jueves, julio 12, 2007

La Religión como una adaptación evolutiva beneficiosa (valga la pseudo-redundancia)

Pot fin tengo conexión y quiero reunir aqui un par de asuntos que he leido últimamente. Uno es de la revista Mente y cerebro, unas fotocopias que me ha pasado Germánico, al que doy la bienvenida en este blog. No tengo el material a mano, pero la tesis de que los ritos y obligaciones religiosas que tienen un caracter público, como por ejemplo escuchar misa de pie, rezar durante horas ante un muro calcinado por el sol vestido con abrigo o las flagelaciones etc, sirven para indicar en que manera cada uno es capaz de cumplir otros compromisos mas prácticos que tienen relevancia para los demás, como por ejemplo, ayudar a los necesitados, ser honrado y fiable en los tratos, no utilizar mas recursos comunes de los necesarios etc. En un estudio sobre el fracaso de los kibbuz en Israel, los únicos que han sido viables financieramnte han sido los religiosos, a pesar de los preceptos y prohibiciones que en principio harían que fueran menos eficaces, como la obligación de no trabajar los sábados, la prohibición de que se utilcen los frutos de los terrenos durante los primeros años etc.

Además curiosamente, y probablemente debido a esto, la afluencia a las creencias mas exigentes aumenta mientras que las mas "liberales" sufren una sangría de fieles. La iglesia católica han sufrido una disminución de fieles desde el Concilio Vaticano II.

El efecto del rito externo es mayor en las religiones ya que la adhesión a una creencia no depende de la razón, es decir, la inversión de esfuerzo no depende de los resultados positivos o negativos que puedan derivarse. Eso da a los otros fieles una seguridad en el compromiso social de los demás creyentes que inverten en costosos ritos sin sentido excepto para publicitar su compromiso. En cambio, las adhesiones a sistemas de pensamiento basados en la razón son vulnerables a los efectos que tienen para cada uno. Por eso en general, en estos casos, cada uno regula su esfuerzo en función de como le va, y como resultado hay una tendencia en espiral a caer en el fre-riding: (esforzarse menos, tomar mas para si). Este efecto, explicable mediante la teoría de juegos, lo he tratado recientemente en un contexto mas ámplio.

En estos casos, ante la desconfianza ante el esfuerzo de los demás se puede llegar a solicitar un sistema de vigilancia que puede acabar en dictadura, no importa el tamaño de la asociación: desde un kibbuz hasta una Confederación de Repúblicas. Esto es un indicativo mas de por qué la religión o mas precisamente, ciertos aspectos públicos y limitativos de la religión son necesarios para la libertad.

Digo esto último porque no soy partidario de considerar la religión como una categoría única. Aqui no se está hablando realmente de religión, sino de una característica común a muchas religiones, y es lo que se suele llamar "la dimensión pública de la religión", es decir, los ritos externos. Esto no agota ni mucho menos los efectos sociales de la religión. Cada investigador se concentra en un aspecto común a muchas religiones y tiende a considerar éste como el único efecto relevante. Pero no es así. cada religión implica muy distintos aspectos, aparte de los aspectos comunes o muy comunes, como este.

la otra referencia se la debo a Mary White Ia incluyo directamente:

http://libertycorner.blogspot.com/2007/07/religion-as-beneficial-evolutionary.html

Religion As Beneficial Evolutionary Adaptation

I have written thrice (here, here, and here) about Richard Dawkins's apoplectic views on religion. Dawkins -- in a nutshell -- views religion as a bad thing because, in his view, (a) many bad things are done its name and (b) it is anti-scientific. Now, (a) does not prove that religion causes people to do bad things (people just do bad things), nor does (b) prove that religion is anti-scientific (many religious persons are and have been excellent scientists).

Now comes an article by David Sloan Wilson (" Beyond Demonic Memes: Why Richard Dawkins Is Wrong about Relgion," eSkeptic.com, July 4, 2007). Wilson, an evolutionary biologist and professor of anthropology and biology at Binghamton University, assesses Dawkins's The God Delusion . Wilson begins:
Richard Dawkins and I share much in common. We are both biologists by training who have written widely about evolutionary theory. We share an interest in culture as an evolutionary process in its own right. We are both atheists in our personal convictions who have written books on religion. In Darwin's Cathedral [link added: ED] I attempted to contribute to the relatively new field of evolutionary religious studies. When Dawkins' The God Delusion was published I naturally assumed that he was basing his critique of religion on the scientific study of religion from an evolutionary perspective. I regret to report otherwise. He has not done any original work on the subject and he has not fairly represented the work of his colleagues. Hence this critique of The God Delusion and the larger issues at stake.
Later, after summarizing his points of agreement with Dawkins, Wilson turns to the evidence for religion as an evolutionary adaptation that helps groups to survive and thrive. He observes, for example, that
On average, religious believers are more prosocial than non-believers, feel better about themselves, use their time more constructively, and engage in long-term planning rather than gratifying their impulsive desires. On a moment-by-moment basis, they report being more happy, active, sociable, involved and excited. Some of these differences remain even when religious and non-religious believers are matched for their degree of prosociality. More fine-grained comparisons reveal fascinating differences between liberal vs. conservative protestant denominations, with more anxiety among the liberals and conservatives feeling better in the company of others than when alone. Religions are diverse, in the same way that species in ecosystems are diverse. Rather than issuing monolithic statements about religion, evolutionists need to explain religious diversity in the same way that they explain biological diversity.
Wilson writes, later in the article, that
In Darwin's Cathedral, I initiated a survey of religions drawn at random from the 16-volume Encyclopedia of World Religions , edited by the great religious scholar Mircia Eliade. The results are described in an article titled "Testing Major Evolutionary Hypotheses about Religion with a Random Sample," which was published in the journal Human Nature and is available on my website. The beauty of random sampling is that, barring a freak sampling accident, valid conclusions for the sample apply to all of the religions in the encyclopedia from which the sample was taken. By my assessment, the majority of religions in the sample are centered on practical concerns, especially the definition of social groups and the regulation of social interactions within and between groups. New religious movements usually form when a constituency is not being well served by current social organizations (religious or secular) in practical terms and is better served by the new movement. The seemingly irrational and otherworldly elements of religions in the sample usually make excellent practical sense when judged by the only gold standard that matters from an evolutionary perspective — what they cause the religious believers to do.
What religions do (on the whole) is to cause their adherents to live more positive and productive lives, as Wilson notes in the passage quoted earlier.

Now, this says nothing one way or the other about the truth of religious belief. But it does underscore the irrationality and unscientific nature of the virulent anti-religious emissions of Richard Dawkins and his ilk. Religion is, in the main, a beneficial social institution.