Re: Origin of Religion

From: Ray Recchia (
Date: Wed 25 Dec 2002 - 03:37:50 GMT

  • Next message: Van oost Kenneth: "Re: Origin of Religion"
    At 11:51 AM 12/24/2002 -0800, you wrote:
    "effective form of camouflage Dr. Wilson sees religion as the product of group selection at work."
    Group selection has got some heavy evidence against it... interesting that a 'highly regarded' evolutionist should consider it helpful to his argument.

    You might have a point there.  I was agreeing more generally with the idea that regardless of its truth, religion creates social cohesiveness in societies.  Going back to the sociobiology angle, we have a certain level of altruism built into us that evolved when we operated in small tribes.  Larger social groups may require larger levels of altruism than we are predisposed to, and religion, with its  reward of an afterlife, might provide that.

    David Wilson does seem to be using religion as tool to push a group selection theory, but I'd have to understand more to get a better feel for what he is saying before offering an opinion.

    "A. Religious believers often compare their groups to an organism, or a beehive. One of the keys to the success of religion is its emphasis on the moral equality of those in the community. You might be rich, and I might be poor, but in some sense you're no better than me. This guarded egalitarianism may be fundamental to the willingness of people to cooperate with others, including those who are unrelated to them, and to become the primate equivalent of a eusocial species like bees or ants."
    In a beehive and ant colony, all of the members are related and thus have a genetic advantage to being kind to the others. It's not about group selection, it's individual genetic satisfaction.

    There is remarkably little genetic diversity among humans.  There is only small fraction of one percentage point of difference between all of us.  This article:

    says that a tribe of 55 chimpanzees has more genetic diversity than our entire species.  I don't know how we compare to an insect nest with its haploid males and diploid females, but I've always wondered why the kin selection folk don't discuss actual genetic diversity in their equations.

    Most people have a tendency to immediately disbelieve anyone using group selection as evidence in their theories... I am happily one of them. Wilson seems to touch on memetics but doesn't really use it.

    Wilson is definitely not a fan of the memetics movement.

    Sabrina Marr


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