Thursday, February 18, 2010

How did religion evolve?

The article below is very limited. The authors rightly say that basic concepts of right and wrong have often previously been shown to be largely hardwired (inborn). They also rightly see that religion reinforces and refines moral and ethical ideas but does not cause them. So the authors only achieve a negative: They exclude morality and a need for co-operation as a reason for religious beliefs. The only positive conclusion they have to offer is the very vague statement that religion is a "byproduct of pre-existing cognitive functions". That tells us precisely nothing, it seems to me. So let me answer the question. I don't think it is hard at all. I would say that religious beliefs are a product of a very basic and distinctive human trait: A hunger to understand -- in particular, a hunger to understand the world about us. And supernatural beliefs answer questions that otherwise lack answers. Is that clearer than a "byproduct of pre-existing cognitive functions"?

Religion evolved as a byproduct of pre-existing mental capacities, and not because it fulfilled a specific function of its own -- though it can facilitate co-operation in society, a study concludes. The new study, published Feb. 8 in the research journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences, takes a somewhat different track, exploring the link between morality and religion.

Some scholars claim that religion evolved as an adaptation to solve the problem of co-operation among genetically unrelated individuals, while others propose that religion emerged as a byproduct of pre-existing cognitive capacities," said study co-author Ilkka Pyysiainen of the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies in Finland.

Pyysiainen and a co-author, evolutionary psychologist Marc Hauser of Harvard University, reviewed the two competing theories using the principles of what they call experimental moral psychology. "Religion is linked to morality in different ways," said Hauser. "For some, there is no morality without religion, while others see religion as merely one way of expressing one's moral intuitions."

But past studies, the authors said, show that people of differing religion or no religion show similar moral judgments when asked to comment on unfamiliar moral dilemmas. That suggests intuitive judgments of right and wrong work independently of explicit religious commitments, the researchers argued. "This supports the theory that religion did not originally emerge as a biological adaptation for co-operation, but evolved as a separate byproduct of pre-existing cognitive functions that evolved from non-religious functions," said Pyysiainen.

"However, although it appears as if co-operation is made possible by mental mechanisms that are not specific to religion, religion can play a role in facilitating and stabilizing cooperation between groups." This might help to explain the complex association between morality and religion, the scientists added. "It seems that in many cultures religious concepts and beliefs have become the standard way of conceptual moral intuitions. Although, as we discuss in our paper, this link is not a necessary one, many people have become so accustomed to using it, that criticism targeted at religion is experienced as a fundamental threat to our moral existence," said Hauser.

SOURCE (Journal abstract follows)
The origins of religion : evolved adaptation or by-product?

By Ilkka Pyysiainen and Marc Hauser

Considerable debate has surrounded the question of the origins and evolution of religion. One proposal views religion as an adaptation for co-operation, whereas an alternative proposal views religion as a by-product of evolved, non-religious, cognitive functions. We critically evaluate each approach, explore the link between religion and morality in particular, and argue that recent empirical work in moral psychology provides stronger support for the by-product approach. Specifically, despite differences in religious background, individuals show no difference in the pattern of their moral judgments for unfamiliar moral scenarios. These findings suggest that religion evolved from pre-existing cognitive functions, but that it may then have been subject to selection, creating an adaptively designed system for solving the problem of cooperation.


Another choice Obama appointment

Rashad Hussain is the Obama administration’s newly appointed special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the thuggish international organization that is engaged in a full-scale campaign to intimidate Western governments into adopting hate speech codes that will effectively quash criticism of Islam – including jihad violence perpetrated in its name. Rashad Hussain is an apposite choice for this position, since several years ago he defended a notorious U.S.-based leader of a jihad terrorist group.

But someone doesn’t want you to know that, and made a clumsy attempt to cover it up. In 2004, Rashad Hussain, then a Yale law student, declared that the investigation and prosecution of University of South Florida professor Sami al-Arian, who ultimately pled guilty to charges involving his activities as a leader of the terror group Palestinian Islamic Jihad, was a “politically motivated persecution” designed “to squash dissent.”

Journalist Patrick Goodenough of Cybercast News Service reports that Hussain’s remarks in support of Al-Arian were published in the jihad-enabling Washington Report on Middle East Affairs in November 2004. But now all that has gone down the memory hole. The Washington Report’s archived version of this November 2004 article lacks two paragraphs that were included in the original version: the ones quoting Rashad Hussain. Otherwise the article is unchanged.

The Washington Report editors, caught red-handed, decided to brazen it out, and blame their accusers – a tried-and-true tactic that is also frequently employed by jihadists in the West. They insist that there was no cover-up, and anyone who thinks otherwise is a venomous Islamophobe: according to Goodenough, “WRMEA news editor and executive director Delinda Hanley denied there was a ‘cover-up,’ and implied that anti-Muslim discrimination was behind the fact this was now being raised.”

Sure. It’s just “anti-Muslim discrimination” to be concerned about Rashad Hussain’s support for Al-Arian, a vicious suicide-bombing supporter who chanted “Death to America” and “Death to Israel,” and clearly meant it. When two Islamic Jihad suicide bombers killed eighteen people in Israel in 1995, Al-Arian called them “two mujahidin martyred for the sake of God.”

But there was no cover-up! It was all a mistake, you see: according to the Washington Report now, Sami Al-Arian’s daughter, Laila Al-Arian, actually said the words that were attributed to Rashad Hussain. But this explanation doesn’t make sense, since the article was altered just to remove the quotes, not to change the name of the person quoted. Also, the author of the original story, Shereen Kandil, contradicts the Washington Report’s explanation, telling Goodenough: “When I worked as a reporter at WRMEA, I understood how important it was to quote the right person, and accurately. I have never mixed my sources and wouldn’t have quoted Rashad Hussain if it came from Laila al-Arian. If the editors from WRMEA felt they wanted to remove Rashad Hussain from the article, my assumption is that they did it for reasons other than what you’re saying. They never once contacted me about an ‘error’ they claim I made.’”

Whoever is covering up for Rashad Hussain should come clean. And in the process, Obama should reevaluate the wisdom of sending a man like Hussain, with the views that he holds, to an organization such as the OIC.



Rasmussen: Voters Think Democrats More Likely To Have A Plan for the Future

We see below that the voters accurately perceive the Left/Right difference: That it is Democrats who want great transformations for America whereas Conservatives want just cautious incremental change. The sadness is that that the GOP and the Donks are not differentiated more strongly in that way. Perhaps conservatives need to convey a stronger message about the desirability of NOT having grand plans for other people

The first President Bush called it “the vision thing,” and voters are more confident that the Democratic Party has it than do Republicans. They also see Democrats as more ideological than the GOP these days. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 44% of voters believe that the Democratic Party has a plan for where it wants to take the nation. Thirty-one percent (31%) disagree, and 24% aren’t sure. By comparison, 35% think the GOP has a plan for where it wants to take the nation, but slightly more voters (39%) think the Republican Party doesn’t have any such plan. Twenty-six percent (26%) are undecided.

Interestingly, 65% of Democratic voters say their party has a plan for the future, compared to 57% of Republicans who say the same of the GOP. Voters not affiliated with either party are more closely divided and tend to think neither party knows where it’s going.

It helps, of course, that Democrats control both the White House and Congress and therefore are setting the national agenda. But right now it appears voters see the Republicans more as the party of “no” than as a party with ideas for the future.

Seventy-five percent (75%) of voters describe the Democratic Party’s leadership as at least somewhat liberal. That includes 46% who say Democratic leaders are very liberal. Seventy-two percent (73%) now believe President Obama is a political liberal.

As for the leaders of the Republican Party, 61% of voters describe them as at least somewhat conservative, but that finding includes only 24% who say they are very conservative. Conservative is the most popular of five common political labels tested by Rasmussen Reports. Liberal is the least popular.

The Political Class sees the two parties a little differently. Seventy-six percent (76%) of the Political Class believes the Democratic Party has a plan for where it wants to take the nation, but Mainstream voters are almost evenly divided on the question. A plurality (48%) of the Political Class says the Republican Party does not have a plan for the nation’s future. Mainstream voters again have more mixed feelings: 40% think the GOP does have a plan for where it wants to guide the nation, but 31% don’t.

More here


Tehran on path to our destruction

The international community is standing by as Iran goes nuclear

STAND by for some bad news. No, I mean really bad news. The world is not going to apply crippling sanctions to Iran. Even if it did, Iran would not be deterred from developing nuclear weapons. The only way that Iran can be significantly delayed in its pursuit of nuclear weapons is through an Israeli air strike on its nuclear facilities.

I think the chances of an Israeli attack are somewhat less than 50-50. Even with an air strike, the likelihood is you would delay rather than prevent Iran getting nuclear weapons. Don't get me wrong, a delay is much better than no delay, but the balance of probabilities is that Iran will ultimately have a nuclear arsenal.

Even sanctions would only have an outside chance of working. But the world is not even going to try them. China, and to a lesser extent Russia, are going to make sure that doesn't happen. This is a tragedy far beyond Copenhagen, but like Copenhagen it illustrates the complete breakdown of the multilateral system.

The US could strike Iran's nuclear facilities far more effectively than Israel could, but to do so would be foreign to every instinct of the Obama administration. It would also be hugely risky. But the risks of not acting are even greater. Nonetheless, the portents are strong that the Obama administration will dither.

More than 12 months ago, just after his inauguration, Obama said: "If countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us." Since then Obama has done everything an American president could possibly do to engage and entice Iran. He has made countless statements about the genius of Persian civilisation, the wonders of Islam as a religion, the sweetness of the Iranian people, the potential reasonableness of the Iranian government. And in response he has received contemptuous game playing from the Iranians. I come to my conclusion that Iran will ultimately get nuclear weapons with great reluctance, but it follows ineluctably from the facts. Consider the main players: Iran, the US, China, the UN, Russia, Israel. First Iran. There is really no doubt that Iran has a program designed to produce nuclear weapons.

Recently President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government announced that Iran had enriched uranium to 20 per cent and would build a slew of new nuclear fuel plants. This is a fundamental step along the road to nuclear weapons. It represents one of the critical technical hurdles....

Consider the US. The key argument against George W. Bush's intervention in Iraq is that it did not have UN approval. It is inconceivable Obama would get UN approval for a strike against Iran, so it is heroic, though not absolutely out of the question, to imagine him doing it. Instead the US is providing anti-missile defences to all the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, in the hope that this will balance their fear of Iran.

Israel just might strike, but my guess is the world will dither and wake up one brand new day to a Tehran that encompasses the possibility of the destruction of us all.

Much more here



It looks like American conservatives are taking a leaf out of Obama's book. A lot of them have recently got together to sign The Mount Vernon Statement, which is supposed to set out what conservatives stand for. It is VERY short on specifics. It reminds me of "hope and change"

Poll: Majority of Americans say Obama doesn’t deserve second term: "President Obama’s new jobs plan may include finding one, a new survey suggests. A majority of Americans think Obama should be a one-term president, the CNN / Opinion Research Corp. poll says, with 52% saying he is undeserving of a second term in office.”

Socialist bankruptcy in Greece: "How long have European socialists been telling us how successful European welfare-statism has been? The governments in Europe’s socialist countries, they tell us, take care of their people with pensions, social security, free health care and education, and job security. And everything, they say, is just hunky dory. But as we libertarians have been telling American socialists for decades, it’s just a matter of time before socialist systems start cracking apart, which of course has now occurred in Greece.”

Obama’s nuclear winter?: "If the president wants to go further in demonstrating his commitment to nuclear energy — and reduce the burden on the taxpayer should something go wrong — he should seek to wean the industry off its reliance on the state. The best way to do that is to streamline the permitting process further. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s new permitting process is a good first step in that it reduces the time from application to license issue down to just four years in ideal circumstances; by way of comparison, the United Kingdom’s Labour government has announced a new process whereby planning application and licensing together take just one and a half years.”

Bring back recourse in foreclosure plan: "A growing chorus of voices has recently been echoing the same refrain: the Obama foreclosure prevention plan has been a failure. This should be no surprise since the Obama plan, from its very beginnings, ignored the primary drivers of default: negative equity coupled with unemployment. But the solution being proffered — mortgage write-downs — is simply another dead-end. Forgiveness, either through bankruptcy courts or the Treasury, will encourage additional delinquencies, not less. The most direct way to reduce foreclosures is expecting those borrowers who can pay their mortgages to do so, regardless of the value of their homes. We need to bring back recourse, allowing lenders to seek repayment from all of a borrower’s assets, not just the collateral behind a loan.”


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


1 comment:

Robert said...

The Democrat party has a plan for the United States, all right, and there isn't a redeeming feature to be found in it! It is the road to serfdom. The spontaneous, unplanned society and economy of a free society and economy is far superior.