Explaining the magic religion distinction using a dual inheritance model
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Explaining the magic/religion distinction using a dual inheritance model. Konrad Talmont -Kaminski Marie Curie- Sklodowska U., Poland. Plan. Dual inheritance model of religion Pyysiainen’s new principle Supernatural, counterintuitive, etc. Explaining the difference

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Explaining the magic/religion distinction using a dual inheritance model

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Explaining the magic religion distinction using a dual inheritance model

Explaining the magic/religion distinction using a dual inheritance model

KonradTalmont-Kaminski Marie Curie-Sklodowska U., Poland


Explaining the magic religion distinction using a dual inheritance model

Plan

  • Dual inheritance model of religion

  • Pyysiainen’s new principle

  • Supernatural, counterintuitive, etc.

  • Explaining the difference

  • Religious superstitions


Dual inheritance model

Dual inheritance model

  • Evolutionary explanations of religion

    • Two main approaches

      • Cognitive by-product approach

        • Pascal Boyer

        • Justin Barrett

      • Pro-social adaptation approach

        • Richard Sosis

        • David Sloan Wilson

    • Appear to be contradictory

    • It ain’t necessarily so!


Dual inheritance model1

Dual inheritance model

  • Combines by-product and pro-social accounts

    • Supernatural beliefs are...

    • cognitive by-products...

      • Result of genetic evolution

    • co-opted for pro-social function

      • Through cultural evolution

  • Requires complex model of relationship between genetic and cultural evolution

    • Evolutionary psychology not adequate

  • Atran & Henrich The Evolution of Religion Biological Theory (forthcoming)


Dual inheritance model2

Dual inheritance model

  • Potential explanation of magic/religion distinction

    • Religious beliefs

      • Supernatural beliefs co-opted for pro-social function

    • Magical beliefs

      • Supernatural beliefs not co-opted for pro-social function

      • (Some may have been co-opted for other functions)

  • How can we test this theory?

    • Choose independent means of identifying magical/religious beliefs

    • Check if theory explains differences observed between identified beliefs


Pyysi inen s new principle

Pyysiäinen’s new principle

  • Magic, Miracles, and Religion p. 96-7

    • “Religion and magic are distinguished by the direction the people in question believe causality to operate. In magic, supernatural agents and forces bring about specified effects in the known reality, while in religion natural actions have effects in a supernatural reality”

  • Pyysiäinen’s examples

    • Magic

      • Attempts to ensure growth of crops by manipulating ancestral spirits

    • Religion

      • Baptising children to remove the original sin

    • Mismatch?


Pyysi inen s new principle1

Pyysiäinen’s new principle

  • Pyysiäinen considers magic/religion distinction purely analytical

    • Always dealing with magico-religious complexes in real world

    • True but...

    • Dual inheritance model suggests deeper significance

    • Magic and religion most clearly divided in modern societies

      • Potentially due to value placed on rationality

    • Useful to compare

      • Superstitions

      • Christian beliefs

  • Still dealing with magico-religious complexes!

    • Intercessory prayer


Pyysi inen s new principle2

Pyysiäinen’s new principle

  • Supernatural/natural distinction problematic

    • Not fundamentally an ontological distinction

    • Not just a cognitive distinction, either

    • A cognitive distinction with an epistemic basis

  • Focussing on functionality of supernatural beliefs

    • Functional due to practices they motivate

    • Need to look at practices


Pyysi inen s new principle3

Pyysiäinen’s new principle

Religion

Magic

  • Supernatural

    • Intervention

  • Natural

    • Practice

  • Natural

    • Practice

  • Cause

  • Effect

  • Supernatural

    • Intervention

  • Explanation

  • Supernatural

  • Natural


Pyysi inen s new principle4

Pyysiäinen’s new principle

Religion

Magic

  • Natural

    • Spell

  • Natural

    • Baptism

  • Cause

  • Effect

  • Supernatural

    • Ancestral spirits

  • Explanation

  • Supernatural

    • Jesus’ intervention

  • Supernatural

    • Sin removed

  • Natural

    • Crop successful


Supernatural counterinuitive etc

Supernatural, counterinuitive, etc.

  • Main question

    • Why should belief in supernatural effects of certain practices be connected to pro-social function?

  • First need to consider what is meant to be identified by ‘supernatural’

  • Durkheim suggest sacred

    • There is something right about this but...

    • Non-religious sacred entities, etc.

  • Boyer suggests minimally counterintuitive

    • There is something right about this but...


Supernatural counterintuitive etc

Supernatural, counterintuitive, etc.

  • Some minimally counterintuitive concepts

    • Table that is normal but over 99% vacuum

    • Human that is a direct descendant of a bacterium

    • Light that acts like a particle or a wave depending on what we will do with it in the future

  • Minimal counterintuitiveness may explain why supernatural concepts spread

    • It does not identify them


Supernatural counterintuitive etc1

Supernatural, counterintuitive, etc.

  • Cause of counterintuiveness of religious & scientific beliefs different

    • With scientific beliefs – forced by empirical evidence

    • With religious beliefs – due to human cognitive idiosyncrasies unconstrained by empirical evidence

  • Superempirical beliefs

    • Beliefs people form, due to the idiosyncrasies of our cognitive system, when unconstrained by empirical evidence

      • Cognitive element retained

      • Epistemic element also essential


Supernatural counterintuitive etc2

Supernatural, counterintuitive, etc.

  • How can beliefs be freed of empirical constraints?

    • Content – Making claims that are hard to investigate

    • Social context – Discouraging their investigation by deeming them sacred

    • Methodological context – Limiting access to means necessary to investigate them


Function of the superempirical

Function of the superempirical

  • Untestability has profound significance for function

    • Function of most beliefs dependent upon their truth

    • However, not in the case of religious beliefs

      • Non-cognitive function

  • At the same time...

    • Stability of most beliefs dependent upon their truth

    • However, not in the case of religious beliefs

  • Thesis

    • Non-cognitive function of beliefs maintains stability of beliefs whose truth-value is effectively untestable


Explaining the difference

Explaining the difference

  • In other words

    • Why should belief in supernatural effects of certain practices be connected to pro-social function?

    • Religious beliefs have a pro-social (non-cognitive) function becausesupernatural effects are untestable

    • Content of religious beliefs determined by function not by truth-value

  • Baptism example

    • People seek to remove original sin

    • Children made members of church

    • Continuity of church does not require conscious decision upon adulthood


Religious superstitions

Religious superstitions

  • What about magical beliefs?

    • Different epistemic situation

      • Belief in the face of counterevidence not belief without evidence

  • ‘Evidence’

    • Goes back to Skinner’s pigeon

    • Best dealt with by Haselton’s error management theory

    • Hyperactive Agent Detection Device a special case


Religious superstitions1

Religious superstitions

  • Supernatural explanations

    • Needed because natural explanations unavailable

    • Minimally counterintuitive concepts a part of the story

    • Explanations often post hoc

    • Substantive notion of luck a minimalist supernatural explanation

  • Magical beliefs provide ‘evidence’ for existence of the supernatural

    • Needed to help motivate religious beliefs

    • Religion with religious superstitions weaker

    • Results in ambiguous religious attitude toward religious superstitions


Final point

Final Point

  • If dual inheritance model of religion correct

    • Religious belief not necessarily an adaptive trait here and now

  • Modern western democracies

    • Low religious belief

    • High social stability and cohesion

  • Religion an ancestral trait here, at best


Thank you

Thank you

[email protected]

lublin.academia.edu/KonradTalmontKaminski


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