has been implicated in outcomes of bonding including prosocial behavior and empathy (Rew & Wong, 2006; Giordano, Prosek & Lankford, 2014). Dopamine receptor genes (here DRD2), like spirituality, have been linked to transcendence through previous studies (Comings et al, 2000; 2002)."

You found the paper's conclusion and the credibility of the source lacking (of which you are probably correct to do so) but why don't you consider the merits of what is being said in the above paragraph?

That's a cool story, but that one paper is not much to go on.

I did link you a few other ncbi articles and wikipedia pages.

That paper itself is not even a study on the genetic predilection for religiosity. Why don't you post those?



I would like to see the other studies, and additional research on the subject as well. But if the cited sources are just as questionable as this one, I wouldn't put too much faith into them.

Take your pick: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=religion

As SGU listeners we know that lots of pseudoscientific organizations operate by performing fake or faulty "research" seeking confirmatory evidence of their preferential conclusions, and then they publish and promote those beliefs as science. One such organization repeatedly covered by the SGU is Cosmology Science Publishers, which puts out a number of professional-looking journals filled with pseudoscientific claims.

Sorry, but I don't find it convincing to read through a bunch of unrelated studies from questionable sources, which just may happen to incidentally mention your conclusion.

I am just curious... What exactly do you think NCBI is?

You still seem to be implying some sort of desirable or predetermined end point(s) for evolution.

Not at all what I am saying. I am invoking concepts in chaos theory, where a dynamical system (in this case evolution) is very sensitive to initial conditions (forces of nature).

The way you're framing these statements seems to strongly imply that evolution is a process that operates toward some end purpose. 

That is a misunderstanding on your part.


You've obviously misunderstood, because nothing I've said even carries the implication that evolution is completely random.

It's what you said here: "The process of evolution does not require any kind of guidance by nebulous "forces of nature."

Perhaps you didn't mean it to, but that sentence throws natural selection / environmental stresses guiding evolution out the window.


Biology is "evolved," yes. And human behavior is biological in origin, but that's a trivial statement in the context of what we're discussing here.

Trivial? How so? I don't believe so. We have already associated religiousness to human behavior and to personality trait in that same light to cognitive pathways which are biological in nature.

It would be a compositional fallacy to say that biology is "evolved" and human behavior is has a biological origin, and religion is a product of human behavior, therefore religion is "evolved."

Replace religion by religiosity or better yet predilection to religiosity, that sentence will make a lot more sense.

By that logic one could just as easily argue the Parthenon is "evolved," as opposed to being a product of the collective work of human individuals who themselves are the biological products of evolution.

The analogy is absurd, Parthenon is not a biological trait or a cognitive pathway. On the other hand, religiosity is a personality trait, which dwells somewhere in the brain.

Evidently, due to diversity factors in biology, some people experience religiosity more strongly than others.

Among other factors, perhaps.

You say "evidently," but where's your evidence?

You need me to prove that some people are more religious than others? Isn't that self evident?
« Last Edit: December 23, 2018, 11:59:40 AM by haudace »

Offline John Albert

  • Too Much Spare Time
  • ********
  • Posts: 6843
Re: Is Religiosity Hereditary? Did It Evolve Through Natural Selection?
« Reply #38 on: December 24, 2018, 03:56:24 AM »
(which you have thus far failed to show)

You have dismissed every single ncbi article I have shown you without considering the merits of the studies or their results because you did not agree with one of conclusions and the paper's publishing source.

No, that's not what happened.

You posted 3 articles, none of which even set out to investigate your claim let alone provide evidence for it.

Two of the papers were completely irrelevant studies of the relative birth rates between religious and non-religious people.

The third was a study from a biased source whose own stated interest is promoting spirituality and faith-based counseling services. That study just happened to mention that its conclusion was predicated on the assumption that inclinations for spirituality are genetic in origin.

That is not evidence. That is two irrelevant studies, plus one that asserts a presumed conclusion. Presuming your conclusion is the opposite of evidence.

I did not dismiss the studies because I don't agree with their conclusions. Quite the contrary, I don't accept your claim because you haven't provided any evidence for it.


This is just ad hominem fallacy to get you out of commenting on any other salient points that were presented to you in those studies.

Ad hominem fallacy?!? Just, no. Not by a long shot.


Additionally, you have not yet commented on the wikipedia articles about cognitive science of religion and evolutionary psychology of religions. I cannot be at fault for "failing to show evidence" if you have not completed the reviewing exercise of the material presented to you.

Those Wikipedia studies just describe two academic fields of study that may address the topic of your claim. Neither article actually addresses your specific claim, let alone presents evidence for it.

For what it's worth, regarding the "science" of evolutionary psychology I have yet to see a single evo-psych study that actually presents falsifiable or verifiable evidence for any empirical claim whatsoever. At this point in time, the entire field seems little more than pretentious pseudioscience and has come under a lot of justified criticism on that count. Dr. Richard Carrier gives a pretty good critique of the failings of evo-psych in this article.


If compelling evidence hints at the truth - that makes that piece of evidence very valuable.

What are you talking about? You haven't shown any evidence whatsoever, "compelling" or otherwise. 
 

But you did say: "I see no good reason to believe that widespread, deadly infighting among human populations is beneficial to our species on the whole."

Talking about the well being of our species and global pacifism reeks of humanism though. This completely ignores that aggressiveness is an evolved trait and the multiple historical accounts of widespread/deadly infighting among human populations.

Let me remind that evolution has no moral agency.

That was not meant as an expression of humanist wishful thinking that evolution is somehow geared toward promoting human survival. I never mentioned morality, or even implied that it had anything to do with the course of natural selection.

When I said, "I see no good reason to believe that widespread, deadly infighting among human populations is beneficial to our species on the whole," that was intended as a rebuttal to your prior argument that religion and war must offer some evolutionary benefit to humanity or else we wouldn't continue to indulge in those behaviors.

As I said before, it could very well be that humanity has persisted as a species in spite of our predilections for religion and war, not by virtue of them. It could be that religion and war are in fact detrimental traits that just haven't completely killed off our species... yet.

 
The main issue I have here is that you are using humanist ethics to refute the claim that religiosity is an evolved trait. I think you are doing the same to warring behavior.

And this is the third time I am telling you that's a misrepresentation of my position. It's a strawman argument. I never said or even implied anything like that. Please stop projecting stupid arguments onto me.



Obviously, some people experience religiosity more strongly than others.

Another reason why some people experience religiosity more strongly could be because they've been more strongly indoctrinated, perhaps from a very young age; or maybe they've deliberately chosen to devote more mental concentration to meditating on religion. Maybe religion is really no more ingrained than any other talent or interest, such as art or science or politics or business.

Depends... Traits such as intelligence or an analytical mind are evolved features of the brain which are directly correlated with scientific prowess.

They're also directly correlated with conniving prowess, like the ability to form powerful political alliances, craft strategies, and concoct narratives that manipulate the credulous. Intelligence is also correlated with a higher risk for mental illness.

It's important to note that we humans are not naturally inclined to critical thinking and deductive logic. Nobody is born with those skills. They must be learned through mental discipline and maintained through regular practice.


Religiousness or religiosity = any predilection to religious thinking, personality trait, cognitive impact are biological. The biology behind these traits is evolved.

As I told you before, I don't accept this ad hoc definition that's been shrewdly rewritten to contain your own conclusion. Whether or not the predilection to religious thinking is actually "evolved" is still up for debate, and you haven't presented an iota of evidence to support your position that it is.


I have to provide evidence for the existence of atheists, agnostics, shintoist, deists etc... ???? I have to prove that atheists are not religious?

No, you just have to provide evidence to support your claim that the predilection for religiosity is specifically an evolved trait.


The general misconception people have about genetics is the idea that a trait can be traced back to single basic unit of DNA sequence. This is too reductionist. For instance, eye color is expressed by a multitude of genes working together, modulated by proteins or by other genes acting as either biochemical catalysts or inhibitors. There are groups of factors that play the part in the genetic expression of eye color.

I never argued that a given trait must be traceable back to single basic unit of DNA sequence. Sometimes they can, but it's usually far more complex than that.

When I questioned the possibility of a "religious gene," I meant it as a tongue-in-cheek expression.


For religiosity, it could a combination of the following but not limited to
  • Higher sensitivity to Apophenia
  • Stronger psychological urge to reconcile anxiety/terror of death
  • evolutionary byproduct of other mental adaptations
  • Neurological pathways conducive to religiosity are associated with strong attachment to social groups

That list seems reasonable, but have the genetic markers for those traits been identified?

Can you link to some studies that have reported identifying the loci and various alleles responsible for those differences in personality?

(This is the kind of information I'm talking about when I say "provide evidence to support your claims"...credible scientific research that has discovered evidence for the specific claims you're making.)


I mostly agree with those definitions, but I reject your conditions that "any predilection to religious thinking, personality trait, cognitive impact are biological" and "the biology behind these traits is evolved."

You appear to be trying to redefine the terminology ad hoc, for the purpose of inserting your own conclusion into the definition. That's a dishonest rhetorical tactic, and I'm not going to fall for it. 

Huh? Dishonest rhetorical tactic, really? I think you meant difference of opinion...

No, it's not just a difference of opinion when you try to rewrite the dictionary to redefine your position as correct.
 

Take your pick: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=religion

Sorry, but I'm not combing through hundreds of articles to try and make your case for you. You made the claim, you have the burden of proof. That's how it works.
 

I am just curious... What exactly do you think NCBI is?

It's a repository of scholarly articles pertaining to the science of genetics and biology.

What do you think it is?

More importantly, do you think that just because an article is published on the NCBI website that it is therefore the gods' honest, infallible truth? Do you believe that each and every study on the NCBI site tagged with the keyword "religion" will serve as valid evidence support your argument?

I'm asking because I often see posters on skeptic forums with little or no apparent background in science, using websites like NCBI and PubMed as their one stop quick shop for argument ammunition, without comprehending (and often without even bothering to read) the scholarly articles they're linking up as "evidence."


You've obviously misunderstood, because nothing I've said even carries the implication that evolution is completely random.

It's what you said here: "The process of evolution does not require any kind of guidance by nebulous "forces of nature."

Perhaps you didn't mean it to, but that sentence throws natural selection / environmental stresses guiding evolution out the window.

No, it doesn't. Forces of nature do not provide "guidance." "Guidance" implies intent, which requires sapience. There is no evidence to suggest any kind of sapient influence over natural selection.

Unless of course we're discussing agricultural selective breeding practices, but that's a different issue entirely.


Evidently, due to diversity factors in biology, some people experience religiosity more strongly than others.

Among other factors, perhaps.

You say "evidently," but where's your evidence?

You need me to prove that some people are more religious than others? Isn't that self evident?

No, I need you to prove that "diversity factors in biology" (which you've repeatedly attributed to genetics) are responsible for some people experiencing religiosity more strongly.

Nothing is "self-evident." Ideas and concepts cannot be evidence for themselves. The very concept of "self-evidence" is rooted in magical thinking.



Here's how this particular discussion stands, as I see it: 

We both agree that human behaviors originate in our brains, which are organic, therefore all behavior has an essentially biological origin.

We both agree that in general, human behavior and personality traits are likely determined by some combination of learned and hereditary factors.

We both agree that an individual's predilection for religiosity is likely determined by some combination of personality traits.

But where we disagree is the degree of certainty with which we can say that a given individual's predilection for religiosity is strongly hereditary. You've stated that various individuals display a range of predispositions to religiosity, which is mostly dependent on heredity. As for myself, I don't quite agree because I haven't seen any definitive evidence that heredity is any more influential than social influences and other personal experience.

We also disagree over whether the religious tendency originally developed via natural selection by imparting some evolutionary advantage, versus possibly being developed by early rulers as a mind control technique to solidify their authority over their subjects. I've seen no evidence to support the view that the religious proclivity became coded into our DNA through countless generations of natural selection. On the contrary, I see plenty of historical evidence from ancient to modern times, to support the population control hypothesis.

Does that seem like a fair assessment?
« Last Edit: December 24, 2018, 05:51:38 AM by John Albert »

Offline haudace

  • Keeps Priorities Straight
  • ***
  • Posts: 343
  • Reality under scrutiny
Re: Is Religiosity Hereditary? Did It Evolve Through Natural Selection?
« Reply #39 on: December 24, 2018, 02:21:47 PM »

I did not dismiss the studies because I don't agree with their conclusions. Quite the contrary, I don't accept your claim because you haven't provided any evidence for it.
.
.
.
Two of the papers were completely irrelevant studies of the relative birth rates between religious and non-religious people.
.
.
.
Those Wikipedia studies just describe two academic fields of study that may address the topic of your claim. Neither article actually addresses your specific claim, let alone presents evidence for it.
.
.
.
For what it's worth, regarding the "science" of evolutionary psychology I have yet to see a single evo-psych study that actually presents falsifiable or verifiable evidence for any empirical claim whatsoever. At this point in time, the entire field seems little more than pretentious pseudioscience and has come under a lot of justified criticism on that count.
.
.
.
What are you talking about? You haven't shown any evidence whatsoever, "compelling" or otherwise. 
.
.
.
When I questioned the possibility of a "religious gene," I meant it as a tongue-in-cheek expression.
.
.
.
Sorry, but I'm not combing through hundreds of articles to try and make your case for you. You made the claim, you have the burden of proof. That's how it works.
.
.
.
I am just curious... What exactly do you think NCBI is?
It's a repository of scholarly articles pertaining to the science of genetics and biology.
.
.
.
Do you believe that each and every study on the NCBI site tagged with the keyword "religion" will serve as valid evidence support your argument?
 


I'll just drop this here. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-fossil-fallacy/

Key paragraph: "We know evolution happened not because of transitional fossils such as A. natans but because of the convergence of evidence from such diverse fields as geology, paleontology, biogeography, comparative anatomy and physiology, molecular biology, genetics, and many more. No single discovery from any of these fields denotes proof of evolution, but together they reveal that life evolved in a certain sequence by a particular process."

Shouldn't be that hard to see how this applies to you as well considering the nature of your request and your constant denial / dismissal of anything presented to you without proper rebuttal.

And yes, if an NCBI / pubmed article is tagged with religion, and it is discussing the science of genetics / biology of religiosity, it only helps to build my case. Granted, some will do it better than others...

No, it doesn't. Forces of nature do not provide "guidance." "Guidance" implies intent, which requires sapience. There is no evidence to suggest any kind of sapient influence over natural selection.


You require others to recognize tongue in cheek in your comments, but you can't tell a figure of speech? I also like how you thought me saying natural selection / environmental stresses == sapience. Maybe when someone says natural selection is a driving force of evolution, you probably expect this to mean natural selection has a driver's license. Remember when I told you you see things very black and white?

Please focus on the substance of what I am saying, let's not waste time criticizing what doesn't need to be. All that accomplishes is to frustrate, to distract and to stall the conversation.

For religiosity, it could a combination of the following but not limited to
  • Higher sensitivity to Apophenia
  • Stronger psychological urge to reconcile anxiety/terror of death
  • evolutionary byproduct of other mental adaptations
  • Neurological pathways conducive to religiosity are associated with strong attachment to social groups

That list seems reasonable, but have the genetic markers for those traits been identified?

Can you link to some studies that have reported identifying the loci and various alleles responsible for those differences in personality?

(This is the kind of information I'm talking about when I say "provide evidence to support your claims"...credible scientific research that has discovered evidence for the specific claims you're making.) 

Uuh..

Why would you ask me that after going through this:

The general misconception people have about genetics is the idea that a trait can be traced back to single basic unit of DNA sequence. This is too reductionist. For instance, eye color is expressed by a multitude of genes working together, modulated by proteins or by other genes acting as either biochemical catalysts or inhibitors. There are groups of factors that play the part in the genetic expression of eye color.

I never argued that a given trait must be traceable back to single basic unit of DNA sequence. Sometimes they can, but it's usually far more complex than that.

When I questioned the possibility of a "religious gene," I meant it as a tongue-in-cheek expression.

In any case, here's another article linking religiosity to biology:

"Biological and cognitive underpinnings of religious fundamentalism"
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5500821/

I never argued that a given trait must be traceable back to single basic unit of DNA sequence. Sometimes they can, but it's usually far more complex than that.

I am aware. The paragraph to which you are responding discusses this very same complexity. Also, this ties into what I have mentioned before:

You won't find a single gene "imparting" religiosity, much like you won't find just a couple of small units of DNA dictating personality. Usually complex phenomes are not expressed by small units of DNA. It is a complex concert of genes/phenotypes/proteome all interacting and interwoven to express a complex behavior.

You are the one that keeps incessantly requesting evidence of loci for religiosity... Processes of cognition cannot be simply explained by genes alone. You need the ensemble of a genes, proteome, phenotypes all acting together in concert to an emergent cognitive phenomenon.

At this point, if this is your standard for proof, I am not sure any data will ever be compelling enough for you.

Nothing is "self-evident." Ideas and concepts cannot be evidence for themselves. The very concept of "self-evidence" is rooted in magical thinking.

Except we're not talking about magic. I do not have to prove that:

0. implicit atheists exist.
1. strong atheists exist.
2. agnostics exist.
3. theists exist.
4. pantheists exist.
5. devout religious individuals exist.
6. fundamentalist religious fanatics exist.
7. pure batshit crazy delusional religious people exist.

If I claim there is at least one tree in Brazil, you do not have to doubt the veracity of this claim. Technically speaking, you are correct that nothing is self-evident. On the other hand, it is a futile effort to try to prove every single little thing in practical sense. Some assumptions are reasonable, otherwise we will still be here when entropy reaches maximum disorder in this universe trying to comply to your standard of proof on an online forum.

It is unreasonable to demand evidence for diversity of religiosity when it is so glaringly obvious.

We both agree that human behaviors originate in our brains, which are organic, therefore all behavior has an essentially biological origin.

We both agree that in general, human behavior and personality traits are likely determined by some combination of learned and hereditary factors.

We both agree that an individual's predilection for religiosity is likely determined by some combination of personality traits.

This is incredible progress from a few pages ago, I am very pleased :).

Note that I consider the capacity to learn to be a by product of evolution and it changes overtime. Additionally, if a new ability is learned and consistently conveys gain to a population of organisms conducive to their survival, then descendants of that population will evolve even more abilities to enforce the new ability over time until such a time that it can no longer have any survival effect or a more efficient/competing ability is haphazardly stumbled upon.

Religion is very good at organizing and it (among other factors) most likely elevated societies throughout the world from hunter gathering isolated groups and helped them transition into organized cities where religion played a central role. It's not difficult to imagine individuals with more predilection for religiosity were faring better and better over time under these circumstances. The benefits alone of stronger social cohesion are enormous compared to less organized societies with looser rules. Over generations, the human species can evolve traits that enhances but not limited to:
  • Higher sensitivity to Apophenia
  • Stronger psychological urge to reconcile anxiety/terror of death
  • evolutionary byproduct of other mental adaptations
  • Neurological pathways conducive to religiosity are associated with strong attachment to social groups

We also disagree over whether the religious tendency originally developed via natural selection by imparting some evolutionary advantage, versus possibly being developed by early rulers as a mind control technique to solidify their authority over their subjects.

I don't see how or why those 2 scenarios should be mutually exclusive. It's also the age old chicken or the egg conundrum.



How do you figure the ability to lie evolved in the Drongo bird species as illustrated in the above clip? This is another type of mind control technique that has appeared in the wild.

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/05/140501-drongo-kalahari-desert-meerkat-mimicry-science/
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/phenomena/2010/11/03/the-bird-that-cries-hawk-fork-tailed-drongos-rob-meerkats-with-false-alarms/

I've seen no evidence to support the view that the religious proclivity became coded into our DNA through countless generations of natural selection. On the contrary, I see plenty of historical evidence from ancient to modern times, to support the population control hypothesis.

Does that seem like a fair assessment?

The sentence "We both agree that an individual's predilection for religiosity is likely determined by some combination of personality traits" posits predilection for religiosity evolved along side personality traits. Or predilection for religiosity is a result of evolution of personality traits. Either way, both situations are congruent with my premise. Of course, that is assuming that we still both agree that personality traits have evolved.
« Last Edit: December 24, 2018, 03:38:08 PM by haudace »

Offline haudace

  • Keeps Priorities Straight
  • ***
  • Posts: 343
  • Reality under scrutiny
Re: Is Religiosity Hereditary? Did It Evolve Through Natural Selection?
« Reply #40 on: December 24, 2018, 03:04:05 PM »
Now, this is an attempt to show you why you didn't write a proper rebuttal to any of the evidence I have provided you.

Quote from: haudace
Here's a couple of NCBI paper linking religiosity more closely to biology:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3125629/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12289962
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5646707/

The above articles are indicative of a pattern to which we as skeptics need to pay attention when we are evaluating religiosity.

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3125629/
You didn't offer any reasons as to why you think the link between mechanisms of fertility and religiosity are unfounded in spite of what the article has indicated.

2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12289962
You didn't explain or rebut the following: "The likelihood of childlessness was also influenced by young age, later marriage, higher education, employment, women with husbands with lower income, and women who attend church services less frequently. Religious homogamous marriage was unrelated to childlessness."

3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5646707/
You didn't explain or rebut the following: "We found associations between the personal importance of S/R and genes for dopamine (DRD2 SNP rs1800497), oxytocin (OXTR SNP rs2254298), serotonin (5HT1B SNPs rs130058 and rs11568817), and their vesicular transporter (VMAT1 SNP rs1390938) uniquely in the low-risk group. DRD2 was associated with both risk for depression and positively associated with S/R in the low-risk group. OXTR was associated with lifetime depression across both the high risk and the low risk group."

Quote from: haudace
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_science_of_religion

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionary_psychology_of_religion

Quote from:  John Albert
Those Wikipedia studies just describe two academic fields of study that may address the topic of your claim. Neither article actually addresses your specific claim, let alone presents evidence for it.

The 2 fields of study are not just possibly wishy washy maybe addressing the topic of my claim... They ARE the topic of my claim that religiosity can be biologically ingrained in some people. The onus is on you now to demonstrate how that's wrong. Comments from one person are not enough, this is anecdotal evidence for your rebuttal - therefore weak.

Offline haudace

  • Keeps Priorities Straight
  • ***
  • Posts: 343
  • Reality under scrutiny
Re: Is Religiosity Hereditary? Did It Evolve Through Natural Selection?
« Reply #41 on: December 24, 2018, 03:23:59 PM »
Obviously, some people experience religiosity more strongly than others.

Another reason why some people experience religiosity more strongly could be because they've been more strongly indoctrinated, perhaps from a very young age; or maybe they've deliberately chosen to devote more mental concentration to meditating on religion. Maybe religion is really no more ingrained than any other talent or interest, such as art or science or politics or business.

Depends... Traits such as intelligence or an analytical mind are evolved features of the brain which are directly correlated with scientific prowess.

They're also directly correlated with conniving prowess, like the ability to form powerful political alliances, craft strategies, and concoct narratives that manipulate the credulous. Intelligence is also correlated with a higher risk for mental illness.

It's important to note that we humans are not naturally inclined to critical thinking and deductive logic. Nobody is born with those skills. They must be learned through mental discipline and maintained through regular practice.

Humans have evolved the ability to grow hair, the mere fact they can cut it or style it doesn't make it any less evolved.

Just because a trait can be manipulated or changed doesn't make it any less evolved.
« Last Edit: December 24, 2018, 03:28:29 PM by haudace »

Offline John Albert

  • Too Much Spare Time
  • ********
  • Posts: 6843
Re: Is Religiosity Hereditary? Did It Evolve Through Natural Selection?
« Reply #42 on: December 24, 2018, 05:45:37 PM »
I'll just drop this here. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-fossil-fallacy/

OK, that's irrelevant. I never argued that anything like a "missing link" disproved your case. I simply asked for some evidence, and you haven't shown diddly squat. I would actually be super impressed by something akin to a "transitional fossil" that indicated a physical, genetic basis for religiosity.


Shouldn't be that hard to see how this applies to you as well considering the nature of your request and your constant denial / dismissal of anything presented to you without proper rebuttal.

Of course it doesn't apply, because there actually is a huge amount of clear scientific evidence to support the theory of Natural Selection. Meanwhile, you haven't presented a single iota of evidence to support your claim that genetics determine an individual's predilection for religiosity.

You linked to two irrelevant articles about birth rates that had nothing whatsoever to do with evolution or heredity, and a third, highly biased study from a "spiritual therapy" organization which outright admitted its conclusion was based on the presumption that religiosity was hereditary.

If there's so much evidence for a genetic predisposition to religiosity, then why don't you just show some of it?   


Key paragraph: "We know evolution happened not because of transitional fossils such as A. natans but because of the convergence of evidence from such diverse fields as geology, paleontology, biogeography, comparative anatomy and physiology, molecular biology, genetics, and many more. No single discovery from any of these fields denotes proof of evolution, but together they reveal that life evolved in a certain sequence by a particular process."

So now you're saying there's no actual DNA evidence that demonstrates that religiosity is hereditary, but there's a shit ton of other evidence from numerous other fields of study?

That's cool. So let's see some of that evidence then.


And yes, if an NCBI / pubmed article is tagged with religion, and it is discussing the science of genetics / biology of religiosity, it only helps to build my case.

You mean to tell me you actually believe that any article tagged with the keyword "religion" is all it would take to constitute de facto "evidence" in your mind? Regardless of the study's actual purpose, methodology and findings?

I'm sorry, but that's the epitome of lazy Internet research. Unbelievable.


For religiosity, it could a combination of the following but not limited to
  • Higher sensitivity to Apophenia
  • Stronger psychological urge to reconcile anxiety/terror of death
  • evolutionary byproduct of other mental adaptations
  • Neurological pathways conducive to religiosity are associated with strong attachment to social groups

That list seems reasonable, but have the genetic markers for those traits been identified?

Can you link to some studies that have reported identifying the loci and various alleles responsible for those differences in personality?

(This is the kind of information I'm talking about when I say "provide evidence to support your claims"...credible scientific research that has discovered evidence for the specific claims you're making.) 

Uuh..

Why would you ask me that

Because that's how it works. When you make an empirical claim, you provide evidence to back it up.


In any case, here's another article linking religiosity to biology:

"Biological and cognitive underpinnings of religious fundamentalism"
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5500821/

OK, now we're getting somewhere. This looks pertinent to your claim. I'm going to take some time to devote an entire post to discussing this one.


You are the one that keeps incessantly requesting evidence of loci for religiosity...

No, I never, ever asked for evidence of a single locus for "religiosity." Not even once, let alone "incessantly."

What I asked for, is evidence (in the form of a study by geneticists working on actual human DNA) that identifies some genes that impart some of the personality traits which we have both agreed would contribute to a predilection for religiosity.

See, this is the problem as I see it. You're arguing very emphatically for a certain conclusion involving several very complex fields of study (evolution biology, genetics, psychology, and sociology) and the thought process you're using to get to that conclusion is rather vague. You're asserting a chain of causality from A to B to C to D (evolution to genetics to personality traits to predilection for religiosity), without showing any evidence to support several of those steps. I'm not quite clear on the line of reasoning you're using to get from A to D, but it appears to involve at least one or two sizable leaps.

We know that evolution promotes the emergence of phenotypes that excel in survivability, but how do you get from there to the conclusion that a specific feature like religion must therefore carry some evolutionary advantage that allows it to persist? Where's the evidence?

I understand that postulating hypothetical evolutionary advantages to explain recognizable expressions of personality and culture is a popular thought experiment in the field of evolutionary psychology, but a big problem with that entire field is the lack of physical evidence to logically demonstrate many of those conclusions. They can't very well sit a Neanderthal down on the psychoanalyst's couch or strap an array of EEG electrodes onto a Cro-Magnon man's scalp,  or even examine the soft tissues of their brains. So the best the evolutionary psychologists can do is an educated guess, and that's quite a flimsy nail on which to hang the kinds of broad generalizations (along with the attendant social implications) that frequently emerge from that field.

As for personality, we know that some of the behavioral observations we attribute as "personality traits" appear to be passed down from one individual to an offspring, but how do we know those transmissions are genetic? How do we know those so-called "personality traits" weren't entrained through child rearing, or imparted via direct or indirect personal influence? The genetics of personality are still only sparsely understood. Most of the work in that field has focused on identical twins, and those studies have largely found that the nebulous characteristics we describe as "personality traits" are difficult to pin down, and even strictly-defined characteristics such as mental illnesses and cognitive disorders are only moderately heritable.

So any claim of heritability must eventually get down to the basic level of of the genes themselves. Have we even identified genes responsible for particular inclinations of personality? What determines whether those genes get expressed in a certain individual? How do epigenetics come into play? These are all questions that stand in the way of your assertion that religiosity has a genetic etiology.


Nothing is "self-evident." Ideas and concepts cannot be evidence for themselves. The very concept of "self-evidence" is rooted in magical thinking.

Except we're not talking about magic. I do not have to prove that:

0. implicit atheists exist.
1. strong atheists exist.
2. agnostics exist.
3. theists exist.
4. pantheists exist.
5. devout religious individuals exist.
6. fundamentalist religious fanatics exist.
7. pure batshit crazy delusional religious people exist.

If I claim there is at least one tree in Brazil, you do not have to doubt the veracity of this claim. Technically speaking, you are correct that nothing is self-evident.

Oh, please. Let's not be obtuse. I specified ideas and concepts, and you replied with a litany of physical things and subjective classifications of people (as in "pure batshit crazy delusional religious people").

Yes of course the empirical observation of physical objects can be evidence of their existence, but ideas and concepts like hypothetical claims about causality are not self-evident.


It is unreasonable to demand evidence for diversity of religiosity when it is so glaringly obvious.

I did not ask for evidence for diversity of religiosity. 


I consider the capacity to learn to be a by product of evolution and it changes overtime.

The capacity to learn is dependent upon many variables, apparently genetics as well as other environmental factors such as nutrition and personal discipline.


Additionally, if a new ability is learned and consistently conveys gain to a population of organisms conducive to their survival, then descendants of that population will evolve even more abilities to enforce the new ability over time until such a time that it can no longer have any survival effect or a more efficient/competing ability is haphazardly stumbled upon.

Okay, that's a pretty big claim that I'd also like to see some evidence for.


Religion is very good at organizing and it (among other factors) most likely elevated societies throughout the world from hunter gathering isolated groups and helped them transition into organized cities where religion played a central role.

Now you're talking about the transition from the paleolithic to the neolithic period. Given that the earliest city-states are known to have been led by a superclass of  "god-kings," there's little doubt that religion played an important social role. But to what degree it became biologically ingrained through genetics is the current subject of debate in this thread.


We also disagree over whether the religious tendency originally developed via natural selection by imparting some evolutionary advantage, versus possibly being developed by early rulers as a mind control technique to solidify their authority over their subjects.

I don't see how or why those 2 scenarios should be mutually exclusive. It's also the age old chicken or the egg conundrum.

Right, but we don't have to postulate the existence of both chickens and eggs or their relationship to each other. I still haven't seen evidence for the predilection for religiosity being genetically ingrained.


I've seen no evidence to support the view that the religious proclivity became coded into our DNA through countless generations of natural selection. On the contrary, I see plenty of historical evidence from ancient to modern times, to support the population control hypothesis.

Does that seem like a fair assessment?

The sentence "We both agree that an individual's predilection for religiosity is likely determined by some combination of personality traits" posits predilection for religiosity evolved along side personality traits. Or predilection for religiosity is a result of evolution of personality traits. Either way, both situations are congruent with my premise. Of course, that is assuming that we still both agree that personality traits have evolved.

I never said that personality traits have evolved. I said that personality traits are likely determined by some combination of learned and hereditary factors. The balance of those two influences is still up for debate.
« Last Edit: December 24, 2018, 05:59:00 PM by John Albert »

Offline haudace

  • Keeps Priorities Straight
  • ***
  • Posts: 343
  • Reality under scrutiny
Re: Is Religiosity Hereditary? Did It Evolve Through Natural Selection?
« Reply #43 on: December 26, 2018, 07:34:50 PM »
Key paragraph: "We know evolution happened not because of transitional fossils such as A. natans but because of the convergence of evidence from such diverse fields as geology, paleontology, biogeography, comparative anatomy and physiology, molecular biology, genetics, and many more. No single discovery from any of these fields denotes proof of evolution, but together they reveal that life evolved in a certain sequence by a particular process."

So now you're saying there's no actual DNA evidence that demonstrates that religiosity is hereditary, but there's a shit ton of other evidence from numerous other fields of study?


Not at all, you missed the point entirely. Much like the theory of evolution, the collection of studies from various fields, including those on genetics, converges into a very close approximation of the truth: there is a non trivial link between biology and religiosity.

And yes, if an NCBI / pubmed article is tagged with religion, and it is discussing the science of genetics / biology of religiosity, it only helps to build my case.
You mean to tell me you actually believe that any article tagged with the keyword "religion" is all it would take to constitute de facto "evidence" in your mind? Regardless of the study's actual purpose, methodology and findings?

I'm sorry, but that's the epitome of lazy Internet research. Unbelievable.

It always fails to paint something for what it isn't. You don't even have to scroll far, the second link on the first page of the results already discusses the relationship between religiosity and health.

There are at least 4 or 5 more publications that discusses how religiosity and biology tie into each other on the same first page alone.


Uuh..

Why would you ask me that

Because that's how it works. When you make an empirical claim, you provide evidence to back it up.

Thanks for quoting me out of context. Try again, and read the question in its entirety this time, including the reason why I asked it.

In any case, here's another article linking religiosity to biology:

"Biological and cognitive underpinnings of religious fundamentalism"
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5500821/

OK, now we're getting somewhere. This looks pertinent to your claim. I'm going to take some time to devote an entire post to discussing this one.

Great - looking forward to it.

You are the one that keeps incessantly requesting evidence of loci for religiosity...

No, I never, ever asked for evidence of a single locus for "religiosity." Not even once, let alone "incessantly."

What I asked for, is evidence (in the form of a study by geneticists working on actual human DNA) that identifies some genes that impart some of the personality traits which we have both agreed would contribute to a predilection for religiosity.

I have already told you, this line of questioning is too reductionist.

Also, you're flip flopping and contradicting below.

quote: "What I asked for, is evidence (in the form of a study by geneticists working on actual human DNA) that identifies some genes that impart some of the personality traits which we have both agreed would contribute to a predilection for religiosity. "

quote: "Or are you still holding to the belief that there's a specific set of coded genes that predetermine one's predilection for religiosity?"

quote: "That paper itself is not even a study on the genetic predilection for religiosity. Why don't you post those?"

quote: "That list seems reasonable, but have the genetic markers for those traits been identified?"

quote: "Can you link to some studies that have reported identifying the loci and various alleles responsible for those differences in personality?"

quote: "(This is the kind of information I'm talking about when I say "provide evidence to support your claims"...credible scientific research that has discovered evidence for the specific claims you're making.) "

quote: " So any claim of heritability must eventually get down to the basic level of of the genes themselves. Have we even identified genes responsible for particular inclinations of personality? What determines whether those genes get expressed in a certain individual? How do epigenetics come into play? These are all questions that stand in the way of your assertion that religiosity has a genetic etiology."

Come to think of it you even wrote this: "When I questioned the possibility of a "religious gene," I meant it as a tongue-in-cheek expression."

This is a little disorienting, all over the place.

See, this is the problem as I see it. You're arguing very emphatically for a certain conclusion involving several very complex fields of study (evolution biology, genetics, psychology, and sociology) and the thought process you're using to get to that conclusion is rather vague. You're asserting a chain of causality from A to B to C to D (evolution to genetics to personality traits to predilection for religiosity), without showing any evidence to support several of those steps. I'm not quite clear on the line of reasoning you're using to get from A to D, but it appears to involve at least one or two sizable leaps.

That's fine - it's your prerogative to not trust my opinions as I have not shown any credentials. But you do not have the same prerogative to dismiss so ever effortlessly the work of subject matter experts from various fields on the relationship between religiosity and biology. The link has already been established - the current debate is how biological mechanisms are causing religiosity. I will accept your rebuttals if they have been written by subject matter experts, showing evidence refuting the link between religiosity and biology.

We know that evolution promotes the emergence of phenotypes that excel in survivability, but how do you get from there to the conclusion that a specific feature like religion must therefore carry some evolutionary advantage that allows it to persist? Where's the evidence?

I think you meant to say religiosity instead of religion.

Thus far, I have touched on:

-NCBI articles linking religiosity and biology
-Field of evolutionary psychology of religion studying the propensity to engage in religious behavior.
-Field of cognitive science of religion.
-Cohesiveness of ancient and contemporary religious societies.
-Brain injuries that suggests certain parts of the brain can modulate religiousness.

Other evidence we still haven't looked at more closely relevant to this topic:
-Paleontology and Anthropology studying cultures (from ancient to contemporary cultures) with religion as a central agent in social conduct, social engineering and control.
-Brain disorders with extreme delusions and religiousness symptoms (i.e: certain types of schizophrenia).

Like I mentioned before, I am starting to think I don't have the type of evidence you require that will be compelling enough for you if none of the above has had or will not have any effect whatsoever in this discussion.

I understand that postulating hypothetical evolutionary advantages to explain recognizable expressions of personality and culture is a popular thought experiment in the field of evolutionary psychology, but a big problem with that entire field is the lack of physical evidence to logically demonstrate many of those conclusions. They can't very well sit a Neanderthal down on the psychoanalyst's couch or strap an array of EEG electrodes onto a Cro-Magnon man's scalp,  or even examine the soft tissues of their brains. So the best the evolutionary psychologists can do is an educated guess, and that's quite a flimsy nail on which to hang the kinds of broad generalizations (along with the attendant social implications) that frequently emerge from that field.

As for personality, we know that some of the behavioral observations we attribute as "personality traits" appear to be passed down from one individual to an offspring, but how do we know those transmissions are genetic? How do we know those so-called "personality traits" weren't entrained through child rearing, or imparted via direct or indirect personal influence? The genetics of personality are still only sparsely understood. Most of the work in that field has focused on identical twins, and those studies have largely found that the nebulous characteristics we describe as "personality traits" are difficult to pin down, and even strictly-defined characteristics such as mental illnesses and cognitive disorders are only moderately heritable.

First of all.



Second of all, I just realized something. I couldn't put my finger on it before but something didn't sit well with me in this debate. I have come to the realization of your general ignorance of achievements in neuroscience, cognitive science, neuropsychiatry, psychiatry, neurochemistry and accumulated evidence on the evolution of the human mind (see human behavioral ecology). You also do not understand their implications. If you do not possess the general knowledge of the material, the onus is on you to get acquainted and catch up on how our biology affects a lot of our personality traits.

It's quite unfortunate, but I simply do not have the time nor the resources to educate you on a web forum.

Quote from: John Albert
As for personality, we know that some of the behavioral observations we attribute as "personality traits" appear to be passed down from one individual to an offspring, but how do we know those transmissions are genetic? How do we know those so-called "personality traits" weren't entrained through child rearing, or imparted via direct or indirect personal influence? The genetics of personality are still only sparsely understood.

We already went over this. There is a balancing act of nurture vs nature. Nurture and nature are not mutually exclusive, both are important. Take note nothing ever happens without the biology though.

You don't teach a rock personality traits. Yes, it's possible to anthropomorphize inanimate objects which can be fun but the rock doesn't come out of it any wiser. On the other hand, it's possible to teach certain animals some personality traits because they have already evolved the cognitive baseline to express those traits. Obedience/friendliness being one of the most obvious one: more obedient/friendly dogs were evolved from loosely obedient/friendly ancient wolves over a period of time. This is a reasonable assumption to make from current knowledge in zoology, evolutionary science, neuroscience, paleontology and anthropology.

Religiosity is no different, it's strongly associated with a suite of behavioral and cognitive traits which implies biology plays a significant role in its development.

"The genetics of personality are still only sparsely understood" is a misleading statement. Yes, genetics (among other things) behind personality traits are not fully understood. At the same time it's not as though experts are completely ignorant on the matter.

So any claim of heritability must eventually get down to the basic level of of the genes themselves. Have we even identified genes responsible for particular inclinations of personality? What determines whether those genes get expressed in a certain individual? How do epigenetics come into play? These are all questions that stand in the way of your assertion that religiosity has a genetic etiology.

No, this is not practical or even logical to continue exploring this line of thinking. We are risking going down the rabbit hole of reductionism yet again. As I have already mentioned multiple times, brain processes cannot be explained away by genetics alone. There are various very important biochemical factors involved which cannot be ignored. We haven't even gone through mechanisms of interaction between neurons, the biochemistry behind the interaction of an ensemble of genes, proteins, phenotypes, biochemical signalling resulting in various emergent properties of biology/cognition/mind etc etc.


I consider the capacity to learn to be a by product of evolution and it changes overtime.

The capacity to learn is dependent upon many variables, apparently genetics as well as other environmental factors such as nutrition and personal discipline.

Great - time to start teaching microbes algebra! Let's talk about a good nutritional/discipline regimen to get them up to speed. But thanks for suggesting that I simply need to eat and discipline better to catch up to Albert Einstein.

Lol, I didn't like how you used the word "apparently".

We also disagree over whether the religious tendency originally developed via natural selection by imparting some evolutionary advantage, versus possibly being developed by early rulers as a mind control technique to solidify their authority over their subjects.

I don't see how or why those 2 scenarios should be mutually exclusive. It's also the age old chicken or the egg conundrum.

Right, but we don't have to postulate the existence of both chickens and eggs or their relationship to each other. I still haven't seen evidence for the predilection for religiosity being genetically ingrained.

This has already been addressed. I am going to ignore this question from now on. Next time you have the urge to ask it, just think about the shortcomings of reductionism.

I've seen no evidence to support the view that the religious proclivity became coded into our DNA through countless generations of natural selection. On the contrary, I see plenty of historical evidence from ancient to modern times, to support the population control hypothesis.

Does that seem like a fair assessment?

The sentence "We both agree that an individual's predilection for religiosity is likely determined by some combination of personality traits" posits predilection for religiosity evolved along side personality traits. Or predilection for religiosity is a result of evolution of personality traits. Either way, both situations are congruent with my premise. Of course, that is assuming that we still both agree that personality traits have evolved.

I never said that personality traits have evolved. I said that personality traits are likely determined by some combination of learned and hereditary factors. The balance of those two influences is still up for debate.

I am not sure I understand what you wrote here. In this scenario, are you saying hereditary factors could not have evolved? Or are you skeptical that personality traits are determined by hereditary factors? Or are you stating that personality traits could be a result of learned factors (not evolved) or hereditary factors (evolved)? Or both? Or is it something else entirely?

Please clarify.

Offline John Albert

  • Too Much Spare Time
  • ********
  • Posts: 6843
Re: Is Religiosity Hereditary? Did It Evolve Through Natural Selection?
« Reply #44 on: December 28, 2018, 09:39:52 PM »
Key paragraph: "We know evolution happened not because of transitional fossils such as A. natans but because of the convergence of evidence from such diverse fields as geology, paleontology, biogeography, comparative anatomy and physiology, molecular biology, genetics, and many more. No single discovery from any of these fields denotes proof of evolution, but together they reveal that life evolved in a certain sequence by a particular process."

So now you're saying there's no actual DNA evidence that demonstrates that religiosity is hereditary, but there's a shit ton of other evidence from numerous other fields of study?


Not at all, you missed the point entirely. Much like the theory of evolution, the collection of studies from various fields, including those on genetics, converges into a very close approximation of the truth: there is a non trivial link between biology and religiosity.

Yes, there's a "non-trivial link" between biology and religiosity, in the same sense that there's a "non-trivial link" between biology and all human activities.

There's even a "non-trivial link" between biology and a the predilection to lie on a couch watching TV, drinking beer and eating a whole bag of Doritos. Does that imply that humanity must have "evolved" that predilection because couch potato behavior is somehow advantageous to natural selection?

It's not the link between biology and behavior that's trivial; what's trivial is the claim that the link exists. Of course there's a link between biology and behavior! But the rest of your claims are the real meat and potatoes of this discussion, and you haven't shown any evidence at all for any of those.

You're asserting a chain of causality from A to B to C to D (evolution to genetics to personality traits to predilection for religiosity), without showing any evidence to support some of those connections. This whole line of reasoning you're using appears to be a chain of conjectures  leaning toward a conclusion, with no clear evidence to support it.

If you're making the scientific claim that humans have an innate, genetic predisposition to religiosity, then you need to present evidence that points to that specific claim. If you're making the scientific claim that religiosity evolved by way of natural selection, then you must somehow find evidence to demonstrate that one. (By the way, if you can manage that, you really ought to clue in the entire field of "evo-psych" because they have the same problem.)


And yes, if an NCBI / pubmed article is tagged with religion, and it is discussing the science of genetics / biology of religiosity, it only helps to build my case.
You mean to tell me you actually believe that any article tagged with the keyword "religion" is all it would take to constitute de facto "evidence" in your mind? Regardless of the study's actual purpose, methodology and findings?

I'm sorry, but that's the epitome of lazy Internet research. Unbelievable.

It always fails to paint something for what it isn't. You don't even have to scroll far, the second link on the first page of the results already discusses the relationship between religiosity and health.

But that study on religiosity and health probably doesn't prove what you might think it does. Again, lazy research turns up lazy results.


There are at least 4 or 5 more publications that discusses how religiosity and biology tie into each other on the same first page alone.

Like I said before, the fact that religiosity merely "ties into" biology is a trivial, uninteresting claim. Of course religiosity is related to our biology, just like all other human behavior is somehow related our biology. That doesn't go anywhere near proving your claim that religiosity is a genetic trait that evolved because religion offers evolutionary survival advantages.


You are the one that keeps incessantly requesting evidence of loci for religiosity...

No, I never, ever asked for evidence of a single locus for "religiosity." Not even once, let alone "incessantly."

What I asked for, is evidence (in the form of a study by geneticists working on actual human DNA) that identifies some genes that impart some of the personality traits which we have both agreed would contribute to a predilection for religiosity.

I have already told you, this line of questioning is too reductionist.

If you think my line of questioning is too reductionist, that could be because your claims are too broad and sweeping. The process of science often involves breaking things down and examining their constituent parts to find the connections to reveal how they work.


Also, you're flip flopping and contradicting below.

quote: "What I asked for, is evidence (in the form of a study by geneticists working on actual human DNA) that identifies some genes that impart some of the personality traits which we have both agreed would contribute to a predilection for religiosity. "

quote: "Or are you still holding to the belief that there's a specific set of coded genes that predetermine one's predilection for religiosity?"

quote: "That paper itself is not even a study on the genetic predilection for religiosity. Why don't you post those?"

quote: "That list seems reasonable, but have the genetic markers for those traits been identified?"

quote: "Can you link to some studies that have reported identifying the loci and various alleles responsible for those differences in personality?"

quote: "(This is the kind of information I'm talking about when I say "provide evidence to support your claims"...credible scientific research that has discovered evidence for the specific claims you're making.) "

quote: " So any claim of heritability must eventually get down to the basic level of of the genes themselves. Have we even identified genes responsible for particular inclinations of personality? What determines whether those genes get expressed in a certain individual? How do epigenetics come into play? These are all questions that stand in the way of your assertion that religiosity has a genetic etiology."

Come to think of it you even wrote this: "When I questioned the possibility of a "religious gene," I meant it as a tongue-in-cheek expression."

This is a little disorienting, all over the place.

I'm not "flip-flopping" at all. What I'm doing is asking for clear evidence to support your own damn arguments.

Don't blame me for my requests being "all over the place." If that's the case, then it's because your claims have been all over the place, and you haven't provided a single bit of actual evidence to support anything but the most vague ("religiosity is linked to biology," well duh).

You made these monumental claims about religiosity being a genetic trait that's evolved because it's beneficial for human survival. Then when I asked for evidence, you moved the goalposts to make it super vague ("religion is linked to biology"), and then you posted links to random articles that both contain the keywords 'religion' and 'biology.'

Not a single one of those papers even set out to examine an evolutionary theory of religion, let alone actually demonstrate it. "Religion evolved" and "religion is hereditary" are the claims I want to see evidence for.

Asking for basic evidence to support your actual claims is not "reductionist," it's just skeptical.


See, this is the problem as I see it. You're arguing very emphatically for a certain conclusion involving several very complex fields of study (evolution biology, genetics, psychology, and sociology) and the thought process you're using to get to that conclusion is rather vague. You're asserting a chain of causality from A to B to C to D (evolution to genetics to personality traits to predilection for religiosity), without showing any evidence to support several of those steps. I'm not quite clear on the line of reasoning you're using to get from A to D, but it appears to involve at least one or two sizable leaps.

That's fine - it's your prerogative to not trust my opinions as I have not shown any credentials.

It's not just me not trusting your opinions. It's the fact that you haven't shown any evidence.


But you do not have the same prerogative to dismiss so ever effortlessly the work of subject matter experts from various fields on the relationship between religiosity and biology.

I can, and will dismiss a crap study that's so obviously biased and flawed that even a layman such as myself can spot the glaring logical errors in their conclusion. Just because it's posted on PubMed or NCBI, that doesn't mean it's necessarily good work. .

As for the other two articles you posted alongside it, I did not "dismiss" those. As far as I could tell at first glance, they were fine. They might have been very persuasive for proving some point (maybe something about the influence of religion on the size of modern American families). But those articles were irrelevant to claims you originally made about religiosity, genetics and evolution.


The link has already been established - the current debate is how biological mechanisms are causing religiosity. I will accept your rebuttals if they have been written by subject matter experts, showing evidence refuting the link between religiosity and biology.

You're moving the goalposts again. I have no interest in rebutting the general idea of some link between religiosity and biology, because I don't doubt that some kind of links occur.

What I'm requesting is evidence for these specific claims:
  • That humans have an innate genetic predisposition for religiosity
  • That the predisposition for religiosity developed through the process of natural selection
  • That humans evolved the predisposition for religiosity because religiosity carries some evolutionary advantage.

 
I am starting to think I don't have the type of evidence you require

Yeah, I've suspected that awhile now.

You know why? Because you've been beating about the bush, tossing red herrings, strawmanning and moving goalposts for 3 pages now, instead of just showing the evidence. 


Second of all, I just realized something. I couldn't put my finger on it before but something didn't sit well with me in this debate. I have come to the realization of your general ignorance of achievements in neuroscience, cognitive science, neuropsychiatry, psychiatry, neurochemistry and accumulated evidence on the evolution of the human mind (see human behavioral ecology). You also do not understand their implications. If you do not possess the general knowledge of the material, the onus is on you to get acquainted and catch up on how our biology affects a lot of our personality traits.

It's quite unfortunate, but I simply do not have the time nor the resources to educate you on a web forum.

Now, after all this bullshitting and failure to present even the slightst hint at evidence for your wild ass guesses, you're going to turn around and attack me with an ad hominem?


"The genetics of personality are still only sparsely understood" is a misleading statement. Yes, genetics (among other things) behind personality traits are not fully understood. At the same time it's not as though experts are completely ignorant on the matter.

Who are these "experts," and where are these studies that you're anonymously attributing to them, which support these claims of yours?


So any claim of heritability must eventually get down to the basic level of of the genes themselves. Have we even identified genes responsible for particular inclinations of personality? What determines whether those genes get expressed in a certain individual? How do epigenetics come into play? These are all questions that stand in the way of your assertion that religiosity has a genetic etiology.

No, this is not practical or even logical to continue exploring this line of thinking. We are risking going down the rabbit hole of reductionism yet again.

Not practical? Not logical? What are you talking about?

It seems to me these are valid concerns.

Maybe you see it that way because they challenge your hasty assumptions about religion and heredity and evolution.


As I have already mentioned multiple times, brain processes cannot be explained away by genetics alone.
   

I did not say that brain processes could be explained away by genetics alone. I've also presented you with a host of other factors that might be equally or more influential on an individual's "brain processes" (including the predilection for religiosity), such as culture, upbringing, education, and other environmental factors.


I am not sure I understand what you wrote here. In this scenario, are you saying hereditary factors could not have evolved?

No, of course I'm not saying that.


Or are you skeptical that personality traits are determined by hereditary factors?

I expressly stated that some well-defined personality traits (especially clinical abnormalities like mental illnesses and cognitive defects) have been shown in identical twin studies to be mildly heritable. But most colloquial concepts of "personality traits" are based on rather nebulous subjective impressions. Hence they're more difficult to pin down, so the research tends to be vague.

But if personality traits were so strongly heritable as you seem to be suggesting, then all pairs of identical twins (who share a a duplicate genome) would be expected to share the same personality traits. This is clearly not the case.


Or are you stating that personality traits could be a result of learned factors (not evolved) or hereditary factors (evolved)? Or both? Or is it something else entirely?

Both. But research would seem to indicate that the emergent attributes we call "personality traits" are developed more by experience and environment than by genetics.
« Last Edit: December 28, 2018, 10:44:02 PM by John Albert »