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Also, this contemplation frees people, at least for a time, from the pressures of everyday life. The perspective does involve a sense of sin, but the latter should not be exaggerated. Religious emotion infuses everything that sanctifies and deepens existence. Given the evolutionary outlook, the religious picture of mankind must be a developmental and relativistic one, without notions of absolutes. The key thing is constantly enlarging range of experience and responsiveness.
Hence it is supra-nationalistic and anti-war. As a constructive religion of life, it is, like life, something evolving and progressive. Delivered at Conway Hall 1 October Science, Religion and Human Nature. Posted on: Wed, 1st Oct, Courtesy of Dickinson College. Boyer grounds this connection in our intuitive morality and our belief that gods and our departed ancestors are interested parties in our moral choices. Religious concepts are just concepts of persons with an immediate perspective on the whole of a situation. Say I do something that makes me feel guilty. Religion tells me these Someones exist, and that goes a long way to explaining why I felt guilty in the first place.
But the problem created by increased sociality is its maintenance, as Dunbar explains. Enter grooming.
The bonding process is built around endorphin systems in the brain, which are normally triggered by the social grooming mechanism of touch, or grooming. When it comes to large groups, says Dunbar, touch has two disadvantages: you can only groom one person at a time; and the level of intimacy touch requires restricts it to close relationships. Dunbar calculates that this cap limits group size to fewer than 70 members, which is significantly less than the group capacities of modern humans, at about The problem, then, was to find a way to trigger social bonding without touching.
Laughter and music were good solutions, which Dunbar says create the same endorphin-producing effects as grooming by imposing stress on muscles. Language works, too, a theory Dunbar has explored at length in his book Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language. Because these effects can be achieved sans touch, social bonding can happen on a much larger scale.
Science, Religion, and the Human Experience
View image of Credit: Getty Image. One ritual Dunbar says was involved in shamanistic religions — the earliest types of doctrine-less religion — was trance dance, which Dunbar says was about restoring social equilibrium. In effect, he says, the same pharmacological effect of grooming is achieved: many individuals feel powerfully bonded together, at the same time.
How is it I feel good after these? Then after that maybe you have a few Einstein theologians who can make sense of it. But these sporadic dances only worked until our ancestors began to settle down. Once hunter-gatherers began to form more permanent settlements, around 12, years ago, something more robust was needed to encourage populations to behave prosocially towards each other. Especially given the enormous newfound stress that comes with living in such large and inescapable groups.
Trance dances could happen in these larger communities with some regularity — say, monthly — but what is needed are more regularised rituals to encourage social cohesion. The formation of permanent settlements corresponds with the advent of farming. The agricultural, or Neolithic, revolution, began in the Fertile Crescent in the Middle East, which is sometimes referred to as the Cradle of Civilisation. First examined in the s, the site was excavated from by a team led by German archaeologist Klaus Schmidt.
It is estimated to date to about 10, BCE. As population growth surged, mega-settlements saw increased social complexity, and large-scale political, economic, and military networks, says Christian. The result of this ranking was the concept of specialisation, which led to different the stratification of classes. Some were rulers, some were merchants, some were priests. Eventually that association came to be challenged in what some have called the Axial Age.
The concept of axiality, as Jaspers framed it, is controversial. Still, Bellah thinks the concept is worth holding onto, albeit with qualifications. So what was axial about the axial age? First, all of the so-called axial breakthroughs occurred outside imperial centres.
Anthology: “Science, Religion, and the Human Experience” – Common Ground, The Blog
Axial figures were able to criticise the centre from the margin. In India, the Buddha was the one who gave up his claim to kingly succession. In short, Bellah argues, axiality consists in the ability to imagine new models of reality as preferential alternatives to the ones already in place.
The key to this transition to criticism was the capacity for graphic invention and external memory, without which a bridge from Neolithic to modern humans might never have emerged, according to Bellah. Without the ability to store information outside the human brain, humans would not have been able to develop second-order thinking. And without that, we would never have been able to codify our religious experiences into elaborate theologies.
Surely there were theory and analysis before writing, as Bellah admits. Nor should we overlook the fact that orality and literacy overlap in ways that make it difficult to say that something is only the effect of literary culture. The kind of thinking that he sees emerging in the Axial Age is theory about theory , thinking about thinking. In short, what makes the Axial Age axial is that it is still with us today. Of course these religions and philosophies have undergone some changes, but they represent the something from which all of our contemporary institutionalised religions emerge.
Science and the Search for Meaning
Each essay has the flavor of a scholarly yet personal reflection on the paradox of how science and religion are enmeshed in the human experience. Keywords: domains , experience , faith , facts , knowledge , meaning , reason , religion , science , value. James D. Forgot password? Don't have an account? All Rights Reserved.
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