morality within evolution

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by juantoo3, Jul 22, 2004.

  1. JonDD22

    JonDD22 Established Member

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    Oh, that is great! I don't think I ever saw it posted online before. One of my musician friends was the first among us to discover it. That would have been back around 1975 or 1976.

    One of my favorite stories about Sri Ramakrishna was that back in the early days, he was still living in a village. And when he wanted to talk with a spiritual aspirant, sometimes the villagers would surround him and make private conversation difficult. He was known to tell ribald jokes, in order to embarrass the villagers. They would leave and then he would be free to speak with the aspirant.

    His chief disciple, Swami Vivekananda, told endless jokes. He also did impressions! One time, one of his disciples caught him in a room, reading the English humor magazine Punch, and laughing so hard that he had tears streaming down his face.

    (and of course, it is one of the most important spiritual works in Hinduism, so much much more than a source of a few fun anecdotes).
     
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  2. JonDD22

    JonDD22 Established Member

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    Fully agree. There was that book "Christian Zen," written by three Catholic monks about the similarities between Christianity and Zen Buddhism as regards morality. And, of course, the work of Thomas Merton.

    Yes, I certainly have heard the teaching about sticking to one path and certainly have tried hard to obey it.

    My original path was a Bhakti Yoga path in an ashram. There, we were clearly taught to respect all religions. Saints from Sufism, Zen, and Christianity were all admired as much as the Hindu saints.

    In my own personal experience, about half of the Zen Buddhist community were also black belts in martial arts. I have worked in non-profits with a number of vets and also did work around issues of violence. And interacting with the martial art community was very important to me. I learned a great deal from them. And it was important to my work around issues regarding violence. Long story, but it did help. I did connect with the martial art community directly, but more with the Zen community.
     
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  3. RJM

    RJM God Feeds the Ravens Admin

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    Ramakrishna Paramahansa -- the real thing, imo

    But apology to @juantoo3 for taking thread offtrack
     
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  4. Ella S.

    Ella S. Logoic Logician

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    "Religion" is sort of a vague term. Everything from meditation to cultural ceremonies to scriptural dogma can fall under religion. Generally, though, it seems that religion in general has roots in animism and ancestral worship, which isn't that strange.

    From an evolutionary standpoint, our minds have what's called a "hyper-active agent detection device" and we naturally tend towards mind-body dualism.

    The first part makes sense. When a bush begins moving behind you, it's better to assume that it's a predator and be wrong than assume that it's the wind and be eaten.

    The second part also makes some sense, because it helps us recognize the difference between a rock and an animal with some form of agency. Of course, this on its own can lead to ancestral worship, like when somebody you were close with dies and you still "hear them in your head." Ancient humans had a hard time distinguishing that sort of thing from reality. Just look at how many ancient cultures regarded dreams as taking place in some other realm or as messages from another world. Biblically, many prophets apparently communicated with angels in their dreams, which is a huge part of this mind-body dualism.

    Alongside the hyper-active agent detection, we suddenly start seeing the sky or the rivers as having minds of their own. That gets pretty close to polytheism and we have a decent understanding of how polytheism naturally blends into monotheism as various gods begin to merge together into a single deity. Now we understand how religions from Shinto to Christianity can all come to be from the same basic evolutionary biases.

    Religion itself is also closely tied to ritual, group ceremony, and divine command. These are all practices that help maintain tribal cohesion. Indeed, most ancient ethnic religions place more of an emphasis on how to practice the religion than what to believe, likely for this very reason.

    But all of prehistoric humanity didn't chase after some elusive "something." Mysticism and spiritual philosophy came generations after the myths and rituals had already become habituated in ancient culture. These original myths shaped what later descendants would chase after, but a wide range of diversity grew out of these relatively similar starting conditions thanks to the butterfly effect.

    I mean, compare the Aztecs to the Sumerians; these were very different religions, even if they share the same general concepts of mind-body dualism, polytheism, group ceremony, mythology, and divine command that come from evolution.
     
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  5. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ....whys guy.... ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    Pleased to meet you Ella, and thank you for the thoughtful reply.

    Why are we religious, if there is nothing there? | Interfaith forums

    In the linked thread above I explored the prehistoric development of religion, specifically touching on the Ganzfeld Effect / Prisoner's Cinema / Sensory Deprivation - with or without the use of Entheogens, as that seemed a significant piece of the puzzle across the range of our cave dwelling ancestors. My interest has long been in how "the myths and rituals had ... become habituated in ancient culture." Seems to me a great deal of precious time and energy otherwise required for survival was spent across thousands of miles and thousands of years and thousands of families chasing an illusion if there was nothing there to begin with. That, to me, is the "elusive something" of which I often write.

    I am pressed for time, and otherwise hope to return to provide a more proper response to the remainder of your post.
     
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  6. JonDD22

    JonDD22 Established Member

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    Yes, religion absolutely evolved out of the shamanistic practices that preceded it. By studying existing Stone Age cultures in the modern world, a better insight into ancient cavemen has emerged. Some now believe that the cave paintings of ancient man, were not art, so much as cast spells to garner power over animals to enhance the hunt. That is based on similar practices in modern Stone Age cultures.

    And that would mean, that shamanistic practices go back 60,000 years and perhaps much, much longer.

    I think it is a reasonable assumption to surmise that ancient shaman did whatever spiritual practices they did. And that included trance and meditation and on. And through that, they became the ancient sages that developed what we now term as religion.

    Noting that hypnotism, which has been shown to have proven medical benefits, is an ancient shamanistic practice. Which, you know, proves that whatever they were doing, had some real world credibility.

    Religion is just a word, just a term. It is very broad. It describes the lunacy and corrupt practices of power hungry jerks. And it also describes the practices of people like Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. You know, the entire gamut from wonderful humans to the utter worst.
     
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  7. Ella S.

    Ella S. Logoic Logician

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    Hunter-gatherers spent less time working than we do today, and much of the older myths were directly about survival. If they weren't teaching lessons about not stealing food and murdering each other, much of the myths were passing down folk remedies and methods of building structures. I don't think anything supernatural is necessary to see the utility of such things.

    As for the precise rituals and ceremonies, again, they completely differ from culture to culture. Some societies bury their dead. Some burn the bodies. Others leave them on mountains to be eaten by the wildlife. None of the rituals came suddenly into being fully-formed, but were built upon over generations as traditions. Many secular examples of such ceremonies exist and have been seen transforming over the years, too.

    When it comes to illusion, most of our lives are spent in ignorance. It's only relatively recently that the scientific method has been codified and widespread. Before that, we were essentially grasping at straws in the dark. We know what we were grasping at now; magical thinking, over-active agent detection, and group cohesion. Nothing greater is needed to explain anything.

    Also, I think you forget that many traditional stories were also a form of entertainment. We have unearthed a lot of children's toys fashioned after mythological figures and creatures over the years. I don't think this is necessary to understand most myths, though; I think myth is already well-understood by over-active agent detection and mind-body dualism. We'll never know what the myths originally looked like, though, because they inevitably changed greatly over time. Compare the Sumerian myths to the Tanakh, for instance; they become almost unrecognizable in just a few centuries.

    So these myths may have originally played more important purposes that were lost during transmission. And myth (and magical thinking) tends to inform ritual.
     
  8. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ....whys guy.... ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    Yes it is. So are "spirituality" and "morality." So is "God." But we have to start someplace.

    Perhaps I should have used a different word, and I would have likely begun with "morality." I agree with this statement of yours here, of course, but I understand these by the term "Institutional Religion," a term coined by William James, "the Father of American Psychology." Rather, it is towards the "roots in animism and ancestral worship" that my studies have concentrated.

    This is the first I've heard of "hyper-active agent detection device," and I see there is some debate over its application in the manner you point to.

    Per Wiki:
    I can see the application to a wild animal, and in a very real sense that would be the state of mind of these pre-historic humans. Essentially it is a state of continual paranoia, always on guard, always on defense mode, always ready to run at the drop of a hat. I do think humans were a half step above that though, considering they did have fire, they did have weapons, and they were if not apex predators certainly very high up the ladder. Unarmed and alone though, that would definitely lower their defensive potential and place them in a constant state of paranoia. How that translates into inventing "god" I do not see, and not for lack of trying.

    This is also the first I recall of "mind-body dualism," and since there are those that disagree with that assessment I think it is premature to accept that "we naturally tend towards" it. Separating the mind from the body sounds nice philosophically, but since each is dependent on the other I will reserve judgment for the moment, if you don't mind. I'm simply not fully convinced of the statement out of hand.

    "Agency" is yet another fraught word with multiple meanings, pending context. If by agency you are implying "spiritual intercession" or some equivalent, I'm not prepared to go there, certainly not yet. I'd like to stay with observable facts as much as I possibly can. "Proving G-d" is a difficult enough endeavor not to confound it with additional complications.

    I don't think ancient humans had any difficulty at all distinguishing reality from non-reality, I suspect, given their "unopened" mind not yet polluted with opioids from eating grain, that they were probably very in-tune with the real world immediately around them, far more so than a typical, modern city dwelling human today. That is both in a sleeping and awakened state.

    The "ancient cultures" you mention here are many thousands of years *later,* and not to be convoluted with the pre-agricultural hunter/gatherer cave dwellers. On the contrary, there are multiple examples of cave art that depict "hallucinations," and they are not the painted animals. They are the geometric designs that are often overlooked except by those astute researchers that look closely at the details. There is some suggestion, still in its infancy, that some of these geometric patterns contributed to the development of alphabets.

    I don't think it is quite this quaint, I think this point of view, if you will excuse me as this is nothing personal, this point of view demonstrates a great deal of cultural narcissism. Even looking through historic times, I don't see this. So imputing it to pre-historic times is simply not accurate. I have found over the years so many instances of well meaning and well educated folks wanting to apply modern aspects (life, philosophy, religion, psychology, etc.) onto pre-historic cultures without a shred of evidence, and I don't accept that. It is difficult enough to climb inside the mind of a "simple" human (by which I mean a mind unclouded with modern, first world BS) without adding such, forgive me, nonsense.

    If you are talking Institutional Religion, absolutely! I agree.

    So let me ask: How big was a typical "tribe" in prehistoric times? How much more than "family" did such a tribe require to maintain cohesion? A tribe, then or later, consists of a group of familial related individuals. Inbreeding was a norm, and no doubt created some problems over time, so raids on neighboring tribes to acquire wives helped alleviate some of that. Neandertals didn't disappear by acts of war so much as acts of interbreeding with Cro Magnon. If you are of European stock, particularly Northern European stock, it is extremely likely you have Neandertal genes.

    And yet, in cave after cave after cave, including rock shelters, dating as much as 40 to 50 thousand years ago, family after family, tribe after tribe, went DEEP into the caves, not for shelter, not for necessity, and not often...but they did go there for 2 purposes, to paint the walls with animals that held meaning to them, and to have an experience that produced hallucinations / visions. Arguably I might suggest, maybe not this early but at some point probably well before historic times, that such ceremonies became rights of passage for boys into men. Women already have their physical "changes," rights of passage that usher girls into women, and this I speak of comes with my own paraphrase from the likes of Joseph Campbell, that it is not at all uncommon for "primitive" (I hate using that term in this context) cultures to do exactly that, conduct a ceremony to usher boys into men, though the ceremony differs widely from culture to culture.

    Agreed. But that is not to say that what "mysticism and spiritual philosophy" came about in pre-historic times passed without change into historic times.

    I think here is where our thoughts on the matter begin to diverge.

    Not to sound like a smart aleck, but both cultures also prepared and ate food, and took a dump once a day. I don't think that has anything to do with "butterfly effect." That has to do with human tendency to interpretation, specifically interpreting the world around them.
     
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  9. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ....whys guy.... ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    With due respect, exactly which modern Stone Age cultures would those be? The 3 oldest cultures still extant are: San Bushmen of Africa, Laplanders of Scandinavia, and Ainu of Northern Japan. None of these cultures lives in caves. Two of them share more with the Innuits than any other culture. I see nothing to indicate Stone Age more recent than about 4000 years ago, before the pyramids in Egypt, and even by then anything related to the Stone Age had mostly passed. The end of the glacial Ice Age and Dawn of Agriculture about 10 thousand years ago quickly surpassed and succeeded the Stone Age as metals replaced stone for tools and weapons. Even the nomadic tribal peoples such as Native Americans have only minimal semblance to pre-historic hunter/gatherers. So I really have no idea which culture(s) you are referring to.
     
  10. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ....whys guy.... ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    But again, this is cultural narcissism. After only the post before writing they (hunter/gatherers) were pre-occupied with a "hyper-active agent detection device" that kept them on constant alert, time consumed creating stone tools and weapons, time tending a fire, and still more time dealing with necessities of survival, I seriously don't understand how a rational person could possibly even begin to say a hunter/gatherer spent less time working than we do today. 8 hours at a keyboard in an office or a classroom is not work that even begins to compare with the sun up until sun down that a hunter/gatherer would have to do 7 days a week, no holidays, no vacations. Seriously, the cultural narcissism (or ethnocentrism if you prefer) is breathtaking.
     
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  11. Ella S.

    Ella S. Logoic Logician

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    You can find it hard to believe all you want, but it's the truth and the data backs it up. Agent-detection translates pretty directly to animism and theism. I'm not sure why you struggle to see that, especially when the modern Intelligent Design Movement illustrates this so clearly. Mind-body dualism is also a very well recognized cognitive bias.

    Agency is not a vague term.

    Well, you would be wrong. What we call "magical thinking" is a pretty inherent bias to the human mind and we didn't develop tools to recognize and work around it until the 18th century. Yes, that recently. Up until then, magical thinking was just a staple of human thought and it's very apparent in pretty much all writings and archaeological digs.

    Whether the cave paintings were hallucinations or dreams or not doesn't really matter in this context.

    I think that's patently absurd. Ancient humans weren't more in-tune with reality or more advanced in their thinking. What you call "cultural narcissism" is simply inductive reasoning. Your method, by contrast, is to pull assumptions out of your rear-end.

    Equating this with some sort of search for God seems like a massive equivocation to me.

    Do tell.

    If you actually look at the archaeological and historical record, the transition from animism is pretty clear and it's been agreed-upon by anthropologists for almost a century. If you want to disagree with the scholarly consensus, you're going to have to bring something of a bit more depth to the discussion if you actually hope to wrestle with their ideas.
     
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  12. Ella S.

    Ella S. Logoic Logician

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    I don't even understand what your objection here is. It seems like an argument from incredulity more than anything else.

    Hunter-gatherers didn't need to spend that much time foraging and hunting to be well-fed for awhile. Fire doesn't take that much work to tend. You're looking at a few hours a week, especially for tribes that switch off who's hunting and gathering that day. They didn't work sun-up to sun-down 7 days a week. That's a total misconception. Where did you even get that idea from?
     
  13. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ....whys guy.... ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    You clearly discredit and dismiss the work of such intellectual giants as Carl Jung, William James, Desmond Morris, Joseph Campbell and a long list of researchers studying the various painted caves and sites such as Blombos Cave and Lake Mungo (all of whom I have referenced around here over the years). I bow to the superior intellect of your community college prof with an axe to grind and an agenda.

    You win. Clearly you have looked so much deeper than all of these great minds. I'm but a lowly student for decades. I agree to disagree and to continue to look at the matter with unfiltered eyes.

    This conversation has been most enlightening. :) Accusing me of saying something I at no time ever said in some hope to make me look foolish is a real class act. Try reading English with comprehension sometime. I know I can be crass; but I do not tell deliberate outlandish lies about people, hiding behind strawman fallacies. That would be intellectually dishonest.
     
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  14. Ella S.

    Ella S. Logoic Logician

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    I directly quoted what you said in my reply. If it isn't what you meant to say, then feel free to correct yourself.
     
  15. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ....whys guy.... ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    Try again. You quoted my words then intentionally misinterpreted to set up a straw man.

    Show me, ANYWHERE, EVER in the 18 years I've been on this site, or in the world, that I said animism was not the beginning of religion.

    Show me, and I will apologize. Until then, I think the one who needs to do their homework between us, is not me. I continue to do my homework, by choice.
     
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  16. Ella S.

    Ella S. Logoic Logician

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    I never said that you said animism was not the beginning of religion. The irony here is palpable to me. No wonder you seem so confused about the historical evolution of religion. Your reading comprehension is absolute garbage.
     
  17. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ....whys guy.... ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    Did you, or did you not, write:

    Anybody with a lick of sense and comprehension of the English language can follow the thread and see that you did - in fact - write this. You IMPLIED - strongly, that I did not accept the "scholarly consensus" and was therefore uneducated on the subject. That is the strawman you hide behind and now attempt to distance yourself from, a well known rhetorical tactic that has nothing to do with logic or scholarship.

    Your writing on this subject is garbled and incoherent, jumping around in time so much as to confuse *any* reader (what I refer to came many thousands of years *before* the period you call "ancient," as if what you added had any relevance), and then you take offense when someone disagrees with the childish foolishness attempted to be passed off as scholarship. I'll take my educated, referenced and factually supported "garbage" over your childish drivel and wishful thinking any day of the week.

    There is no way in hell constant paranoia (what you fancifully call "hyper-active agent detection") can lead to animism, and to expect anyone with a coherent and inquiring mind to accept such without question is ludicrous. I would say so to the face of any so called scholar that insisted such was the case if all there is to go by is your word on the matter. And clearly you have no concept of real physical labor, of chopping wood or carrying water. It is laughable to think that prehistoric humans worked *less* than a typical modern. That is asinine on its face, and shows a clear lack of understanding of how much strenuous physical labor is involved in so many common tasks we now take for granted because of modern conveniences like electricity and plumbing; ergo - cultural narcissism, otherwise known as ethnocentrism.
     
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  18. RJM

    RJM God Feeds the Ravens Admin

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    IMO the duty is always more on the writer, less on the reader ...

    By the same token: deliberate misunderstanding is not a tool of intelligent debate

    Not directed at anyone in particular ...
     
  19. Ella S.

    Ella S. Logoic Logician

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    Jesus Christ, dude, don't you think you're being a little severe here?

    Do you want to discuss how hyper-active agent detection leads to animism in greater detail?

    I'm also pretty sure the fact that tribal people work less than average work weeks is fairly well-known. There are still hunter-gatherer tribes today and we know quite a bit about their habits. Is this also something you would like to discuss?
     
  20. Ella S.

    Ella S. Logoic Logician

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    I swear I wasn't intentionally trying to Strawman anyone here.
     

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