Caves of Death: Earliest Glimpses into the Origins of Religion and Misbelief

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Very deep is the well of the past. Should we not call it bottomless? The deeper we sound. The further down into the lower world of the past we probe and press, the more do we find that the earliest foundations of humanity, its history and culture, reveal themselves unfathomable.”

Thomas Mann: Joseph and His Brothers

Caves of death: Caverns littered with corpses & childrens’ heads found in remote Scotland http://shr.gs/kQTqynU

From these discoveries (and the many thousands of others) we are given a profound glimpse into the earliest psychological misbeliefs and musings of early humans.

Certainly, one of the first “god ideals” dating back to the Neanderthals ( 250,000 – 50,000 BCE) is this superstitious teleological notion that “Life Comes from Death”, and we can actually follow it anthropologically and archaeologically through the Paleolithic to the Neolithic, Bronze, Iron Ages, to present day Christianity, where the sacrificed ‘king” is slaughtered and resurrected at Easter to renew and bring about eternal life.

With all that we are gleaning from the latest in neuroscientific study is that these autochthonous or archetypal “ideals” are imprinted into our nervous systems and evolutionary psychology only to be revivified by certain neurotic, traumatic, ritualistic, or symbolic events where they are experienced anew as personal revelation and religious faith.

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“Da Trute? You Can’t Handle Da Trute!”

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“We are getting tantalizingly close to a comprehensive cognitive neuroscience of religious belief. Robust Theories. Empirical evidence.”  

Dr. Anderson Thomson Psychiatrist  Why We Believe in God(s): A Concise Guide to the Science of Faith Pitchstone Publishing (June 1, 2011)

One of the most profound scientific theories coming out of the neuroscience field is that humans are biologically programmed to misbelieve all the wrong things, and thus science (knowledge) was brought into being by various Greek philosophers, Stoics, and others, to systematically ward against this biological mandate through investigation, logic, deductive reasoning, etc. We erroneously, and perhaps, romantically, hold this idea that humankind is guided by a moral search for the truth, whereas it is much more evidentiary that the opposite is true.

“Other approaches notwithstanding, the currently dominant evolutionary perspective on religion remains a by-product  perspective. On this view, supernatural misbeliefs are side-effects of a suite of cognitive mechanisms adapted for other purposes. Such mechanisms render us hyperactive agency detectors, promiscuous teleologists, and intuitive dualists; collectively and incidentally, they predispose us to develop religious beliefs– or at least they facilitate the acquisition of such beliefs.”

                                                 Dennett and McKay (2009)

Responsibilities in the Information Age

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“For the great enemy of truth is very often not the lie– deliberate, contrived and dishonest– but the myth– persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the cliches of our forbearers. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” John Fitzgerald Kennedy Yale Commencement Address 1962

What are our individual responsibilities in the Information Age? To learn, inform ourselves, and critically examine our most cherished and persistent misbeliefs. To sort through the endless pseudosciences, teleologies, propaganda, and comfort ideologies to arrive as close to the true history and evolution of our species. To scrutinize and challenge those who knowingly or unknowingly disseminate disinformation, superstition, and falsehood however sincerely offered, and to become vigilant purveyors of knowledge, science, and awareness of the splendor and terror of what it has meant to be human — from our earliest beginnings to our present day reality.

The Allure of Pseudoscience by Sebastian Normandin http://disq.us/8ok68j