Human Universals
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04-05-2012, 07:55 AM
Human Universals
I recently started a thread on another forum about who bears the burden of proof. Among the reasons that I gave for why I thought theists were responsible, I wrote:

Quote: [...] If viewed from an anthropological perspective, the origin of each culture having religion most likely descends from the very small early human population bringing their shamanistic beliefs with them as they left Africa for other parts of the world. Just like language, these early beliefs splintered and snowballed into the religions that we have today.

Theists are now starting to claim that it would be impossible for all cultures to have a "supreme creator god" unless a supreme creator god (obviously the Christian one based on their recognized belief systems) is real. This obviously ignores what I posted above. None of the atheists or agnostics have brought up the point that I made either. It’s not really surprising, though, as the theists see a connection that is not really there, and everyone else probably hasn’t thought about the idea before.

Well, I decided that I would post some material that others could use in discussions with theists. Given that the more fundamental members among them reject evolution and the “out of Africa” theory, they will most likely reject this material, but more open-minded members might be more willing to listen. Anyways, I am currently reading a book by Nicholas Wade called Before the Dawn (2006). It is basically a "dummies guide" to human history. From what I’ve read so far, it explains everything from what the society of the joint human-chimp ancestor was probably like to what the first human language probably sounded like (click languages in case you are interested). Most importantly, the author mentions the research of Anthropologist Donald Brown where he lays out the culture of the "Universal People," a metaphorical people that practice the traits that are common between every culture on earth. Wade writes:

Quote:[...] Among the Universal People, families are the basic unit of social groups, and groups are defined by the territory they claim. Men dominate political life, with women and children expected to be submissive. Some groups are ordered on the basis of kinship, sex and age.

The core of a family is a mother and her children. Marriage, in the sense of a man's publicly recognized right to sexual access to a woman deemed eligible for childbearing, is institutionalized. Society is organized along kinship lines, with one's own kin being distinguished from more distant relatives and generally favored over those who are not kin. Sexual regulations constrain or eliminate mating between genetically close kin.

Reciprocity is important in the daily life of the Universal People, in the form of direct exchange of goods or labor. There are sanctions, ranging from ostracism to execution, for offenses such as rape, violence and murder.

The Universal People have supernatural beliefs and practice magic, designed for such purposes as sustaining and winning the attention of the opposite sex. "They have theories of fortune and misfortune. They have ideas about how to explain disease and death. They see a connection between sickness and death. They try to heal the sick and have medicines for this purpose. The UP practice divination. And they try to control the weather," Brown writes.

The Universal People have a sense of dress and fashion. They adorn their bodies, however little clothing they may wear, and maintain distinctive hairstyles. They have standards of sexual attractiveness. They dance and sing.

They always have a shelter of some kind. They are quintessential tool-makers, creating cutters, pounders, string to tie things together or make nets, and weapons" (pp. 65-66)

All of this doesn't sound very important until you realize that these are common to American culture, European culture, Chinese culture, every culture. Wade mentions that the original human population living in Africa most likely had all of these traits before radiating out to the rest of the world. Again, this explains why all of them have some concept of a supreme creator deity. I have purchased a copy of Brown’s book in order to learn more about his research, especially the bits dealing with religion.
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04-05-2012, 01:08 PM
RE: Human Universals
(04-05-2012 07:55 AM)ghostexorcist Wrote:  I recently started a thread on another forum about who bears the burden of proof. Among the reasons that I gave for why I thought theists were responsible, I wrote:

Quote: [...] If viewed from an anthropological perspective, the origin of each culture having religion most likely descends from the very small early human population bringing their shamanistic beliefs with them as they left Africa for other parts of the world. Just like language, these early beliefs splintered and snowballed into the religions that we have today.

Theists are now starting to claim that it would be impossible for all cultures to have a "supreme creator god" unless a supreme creator god (obviously the Christian one based on their recognized belief systems) is real. This obviously ignores what I posted above. None of the atheists or agnostics have brought up the point that I made either. It’s not really surprising, though, as the theists see a connection that is not really there, and everyone else probably hasn’t thought about the idea before.

Well, I decided that I would post some material that others could use in discussions with theists. Given that the more fundamental members among them reject evolution and the “out of Africa” theory, they will most likely reject this material, but more open-minded members might be more willing to listen. Anyways, I am currently reading a book by Nicholas Wade called Before the Dawn (2006). It is basically a "dummies guide" to human history. From what I’ve read so far, it explains everything from what the society of the joint human-chimp ancestor was probably like to what the first human language probably sounded like (click languages in case you are interested). Most importantly, the author mentions the research of Anthropologist Donald Brown where he lays out the culture of the "Universal People," a metaphorical people that practice the traits that are common between every culture on earth. Wade writes:

Quote:[...] Among the Universal People, families are the basic unit of social groups, and groups are defined by the territory they claim. Men dominate political life, with women and children expected to be submissive. Some groups are ordered on the basis of kinship, sex and age.

The core of a family is a mother and her children. Marriage, in the sense of a man's publicly recognized right to sexual access to a woman deemed eligible for childbearing, is institutionalized. Society is organized along kinship lines, with one's own kin being distinguished from more distant relatives and generally favored over those who are not kin. Sexual regulations constrain or eliminate mating between genetically close kin.

Reciprocity is important in the daily life of the Universal People, in the form of direct exchange of goods or labor. There are sanctions, ranging from ostracism to execution, for offenses such as rape, violence and murder.

The Universal People have supernatural beliefs and practice magic, designed for such purposes as sustaining and winning the attention of the opposite sex. "They have theories of fortune and misfortune. They have ideas about how to explain disease and death. They see a connection between sickness and death. They try to heal the sick and have medicines for this purpose. The UP practice divination. And they try to control the weather," Brown writes.

The Universal People have a sense of dress and fashion. They adorn their bodies, however little clothing they may wear, and maintain distinctive hairstyles. They have standards of sexual attractiveness. They dance and sing.

They always have a shelter of some kind. They are quintessential tool-makers, creating cutters, pounders, string to tie things together or make nets, and weapons" (pp. 65-66)

All of this doesn't sound very important until you realize that these are common to American culture, European culture, Chinese culture, every culture. Wade mentions that the original human population living in Africa most likely had all of these traits before radiating out to the rest of the world. Again, this explains why all of them have some concept of a supreme creator deity. I have purchased a copy of Brown’s book in order to learn more about his research, especially the bits dealing with religion.
There's also the "god-center" of the brain, a part of the brain that feels the necessity to worship a deity. This could also explain why every culture creates religion, whether or not they see evidence of the god or gods that they propose... they've got to feed the need to worship something.

My girlfriend is mad at me. Perhaps I shouldn't have tried cooking a stick in her non-stick pan.
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04-05-2012, 11:24 PM
RE: Human Universals
(04-05-2012 01:08 PM)Starcrash Wrote:  
(04-05-2012 07:55 AM)ghostexorcist Wrote:  I recently started a thread on another forum about who bears the burden of proof. Among the reasons that I gave for why I thought theists were responsible, I wrote:


Theists are now starting to claim that it would be impossible for all cultures to have a "supreme creator god" unless a supreme creator god (obviously the Christian one based on their recognized belief systems) is real. This obviously ignores what I posted above. None of the atheists or agnostics have brought up the point that I made either. It’s not really surprising, though, as the theists see a connection that is not really there, and everyone else probably hasn’t thought about the idea before.

Well, I decided that I would post some material that others could use in discussions with theists. Given that the more fundamental members among them reject evolution and the “out of Africa” theory, they will most likely reject this material, but more open-minded members might be more willing to listen. Anyways, I am currently reading a book by Nicholas Wade called Before the Dawn (2006). It is basically a "dummies guide" to human history. From what I’ve read so far, it explains everything from what the society of the joint human-chimp ancestor was probably like to what the first human language probably sounded like (click languages in case you are interested). Most importantly, the author mentions the research of Anthropologist Donald Brown where he lays out the culture of the "Universal People," a metaphorical people that practice the traits that are common between every culture on earth. Wade writes:


All of this doesn't sound very important until you realize that these are common to American culture, European culture, Chinese culture, every culture. Wade mentions that the original human population living in Africa most likely had all of these traits before radiating out to the rest of the world. Again, this explains why all of them have some concept of a supreme creator deity. I have purchased a copy of Brown’s book in order to learn more about his research, especially the bits dealing with religion.
There's also the "god-center" of the brain, a part of the brain that feels the necessity to worship a deity. This could also explain why every culture creates religion, whether or not they see evidence of the god or gods that they propose... they've got to feed the need to worship something.
Oh? I've never heard of such a thing, to be honest... mind telling me your source, if you know?
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05-05-2012, 12:20 AM
RE: Human Universals
(04-05-2012 11:24 PM)Sethala Wrote:  
(04-05-2012 01:08 PM)Starcrash Wrote:  There's also the "god-center" of the brain, a part of the brain that feels the necessity to worship a deity. This could also explain why every culture creates religion, whether or not they see evidence of the god or gods that they propose... they've got to feed the need to worship something.
Oh? I've never heard of such a thing, to be honest... mind telling me your source, if you know?
I'm pretty sure I first read about it in Reader's Digest about 10 years ago, but I'm sure I don't have the magazine still and I can't link to it online. I just Googled it and found a bit here and here and apparently the field of study is called Neurotheology. The studies found under "experimental work" show that the brain can be made to feel the emotion that we call a "religious experience" by stimulating the frontal lobe. This shouldn't be surprising --- if humans do it, it's probably either a natural product of our brains and their wants or it's a bi-product of something else our brains tell us that we've got to do.

My girlfriend is mad at me. Perhaps I shouldn't have tried cooking a stick in her non-stick pan.
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08-05-2012, 10:34 PM
RE: Human Universals
We should consider why having a "god gene" would be advantageous to human survival?
Anthropologists are considering that human social groups began organizing around gods very early. The elements scared us into doing what we could to avoid death by sickness, natural disaster and other humans.
The gods are always called upon by something to do with people dying, suffering, etc.
We have seen that positive thinking, which could be linked to believing in miracles, helps people overcome sickness and injury.
If just a small percentage of people tended to survive from praying and believing in divine healing that would make a big difference over millions of years.
This would be the god gene, passed along to future generations.
I have no empirical basis for this thought process, just a guess.

The old gods are dead, let's invent some new ones before something really bad happens.
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09-05-2012, 06:55 AM (This post was last modified: 09-05-2012 07:10 AM by houseofcantor.)
RE: Human Universals
(04-05-2012 11:24 PM)Sethala Wrote:  
(04-05-2012 01:08 PM)Starcrash Wrote:  There's also the "god-center" of the brain, a part of the brain that feels the necessity to worship a deity. This could also explain why every culture creates religion, whether or not they see evidence of the god or gods that they propose... they've got to feed the need to worship something.
Oh? I've never heard of such a thing, to be honest... mind telling me your source, if you know?

There's also a vid on Dawkins' youtube, why we believe, or some such. Thumbsup

Ever watch a movie where it's nighttime and some character will hear a noise in the woods? And they go, "who's there?" And if it wasn't a movie, you'd know it ain't a "who" so much as a what, like a coon or a bear. Well, that's some evolved shit right there, the simulation of agency in the ol' brainpan. In one of Dawkins vids, the guy goes, the brain sometimes mistakes a shadow for an intruder, but the brain never mistakes an intruder for a shadow. See how that works? It's all primed and ready to go. Being human, our only natural predators are other humans ('cept for pissed off polar bears and mambas, but you shouldn't be fucking with them things) so we gotta be on the lookout for villainy.

Then there's the religion center in the brain. One plus one equals god. I'm more inclined to believe thusly, and in terms of memes that have collected and evolved, rather than some "human universal" stuff outta Africa. I come from Ireland. Big Grin

But that "supreme creator god" is bullshit one-upmanship, the ol' my god got a bigger dick than your god crap. The creator god of the Romans was Janus, not Jupiter; in Egypt it was all Osiris and Isis, not Ptah. Tongue

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09-05-2012, 04:41 PM
RE: Human Universals
(08-05-2012 10:34 PM)Thomas Wrote:  We should consider why having a "god gene" would be advantageous to human survival?
Anthropologists are considering that human social groups began organizing around gods very early. The elements scared us into doing what we could to avoid death by sickness, natural disaster and other humans.
The gods are always called upon by something to do with people dying, suffering, etc.
We have seen that positive thinking, which could be linked to believing in miracles, helps people overcome sickness and injury.
If just a small percentage of people tended to survive from praying and believing in divine healing that would make a big difference over millions of years.
This would be the god gene, passed along to future generations.
I have no empirical basis for this thought process, just a guess.
It's funny that you mention this, because I'm currently taking a Cultural Anthropology class.

The textbook mentions that religion is a useful tool for tribal chiefs in keeping their position. A chief is left without a form of police and often without anything protecting his position. If a Chief and his offspring are "designated by the gods", then the tribe will accept his status without question. It also allows him to punish wrongdoers by having his sorcerers cast curses on those who break the tribe's rules, which has a deterrent effect.

It makes sense, because the bands and tribes without chiefs also tend to lack any real spiritual component.

My girlfriend is mad at me. Perhaps I shouldn't have tried cooking a stick in her non-stick pan.
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10-05-2012, 08:42 PM
RE: Human Universals
(09-05-2012 04:41 PM)Starcrash Wrote:  
(08-05-2012 10:34 PM)Thomas Wrote:  We should consider why having a "god gene" would be advantageous to human survival?
Anthropologists are considering that human social groups began organizing around gods very early. The elements scared us into doing what we could to avoid death by sickness, natural disaster and other humans.
The gods are always called upon by something to do with people dying, suffering, etc.
We have seen that positive thinking, which could be linked to believing in miracles, helps people overcome sickness and injury.
If just a small percentage of people tended to survive from praying and believing in divine healing that would make a big difference over millions of years.
This would be the god gene, passed along to future generations.
I have no empirical basis for this thought process, just a guess.
It's funny that you mention this, because I'm currently taking a Cultural Anthropology class.

The textbook mentions that religion is a useful tool for tribal chiefs in keeping their position. A chief is left without a form of police and often without anything protecting his position. If a Chief and his offspring are "designated by the gods", then the tribe will accept his status without question. It also allows him to punish wrongdoers by having his sorcerers cast curses on those who break the tribe's rules, which has a deterrent effect.

It makes sense, because the bands and tribes without chiefs also tend to lack any real spiritual component.

I remember taking that class. It was fun. Social psychology is a good compliment to this.
It is well accepted (group think maybe?) that we evolved socially and physically at the same time.
I can't rationalize how we could not have done so.

The old gods are dead, let's invent some new ones before something really bad happens.
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