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Religion: kin altruism & tribalism (draft, 2017)

arseniusAug 14, 2019, 6:06:14 PM

Cats aren't very cooperative, hence cats are fundamentally hard wired to survive as long as they can and make as much babies as they can. Once a cat becomes sterile, it can't do much to contribute towards the propagation of its genes. With tribal & cooperative animals, it gets quite a bit more complicated, in cooperative colonies making babies is not the only way to contribute towards the propagation your genes. Bees live in large cooperative colonies, and as one bees’ genes are much more represented in the hundred thousand of bees surrounding him than himself, they have evolved some very cooperative and kin altruistic traits, e.g. some bees are sterile and only work for the good of their kin (somewhat like a human monk). Humans are mammals like cats, but suddenly humans started living in cooperative colonies comparable to the size of bee colonies. I suppose religious cognition had to evolve to make our mammal brains behave a little bit more bee-like, or altruistic towards millions of humans with whom you, individually, barely share any genes with, but as a group, carries your own genes to a far greater magnitude.

When you put two different Bonobo "tribes" on one territory, they won't fight, rather mate with one another. When you put two different Chimpanzee tribes on one territory, they will fight and only one tribe will remain, the stronger tribe. Chimpanzees have evolved to be this way as north of the Congo River, the food supply didn't always keep up with the amount of chimpanzees, so instead of sharing the limited amount of resources with the less genetically related, chimpanzees evolved to tribalize and fight one another over resources & territory. Of course, the chimpanzee behaves more "Darwinian" so to speak, one chimpanzee tribe doesn't only have to survive against nature, but also against other genocidal chimpanzee tribes. I suppose that the reason why humans became so intelligent is mainly because of our tribal competitiveness over the limited amount of land in this world. When Christians went to America, the natives didn't adopt Christianity, conflict ensued, and the more sophisticated tribe won; humanity on the American continent as a whole became more intelligent. If they didn't fight but just had sex, humanity on the American continent wouldn't be as intelligent.

A very defining feature of religion is that it forbids intermarriage, what separates religion from ideology is that religion truly defines a gene pool. It might not look like it this day in secular europe, but I suppose religions were very successful in doing this in the past. As long as two groups (communists & classical liberals, creationists & darwinists, blacks & whites, punks & metalheads...) are on the same territory & share the same religion or are non-religious at all, they will merge genetically. When it comes to religion, there is nothing as effective as causing this ‘artificial speciation’ if you will, not even racism (though racially-centered religions do/did exist). You can hate black people, but can't make other whites hate black people, nor your own descendants one or two generations down the line, there is no long-term speciating & tribalizing mechanism in racism as there is with a religion. I suppose that if nothing fundamentally changes in America, that over a thousand years the genes of African-American Christians & European-American Christians will have diluted and everyone will have more or less the same makeup of African & European genes, just like all the Europeans now carry about the same percentage (2%) Neanderthal genes.  I suppose Jews suffered from tougher selective pressures on intelligence due to market discrimination, welfare discrimination & pogroms. This combined with genetic isolation is what allowed the Jewish average intelligence to increase & adapt throughout the 2000 years of sharing territory with Christians as a minority. 
Now it begins making sense why different religions see one another as “cattle”, if the plan is to genetically isolate from one another, people from another religion have as much evolutionary meaning to you as just another animal that you can enslave. In this way it also starts to make sense why the philosophical layman tend to accuse those who criticize religious doctrine of 'racism' (like against the four horsemen with their typical response that ‘Islam is not a race’), and why assimilated western Muslims who don’t live any different to Christians, whose only difference is that they pray to ‘Allah’ instead of ‘Jesus’ or ‘god', still will call themselves ‘Muslim’, which to me made it clear to me that religion is more about tribalism to them than the doctrine, the ideology of their religion. Different religions only share territory when it’s mutually beneficent to not fight one another, but when there is scarcity, people will start accusing those of the other religion for causing the scarcity, especially in unfair ways that can’t be disproven (“Jews poisoned the crops”), accusations that aren’t meant to be fair as people from different religions don’t share an ultimate moral goal, it’s just a call to start getting rid of the other tribe. Jews, Christians & Muslims coexisted peacefully until scarcity happened which resulted in the Lebanese War, and now only one religion remains. Different religions will never coexist peacefully in the long term.

Atheism isn’t the most rational position to take. From the age of 20, when I started exploring these thoughts, I stopped referring to myself as atheist agnostic, but as Ignostic: it’s the idea that 'the question of the existence of God is meaningless because the term “god” has no coherent and unambiguous definition'. It's philosophy 101 to first concretely define a word or a concept before you can say it exists or not, a debate between one of the four horsemen and a religious person has never been very fruitful because they don’t speak the same language. 'What could god even conceptualize for religious people?' is the question philosophers should be asking. Can a religious person even rationally explain its concept of god? A chimpanzee can’t rationally explain why they scream a pant hoot at certain times (of course not because don't even have language yet), but evolutionary biologists may get a grasp by studying which behavior is paired with different calls. I think that humans, like the animals that we are, are limited in our ability to rationally explain our own behavior and even vocal communications, and I don’t think that debating religious people is the way to understand their religiosity, perhaps studying them like a biologist would study a chimpanzee might give some clues to understanding the biology of religion:

I suppose that the word “God” expresses an instinctive concept, a concept religious people themselves can’t rationally explain, it’s an intuitive approximation of the very thing our minds are shaped to propagate: our genes (that we share with our kin). Religious rhetoric makes more sense when you replace the word God with Kin:  "Serving God" - “God is in all of us/We are made in the image of god” - “Deus Vult (god wills it)” when crusaders gave their life to preserve Christianity, or when Muslims say “Insha’Allah (god wills it)” before they behave like the Camponotus saundersi (exploding ant). Most of our words are based on objects that we can see, so that we can communicate information about the physical world, the function of religion isn't to describe metaphysical or epistemological truths, it's here to describe "moral" truths. The concept of god in this regard is a very useful concept, but also an extremely abstract one, which is why otherwise perfectly rational and sane people can't help but to say seemingly irrational and deranged things (according to atheists) when it comes to religion. I speculate a religious chant like "allah akbar" could be homologous to the pant hoot, albeit extremely derived, it's "irrational" precisely because the need to pant hoot (or make group affiliative calls) predates language (the ability to vocally communicate materialistic information).

I think strong religious cognition evolved relatively recently, as humans began living in large colonies that are in size comparable to that of ants or bees instead of small tribes, this is why this extended, large-scale kin altruistic behavior is very fragile in human beings and we can very easily turn into 'cats' who only care about personal & nepostic fitness, regardless of the costs it imposes on our greater inclusive fitness, our god. Therefore, the wisdom of Christianity says that the devil is inside of us. This is where the concept of Satanism comes into place, Satanists believe they are their own god, hence their ultimate goal in life is to serve personal fitness. Even atheists & Satanists are capable of being altruistic towards their close kin/offspring, it’s very deeply rooted in most mammals, but I suppose that their (mostly reciprocal) emphatic-based altruism is more based on a primitive emotion, whereas religious cognition is a more associated with the neo-cortex. Spirituality in this regard is something that has to be exercised. I see religious cognition as a layer on top of our primal selfish brain that tricks it into behaving kin altruistically, which the belief in an afterlife displays so clearly:

The concept of afterlife arises universally, the human mind’s tendency to even conceptualize an afterlife does covenant with the fact that our minds are shaped to propagate something that will keep existing quasi-forever (your genes).You go to hell if you didn’t live to serve god, and you go to heaven if you did. In this way you could say that irreligious socialist Russians of the 20th century are now in hell compared to the religious (classically) liberal Americans of the 20th century, as genetic growth of the average American of the 20th century could be 3 times higher. (Again, this could mean being outcompeted 'you go to hell/your genes will suffer eternally if you don't serve the moral codes that are here to maximize group fitness/interdependent inclusive fitness'.) 

I remember a tweet from Richard Dawkins accusing religious people of being “awfully Darwinian”. It’s true that religious people can be 'socially darwinistic assholes' with their tendency to disallow people to do whatever they can to treat their deficiencies and maximize their personal fitness. To stay competitive against other tribes, I think humans have a natural tendency towards behaving ‘socially Darwinian’. Think about the deadly Coming-of-Age rituals adolescents must go through before they are considered men and allowed to pass on their genes (Aztec Enemy Sacrifices, Masai Lion Hunt, etc). Lots of animals abandon their child that has some sort of shortcoming, humans are no exception, when something is off with their baby, African Tribesmen will abandon it and accuse it for being a “witch child that is possessed by the devil”, I like to translate this to “a genetically defect child that can’t serve our kin, our inclusive fitness”. The more you notice how religious rhetoric is paired with very evolutionary significant behavior (witch child accusations which are practically socially Darwinian - blowing yourself up - how religiosity affects political opinion), the more the atheist biologist claim that religion is just some “evolutionary side effect”, a virus of the mind, starts to sound weak.

For increased edge in religious group competition, religions have evolved to be more about a way of life/a moral code, and at the same time religions have also evolved to extend what we deem as 'kin' instead of primitive racial-religious tribalism. In the old pagan religions, racial/kin centered rhetoric is more apparent, “descendant of the cohanim”/‘’the will of god is the will of our common ancestor’’, but it’s genealogical exclusiveness is also the reason why, for example, all the different scattered pagan religions of Europe have been outcompeted by the more inclusive Christianity, and why Judaism has been on the brink of extinction quite a few times in history. For the same reason that in soccer, club teams out-compete national teams, religions where god emphasizes moral/good human being outcompete religions where god emphasizes a genealogically related human being. This is not to say that there is a black & white difference between racially centered primitive religions vs modern religions, is this not a black & white transition, but rather a continuous trade-off. The premise of pagan religions itself is to offer up personal fitness for a greater kin, but as a trade off to stay competitive against other religions, religions evolved to be even more inclusive and broad-kin-serving and less close-kin-serving & nepotistic (Muslim father who honor kills his family, it's a sacrifice to prove a point and serve the millions that we ought to behave moral). For a chimpanzee or a human hunter-gatherer, the tribe used to be mainly kin centered, but in a highly cultural world, the moral codes of religion becomes increasingly important in determining the fitness of a group, in this way it might be evolutionary viable to sacrifice alliance with close kin if they don’t adhere to the same moral code. And in the case of uncompetitive groups (e.g. aboriginals), it might be in their genetic interest to merge with a competitive gene pool, instead of facing extinction (if they would adhere to a racially centered religion).

We can only talk about morality with the wisdom that the propagation of our genes is reliant on the fitness of our group. The reason why some atheists tend towards moral relativism ("what is moral for you isn't moral for me") is because they haven't figured out that behaving according to the ultimate meaning of life (propagating your genes) goes hand in hand with abiding to a set of rules whose function is to maximize the fitness of your (religious) group. This is also why atheism & communism go hand in hand, I fully agree with the Marxists sayings that "religion is the opium for the masses" and that "religion is what keeps the poor from killing the rich". But is it a bad thing that religion prevents this from happening? After all, we have evolved this anesthetic religious cognition. Humans ultimately do what makes them happy, and because of religious cognitive spirituality, one can attain happiness by being a moral agent/inclusive fitness minded agent, and not only by increasing personal fitness at all costs.