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Thinking a lot of oneself

18 May 2017
Inside science

One of the more whacky papers published this year can be found at https://phys.org/print414236899.html … and was published at Evolutionary Psychological Science. It doesn't start very well as it begins, ' more intelligent people tend to be atheistic …' and this 'dates back to the Romans and ancient Greeks …'. It goes on to say the link between intelligence and religion can be explained if religion is considered an instinct, and intelligence the ability to rise above one's instinct. The big assumption here is that religion is an instinct. Is it? Belief in climate change, or a doctrinal belief in socialism, are a modern form of religion – so why do so many educated and non-religious people think the world is coming to an end if we don't cut back on co2? As religion has always percolated from the top downwards, and as climate change and socialism have also historically done so (many adherents of the latter attend private fee paying schools for example), this would seem to contradict the article in the link above. For example, Christianity was imposed on the peasants by the elite class in Europe and the same thing happened with Islam – it was imposed by the Arab ruling class. One suspects the same thing is true of Jewish religion – brought back by returning exiles from Babylon in a version that differed amongst the lower classes that had not been abducted as prisoners of war by Nebuchadnezzar, and imposed from the top down (as the returnees were educated and sophisticated in comparison with the peasant farmers etc). If we then take the likelihood religion has a catastrophic veneer and then it is almost certainly an elite imposition. How could the plebs have persuaded the nobs to sacrifice their own children – or their prized beasts? The idea religion is an instinct basic to grunts and that the educated toffs are above and beyond such base instincts is ludicrous. Only a uniformitarian could think religion had a connection with evolution – rather than having its roots in the aftermath of catastrophism. One only has to think about the evolution of Judaism – each time a setback occurred people went back to the roots of their beliefs and adopted more extreme interpretations as they believed they had in some way offended god and he was unhappy with them. Even the trauma of the conquest and exile (by Nebuchadnezzar) brought about changes in the nature of their religion – and one can see that Christianity's growth across first the Roman empire and subsequently the barbarian lands in the aftermath of the collapse of the empire, involved traumatic events, the nature of which we are unsure about, in their entirety. It was not just the fact that invasion and war was commonplace but natural disasters of various kinds occurred – which meant the gods were in some way displeased. Christianity offered a new way to confront the gods (or in this case, god). One could go on … and on. Instinct. They are in cloud cuckoo land.


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