Eaten by Robust Humanoids?

editing_for_authors
Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

Higgins

Banned
Joined
Sep 1, 2006
Messages
4,302
Reaction score
414
Suppose that religious impulses arose from a evolutionary nexus originally imposed as a maximal survival strategy by the presence of a larger more robust competing form of proto-human? We know that our ancestors were the more gracile of two forms of proto-human and that for 6-8 million years while our proto-human brains evolved, our greatest fear was that of being devoured by creatures like us but 3-4 time bigger.
Rather like the bottom of this scene of the Last Judgement at Chartres:

slide049.jpg


http://classics.uc.edu/~johnson/hum98/chartres-south.asp
 

AMCrenshaw

...
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Mar 26, 2008
Messages
4,671
Reaction score
620
Website
dfnovellas.wordpress.com
We know that our ancestors were the more gracile of two forms of proto-human and that for 6-8 million years while our proto-human brains evolved, our greatest fear was that of being devoured by creatures like us but 3-4 time bigger.

How do we know that? Just curious. You're usually so good at providing text to support your claims!

AMC
 

Higgins

Banned
Joined
Sep 1, 2006
Messages
4,302
Reaction score
414
How do we know that? Just curious. You're usually so good at providing text to support your claims!

AMC

I'm trying to be less textual and introduce ideas gradually. Anyway it should be right there in your hardwiring (as it is at Chartres), but several interesting stages back...stages that parallel turning points in human evolution...which from primordial fear to now goes:

1) stage one: 10-12 million years ago to 1 million years ago...we are basically the smallest most gracile of the proto-humans..we use tools etc. and get clubbed and eaten by larger forms. we learn fear. we become wise.
2) 1 million years ago: Suddenly we exterminate all the other protohumans. We come out of africa six feet tall and faster than the wind. With fire and spear we overrun the world. This is the first of our genus: homo erectus...what the hell happened? Biggest underdog victory of all time. I guess we have mysterious powers.
3) around 200,000 years ago: archaic humans...these guys could talk but note that the language center must be about 200,000 years old and there are two earlier evolutionary matrices: total fear and total victory
4) 20,000 years ago...lots of culture, less talk...culture sits uneasily on language, victory and total fear
 

Higgins

Banned
Joined
Sep 1, 2006
Messages
4,302
Reaction score
414
every time I see this come up I think it's saying "hemorrhoids".

just saying.

:D

No kidding and I wanted to say "Hominids" or whatever the word is for the taxon that has protohumans and humans in it...but Hemeroid or humanoid seems to be more like it.
 

Ruv Draba

Banned
Joined
Dec 29, 2007
Messages
5,114
Reaction score
1,319
Again, I have to take issue with the question being artificially narrowed to 'religious' impulses here. If we wanted to talk about 'awe-struck' impulses, or our sense of the transpersonal, or of identity beyond our current condition, or of our belief in the supernatural then that would happily include considerations of religion, but also the great swathes of non-religious spirituality evident in the world.

My problem with the term 'religion' is that it's a designation of tribe, not a description of cognition. Religious people may believe in manifest destiny, but so too can the non-religious, and not all religious people will. Religious people may believe in life after death but so too can non-religious folk, and some religious folk may not have an afterlife. Religious folk may believe in powerful supernatural entities, but so too can folk who don't worship those entities or consider them relevant to their lives.

The term 'religion' is so tribalised that whenever it's used, every tribe-member thinks immediately in the terms of his tribe's beliefs to the exclusion of most others. Given that those beliefs admit a mixture of myth, philosophy, custom and ritual, it seems silly to me to generalise about them in terms of specific brain-functions. People clearly use higher-order brain functions to analyse and discuss religious topics, but they also use limbic brain-functions when they read their bank statements.

No contentious discussion can be very productive with fuzzy definitions and sloppy scope. The best one could hope for it is to be entertaining and inoffensive. While some contributions may meet those criteria, I think we know from experience that not all will.
 
Last edited:

Higgins

Banned
Joined
Sep 1, 2006
Messages
4,302
Reaction score
414
My problem with the term 'religion' is that it's a designation of tribe, not a description of cognition.

"Religion" is actually a pretty neutral term and retains a little of its Latin ambiguity in that it means something like to do (something) carefully or intensely.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion

I think religion has a far from simple relation to limbic experiences such as awe-struck horror, lust, rage, triumph...but that religious care has the beneficial effect for the individual at least of giving a way of dealing with primordial emotion and may even have been part of what allowed homo erectus, who in his earliest days was not much different from the gracile australiopitheans, to overcome his adaptive fears...pure speculation of course, but I see no reason to locate anything about the impulses with which religious rituals deal any later than 2 million years ago in terms of "wiring"....the limbic system notoriously is pretty old and deep in the brain.

Note, I'm talking about ritual behavior, not the ideological mudslide that surrounds "religion" these days.
 

Ruv Draba

Banned
Joined
Dec 29, 2007
Messages
5,114
Reaction score
1,319
"Religion" is actually a pretty neutral term and retains a little of its Latin ambiguity in that it means something like to do (something) carefully or intensely.

From my old friend etymonline:

religion c.1200, "state of life bound by monastic vows," also "conduct indicating a belief in a divine power," from Anglo-Fr. religiun (11c.), from O.Fr. religion "religious community," from L. religionem (nom. religio) "respect for what is sacred, reverence for the gods," in L.L. "monastic life" (5c.); according to Cicero, derived from relegare "go through again, read again," from re- "again" + legere "read" (see lecture). However, popular etymology among the later ancients (and many modern writers) connects it with religare "to bind fast" (see rely), via notion of "place an obligation on," or "bond between humans and gods." Another possible origin is religiens "careful," opposite of negligens. Meaning "particular system of faith" is recorded from c.1300.
"To hold, therefore, that there is no difference in matters of religion between forms that are unlike each other, and even contrary to each other, most clearly leads in the end to the rejection of all religion in both theory and practice. And this is the same thing as atheism, however it may differ from it in name." [Pope Leo XIII, Immortale Dei, 1885]​
Modern sense of "recognition of, obedience to, and worship of a higher, unseen power" is from 1535. Religious is first recorded c.1225. Transfered sense of "scrupulous, exact" is recorded from 1599.
Many secular ceremonies are performed carefully, so it's not rite that identifies religion. Moreover, many modern people identify as religious who perform virtually no rites. Their identification seems to devolve from shared beliefs and a sense of belonging, hence my claim that the term is now more tribal than anything else.

If you try to lump all superstition under religion you'll get bizarre effects at the margins too. For instance, Italian men often surreptitiously touch their penises for luck. If you asked them is this part of their religion, many will tell you that no, the Roman Catholic tradition recommends against such practices. But they still do it. So it's part of their body of superstition but not part of their religion.

Penis-touching should certainly fall in the scope of your thesis (e.g. stimulating testosterone for fight or flight). On the other hand, I'd suggest that the moral and ethical reflections embedded in many religions would not. "Don't lie", for instance, runs contrary to survival when deceit can make a big predator avoid you. Then again, the blood-fetish embraced by some forms of Christianity, say, might.

I think that this is about superstition and may touch on some religious beliefs and practices. I don't think it's about religion itself.
 
Last edited:

Higgins

Banned
Joined
Sep 1, 2006
Messages
4,302
Reaction score
414
From my old friend etymonline:


If you try to lump all superstition under religion you'll get bizarre effects at the margins too. For instance, Italian men often surreptitiously touch their penises for luck. If you asked them is this part of their religion, many will tell you that no, the Roman Catholic tradition recommends against such practices. But they still do it. So it's part of their body of superstition but not part of their religion.

Penis-touching should certainly fall in the scope of your thesis (e.g. stimulating testosterone for fight or flight). On the other hand, I'd suggest that the moral and ethical reflections embedded in many religions would not. "Don't lie", for instance, runs contrary to survival when deceit can make a big predator avoid you. Then again, the blood-fetish embraced by some forms of Christianity, say, might.

I think that this is about superstition and may touch on some religious beliefs and practices. I don't think it's about religion itself.

About that big predator...other than some possible evolutionary adaptations, the question of what to call the set of internal mental states that rituals like touching the penis are responses to...is an aesthetic one, I think.

Obviously describing such things as "religious" simply buries the intricacies of fear and penis-touching under an ideological pyramid of mudbricks, which is fine if massive doses of ideology are your aesthetic cup of tea.

I prefer to think that where there is something with actual details, there is no point in dragging in ideologically-loaded terms like "religion"...so what are the questions about possibly more detailed aspects of reality along these lines:

1) Is ritual a more fundamental response ( and the same kind of thing as ideologically unmarked penis-touching) than what generally goes under the ideologically loaded images of "religion"?
2) Is ritual a response to no-longer adaptive events in the limbic system?
3) Was the emotional excess of the limbic system once an adaptive mechanism?
4) Did limbic responses become non-adaptive?
5) When people talk about "explanatory modes of thought" (where for example we here that children assume objects are conscious and can be talked to) is this a sign of the language center being tried out by young users or does it suggest a deep need for astoundingly crude models of how people think?
6) And in fact how do people think? Levi-Strauss' work suggests that savages at least have very sophisticated models relating and manipulating different types of categories (cosmic, culinary etc.)...
7) Are non-savage people just rendered unsophisticated compared to savages by some mechanisms inherent in not being savage (such as ideology and its sentimental handmaiden, religion)?
 

Ruv Draba

Banned
Joined
Dec 29, 2007
Messages
5,114
Reaction score
1,319
I'd say that religions are built from more fundamental human behaviours -- our myths, philosophies, superstitions, customs, tribal identities. These things shape and are shaped by religions just as they shape and are shaped by our arts.

So which of these bits are covered by the scope of your thesis? Perhaps just the myths, superstitions and customs, whether religious or not.

1) Is ritual a more fundamental response ( and the same kind of thing as ideologically unmarked penis-touching) than what generally goes under the ideologically loaded images of "religion"?
Definitely. Our rituals can be symbolic, magical or just comforting. I'd say that penis-touching is maybe all three.

2) Is ritual a response to no-longer adaptive events in the limbic system?
You mean is ritual atavistic? I wonder if this isn't a spurious question. The human brain is itself atavistic in many ways. If ritual behaviours (whether religious or not) help integrate and focus those atavisms then perhaps they're useful management of atavistic functions.

3) Was the emotional excess of the limbic system once an adaptive mechanism?
What makes it 'excess'? We know that individual survival is not the only human drive. Reproduction matters too, for instance. It's hard to imagine signing up to a twenty-year selfless species-propagation project without strong emotions to hold you to that task.

4) Did limbic responses become non-adaptive?
Are our emotions (or at least some of them) atavistic, you mean? That's the nub of what you're asking perhaps. That could be a whole nother discussion.

5) When people talk about "explanatory modes of thought" (where for example we here that children assume objects are conscious and can be talked to) is this a sign of the language center being tried out by young users or does it suggest a deep need for astoundingly crude models of how people think?
Or is it just a sensible intermediate stage in the formation of complex models?

6) And in fact how do people think? Levi-Strauss' work suggests that savages at least have very sophisticated models relating and manipulating different types of categories (cosmic, culinary etc.)...
The word 'savage' itself connotes too much feeling and too little thought compared to some 'civilised' standard. But is that even true? Sit in a modern office and you might think so, but then go to a soccer-match in Madrid and you might doubt.

7) Are non-savage people just rendered unsophisticated compared to savages by some mechanisms inherent in not being savage (such as ideology and its sentimental handmaiden, religion)?
I'm not sure what 'unsophisticated' means here.. I read it as 'lack of sophos'. Most 'civilised' folk would claim an excess of 'sophos' and a fairly tame animus. Indeed, some religious folk believe that this is the key job of religion -- to civilise our inner beast.
 

AMCrenshaw

...
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Mar 26, 2008
Messages
4,671
Reaction score
620
Website
dfnovellas.wordpress.com
Perhaps just the myths, superstitions and customs, whether religious or not.

I'd be curious to know (perhaps as a side-point) what percentage of "religious" people claim to believe in myths, superstitions, and the significance of customs compared to non- "religious" people. I don't know that the two groups would be so different. Of course there would have to be a third-party definition of "religious," the likes of which would skew the statistics one way or the other.

What makes it 'excess'? We know that individual survival is not the only human drive. Reproduction matters too, for instance. It's hard to imagine signing up to a twenty-year selfless species-propagation project without strong emotions to hold you to that task.

Just mentioning that when you say "reproduction matters, too" your example falls under a collective survival instinct-- so while you're right in saying it's not the only individual, but of course "reproduction" is a matter of collective survival, and, thus, still a survival mechanism.


AMC
 

Ruv Draba

Banned
Joined
Dec 29, 2007
Messages
5,114
Reaction score
1,319
I'd be curious to know (perhaps as a side-point) what percentage of "religious" people claim to believe in myths, superstitions, and the significance of customs compared to non- "religious" people. I don't know that the two groups would be so different.
All atheists have myths. By definition, atheistic myths aren't religious. Some atheists also have superstitions, and other than lacking a religious myth to back it I for one can't tell an atheistic superstition apart from a religious superstition.

For example, I have an atheistic friend who believes in a weak form of cosmological retribution. You don't deserve all the bad you get, she believes, but if you do bad and hang around long enough, you'll get a measure of your own bad back. Kick an old lady in New York, fly to an ashram in Mumbai and sever all your ties to the Big Apple, and bad luck will still follow you there. She doesn't have a mythical explanation for why this occurs; she just thinks that it does. I call that a superstition: a belief in consequence without material cause; it just happens to be an atheistic superstition.

Is this belief an accommodation of a deep-seated desire for vengeance, or a deep fear of retribution? I can't know for sure, but in Myers-Briggs terms, she has an ESFJ personality, so it's not like this superstition differs wildly from the architecture of her mind.

But that's true in general too. I've lost count of the NF personalities I know who believe in a manifest destiny for each human being, or the number of SJ personalities who believe in some cosmological punishment/reward system, or the number of NT personalities who are rational materialists. The correlation between personality and corpus of superstitions embraced (or rejected) is so strong that you can almost pick personality type based just on what sort of supernatural stuff we cleave to. Our myths and superstitions reflect our culture, but the way we employ them reflects our minds.

So does superstition help accommodate and integrate limbic brain functions? As an INTP personality with my limbic brain walled off with razor-wire and search-lights I can confidently say 'yes, it does and that may explain superstition entirely'. But my NFP friends might argue the reverse: that the limbic brain helps us apprehend those universal truths that cannot be articulated by other than superstition, and that's why we all have one. Meanwhile, my SFJ friends might say in hushed whispers, 'Don't talk about that stuff or a Big Monster will eat you'. ;)
 
Last edited:

Higgins

Banned
Joined
Sep 1, 2006
Messages
4,302
Reaction score
414
You mean is ritual atavistic? I wonder if this isn't a spurious question. The human brain is itself atavistic in many ways. If ritual behaviours (whether religious or not) help integrate and focus those atavisms then perhaps they're useful management of atavistic functions.

I don't think atavism is really the term since that avoids the question of whether something is currently functional or not. Let's suppose the limbic system was once highly adaptive. Let's suppose this adaptive limbic system dominated behavior before the emergence of our genus. If you look at the first Homo Erectus occurance serveral things jump out:

1) They are not much bigger than the genus from which they emerged
2) Their brains are not much bigger
3) They have gotten out of Africa
4) and apparently exterminated the robust versions of the genus from which they emerged

several other odd things emerge as well:
1) less than half the sexual dimorphism of the earlier genus
2) control of fire
3) quite sentimental: they kept a toothless old fellow homo erectus around

So what happened? And in record time (about 10 times faster than getting from homo erectus to even the most archaic H. sapiens)!

several possibilities popped into my hardwiring:

1) Tits (newly large proto-girls drove tiny proto-men to throw away their fears and exterminate the robust)
2) ritual (toothless old proto-men waved their hands and tiny, sentimental proto-men conquered their fears and exterminated the robust)
3 fire (tiny proto-men developed deadly new tactics by staying up talking late around the campfire and inventing signals for the different new deadly tactics and exterminated the robust)
 

Ruv Draba

Banned
Joined
Dec 29, 2007
Messages
5,114
Reaction score
1,319
I don't think atavism is really the term since that avoids the question of whether something is currently functional or not.
We're clearly functional because we manage to feed ourselves, reproduce, protect ourselves, wipe out competing species and the occasional innocent bystander and in our spare hours, build the odd advanced civilisation. What more could a species ask for?

Are we as efficient about it as we might be? A conjectural question really since we haven't seen any other species do it. Wait till the Martians invade or the computers take over and ask me again.

If you look at the first Homo Erectus occurance serveral things jump out:

1) They are not much bigger than the genus from which they emerged
2) Their brains are not much bigger
3) They have gotten out of Africa
4) and apparently exterminated the robust versions of the genus from which they emerged

several other odd things emerge as well:
1) less than half the sexual dimorphism of the earlier genus
2) control of fire
3) quite sentimental: they kept a toothless old fellow homo erectus around
But there's a lot of roulette in such sagas. Accidents of geography and climate can play a bigger part in species destiny than genotypes and behaviours (ask the guys who inherited steel, wheat and horses, f'rinstance and then talk to the Papua New Guinea bushmen who only got rocks, pigs and cassava). It's a bit of a modernist fallacy to attribute every lucky break to adaptation. Do we have enough fossil evidence to guess what all the major lucky breaks were? I suspect not.

And it's a species-limited viewpoint too. Long before the Agricultural Revolution, human society wasn't made up of just humans but dogs and possibly other creatures too. There's some nice argumentation that dogs and humans may have civilised each other. And such 'civilisation' may have required losing some of the adaptations that other animals find essential: like the ability to smell and hear really well.

1) Tits (newly large proto-girls drove tiny proto-men to throw away their fears and exterminate the robust)
Presumably after calling all their spears 'Britney'.
2) ritual (toothless old proto-men waved their hands and tiny, sentimental proto-men conquered their fears and exterminated the robust)
Or the proto-men were getting by on less energy so they had to work smarter. Then if the available food diminishes, the other guys die out.
3 fire (tiny proto-men developed deadly new tactics by staying up talking late around the campfire and inventing signals for the different new deadly tactics and exterminated the robust)
Not to mention the benefits of fire in preserving food and rendering food fit to eat, thus totally changing your hunting and gathering strategies.

Not to mention...

4) Dogs. How handy to be able to track game from miles away, get early warnings of attacks, yet pounce upon your big-jawed competitor like a Britney-wielding ninja
 

Higgins

Banned
Joined
Sep 1, 2006
Messages
4,302
Reaction score
414
We're clearly functional because we manage to feed ourselves, reproduce, protect ourselves, wipe out competing species and the occasional innocent bystander and in our spare hours, build the odd advanced civilisation. What more could a species ask for?

Perhaps we are functional, but part of that functionality might be based on whatever Homo erectus might have done to get away from his limbic impulses. Tits and ritual spring to mind. I think it might be too early for dogs. Perhaps dogs only helped us once we were worthy. We'r talking about 2 million years back with the emergence of homo erectus. I thought dogs and humans only came along with the fully human humans about 400,000 to 200,000 years ago at the earliest.
 

Ruv Draba

Banned
Joined
Dec 29, 2007
Messages
5,114
Reaction score
1,319
Perhaps we are functional, but part of that functionality might be based on whatever Homo erectus might have done to get away from his limbic impulses. Tits and ritual spring to mind.
I'm still trying to work out which limbic impulses we're supposed to have escaped. Sex, eating and fight/flight maybe. [I'd like to write more on this, but want to catch some porn before I make up a mess of cheesy nachos and watch a game on the tube with my buds...]

Ah... where was I? Limbic impulses, right.

Rather than being a survival adaptation, superstition looks to me more like a by-product of being emotional creatures who've learned how to work with symbols. Show me poetry, and I'll show you spells. Find me some lipstick and I'll hunt you up some voodoo dolls.

Now the octopuses and bower-birds of the world have gotten together and asked me to point out that art itself is a survival adaptation. They'd like to stress that while it doesn't much stop you from getting eaten, decorating your nook does get you more nookie with the plumpest hens and hentaiest molluscs disrespectively. Artists are sexy, they tell me, and all the writers who've ever been hit on at book-launch (I believe that's every writer except Geoffrey Archer) have sent me notes of support on this.

Perhaps dogs only helped us once we were worthy. We'r talking about 2 million years back with the emergence of homo erectus. I thought dogs and humans only came along with the fully human humans about 400,000 to 200,000 years ago at the earliest.
I'm trying to imagine dogs holding back from eating our table-scraps for a million years or so while we discussed what shape the perfect breast was. All that whining and pathetic puppy-eyes must've been very distracting from our earliest attempts at philosophy.
 
Last edited:

Higgins

Banned
Joined
Sep 1, 2006
Messages
4,302
Reaction score
414
I'm still trying to work out which limbic impulses we're supposed to have escaped.

I was thinking fear of our robust fellow hominids. After all most prey species don't exterminate those that prey on them. Homo erectus must have done something unusual.
 

Ruv Draba

Banned
Joined
Dec 29, 2007
Messages
5,114
Reaction score
1,319
After all most prey species don't exterminate those that prey on them. Homo erectus must have done something unusual.
Hey, they'll never pin a thing on my ancestors without a smoking spear-tip.

But even Mike Tyson was once a flyweight runt, and every apex predator began its career cowering in the shrubs. It's not just pumping iron that makes you the champ -- it's the other contenders getting unlucky.
 

Higgins

Banned
Joined
Sep 1, 2006
Messages
4,302
Reaction score
414
Hey, they'll never pin a thing on my ancestors without a smoking spear-tip.

But even Mike Tyson was once a flyweight runt, and every apex predator began its career cowering in the shrubs. It's not just pumping iron that makes you the champ -- it's the other contenders getting unlucky.

Why suddenly unlucky at the very point that Homo erectus comes along? If there were new niches opening up, why no extra species alongside H. erectus? Suddenly there's nobody out there in central
Asia but erectus and gigantopithecus.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gigantopithecus.jpg


 

Ruv Draba

Banned
Joined
Dec 29, 2007
Messages
5,114
Reaction score
1,319
Why suddenly unlucky at the very point that Homo erectus comes along? If there were new niches opening up, why no extra species alongside H. erectus? Suddenly there's nobody out there in central Asia but erectus and gigantopithecus.
Well before we collar our ancestors on genocide I think we should look into how elephants persecuted the mastodon. Like you, I'm deeply suspicious at the lack of species variation here. We know that they had motive -- the oldest motives in the book: greed, and tusk-envy. They had opportunity too... browsing in the same copses they must've stroked their chins with their trunks thinking "Is now the time?". All we need is to find the labs where they cultivated the tuberculosis, and the case will be open and shut.
 
Last edited:

Higgins

Banned
Joined
Sep 1, 2006
Messages
4,302
Reaction score
414
Well before we collar our ancestors on genocide I think we should look into how elephants persecuted the mastodon. Like you, I'm deeply suspicious at the lack of species variation here. We know that they had motive -- the oldest motives in the book: greed, and tusk-envy. They had opportunity too... browsing in the same copses they must've stroked their chins with their trunks thinking "Is now the time?". All we need is to find the labs where they cultivated the tuberculosis, and the case will be open and shut.

I don't think elephants and mastodons co-existed. Before Homo erectus there were a number co-extant proto-human species. Afterward...none (Neanderthals don't seem to have been a separate species).
 

Krampus Nacht

St. Nicholas and Krampus