Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Month of Weekends

Has been spent reading some excellent books...

Homo Sapiens was not always the most successful hominin on the planet. Homo Sapiens did not always have speech, art, or religion.  Rebuffed by Homo Neanderthalensis in the Levant 100,000 years ago, Homo Sapiens returned to Africa where the entire species was nearly exterminated by the Mount Toba super-eruption.  Homo Sapiens left Africa for the second time ~70,000 years ago and promptly colonized the entire planet.  What changed?  Why do all human societies have speech, dance, art, and religion?  A compelling thesis is laid out in careful detail in Supernatural Selection: How Religion Evolved, by Matt Rossano.

Rossano expands on ideas expressed by James McClenon and others that receptivity to rhythmic vocalizations and simple dances rewarded participants with pleasantly altered states of consciousness and small group cohesion. In time the ability to sing and dance and a predisposition to hypnotic revery and the healing power of placebo was transmitted to future generations.  Simple ritual grew into what we now think of as shamanism.  

Rossano details the impact this sort of proto-religion had on egalitarian hunter gatherers.  He explains why complex hunter gatherers began to exhibit social stratification and ancestor worship. In a world occupied and influenced by the all-seeing spirits of our ancestors - entities who took an interest in our daily activities and our thoughts - social order and group cohesion was enhanced by religion's tendency to reinforce and reward a moral faculty

The rest is pre-history.
This is a book I wish both William Lane Craig and Richard Dawkins would read.  Religion need not be God-breathed or factual in order to have played an important role in human flourishing, evolution, and progress.

No comments:

Post a Comment