Is religious belief innate to our brains?

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Higgins

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Fourth: mysterious powers:
Being skinny and not getting eaten isn't a power, but the power to make skinny juice would be.

Fourth again (got sidetracked): mysterious powers...we can see how the smaller of two humanoids (our ancestor) would have quickly become hardwired to live in absolute abject terror of the robust form. Once that terror is hardwired, though, it can be used evolutionarily as something else...just as say, parts of the ear developed from jaws:
http://sci.waikato.ac.nz/evolution/Homology.shtml#earossicles

and even:

A widely used definition of mammals is based on the articulation or joining of the lower and upper jaws. In mammals, each half of the lower jaw is a single bone called the dentary; whereas in reptiles, each half of the lower jaw is made up of three bones. The dentary of mammals is joined with the squamosal bone of the skull. This condition evolved between Pennsylvanian and Late Triassic times. Evolution of this jaw articulation can be traced from primitive synapsids (pelycosaurs), to advanced synapsids (therapsids), to cynodonts, to mammals. In mammals, two of the extra lower jaw bones of synapsid reptiles (the quadrate and articular bones) became two of the middle-ear bones, the incus (anvil) and malleus (hammer). Thus, mammals acquired a hearing function as part of the small chain of bones that transmit air vibrations from the ear drum to the inner ear.

From http://www.agiweb.org/news/evolution/examplesofevolution.html
 

Higgins

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Oh God, I slept through every philosophy class I ever took...

I think it was Heidegger (correct me if I have this wrong) who said a "higher power" must exist because if a higher power didn't exist, how would we humans have the idea of one?

I don't recall anything of that sort in the various bits of Heidegger I've read. I do recall that he had some notion of the gods in thinking, but for some reason I associate that with his scrutiny of the presocratics.

On the other hand, since Heidegger thought the weird assortment of Nazi ideologies was a great idea, perhaps he tossed in the mystery of how higher powers came to be as he taught a rigorous class of goosestepping 101.
 
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KikiteNeko

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I don't recall anything of that sort in the various bits of Heidegger I've read. I do recall that he had some notion of the gods in thinking, but for some reason I associate that with his scrutiny of the presocratics.

On the other hand, since Heidegger thought the weird assortment of Nazi ideologies was a great idea, perhaps he tossed in the mystery of how higher powers came to be as he taught a rigorous class of goosestepping 101.

It might have been Descartes....
 

ColoradoGuy

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It might have been Descartes....
Yes. His was one of several so-called ontological proofs for the existence of God, the most famous of which was St. Anselm's.

But I'm not talking about God. I'm more interested in the general question of if humans' brains are innately predisposed to religious thought, if there there could be an actual physical locus for it like the language center.
 

Higgins

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Yes. His was one of several so-called ontological proofs for the existence of God, the most famous of which was St. Anselm's.

But I'm not talking about God. I'm more interested in the general question of if humans' brains are innately predisposed to religious thought, if there there could be an actual physical locus for it like the language center.

There's always the terror center:


Methods: Intraoperative DBS in the region of the right and then left anterior limb of the internal capsule and nucleus accumbens region was undertaken to treat a 52 year old man with treatment refractory obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Mood, anxiety, OCD, alertness, heart rate, and subjective feelings were recorded during intraoperative test stimulation and at follow up programming sessions.
Results: DBS at the distal (0) contact (cathode 0–, anode 2+, pulse width 210 ms, rate 135 Hz, at 6 volts) elicited a panic attack (only seen at the (0) contact). The patient felt flushed, hot, fearful, and described himself as having a "panic attack." His heart rate increased from 53 to 111. The effect (present with either device) was witnessed immediately after turning the device on, and abruptly ceased in the off condition Conclusions: DBS of the anterior limb of the internal capsule and nucleus accumbens region caused severe "panic." This response may result from activation of limbic and autonomic networks.

From:

http://jnnp.bmj.com/cgi/content/abstract/77/3/410
 

ColoradoGuy

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There's always the terror center . . .
I'm not interested in the possibility of a terror center. If you are, perhaps you might start a thread about it. It does not surprise me at all that a subjective feeling that produces well known, clear-cut autonomic reflexes has an identifiable locus in the brain.
 

Ken

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There is no reason why humans, when faced with something they cannot explain, somehow "need" to attach a supernatual explanation. Simply not explaining it at all would be a perfectly understandable approach.

...there is definitely a strong tendency, though, to account for all phenomena and an aversion to mystery and the unknown, among humans, which could have led to our "universal" invention of gods. Not saying this is so, but there is a possiblity of it.

Then again, the fact that many still believe in gods, when much mystery in the world has been explained, argues against this view and makes a theory like this proposed one about the human brain being wired for belief in god seem feasible.
 
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KikiteNeko

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Yes. His was one of several so-called ontological proofs for the existence of God, the most famous of which was St. Anselm's.

But I'm not talking about God. I'm more interested in the general question of if humans' brains are innately predisposed to religious thought, if there there could be an actual physical locus for it like the language center.

Oh. As in, why some people believe in it and others don't?

I could tell you for me that it was based on my life experiences. I don't think it was anything other than that for me.
 

ColoradoGuy

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Oh. As in, why some people believe in it and others don't?
As I understood the premise of the article in the link I put in my opening post, religious tendencies may well be a natural (and, by implication, predictable) result of how the human brain is wired. Thus religion becomes an effect of the way we are, part of our brain's pathways. This is a different thing than saying humans turn to religion to explain what they don't understand. Of course, as Veinglory pointed out upthread, there could be a wide spectrum of this, with the effect more pronounced in some individuals than in others, and even altogether missing in yet others.
 

TerzaRima

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The mesial temporal lobe is interesting in regards to this question--for example, the writings of some mystics like Theresa of Avila and Julian of Norwich bear some similarity to reports from patients with seizure disorders localized to the temporal lobe.
 

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The mesial temporal lobe is interesting in regards to this question--for example, the writings of some mystics like Theresa of Avila and Julian of Norwich bear some similarity to reports from patients with seizure disorders localized to the temporal lobe.
Yes, I'd heard that. I have no doubt that ecstatic, mystical experiences have clear neurotransmitter-mediated causes (or maybe temporal lobe fits, as you point out). I'm stalking other quarry, though -- do the ways our neural networks function predispose to religious views? For example, the article posits that we may use different pathways when we think about concrete objects than we do for abstract ones.
 

kuwisdelu

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I'm not interested in the possibility of a terror center. If you are, perhaps you might start a thread about it. It does not surprise me at all that a subjective feeling that produces well known, clear-cut autonomic reflexes has an identifiable locus in the brain.

What about all those god-fearing Christians?

As I understood the premise of the article in the link I put in my opening post, religious tendencies may well be a natural (and, by implication, predictable) result of how the human brain is wired. Thus religion becomes an effect of the way we are, part of our brain's pathways. This is a different thing than saying humans turn to religion to explain what they don't understand. Of course, as Veinglory pointed out upthread, there could be a wide spectrum of this, with the effect more pronounced in some individuals than in others, and even altogether missing in yet others.

I think you're taking the "explain what they don't understand," part too literally.

Something you don't understand can be as figurative as "where do we come from?" and "why are we here?"

The answers to questions like this can naturally lead to some form of imagining a higher being or higher power, be it Yahweh or a Flying Spaghetti Monster or The Matrix (religion), or it can lead to the theorizing of a personal human-based answer (non-religious philosophy), or it can lead to the mere acceptance of not knowing.

We're predisposed to questions that can lead to religious thought, and we're predisposed to imagination, but I don't think we're necessarily predisposed to religion. The acceptance of not knowing the answer yet is a perfectly reasonable (if not the most reasonable) course.
 

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I think you're taking the "explain what they don't understand," part too literally.
But that's my point, I suppose. I want to be more literal. In all these kinds of discussions it seems to come down to a kind of hand-waving Cartesian duality. We know the brain is a thing, and that this thing works using chemical reactions and electrical current to produce thought. But then something like this happens:
miracle3.gif

So, up to a point, we're materialists. But then the miracle occurs and we go all vague and ethereal. I'm interested in that nexus point between the two.
 

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As I understood the premise of the article in the link I put in my opening post, religious tendencies may well be a natural (and, by implication, predictable) result of how the human brain is wired. Thus religion becomes an effect of the way we are, part of our brain's pathways.
If that's the case, then wouldn't I, even though I had no exposure to religion, still be predisposed TOWARD religion? Wouldn't I have innately sought out religion because I was feeling some sort of void?
 

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If that's the case, then wouldn't I, even though I had no exposure to religion, still be predisposed TOWARD religion? Wouldn't I have innately sought out religion because I was feeling some sort of void?
That's exactly the question. But if there is an innate tendency with a physiological correlate in the brain there would still be a spectrum of expression of it, like all physical traits. The spectrum would include individuals who do not express the trait. That brings up a related question -- any potential evolutionary advantage of such a putative trait. The occurance of it would be expected to change over time if that advantage disappeared, say, between Paleolithic times and the Enlightenment.
 

Higgins

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But that's my point, I suppose. I want to be more literal. In all these kinds of discussions it seems to come down to a kind of hand-waving Cartesian duality. We know the brain is a thing, and that this thing works using chemical reactions and electrical current to produce thought. But then something like this happens:
miracle3.gif

So, up to a point, we're materialists. But then the miracle occurs and we go all vague and ethereal. I'm interested in that nexus point between the two.

Something like this?

https://psychiatry.wisc.edu/gustafson/docs/Chp10-TheOrchestralScoreofLevi-Strauss.pdf

The nexus is all of culture and language. Not vague or etherial, but too material to be anything but what it is. Not transmittable except as itself.
 

Shadow_Ferret

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That's exactly the question. But if there is an innate tendency with a physiological correlate in the brain there would still be a spectrum of expression of it, like all physical traits. The spectrum would include individuals who do not express the trait. That brings up a related question -- any potential evolutionary advantage of such a putative trait. The occurance of it would be expected to change over time if that advantage disappeared, say, between Paleolithic times and the Enlightenment.
So what you're saying then is I'm an anomoly. An evolutionary oddball.
 

TerzaRima

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any potential evolutionary advantage of such a putative trait

Wouldn't a highly expressed religious gene...believer phenotype...whatever... actually put one at a disadvantage?
 

Higgins

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That's exactly the question. But if there is an innate tendency with a physiological correlate in the brain there would still be a spectrum of expression of it, like all physical traits. The spectrum would include individuals who do not express the trait. That brings up a related question -- any potential evolutionary advantage of such a putative trait. The occurance of it would be expected to change over time if that advantage disappeared, say, between Paleolithic times and the Enlightenment.

I would suspect the trait has the same selective advantages for anyone of our genus, ie, none. It might have had selective advantages for proto-humans before the advent of homo erectus.
 

Higgins

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Wouldn't a highly expressed religious gene...God phenotype...whatever... actually put one at a disadvantage?

It might once you are at a homo erectus stage of physical size. On the other hand if you are a small, gracile proto-human, it might be adaptive.
 
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ColoradoGuy

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So what you're saying then is I'm an anomoly. An evolutionary oddball.
You know I'd never say that . . . . (Although it's hard to tell until eons later if one is a small rodent with newly-useful evolutionary skills, say, a proto-ferret, or a mastodon.)
 

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I would suspect the trait has the same selective advantages for anyone of our genus, ie, none. It might have had selective advantages for proto-humans before the advent of homo erectus.
We can't know if that's true, of course, until much later.
 

ColoradoGuy

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I deal with global brain blood flow studies all the time and I don't think that figure helps much. It shows the redistribution of predicted venous return flow, which apparently changes with time. It doesn't say anything about arterial flow and substrate (e.g. oxygen and glucose) consumption by the brain. But even assuming that global blood flow increases with brain size (which is logical), the question is where in the brain that blood is flowing. To the developing speech centers? To the primitive limbic regions? To the cortex? Or . . . to the "religion center."?
 

robeiae

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This is a good book: The Blank Slate by Steven Pinker

http://pinker.wjh.harvard.edu/books/tbs/index.html

It may not be "religious" belief, per se, that is innate. But it is the human condition--for lack of a better way to say it--predisposed to such that is innate.

As an added bonus, he mentions Hobbes inside the first fifty pages or so.
 
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