Science and belief essay

Only when a certain moral threshold has been achieved will the living and the dead be reunited.

1. What are science and religion, and how do they interrelate?

This dogma connects with all our moral foundations because the Kivung laws, adapted from the Ten Commandments as taught by Catholic missionaries in the region, forbid such a broad range of transgressions as violence and slander harming , cheating and stealing fairness , criticizing the Kivung loyalty , disobedience respect , and cooking during menses purity. Kivung ideas about ancestors not only link up our moral foundations but also weave intricate connections through discourse and ritual between each of our religious foundations.

For example, among the many rituals observed by Kivung followers is the daily laying out of food offerings to the ancestors. Great attention is paid to the noises of ancestors entering the temple e. This simple ritual requires intense concentration, as it is said that if the ancestors detect insincerity telepathically , they will withhold their forgiveness.

Teleofunctional reasoning meanwhile is a pervasive feature of Kivung origin myths and various rituals associated with the sacred gardens one of which memorializes a Melanesian Eden. And lastly, the Kivung activates group psychology by creating familial ties based on shared ritual experiences and coalitional bonds via us—them thinking in relation to external detractors and critics. In the end, however, it constitutes a question about how , rather than why , cultural systems create connections between moral and religious foundations.

To address the why, we need to consider issues of function and ultimate causation. Two contrasting positions on the why of the morality—religion relationship in cultural evolution have achieved some prominence in recent years.

One takes the form of adaptationist arguments concerning the emergence and spread of routinized rituals and moralizing gods. The other argues that all cultural traditions, however they trace or fail to trace the connections between moral and religious foundations, are by-products of cognitive predispositions and biases, rather than cultural adaptations that enhance the fitness of individuals or groups. We briefly review these alternative positions and consider what evidence would be required to adjudicate satisfactorily between the two.

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Scholars in the cognitive science of religion tend to agree that many globally and historically recurrent features of religious thinking and behavior are by-products of cognitive machinery that evolved for reasons that have nothing to do with religion e. Barrett, ; Bloom, ; Boyer, For example, HADDs are thought to have evolved to help support the detection of predators and prey.

If they also undergirded intuitions about the presence of bodiless agents, then this was originally a side effect by-product of their main function J. Barrett, , , To express this in terms of our body—clothing analogy, if HADDs were equivalent to the evolved anatomy of the hand, then the accumulated cultural knowledge of expert trackers and hunters would be equivalent to the protective functions of gloves, essential for survival in very cold climates. But gloves can also have decorative frills, like bobbles and tassels, which have no particular survival value.

Cultural representations concerning bodiless agents would be decorative frills of this kind. As such, these kinds of functionally superfluous additions need not follow the contour of the hand at all—and might derive their popular appeal precisely from the fact that they do not.

Views On Science And Religion Philosophy Essay

Conceivably, the cultural success of certain Christian ideals e. What distinguishes the adaptationist perspective on religion, however, is the view that at least some of these religious by-products became useful for the survival of individuals and groups in the course of cultural evolution. Most commonly, this argument has been applied to the growth of large-scale societies.

Humans evolved to live in face-to-face bands of hunter—gatherers rather than in vast empires or nations. Small group psychology, it has been argued, would have been insufficient to handle many of the challenges of large group living.

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Religion provided cultural adaptations to support the transition from foraging to farming, from local community to state formation. One line of adaptationist thinking has focused on the role of ritual frequency in this transition Whitehouse, We consider each of these approaches in turn. One of the major challenges in understanding how and why religion changes as societies become larger and more complex relates to the changing structure and function of ritual.

As conditions permitted an escalation of the scale and complexity of human societies, cultural evolutionary processes may have further tuned the elements of ritual, promoting social cohesion. With the evolution of social complexity, religious rituals become more routinized, dysphoric rituals become less widespread, doctrine and narrative becomes more standardized, beliefs become more universalistic, religion becomes more hierarchical, offices more professionalized, sacred texts help to codify and legitimate emergent orthodoxies, and religious guilds increasingly monopolize resources Whitehouse, , Some of these patterns have recently been documented quantitatively using large samples of religious traditions from the ethnographic record.

Instead, the much more frequent rituals typical of regional and world religions sustain forms of group identification better suited to the kinds of collective action problems presented by interactions among strangers or socially more distant individuals Whitehouse, As rituals become more routinized, however, they also become less stimulating emotionally, and perhaps even more tedious Whitehouse, As some societies became ever larger and more complex, even the processes described here may not have been sufficient to sustain cooperation and a host of new cultural adaptations—most notably, forms of external information storage and secular institutions of governance—became increasingly important Mullins et al.

With the emergence of agriculture and larger, more complex social formations, strangers or relative strangers needed to be able to assess their respective reputational statuses when biographical information was not readily available. The signaling theory of religion and ritual has been recently extended by the theory of credibility enhancing displays CREDS; Henrich, By engaging in costly behaviors, rather than merely advocating such behavior in others i.

This is thought to facilitate the spread of moral norms across large populations and safeguard their transmission across the generations.


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CREDS theory seeks to explain not only the wide distribution of moral norms in the so-called ethical religions but also the prevalence of moral exemplars in such traditions e. One of the most vigorous debates in the recent literature on religion and morality has concerned the cultural prevalence of moralizing gods—powerful supernatural agents who monitor behavior and punish moral infractions.

Ara Norenzayan and colleagues e. In small-scale and traditional societies in which everybody knows everyone else and most social behavior is easily observed and reported, transgressions are easily detected. Modern technologies of surveillance, such as police cameras, identity cards, and computer records, allow increasingly extensive monitoring of thieves, cheats, defectors, and free riders by designated authorities. Norenzayan et al. In contrast, Baumard and Boyer a argue incisively that the cultural prevalence of moralizing god representations does not result from the fact that such representations promote socially cohesive behaviors among human groups.

Instead, these representations are successful because they have features e.

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In short, moralizing gods are cultural variants with effects that enhance their own success and so are adaptive in that sense; Dennett, , but these effects do not include changes in the biological or cultural fitness of their human vectors. How are we to evaluate these opposing views? One feature of Norenzayan et al. As we have seen, a wealth of evidence from priming studies indicates that the activation of supernatural concepts can promote adherence to moral norms.

Do the latter studies undermine the hypothesis of Norenzayan and colleagues? On the contrary, they may be aggressive, murderous, and even genocidal. It is less clear that these findings are consistent with Baumard and Boyer a.

The latter authors claim that the success of moralizing god concepts is entirely a result of the resonance of these concepts with the output of intuitive systems, so their theory does not require that these concepts have any effects whatsoever on behavior. Any such effects are incidental and superfluous from their perspective. They then converted to Christianity, a moralizing religion, and were promptly crushed by barbarians with tribal, nonmoralizing gods.

As they acknowledge, however, the gods of antiquity were represented as monitoring the appropriate performance of rituals. To the extent that rituals represent or promote moral behaviors see earlier , therefore, gods that care about rituals care about morality, directly or indirectly. We note in this connection that common components of ritual performance may facilitate parochially altruistic behaviors, including aggression e.

The relationship between religion and morality is a deep and emotive topic. The confident pronouncements of public commentators belie the bewildering theoretical and methodological complexity of the issues. In the scholarly sphere, progress is frequently impeded by a series of prevailing conceptual limitations and lacunae.

We have set out an encompassing evolutionary framework within which to situate and evaluate relevant evidence. Our view is that cultural representations—concepts, dogmas, artefacts, and practices both prescribed and proscribed—are triggered, shaped, and constrained by a variety of foundational cognitive systems.

We have sought to identify the most currently plausible conjectures about biologically evolved connections between these systems, and have reviewed and evaluated the most prominent published debates in the cultural evolutionary domain.

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Ultimately, we see and foresee no pithily characterizable relationship between religion and morality. Second, under the pluralistic approach we advocate, which fractionates both religion and morality and distinguishes cognition from culture, the relationship between religion and morality expands into a matrix of separate relationships between fractionated elements.

Although we eschew a simplistic story, we live in a very exciting time for psychological research on this topic. The aim should be to settle upon a parsimonious set of culturally and historically widespread cognitive predispositions that exhibit developmental and comparative evidence of innate preparedness, and that jointly account for the great bulk of culturally distributed items falling under the umbrella of religion and morality. On the one hand, morality may require God in the sense that the very notion of morality is incoherent without God i.

This is what Socrates had in mind and disputed. On the other hand, morality may require God in the sense that belief in God is needed to enforce moral behavior. This is what Dostoevsky meant.