Is religion an evolved domain or instinct?

May 17, 2017, Springer
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

The question about why more intelligent people tend to be atheistic dates back to the times of Romans and Ancient Greeks. The link between intelligence and religion can be explained if religion is considered an instinct, and intelligence the ability to rise above one's instincts. This is the suggestion by Edward Dutton of the Ulster Institute for Social Research in the UK, and Dimitri Van der Linden of the Rotterdam University in the Netherlands, in an article in Springer's journal Evolutionary Psychological Science.

The Intelligence-Mismatch Association Model proposed by the two authors tries to explain why historical evidence and recent survey data in different countries and between various groupings supports the stance that seems to be negatively associated with being religious.

Their model is based on the ideas of evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa's Savanna-IQ Principles, according to which human behavior will always be somehow anchored in the environment in which their ancestors developed.

Dutton and van der Linden argue that should be regarded as a separate evolved domain or , whereas intelligence allows to rise above their instincts. Rising above instincts is advantageous because it helps people to solve problems.

"If religion is an evolved domain then it is an instinct, and intelligence—in rationally solving problems—can be understood as involving overcoming instinct and being intellectually curious and thus open to non-instinctive possibilities," explains Dutton.

In the proposal of their Intelligence-Mismatch Association Model, Dutton and van der Linden also investigate the link between instinct and stress, and the instinctiveness with which people tend to operate during stressful periods. They argue that being intelligent helps people during stressful times to rise above their instincts.

"If religion is indeed an evolved domain—an instinct—then it will become heightened at times of stress, when people are inclined to act instinctively, and there is clear evidence for this," says Dutton. "It also means that intelligence allows us to able to pause and reason through the situation and the possible consequences of our actions."

The researchers believe that people who are attracted to the non-instinctive are potentially better problem solvers. "This is important, because in a changing ecology, the ability to solve problems will become associated with rising above our instincts, rendering us attracted to evolutionary mismatches," adds van der Linden.

Explore further: Four signs you have high emotional intelligence

More information: Edward Dutton et al, Why is Intelligence Negatively Associated with Religiousness?, Evolutionary Psychological Science (2017). DOI: 10.1007/s40806-017-0101-0

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julianpenrod
1 / 5 (8) May 17, 2017
Among other things, it must also be admitted that there is a difference between intelligent and merely "book larned". The "book larned" can reel off in a second what someone else said, and even use it, but the intelligent come up with new thoughts on their own. And it should be remembered that many if not most of the merely "book larned" are also known to be social misfits. They live in perpetual awe of what they perceive to be their "knowledge". They cannot relate to another person in the room, so they cannot relate to the other person in all rooms, God. Don't forget that the God haters have rallied behind lies like that "All the world's wars have been caused by religion"; "You can't prove a negative"; and Christopher Hitchens' depraved, "if one person doesn't prove or even provide evidence of their claim to another's satisfaction, that automatically disproves their claim and makes the exact opposite claim true".
antialias_physorg
4.7 / 5 (13) May 17, 2017
if religion is considered an instinct,

Since none of the known feral children have shown the least signs of having a religious belief I think a case can be made against religion being instinctive.
Mark Thomas
4.3 / 5 (6) May 17, 2017
"Dutton and van der Linden argue that religion should be regarded as a separate evolved domain."

This work supports the conclusion that religion is product of evolution, so let's take the next logical step. While the overall usefulness of religion to an individual can be debated, the primary conferred competitive advantage has historically been to competing groups. More cohesive groups out-compete less cohesive ones. Once we accept that religion is the product of the evolution of groups, we can begin to treat it like any other scientific field of study, and to a certain extent, reconcile religion and science for the first time. If this idea is correct, religion is neither mass delusion nor revealed truth, it is a predictable evolutionary response.
Zzzzzzzz
5 / 5 (3) May 17, 2017
if religion is considered an instinct,

Since none of the known feral children have shown the least signs of having a religious belief I think a case can be made against religion being instinctive.

I would argue that feral (existing in the absence of other humans) children are not a good study case. Humans are social animals, and that is instinctive - perhaps our strongest instinct. When grouped together, a number of behavioral things emerge as a result, with the importance of the capacity for self delusion at the forefront. So religious beliefs are a direct result of instinct, although they may be a step or two removed. In the end the dynamics discussed above may be just as applicable.

Mark Thomas, I see you posted while I was composing my own - I think we are getting at nearly the same thing. I would not however remove delusion too quickly from the equation.....delusion may well be the mechanism required for all this to happen.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (8) May 17, 2017
More cohesive groups out-compete less cohesive ones.

Exactly. Religions go for the lowest common denominator (masses of low intelligence people united by a common fear of the unknown - particularly death) and thus create the largest possible groupings.

The 'brilliance' in religion is that it provides no benefit by itself because it shifts all the 'solutions' it promises into the afterlife. Thus it requires (near) zero upkeep to perpetuate itself. A memetic virus if you so will.

Upside: Cultural cohesiveness
Downside: Pandering to (and enforcing in others) the lowest common denominator.
Zzzzzzzz
5 / 5 (2) May 17, 2017
The 'brilliance' in religion is that it provides no benefit by itself because it shifts all the 'solutions' it promises into the afterlife.


But the cohesiveness is the benefit. Keeping the group cohesive gives that group better overall survival opportunity, not just for the group but for most of the individuals in it. Those who do not receive that benefit are the sort who don't do well in groups, so their genetic contribution/makeup is weeded out efficiently.

Not saying that religion is the only method for getting the cohesiveness, but it has been a durable one.....

"the same thing that makes you live can kill you in the end" - Neil Young
TheGhostofOtto1923
4.2 / 5 (5) May 17, 2017
"Is religion an evolved domain or instinct?"

NEITHER. We were bred for it not unlike the dog has been bred to trust us rather than its own natural instincts.

A thousand gens of selecting for humans who could believe in gods and allowing them to mate... and culling those who could not.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (3) May 17, 2017
But the cohesiveness is the benefit.

Sure. But that is not the benefit of *religion* per se. That's just the benefit of being in any kind of group. Religion is just the easiest kind of group to belong to because it sets no standards for joining (other than to profess: "I believe" - which is not really a standard because it is not testable/verifiable)

but it has been a durable one.....

Because of the above. You'll always find people who are sub par (by definition) and can't really pass any kind of 'quality' standard needed for other communities. A system that can scrape the bottom of the barrel will never die out because no matter how societiy progresses there will always be a bottom of the barrel - until the day everyone can choose to be as bright and as apt as they want to be.
Mark Thomas
5 / 5 (2) May 17, 2017
"Those who do not receive that benefit are the sort who don't do well in groups, so their genetic contribution/makeup is weeded out efficiently."

I view your conjecture (like my own) as a valid part of the scientific process. Whether or not we are correct, these appear to be honest attempts to formulate hypotheses to explain the religious phenomenon from a scientific basis without undo bias. It appears you are suggesting a plausible mechanism for group evolution that should be studied to determine its merits.

Science suggests the world is understandable there are definable reasons (not magic) for why things are they way they are. Perhaps it is time we put religion under the microscope too.
Jeffhans1
5 / 5 (2) May 17, 2017
Most religions have members perform stress reducing activities like prayer. They also convince people that they are going to be rewarded if they are beneficial members of the community and avoid crimes and other unwanted activities.
The only thing that an atheist loses out on by not being a part of a formal religion is afterlife insurance.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (2) May 17, 2017
Well, to make it simpler, it all boils down to network (chaos) theory....
Unfortunately, the "natural order" of it oftentimes is co-opted by less ethically driven individuals..
rderkis
2 / 5 (11) May 17, 2017
Maybe it's just me, but have you ever looked at a painting or heard a musical clip that stirred you so much you can't describe it?
Religion is felt exactly the same way. Some people feel it others don't. To deny it's existance because you don't feel it is like denying light does not exist because you are blind.
In this article they are trying to convince us that being blind is better than sight, because light does not exist.
And they take it one step further saying they are superior to anyone that is not blind because light does not exist.

I say this because, I have heard music that stirred my soul. I have seen a painting or a sunset that stirred me beyond description. I have felt the call of God that felt the same way. You cannot tell me these feelings don't exist. And as far as you being superior to me because you don't feel them, it is your loss not mine.
And I truly do feel sorry for you because of your profound loss. -(
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (5) May 17, 2017
Perhaps it is time we put religion under the microscope too.

That'll be a good trick, since the religious don't even know (or agree on) what they believe in themselves. If they did they could have made some testable pronouncement by now. But in all those thousands of years since the first moron came up with the idea of gods they haven't managed that. So don't hold your breath.

Religious/spiritual *feelings* have been the subject of many studies and it's quite easy to induce them in anybody using drugs or EEG stimumlation. Turns out some are just more prone by birth to chemical imbalances in the brain than others (which is a nice way of saying that religious people are basically insane - in the very sense of the word).
barakn
5 / 5 (4) May 17, 2017
Rderkis, people experience rapturous experiences when they have seizures, or when certain areas of the brain are stimulated. No one is doubting that you have those feelings, but it is not at all clear that a god is involved. Unless you are willing to admit that God is at our beck and call, and can be summoned by the mere administration of an electrode....
rderkis
1 / 5 (2) May 17, 2017
a god is involved.


I said the feelings are similar and I never once said or implied they were caused by the same thing.
First off, am I addressing a blind person, that has never had any of these feelings? Your answer will shape my answer to you. Please understand if you are blind in this sense I do not look down at you at all.
,
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (3) May 17, 2017
Maybe it's just me, but have you ever looked at a painting or heard a musical clip that stirred you so much you can't describe it?
Oh, yeah! Led Zeppelin - all (but LZ2, the whole album - best. Oh - and Kashmir) , Iron Butterfly, Deep Purple, ELP, Yes, Beatles, Stones, Zappa - and the list goes on and on...
Oh - it's a spiritual experience, not religious.
No gods involved....
rderkis
2.3 / 5 (3) May 18, 2017
Oh, yeah! Led Zeppelin

Of course it is NOT God! Never said or implied it was. But since you can describe the feeling, I am doubting(even if you think so) it is of the depth I am talking about.
A intelligent person realizes there may be things he has not yet experienced. A much less intelligent person, in their ignorance, thinks they have experienced everything there is to experience. Which one are you?
Now millions of people will tell you about experiencing such deep feeling at sometime in their life.
Perhaps it was just a sunrise or the indescribable feeling when they held their child for the first time.
Why would a intelligent person deny or make fun of those with vision?

Guy_Underbridge
5 / 5 (3) May 18, 2017
NEITHER. We were bred for it not unlike the dog has been bred to trust us rather than its own natural instincts.
A thousand gens of selecting for humans who could believe in gods and allowing them to mate... and culling those who could not.

GofO, while I often disagree with many of your comments... This IMO is spot-on.
rderkis
1 / 5 (2) May 18, 2017


NEITHER. We were bred for it not unlike the dog has been bred to trust us rather than its own natural instincts.
A thousand gens of selecting for humans who could believe in gods and allowing them to mate... and culling those who could not.

GofO, while I often disagree with many of your comments... This IMO is spot-on.


Of course you realize if this nonsense were true you would feel compelled to believe in God. Do you?
rderkis
not rated yet May 18, 2017
Don't forget that the God haters --- "You can't prove a negative"


Julianpenrod you are right in your comment but you have accidently made a mistake.

"You can't prove a negative" when used about the belief in God, is used by those that believe IN God.
"You can't prove a negative" = "You can NOT prove God does NOT exist" while the "You can prove the affirmative" = You can prove God exists. I hope I explained this well enough to be understood.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (2) May 18, 2017
Of course it is NOT God! .... But since you can describe the feeling, I am doubting(even if you think so) it is of the depth I am talking about.
You're not real good with satire, are you...
A(n) intelligent person realizes there may be things he has not yet experienced. A much less intelligent person, in their ignorance, thinks they have experienced everything there is to experience. Which one are you?

Un-clever trick question. But - my "experiences" are a drop in the bucket to what's out there.
Now millions of people will tell you about ... held their child for the first time.
Why would a intelligent person deny or make fun of those with vision?

I know the exact moment my daughter "arrived" (conception, not birth).
Or the epiphany of the acronym (G)eodesically (O)rdinated (D)atum.
It's not vision, It's a facet of Being in this inescapable U.
Give your SELF, as a part of it, a little more credit.
rderkis
3 / 5 (2) May 18, 2017
But since you can describe the feeling, I am doubting(even if you think so) it is of the depth I am talking about. Answered You're not real good with satire, are you...

No I am not good at satire but that was not in any way meant to be satire.

A(n) intelligent person realizes there may be things he has not yet experienced. A much less intelligent person, in their ignorance, thinks they have experienced everything there is to experience. Which one are you?
Answer Un-clever trick question.

No trick involved

held their child for the first time. Why would a intelligent person deny or make fun of those with vision?
Answer = I know the exact moment my daughter "arrived" (conception, not birth).


What does that have to do with the feeling of holding your child for first time?
Sounds like your ashamed of not having those deep feelings but that is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of!
But I do mourn your loss!

TheGhostofOtto1923
3.7 / 5 (3) May 18, 2017
Of course you realize if this nonsense were true you would feel compelled to believe in God. Do you?
Some dogs are more domesticated than others. Some get to live in the wild and become dingos.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (2) May 18, 2017
1) You can prove a negative.

"Among professional logicians, guess how many think that you can't prove a negative? That's right: zero. Yes, Virginia, you can prove a negative, and it's easy, too. For one thing, a real, actual law of logic is a negative, namely the law of non-contradiction.
This law states that that a proposition cannot be both true
and not true. Nothing is both true and false. Furthermore,
you can prove this law. It can be formally derived from the
empty set using provably valid rules of inference. (I'll spare
you the boring details). One of the laws of logic is a provable
negative. Wait… this means we've just proven that it is not
the case that one of the laws of logic is that you can't prove a
negative. So we've proven yet another negative! In fact, 'you
can't prove a negative' is a negative  so if you could prove
it true, it wouldn't be true! Uh-oh."
Steven Hales, philo, Bloomsburg University, PA
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.7 / 5 (3) May 18, 2017
2) You can prove that theistic gods dont exist if they claim to be perfect and at the same time morally impeccable.

Julians god wrote a book about people who never existed and things that never happened. Therefore THAT god cannot exist.

You cant prove that DEISTIC gods don't exist. Philos designed them to be unassailable.

But THEISTIC gods are easy to disprove, conclusively and unambiguously. Their existence depends on their perfection.

Julians god thinks rabbits have cuds.

Every time a religionist repeats that lie about disproving a negative it would be helpful to cite the Steven Hales article, as often as necessary.
rderkis
1 / 5 (2) May 18, 2017
TheGhostofOtto1923 --- Your boaring me. Please try to come up with a thought of your own.
rderkis
1 / 5 (2) May 18, 2017
2) You can prove that theistic gods dont exist if they claim to be perfect and at the same time morally impeccable.

Julians god wrote a book about people who never existed and things that never happened. Therefore THAT god cannot exist.

You cant prove that DEISTIC gods don't exist. Philos designed them to be unassailable.

But THEISTIC gods are easy to disprove, conclusively and unambiguously. Their existence depends on their perfection.

Julians god thinks rabbits have cuds.

Every time a religionist repeats that lie about disproving a negative it would be helpful to cite the Steven Hales article, as often as necessary.


That last remark about you boring me was not fair. You cannot prove your own existence and that you are not a simulation. So how can you possibly prove the existance or non existance of anything? You're deluding yourself. Move on to scientific endeavours and forget the philosophical on this forum.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (2) May 18, 2017
I don't claim to be perfect.

Read what I wrote again, and especially read the excerpt from that philo.

Theistic gods themselves have proven they don't exist.

The god of Abraham either didn't know history, or he knew it but chose to lie about it in his book, or worst case he obliterated all evidence for biblical history and replaced it with totally convincing contrary evidence.

So he is either incompetent, an incompetent liar, or an extraordinary fabricator.

Which means he is not the paragon of perfection he describes himself to be in his book. IOW he is NOT THAT GOD.

Perhaps he is the lying cheating demiurge who made a pretty sloppy universe. See, lots of others have been down this same logic path.
rderkis
1 / 5 (2) May 18, 2017
Before I pay any attention to anything you say on the subject of anyone or anything else's existance, PLEASE prove you exist and aren't just a simulation along with anyone you quote.

I don't believe you can prove you exist because quite a few prominent scientists think they have evidence we are living in a simulation.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (4) May 19, 2017
Well I can prove you're an idiot.
Before I pay any attention to anything you say on the subject of anyone or anything else's existance, PLEASE prove you exist and aren't just a simulation along with anyone you quote
-Exhibit A.
Mark Thomas
not rated yet May 19, 2017
Mark: "Perhaps it is time we put religion under the microscope too."
AAP: "That'll be a good trick,"

I suspect that most, if not all, branches of science appear similarly difficult at the onset. Perhaps one or more cohesiveness coefficients could be developed to indicate how effective any particular set of beliefs are at making groups more effective. Then we can quantify each religion from this perspective and see how they compare to each other and change over time. I strongly suspect that religions with sub-threshold coefficients either evolve or are replaced by those with higher coefficients.

For example, only because I am most familiar with this one, in the Old Testament you had to be Jewish and subscribe to a rigid set of rules and sacrifices. In the New Testament, any believer is allowed into the group and the rules are greatly relaxed. Much larger groups can be held together under the New Testament belief system for these reasons alone.
Mark Thomas
not rated yet May 19, 2017
rderkis wrote: "I have felt the call of God that felt the same way. You cannot tell me these feelings don't exist."

IMHO, the knee-jerk reaction of some of the folks here to your comment is emblematic of the problem of not understanding religion from a scientific basis. Many people have reported these feelings for centuries. IF religion is the predictable evolutionary product of group living, and IF group dynamics select for people to believe, then people who feel this way at their core is just another fairly predictable aspect of this evolutionary process.

If this is all correct, then it is similar to love. The fact that love is essentially a mutual chemical dependence evolved to perpetuate the species does not matter. Regardless of the mechanism implementing love, we feel its effects very strongly at various times in our lives (most of us anyway).
Whydening Gyre
not rated yet May 19, 2017
A(n) intelligent person realizes there may be things he has not yet experienced. A much less intelligent person, in their ignorance, thinks they have experienced everything there is to experience. Which one are you?
Answer Un-clever trick question.

No trick involved

That's because it was un clever.

held their child for the first time. Why would a intelligent person deny or make fun of those with vision?
Answer = I know the exact moment my daughter "arrived" (conception, not birth).


What does that have to do with the feeling of holding your child for first time?

Holding her 1st time was AWESOME. Knowing the moment she "arrived" was awesomer.
Sounds like your ashamed of not having those deep feelings but that is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of!
But I do mourn your loss!

Sounds like you like to think your "vision" is better than anyone elses...
I mourn the shamefulness of your egoist sensibilities...
StudentofSpiritualTeaching
not rated yet May 20, 2017
It is insulting animals to claim that religious belief would be an instinct. Life forms up to animals live solely based on impulses (plants) or instincts plus impulses (animals). Their behaviors are in line with the laws of nature. The human being has the extra dimension of conscious consciousness. We have the ability (and evolutionary duty) to strive to highest levels of wisdom. But we unfortunately have also the ability to use our brain for ignoring ratio and logic and cultivating negative thoughts and the resulting feelings and deeds. The very first religions were made up simple explanations for calming down in the face of phenomena like scary sounds in the forest, thunder in the sky etc. A normal path of evolution on any planet leads to in sync with growing cognitive capabilities to gradual (scientific) understanding of reality and abandoning of those ancient belief systems...
StudentofSpiritualTeaching
not rated yet May 20, 2017
… On Earth things got overly messy with many pockets of infested very weird religions persisting over thousands of years. Those religions need to be categorized as what they are – mental diseases. And unfortunately, this disease falls into the category of being tendency wise inheritable.
Guy_Underbridge
5 / 5 (1) May 22, 2017
Of course you realize if this nonsense were true you would feel compelled to believe in God. Do you?

You realize there are currently over a dozen countries where atheism is illegal, punishable by death?
A pretty compelling factor, if you ask me.
But no need to go so far, when you can go to most any small town in the USA, declare that you're an atheist, and see your chances for employment or social acceptance diminish rather quickly.
As shown in the article, there are many who may consider religion as complete bullsh!t, but would never say so due to the socio-economic repercussions.
Guy_Underbridge
5 / 5 (1) May 22, 2017
Of course you realize if this nonsense… Cont:

On a side note, non-believers also tend to show an increased ability for critical thinking, a trait of above-average intelligence, than religious believers. Fortunately for those like yourself, non-believers are also more likely to approve and use contraceptives, whereas religions wants their followers to breed like rats. Thus the religious long-game has the winning strategy, at the cost of a smarter humanity.

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