Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Lascaux Animals: In general, I've posted below what I understand as 'evolution,', a) language, b) troopbondage, c) relaxation response

Hi nontheist Friends,

In general, I've posted below what I understand as evolution, and what I return to when I read this word. I see a) language, b) troopbondage among higher primates (I think Money's 'Concepts' are edifying and relevant conceptions for understanding humans, as well as helpful to bring into conversation with nontheist Friends, vis-a-vis the syllogism "If nontheism, then evolutionary biology), and c) the possibility to elicit the neurophysiology of the relaxation response - most readily in a warm bath, or hot springs - as emerging from evolution by natural selection. And I tend to return to these as reference points, when thinking about some aspects of religion.

As an anthropologist, I'm a cultural relativist. Cultural relativism suggests, for example, that the grotto painters at Lascaux 17000 years ago may have differed from neighboring grotto painters in Italy 32,000 years ago (Fumane Caves), but that one is not superior to another. Cultural relativism has been a challenge for some aspects of religion. Huston Smith's "Religions of Man" suggesting 7 - 8 +, etc. great religions is an expression of cultural relativism vis-a-vis religion. And there are 3000-8000 languages, and humans have also invented languages - e.g. Tolkien's Sindarin and Elvenlatin, Ursula Le Guin's Kesh, Na'vi in the film "Avatar," and this list is actually very long. (I hope to make the space for all languages here at World University & School: http://worlduniversity.wikia.com/wiki/Languages. In sociocultural anthropology, my discipline, culture doesn't have deep epistemological, metaphysical or ontological roots. Instead ethnography is a genre, and an interpretive practice, for understanding aspects of 'culture.'

In terms of evolution, and evolutionary biological, explanations of religion, I tend to draw on evolutionary thinkers and thinking like Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion" (and I find his meme idea in his "The Selfish Gene"), "Religion Explained" by Pascal Boyer, "Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon" by Daniel C. Dennett, Scott Atran's "In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion," Matt Ridley's"The Origins of Virtue: Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation", David Sloan Wilson's "Darwin's Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society." These books are all at World University and School in the 'Religious Studies' subject in the reference section under 'Evolution Biology and Religious Studies ' - http://worlduniversity.wikia.com/wiki/Religious_Studies. And Terrence Deacon's "The Symbolic Species: The Co-evolution of Language and the Brain" explains language's origins for me - biologically in a sense.

Within this context, and vis-a-vis the 8 major religions that Huston Smith characterizes, I view the history of the last 2500 years, as a little arbitrary vis-a-vis religion. For example, the Ancient Greek world, while making possible reason as part of public discourse, significantly, was also very religiously polytheistical. (I'm listening to Will Durant's Life of Greece these days). I find the Protestant Reformation out of which Quakerism loosely emerges, in a sense, as coming into conversation with what came before in the West, religiously - e.g. Catholocism +. But Quakers were doing their own 'thing' in chaotic, what some may call Cromwellian England, and were relatively untouched by Lutheranism, as well as Calvinism, as well as Presbyterianism, etc., and certainly seeking religious freedom, as I understand these histories. While these are religious histories, they also give form to expressions of identity, as I see them, anthropologically, as well as are expressions of troopbonding. So the relaxation response and silent meeting, and the caring among people in communities, such as nontheist Friends, Quakers, Harbin Hot Springs, etc., are important and salutary aspect of these kinds of communities (Communities, Churches, etc.), as are the relaxation response, especially for me in warm pools.

Within this context, I also draw on Quaker thinking, vis-a-vis caring, as expressed in service that Meetings undertake, as well as what the AFSC and FCNL do - pragmatic expressions of service - which have helped Friends be helpful in the world.

So first, evolutionary biology and then a lot of troopbonding and history or human primates, informed by this ... is a little how I see evolutionary biology and religion.

With friendly greetings,
Scott


http://scottmacleod.com
http://worlduniversity.wikia.com/wiki/Nontheist_Friends_%28atheist_Quakers%3F%29



"Evolution is the change in the inherited traits of a population of organisms through successive generations.[1] After a population splits into smaller groups, these groups evolve independently and may eventually diversify into new species. A nested hierarchy of anatomical and genetic similarities, geographical distribution of similar species and the fossil record indicate that all organisms are descended from a common ancestor through a long series of these divergent events, stretching back in a tree of life that has grown over the 3,500 million years of life on Earth.[2]

Evolution is the product of two opposing forces: processes that constantly introduce variation in traits, and processes that make particular variants become more common or rare. A trait is a particular characteristic, such as eye color, height, or a behavior, that is expressed when an organism's genes interact with its environment, translating its genotypic predispositions into phenotypic phenomena. Genes vary within populations, so organisms show heritable differences (variation) in their traits.

The main cause of variation is mutation, which changes the sequence of a gene. Altered genes, or alleles, are then inherited by offspring. There can sometimes also be transfer of genes between species. Two main processes cause variants to become more common or rare in a population. One is natural selection, which causes traits that aid survival and reproduction to become more common, and traits that hinder survival and reproduction to become more rare.[1][3] Natural selection occurs because only a few individuals in each generation will survive, since resources are limited and organisms produce many more offspring than their environment can support. Over many generations, mutations produce successive, small, random changes in traits, which are then filtered by natural selection and the beneficial changes retained. This adjusts traits so they become suited to an organism's environment: these adjustments are called adaptations.[4] Not every trait, however, is an adaptation. Another cause of evolution is genetic drift, an independent process that produces entirely random changes in how common traits are in a population. Genetic drift comes from the role that chance plays in whether a trait will be passed on to the next generation.

Evolutionary biologists document the fact that evolution occurs, and also develop and test theories that explain its causes. The study of evolutionary biology began in the mid-nineteenth century, when research into the fossil record and the diversity of living organisms convinced most scientists that species changed over time.[5][6] The mechanism driving these changes remained unclear until the theories of natural selection were independently proposed by Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace. In 1859, Darwin's seminal work On the Origin of Species brought the new theories of evolution by natural selection to a wide audience,[7] leading to the overwhelming acceptance of evolution among scientists.[8][9][10][11] In the 1930s, Darwinian natural selection became understood in combination with Mendelian inheritance, forming the modern evolutionary synthesis,[12] which connected the units of evolution (genes) and the mechanism of evolution (natural selection). This powerful explanatory and predictive theory has become the central organizing principle of modern biology, directing research and providing a unifying explanation for the history and diversity of life on Earth.[9][10][13] Evolution is therefore applied and studied in fields as diverse as ecology, anthropology, conservation biology, paleontology, agriculture, medicine, psychology, philosophy and others."

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution)









On Wed, Apr 14, 2010 at 10:12 AM, Peter Lawson wrote:
> Friends,
> A really fine book addresses these issues.
> Spontaneous Evolution: Our Positive Future (and a Way to Get There from
> Here) by Bruce H. Lipton Ph.D. and Steve Bhaerman (Hardcover - Sept. 15,
> 2009)
> Have a look at the reviews. Better still beg, borrow or steal it and read
> it.
> Peter
> On Apr 13, 2010, at 10:09 PM, Ian Hughes wrote:
>
> Hi Scott
> I'm not sure I understand your meaning in all the details below, and I agree
> that "evolutionary biology, and evolution by natural selection, have
> fascinating implications for we [nontheist Friends]".
>
> However I think that evolution in terms of biology and natural selection
> only goes part of the way towards explaining religion.
>
> To take an example you use. We all learn language by about the age of 2, so
> this capacity seems biological. But I can't see a biological explanation for
> why some of us speak English and others Hindustani or Pitjanjanjara. Clearly
> this is not a matter of natural selection operating through genes. The
> capacity to learn language is biologically based, but its expression in
> which language is learned and how it is used seem not to be biologically
> determined or genetically inherited.
>
> Similarly with religion. It seems to me we have a biologically evolved and
> genetically inherited capacity (or drive) to form groups, think in abstract
> ideas and make sense of the our experience of the world. As an ex-catholic I
> am sure that there is not an inherited genetic difference between theist
> Catholics and nontheist Quakers. This was a process of social and individual
> learning.
>
> In short, I think biological evolution provides us with capability for
> culture and learning but we need another mechanism, other than biological
> natural selection, to account for cultural change and social learning.
>
> I have read that tolerance of lactose is a genetically inherited trait which
> gave a 'natural selection' to herders of cattle. In this and maybe other
> instances, a specific cultural change precedes and leads to evolution of a
> specific biological trait.
>
> We can account for (ie see causes of) cultural change and historical events
> in retrospect, but we have no reliable method for predicting historical
> change. This is in part related to feedback loops. Prediction of a cultural
> change becomes part of the context and can change the outcome it predicted
> (think of stock exchange forecasts).
>
> The most significant driver of evolution today is human cultural activity
> which, for example, through global warming is causing extinction of many
> species. Cultural adaptation has overtaken the role of biological adaptation
> for humans in seeking food sources, extending human life span, regulating
> the density of human population and so on.
>
> I don't think we have identified a cultural mechanism equivalent to the
> biological mechanism of natural selection - and I'm not sure whether it is
> correct to speak of 'cultural selection' in the same way. But it seems clear
> to me that something like this is happening and is now more important for
> survival of our species (and other species) than natural selection.
>
> Theory of 'Memes' was one not fully successful attempt at a theory of
> cultural evolution. Whatever theory we use, it seems to me that cultural
> change is an outcome of cultural processes, and that consciousness is part
> (and only part) of the picture, so that we have some, albeit limited
> capacity' to make choices which may affect future cultural evolution.
>
> In my thinking this puts 'The Evolutionary Potential of Quakerism' into
> context. Is it possible that Quakerism has potential to affect the direction
> of human evolution? If so, can we maximise the positive potential?
>
> Just a little thought
> In friendship
> Ian
>
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Scott MacLeod [mailto:helianth@gmail.com]
> Sent: Wednesday, 14 April 2010 12:55 PM
> To: nontheist-friends@googlegroups.com
> Subject: Re: [NTF-talk] Geography of Entiefania
>
> Hi nontheist Friends,
>
> I see the 'biology' in evolutionary biology as important, and perhaps
> under-considered in this ongoing conversation among nontheist Friends,
> - not evolutionary psychology. Religion is another question.
>
> For me, the relaxation response, 'troopbondage' (viz. Money), and
> language (an unusual characterization of language in the academic
> literature, from Saussure forward but maybe excluding Terrence
> Deacon's "The Symbolic Species" - and we ALL nevertheless learn
> language from around age 2, so it clearly seems biological) are all
> examples of this 'biology' which emerged for we primates, Homo
> sapiens, in the context of evolutionary biology and evolution by
> natural selection over at least 10s of thousands of generations. And
> building on the Johns Hopkins emeritus professor, and sexologist, John
> Money's 'Concepts of Determinism,' - he had a Harvard Ph.D. and was
> attempting to analyze sexuality scientifically - as universal,
> transhistorical and transcultural, the other 4 exigencies he writes
> about are also biology, in my unique reading here: pairbondage,
> abidance, ycleptance and foredoomance, as would be the coping
> strategies he mentions: adhibition, inhibition and explication.
>
> I see 350 years of Quakerism, and nontheist Friends as well, as
> expressions of a constellation of this 'biology' - the 5 'Concepts of
> Determinism,' especially troopbondage, language and the relaxation
> response, as emerging out of the early context of the industrial
> revolution in England, where Friends formed a network around Fox's
> charisma, narrative ability, and all of their use of language
> together. Early Friends formed networks via a) Meetings, b) Quaker
> process including Silent Meeting and Meeting for Business, c)
> epistles, and d) Quaker mercantilism, )e +, and Friends had integrity,
> possibly due to religious language (as close as I come to religion),
> and became prosperous, trading among themselves, and with other non
> Quakers via their reputation for integrity. These latter
> interpretations are sociological and not biological, or rest on what
> I'm calling 'biology.' Group relaxation response in silent meeting,
> and language (ycleptance) exchange, deepened this troopbonding.
>
> These last interpretations of mine therefore all build on the
> 'biology' of Money's five "Concepts of Determinism," especially
> troopbondage, as well as Friendly language and the
> uniquely-for-Friends emerging biological practice of the corporate
> relaxation response, and are therefore expressions of religion as bond
> (etymologically), - troopbondage - but emerging from my unique reading
> of evolutionary/primate biology, including the relaxation response,
> which I see as happening passively but with many corporate benefits
> uniquely among Friends.
>
> As I see it, evolutionary biology, and evolution by natural selection,
> have fascinating implications for we nontheistically Friendly Homo
> Sapiens.
>
> With friendly greetings,
> Scott
>
>
> http://worlduniversity.wikia.com/wiki/Nontheist_Friends_%28atheist_Quakers%3
> F%29
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
> On Tue, Apr 13, 2010 at 7:00 PM, Scott MacLeod wrote:
>
> I met Red Stephenson along the Quaker way - but I can't actually
>
> remember where. Sorry to hear he died. Thanks for letting us know.
>
> With friendly greetings,
>
> Scott
>
>
>
>
>
> On Tue, Apr 13, 2010 at 10:30 AM, Peter Lawson
>
> wrote:
>
> Tim,
>
> Thanks for this.
>
> Last Saturday our MM held a Memorial for Edwin (Red) Stephenson who died
>
> of
>
> a stroke at age 94. The recital of what he meant to so many of the 260
>
> gathered was overwhelming.
>
> The web of relationships around him continues and has been strengthened
>
> by
>
> our gathering to celebrate his many gifts to us.
>
> That's enough meaning for most of us. Give and it shall be given unto
>
> you.
>
> Peter
>
>
> On Apr 12, 2010, at 8:54 PM, tbrennan38@earthlink.net wrote:
>
> It seems to me that this discussion of “meaning” has several
>
> cross-cutting
>
> meanings and that these may be causing some confusion because each seems
>
> legitimate. I would certainly not disagree with Mike on the absolute
>
> “meaninglessness” of our hopes, aspirations, etc in some ultimate sense
>
> and
>
> the folly of a grim determination hold onto such things. Similarly, I can
>
> agree with Bill on the use of meaning in some “communicative sense”,
>
> almost
>
> as in information theory and a “signal-to-noise” ratio.
>
> But my own main emphasis is close to themes in James statements. I think
>
> this strikes at a core part of the existentialist approach to meaning and
>
> the essential way in which the major “meanings” of our lives are wrapped
>
> up
>
> within the main relationship of our lives (to people, things, sciences,
>
> arts, etc). This theme seems to capture the importance and significance
>
> of
>
> meaning as those things, people or pursuits (art, sciences, dancing, NTF
>
> discussions, children, family, rock climbing, etc) that we enter into, or
>
> have a “caring relationship”. I agree that these relations can be
>
> transitory
>
> but for the time we have them they can be very meaningful even precious,
>
> while we also realize they ultimately end. But for the time that we have
>
> them we can care immensely and thus try to nurture the other as much as
>
> we
>
> can. I got part of this understanding from a time when I had to study
>
> “bereavement” and the enormous loss, kick in the gut, depression,
>
> anguish,
>
> it brings. The loss of a caring relationship involves a loss of
>
> “meanings”.
>
> These caring relationship center our lives, lose them and we become very
>
> uncentered and lost. The amazing thing was that as people recover from
>
> grief
>
> and bereavement this process seems to involve transitions that involve
>
> letting go…..but also gradually the recovery of resurrected aspects of
>
> the
>
> meanings invested in the lost relationship.
>
> Tim
>
>
> -----Original Message-----
>
> From: James Riemermann
>
> Sent: Apr 12, 2010 10:29 PM
>
> To: nontheist-friends
>
> Subject: Re: [NTF-talk] Geography of Entiefania
>
> I should add to my last post that the sort of meaning I'm talking about
>
> is
>
> in us, or perhaps more significantly, *it is not in us*. Some people
>
> sometimes, often for long stretches, lose their ability to enjoy a meal,
>
> a
>
> conversation, painting a fence, writing a message, getting out of bed in
>
> the
>
> morning. Knowing that other people enjoy these things is really not that
>
> much help.
>
> Some get help with medications, or through therapy, or by sheer force of
>
> will going through the motions of things they used to enjoy until the
>
> worst
>
> of the depression passes, or working hard to change their lives. As a
>
> person
>
> who has always struggled with depression and never found a medication
>
> that
>
> worked for me, I don't have any great answers. But I will say it's hard,
>
> damned hard, and no philosophy or perspective on life works for me unless
>
> it
>
> acknowledges that hardness up front.
>
> --
>
> James Riemermann
>
> Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota
>
>
> On Mon, Apr 12, 2010 at 9:02 PM, James Riemermann
>
> wrote:
>
> A couple of points. First, the word "meaning" has more than one accepted
>
> meaning, and one of those relates to the subjective value, the
>
> significance,
>
> of a thing or an experience, aside from "information". We certainly
>
> could
>
> use other words for such value and significance, but there's nothing
>
> radical, new, or particularly misleading about using the word meaning for
>
> this sense.
>
> Second, if people can't find significance, value, meaning, whatever you
>
> want to call it, in their lives, their lives will be the worse for
>
> it--much
>
> worse. Finding meaning of this sort in one's life is absolutely critical
>
> to
>
> mental and emotional health. Failing to find it sometimes drives people
>
> to
>
> suicide, as Mike alludes to. There is nothing phony about it. If someone
>
> values something, anything, in their life, that is meaning.
>
> I think the essential problem is assuming that such "meaning" needs to be
>
> singular, ultimate, permanent. It is subjective and different from
>
> individual to individual, and it is not out there in the universe. It is
>
> in
>
> us.
>
>
>
>
> --
>
> To unsubscribe, reply using "remove me" as the subject.
>
>
>
>
>
>
> --
>
> This email is intended only for the use of the individual or entity to
>
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>
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>
> intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any dissemination,
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--
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(http://scott-macleod.blogspot.com/2010/04/lascaux-animals-in-general-ive-posted.html - April 14, 2010)

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