A precursor of religion?
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07-06-2013, 12:15 PM
RE: A precursor of religion?
I think many types of animals who happen to witness death do understand it. That dead animal isn't coming back to life. Animals learn by repetition just like we do.

And of course they grieve if the dead one was integral to their lives. I have seen it in dogs, cats and birds. Grieving is about a loss of something that was a great part of daily life. It has nothing to do with the departed, it's all about a hole in the daily routine of a survivor.

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07-06-2013, 12:19 PM
RE: A precursor of religion?
(07-06-2013 12:15 PM)Dom Wrote:  I think many types of animals who happen to witness death do understand it. That dead animal isn't coming back to life. Animals learn by repetition just like we do.

And of course they grieve if the dead one was integral to their lives. I have seen it in dogs, cats and birds. Grieving is about a loss of something that was a great part of daily life. It has nothing to do with the departed, it's all about a hole in the daily routine of a survivor.

I have taken pets to the vet never to return. Afterwards, the remaining pets often exhibited searching behavior, apparently seeking the missing one.

If the dead pet is brought back and the others inspect it, there is no subsequent searching behavior.

This is a small sample but with high correlation.

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07-06-2013, 12:33 PM
RE: A precursor of religion?
(07-06-2013 12:19 PM)Chas Wrote:  
(07-06-2013 12:15 PM)Dom Wrote:  I think many types of animals who happen to witness death do understand it. That dead animal isn't coming back to life. Animals learn by repetition just like we do.

And of course they grieve if the dead one was integral to their lives. I have seen it in dogs, cats and birds. Grieving is about a loss of something that was a great part of daily life. It has nothing to do with the departed, it's all about a hole in the daily routine of a survivor.

I have taken pets to the vet never to return. Afterwards, the remaining pets often exhibited searching behavior, apparently seeking the missing one.

If the dead pet is brought back and the others inspect it, there is no subsequent searching behavior.

This is a small sample but with high correlation.

There is a flock of Canada geese living on my property. These are monogamous.

They breed here, and at some point in the spring a pack of coyotes passes through and invariably kills one or two females, since they are setting. The widowers scream for days. They do not retreat to the sleeping spots but stay by themselves out in the open all night and scream. Of course that makes them a target for predators...

Once they calm down, they pick a goose family and attach themselves, even though the male in the family keeps chasing them.

When the chosen family has goslings, the widower will either lead the way or trail behind every movement. If a predator shows up, the widower will run right at it, offering himself to die for his chosen family.

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08-06-2013, 07:42 AM
RE: A precursor of religion?
Imagine if you will that you have a soccer ball floating in the air about waist high in a museum. It's roped off and as people walk by it moves slightly. A crowd gathers and as the crowd moves the ball moves. People will look and try to figure out what is going on here. How is this ball simply floating in midair ? That's something you don't see very often. A very very rare thing that seems to counter act what we normally see.

This ball inspires curiosity not spirituality.

In the same way, the chimps are use to see water in pools. A waterfall is water that is constantly falling, constantly moving and they are curious about how this can happen. They move around it, swing around it. They enjoy this unknown wonder. The spray of water is enjoyable. Deep pools of water can be freighting.

I don't think there is any great mystery here, nor spirituality. It's just amazement and wonder viewing something that you don't understand, but yet find fascinating because it's defying what you consider normal behavior for a certain item or items to have.

Storms offer the same amazement and wonder and often fear. Loud sounds, flashes of light, high winds, heavy rains, flooding.
There are rhythms to be found in waterfalls and thunder. Those rhythms get parroted by us.

If on some occasion we mirror the rhythm in a storm by dancing and chanting sounds similar to the crack of lightning and the storm moves away from your area, then it may seem to you that you have communicated with the storm. You have spoken it's language and it understood your desires.

It is coincidence that creates gods and the "communication" we seem to have with them.

Understanding this facet of human behavior is key

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08-06-2013, 11:45 AM
RE: A precursor of religion?
(08-06-2013 07:42 AM)Rahn127 Wrote:  Imagine if you will that you have a soccer ball floating in the air about waist high in a museum. It's roped off and as people walk by it moves slightly. A crowd gathers and as the crowd moves the ball moves. People will look and try to figure out what is going on here. How is this ball simply floating in midair ? That's something you don't see very often. A very very rare thing that seems to counter act what we normally see.

This ball inspires curiosity not spirituality.

In the same way, the chimps are use to see water in pools. A waterfall is water that is constantly falling, constantly moving and they are curious about how this can happen. They move around it, swing around it. They enjoy this unknown wonder. The spray of water is enjoyable. Deep pools of water can be freighting.

I don't think there is any great mystery here, nor spirituality. It's just amazement and wonder viewing something that you don't understand, but yet find fascinating because it's defying what you consider normal behavior for a certain item or items to have.

Storms offer the same amazement and wonder and often fear. Loud sounds, flashes of light, high winds, heavy rains, flooding.
There are rhythms to be found in waterfalls and thunder. Those rhythms get parroted by us.

If on some occasion we mirror the rhythm in a storm by dancing and chanting sounds similar to the crack of lightning and the storm moves away from your area, then it may seem to you that you have communicated with the storm. You have spoken it's language and it understood your desires.

It is coincidence that creates gods and the "communication" we seem to have with them.

Understanding this facet of human behavior is key

I agree that it's not really spiritualism. It could be curiosity, especially the way they sit at the bottom of the waterfall and watch it. However, displaying is not really something that I would consider enjoyable. It requires a monumental amount of energy to swing through the trees and run around throwing rocks with their hair on end. You have to remember that their main source of food is fruit and leaves (meat is a very small portion of their diet), which doesn't offer a great deal of calories. Displaying, therefore, has a cost. It is normally done to exhibit physical strength and to communicate alpha status (or a challenge to the reigning alpha). That is why I tend to look at the displaying in a different light. But I do agree that displaying/swaying at the rain does communicate something. I like Frans de Waal's explanation that I mentioned earlier.
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08-06-2013, 06:12 PM
RE: A precursor of religion?
I dunno about spirituality... Personally I find moving water and fire pretty darn captivating, they are very dynamic and interesting to observe and almost psychedelic in a way (heck even my cat stares at the tap), plus I think that there must be an evolutionary advantage and hence a drive to pay special attention to water sources (we need quite a bit of it to live and so do chimps). As for the rain I think those chimps are pretty ticked and surprised about getting wet.

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10-06-2013, 09:15 AM
RE: A precursor of religion?
(08-06-2013 06:12 PM)ridethespiral Wrote:  I dunno about spirituality... Personally I find moving water and fire pretty darn captivating, they are very dynamic and interesting to observe and almost psychedelic in a way (heck even my cat stares at the tap), plus I think that there must be an evolutionary advantage and hence a drive to pay special attention to water sources (we need quite a bit of it to live and so do chimps). As for the rain I think those chimps are pretty ticked and surprised about getting wet.

Like I stated above, displaying serves the purpose of communicating power and it has an energetic cost. What I find most interesting about de Waal's explanation is that it implies the chimps think that their display has the ability to intimidate the rain into stopping. It's when people start attaching emotions to the elements that we get notions of supernatural personages.
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10-06-2013, 12:19 PM (This post was last modified: 10-06-2013 12:23 PM by ridethespiral.)
RE: A precursor of religion?
(10-06-2013 09:15 AM)ghostexorcist Wrote:  
(08-06-2013 06:12 PM)ridethespiral Wrote:  I dunno about spirituality... Personally I find moving water and fire pretty darn captivating, they are very dynamic and interesting to observe and almost psychedelic in a way (heck even my cat stares at the tap), plus I think that there must be an evolutionary advantage and hence a drive to pay special attention to water sources (we need quite a bit of it to live and so do chimps). As for the rain I think those chimps are pretty ticked and surprised about getting wet.

Like I stated above, displaying serves the purpose of communicating power and it has an energetic cost. What I find most interesting about de Waal's explanation is that it implies the chimps think that their display has the ability to intimidate the rain into stopping. It's when people start attaching emotions to the elements that we get notions of supernatural personages.

So correct me if I'm wrong but your basically saying is that this is a fear response to the unknown or the surprising...an agressive and energetic response to insecurity, like an aggressively insecure dog passing another dog on a walk. "I dunno wtf is going on right now with this falling water but I'd better act tough right now just in case some other male thinks me weak."

...Also I just noticed you are a primate biologist, very cool to have you in this thread and I wish my career was so cool.

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10-06-2013, 01:09 PM
RE: A precursor of religion?
(10-06-2013 12:19 PM)ridethespiral Wrote:  So correct me if I'm wrong but your basically saying is that this is a fear response to the unknown or the surprising...an agressive and energetic response to insecurity, like an aggressively insecure dog passing another dog on a walk. "I dunno wtf is going on right now with this falling water but I'd better act tough right now just in case some other male thinks me weak."

...Also I just noticed you are a primate biologist, very cool to have you in this thread and I wish my career was so cool.

The odd thing is that chimps live around these waterfalls. The primatologist William McGrew questions why fear would have anything to do with it since they should become habituated to it at some point. They display by themselves or sometimes as a group. He states this is an eastern chimp phenomenon. Those from central (with the exception of Tai forest) and west Africa don't do this. That is why he lists this under "ritual" (something they commonly do in the presence of waterfalls) in his book on chimpanzee culture.

I'm still a student. I hope to focus on the primate fossil record in grad school.
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10-06-2013, 01:32 PM
RE: A precursor of religion?
(07-06-2013 12:33 PM)Dom Wrote:  
(07-06-2013 12:19 PM)Chas Wrote:  I have taken pets to the vet never to return. Afterwards, the remaining pets often exhibited searching behavior, apparently seeking the missing one.

If the dead pet is brought back and the others inspect it, there is no subsequent searching behavior.

This is a small sample but with high correlation.

There is a flock of Canada geese living on my property. These are monogamous.

They breed here, and at some point in the spring a pack of coyotes passes through and invariably kills one or two females, since they are setting. The widowers scream for days. They do not retreat to the sleeping spots but stay by themselves out in the open all night and scream. Of course that makes them a target for predators...

Once they calm down, they pick a goose family and attach themselves, even though the male in the family keeps chasing them.

When the chosen family has goslings, the widower will either lead the way or trail behind every movement. If a predator shows up, the widower will run right at it, offering himself to die for his chosen family.

That's actually fascinating Dom.

It is interesting how certain animals react. I know the robins, when a baby robin dies the mother will peep for hours loudly. Are they hoping it will find them? Are they suffering a loss? I don't know, but I do know when I hear the sound going on for hours why it's happening.


God is a concept by which we measure our pain -- John Lennon

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