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    Do We Need Religion To Make Moral Judgments?
    By News Staff | February 8th 2010 12:00 AM | 5 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
     Religion is a hotly debated topic both among scholars and the general public, and a new paper authored by researchers from the University of Helsinki and Harvard University is only likely to up the level controversy surrounding the subject. Published in Trends in Cognitive Sciences, the study suggests that intuitive judgments of right and wrong seem to operate independently of explicit religious commitments.

    "Some scholars claim that religion evolved as an adaptation to solve the problem of cooperation among genetically unrelated individuals, while others propose that religion emerged as a by-product of pre-existing cognitive capacities," explains study co-author Dr. Ilkka Pyysiainen from the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies. Although there is some support for both, these alternative proposals have been difficult to investigate.

    Citing recent empirical work in moral psychology, the authors argue that despite differences in, or even an absence of, religious backgrounds, individuals show no difference in moral judgments for unfamiliar moral dilemmas.  

    "This supports the theory that religion did not originally emerge as a biological adaptation for cooperation, but evolved as a separate by-product of pre-existing cognitive functions that evolved from non-religious functions," says Dr. Pyysiainen. "However, although it appears as if cooperation is made possible by mental mechanisms that are not specific to religion, religion can play a role in facilitating and stabilizing cooperation between groups."

    "It seems that in many cultures religious concepts and beliefs have become the standard way of conceptualizing moral intuitions. Although, as we discuss in our paper, this link is not a necessary one, many people have become so accustomed to using it, that criticism targeted at religion is experienced as a fundamental threat to our moral existence," concludes co-author Dr. Marc Hauser.



    Citation: Ilkka Pyysiäinen, Marc Hauser, 'The origins of religion : evolved adaptation or by-product?', Trends in Cognitive Sciences, February 2010; doi:10.1016/j.tics.2009.12.007

    Comments

    Gerhard Adam
    "However, although it appears as if cooperation is made possible by mental mechanisms that are not specific to religion, religion can play a role in facilitating and stabilizing cooperation between groups."
    That seems highly unlikely.  Religion, by definition, increases conflict because it depends on creating a group to which members are loyal.  This is a natural conflict since it presupposes that individuals are willing to grant preference to the religious group over whatever other group they identify with. 

    In addition, the obvious problem has always been that such religious groups always compete for dominance giving rise to the conflicts that have plagued religion since its inception.

    Religion is primarily political and relates directly to obtaining or maintaining a ruling authority over a group.  As a result, leadership has always been split between political and religious interests.  Religious leaders largely vie for power by proxy.  They use the lever of a all-powerful deity that they have an inside track with.  As a result, they obtain parity with political leaders under circumstances they would be unlikely to manage otherwise.

    Despite the moral claims of religious beliefs, they have never actually stated much beyond the obvious.  As a result, even their philosophical insights or perspectives are suspect in terms of originality.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Steve Davis
    It would have been nice if the researchers had acknowledged the work of Kropotkin, who came to the same general conclusion ninety years ago. We are moving forward at glacial speed, it seems.
    I don;t think that religion offers a framework for morality at all.

    obeying a set of rules does not develop an understanding of morals or real life consequences

    nor does following a list of rules in order to avoid punishment or obtani a reward in the afterlife at all moral - that's little better than stimulus-response.

    Fred Pauser
    Some scholars claim that religion evolved as an adaptation to solve the problem of cooperation among genetically unrelated individuals,




    Nope. Prior to 350 years ago, science per se did not exist. People long ago (as now) seeked solace. They wanted to know something of what life was fundamentally about. Where did we come from? Where are we going? Why work, why go through the struggle and strife? How can we obtain some protection from life's dangers? How do we deal with heartbreak and loss? "What's it all about, Alfie?"



    The smartest individuals tried to answer such questions and provide some guidance. They gave it their best shot, based on what limited knowledge they possessed.



    Most, or maybe all, of the current long-established religions include some form of "Do unto others..." (the Golden Rule). This certainly does foster cooperation to the extent that people follow it, but that has little to do with why religion evolved in the first place.



    "...while others propose that religion emerged as a by-product of pre-existing cognitive capacities," explains study co-author Dr. Ilkka Pyysiainen




    What the hell is that supposed to mean??
    We do not need doctrines to be moral. An alternative:

    http://onlinephilosophyclub.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=4760