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Thread: Anthropologists Develop New Approach To Explain Religious Behavior

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    Anthropologists Develop New Approach To Explain Religious Behavior

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases...0909122749.htm

    ScienceDaily (Sep. 10, 2008) — Without a way to measure religious beliefs, anthropologists have had difficulty studying religion. Now, two anthropologists from the University of Missouri and Arizona State University have developed a new approach to study religion by focusing on verbal communication, an identifiable behavior, instead of speculating about alleged beliefs in the supernatural that cannot actually be identified.

    "Instead of studying religion by trying to measure unidentifiable beliefs in the supernatural, we looked at identifiable and observable behavior - the behavior of people communicating acceptance of supernatural claims," said Craig T. Palmer, associate professor of anthropology in the MU College of Arts and Science. "We noticed that communicating acceptance of a supernatural claim tends to promote cooperative social relationships. This communication demonstrates a willingness to accept, without skepticism, the influence of the speaker in a way similar to a child's acceptance of the influence of a parent."

    Palmer and Lyle B. Steadman, emeritus professor of human evolution and social change at Arizona State University, explored the supernatural claims in different forms of religion, including ancestor worship; totemism, the claim of kinship between people and a species or other object that serves as the emblem of a common ancestor; and shamanism, the claim that traditional religious leaders in kinship-based societies could communicate with their dead ancestors. They found that the clearest identifiable effect of religious behavior is the promotion of cooperative family-like social relationships, which include parent/child-like relationships between the individuals making and accepting the supernatural claims and sibling-like relationships among co-acceptors of those claims.

    "Almost every religion in the world, including all tribal religions, use family kinship terms such as father, mother, brother, sister and child for fellow members," Steadman said. "They do this to encourage the kind of behavior found normally in families - where the most intense social relationships occur. Once people realize that observing the behavior of people communicating acceptance of supernatural claims is how we actually identify religious behavior and religion, we can then propose explanations and hypotheses to account for why people have engaged in religious behavior in all known cultures."

    Palmer and Steadman published their research in The Supernatural and Natural Selection: The Evolution of Religion. The book was published by Paradigm Publishers.



    Some thoughts regarding this: the actual supernatural beliefs are not relevant at all to the actual value of the religion. Instead, a religion should be evaluated on what behaviors it promotes amongst its 'extended family'
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    it's not a new idea but Galton's idea (100+ years old). Eg

    Quote Originally Posted by Francis Galton
    "Many influences that bind barbarians are illusions, such as totems, tutelar deities, and much else, but, for all that, they supply sufficent cohesive force to unite them into organized bodies. Whenever a struggle arose between a compact tribe and an equal number of seperate individuals the former would win... between two barbaric nations, the one that was the most superstitious of the two would generally be the more united, and therefore the more powerful"
    maybe the researchers knew that already,, but I doubt it, since Galton doesn't get much mention except as Darwin's evil cousin.. eg one of those 'very brief guides' to genetics it has a cartoon of him in a nazi uniform saying 'Darwin is a genius... I am related to Darwin... therefore I am a Genius!' I doubt the authors ever read anything Galton wrote. Neither do most know he pretty much invented the key concepts of statistics...

    anyway I guess the 'new' thing here is measuring it by looking it at language, and saying the obvious (use of 'brother' etc to create a family tie) but of course other groups (not deemed religious) do that too for social reasons (eg US blacks calling themselves 'brothers and sisters' 'brother man and the other man' etc; also music fans sometimes, and other subculutres go on similarly)

    more;

    Quote Originally Posted by Francis Galton
    the world religion may fairly be applied to any group of sentiments or persuasions that are strong enough to bind us to do that which we intellectually may acknowlege to be our duty, and the possession of some form of religion in this larger sense of the word is of the utmost importance to moral stability... it seems reasonable to believe that the particular dogma is comparatively of little importance'
    about 'our religion' of christianity, it's obvious that the loss leaves a gaping hole in community cohesion, with lots of historic churches which were once binding points for the community now just empty. and its not like we acted in-line with the laws anyway (incidentally Galton thought that religions of various cultures should be studied to see what kind of hereditary characters it suggests in the originators. Maybe the authors of this one could do that for their next topic? ). Overall I'd say it's a good thing that Christianity is going (? hopefully) but then it was failed to be superceeded and now we have a mess best would have been if it never came in the first place.

    Galton had his own ideas further ahead of this of course,
    "Man has alredy furthered evolution very considerably, half unconciously and for his own personal advantages, but he has not yet risen to the conviction that it is his religious duty to do so deliberately and systematically"
    leading to... *drumroll*
    "there are three stages to be passed through. Firstly it must be made familiar as an academic question until its exact importance has been understood and accepted as a fact; secondly it must be recognized as a subject whose practical development deserves serious consideration; and thirdly it must be introduced into the national consciousness as a new religion"

    'it' being the e-word of course (eugenics). Funnily enough he suggested that it was necessary for a sucessful 'socialism' that there needed to be bread more people of better character, which is ironic because most the most influential socialisms since then have been egalitarian, anti-eugenical and 'part of the problem', since they helped taint the word as it was a core policy of national socialists and instead a multi-culti 'we are all one' 'religious sentiment' (along with consumah cultuah and celebs) is what 'binds' (heh) today's previously european societies with an unquestionable 'religious' force

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