So, Belle asked my opinion on this TED talk.
Rather than derailing the thread it was mentioned in, I figured we might as well make a conversation out of it, so, anyone who feels like giving the video a watch and wants to give their thoughts on it, feel free to do so.
So, below are my thoughts on the video. I will use the transcript of the 3 minute version of the talk to be more to the point for those who don't feel like watching the thing.
(Video) Jonathan Haidt: We humans have many varieties of religious experience, as William James explained. One of the most common is climbing the secret staircase and losing ourselves.
The secret staircase doesn't necessarily need to have a religious tone whatsoever.
The staircase takes us from the experience of life as profane or ordinary upwards to the experience of life as sacred,or deeply interconnected.
It often takes religious thinking to even consider life as "profane and ordinary." Which just goes to show what I was telling you, Belle, that religion preys on doubt, weakness and fear.
We are Homo duplex, as Durkheim explained. And we are Homo duplex because we evolved by multilevel selection, as Darwin explained.
I agree with this, we do pursue our own goals and ideals (the lower level) and also work together for bigger things (the upper level), but Darwin's explanation is much more elegant and makes more sense than Durkheim's. Darwin simply put it as nature doing its thing, we profit more as a group, and the individual tends to grow stronger when part of the group (due to the weaker falling off), whereas Durkheim felt the need to associate the individual, ordinary life as profane. I agree with Durk that the function of religion might have been to unite people into a moral community, buuuuut, on the same hand, just because something had good intentions, doesn't make that thing good. Especially when your moral community starts killing other moral communities.
I can't be certain if the staircase is an adaptation rather than a bug, but if it is an adaptation, then the implications are profound. If it is an adaptation, then we evolved to be religious.
Absolutely disagree with this. We evolved to work as a group and to find answers about things we don't understand. Religion is one of many branches on that evolutionary tree of humanity, not the purpose of it.
I don't mean that we evolved to join gigantic organized religions. Those things came along too recently.I mean that we evolved to see sacredness all around us and to join with others into teams and circle around sacred objects, people and ideas.
Which =/= religion. Religion = believing in the supernatural, gods, magic, ect. What he is calling religion sounds like ordinary teamwork and community to me.
This is why politics is so tribal. Politics is partly profane, it's partly about self-interest, but politics is also about sacredness. It's about joining with others to pursue moral ideas. It's about the eternal struggle between good and evil, and we all believe we're on the good team.
And most importantly, if the staircase is real, it explains the persistent undercurrent of dissatisfaction in modern life. Because human beings are, to some extent, hivish creatures like bees. We're bees. We busted out of the hive during the Enlightenment. We broke down the old institutions and brought liberty to the oppressed. We unleashed Earth-changing creativity and generated vast wealth and comfort.
Nowadays we fly around like individual bees exulting in our freedom. But sometimes we wonder: Is this all there is? What should I do with my life? What's missing? What's missing is that we are Homo duplex,but modern, secular society was built to satisfy our lower, profane selves. It's really comfortable down here on the lower level. Come, have a seat in my home entertainment center.
Incredibly stupid statement. The modern, secular society is built to satisfy both levels. We strive to make the world a better place by improving the quality of life for all, not just our moral community, and the pursuit of that goal is the sacred cow of the "upper" self. This guy seems to be seeing only half of the picture (the half that helps his talk).
One great challenge of modern life is to find the staircase amid all the clutter and then to do something good and noble once you climb to the top. I see this desire in my students at the University of Virginia.They all want to find a cause or calling that they can throw themselves into.
Which people do by simply helping others have a better "profane" life. Going out of your way for another person at no gain to self is the sacred staircase he talks about, just minus the gods and religion.
They're all searching for their staircase. And that gives me hope because people are not purely selfish.
Unless they are part of a secular society apparently.
Most people long to overcome pettiness and become part of something larger. And this explains the extraordinary resonance of this simple metaphor conjured up nearly 400 years ago. "No man is an island entire of itself. Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main."
And if it were true it would challenge the belief of some (many on this site perhaps) that religion is an "illness." It would become more along the lines of a genetic barrier, to which we would always have a part of us that strives towards religious thinking.
I sort of agree with your statement, Belle. I wouldn't call religion an illness, but I would, just like Dr. Ray, link its spread to a virus.
I wouldn't however agree that we will always have a part of us that strives towards religious thinking. We might have a part of us that tends to find answers where there are none, or that strives to find some community and solace in tradition (repetition), but like I said in my comment on the TED talk, religion is an accidental result of that path in our social evolution, not the only outcome.
In time, as religion becomes less relevant, I wouldn't be surprised if it altogether disappears.
As to why people cling to god... That is a very broad subject. There are many, many factors that play into that. Anything from tradition, culture, education (lack of), financial and social standing, peer pressure, etc.
Sorry, but to me, those two statements are the exact same thing.
No need to apologize, but it does share a lot of similarities to a virus, especially the survival mechanism.
Religion is spread through interaction, its core purpose is to spread (go out to all the corners of the world), and it alters the mind of the person to ignore other viewpoints, and in extreme cases to kill those who aren't a part of it in order to secure its own survival.
I think the human propensity to team up for a "group cause" and transcend into a feeling like a spirit is a product of our evolution and a survival tool.
My father was a closet atheist in a sea of Catholics, but when he talked about his combat buddies it was like they walked on water. He suddenly seemed "spiritual". His company from the 45th Infantry Division that fought battles such as Pork Chop Hill was a mix of mostly New York city kids and Oklahoma farm boys.
My uncle told me that my father cold-clocked some unfortunate guy in a bar for making a derogatory comment about "Okies".