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Author Topic:   Do Animals Believe In Supernatural Beings?
Jon
Inactive Member


Message 331 of 373 (604601)
02-13-2011 12:16 PM
Reply to: Message 330 by Straggler
02-13-2011 11:59 AM


Re: Animal Experiences
This whole thing arose because CS and Jon declared as fact that chimps were incapable of abstract thought (and thus beliefs) because they lacked language.
As the thread is coming to a close, I figure I should set the final record straight here and mention that I never once made such an argument and repeatedly pointed out that not only was I not making that argument but that I did not also believe such an argument to have much weight.
You're free to misrepresent me in your mind, though, Straggler.
Jon

Check out No webpage found at provided URL: Apollo's Temple!
Ignorance is temporary; you should be able to overcome it. - nwr

This message is a reply to:
 Message 330 by Straggler, posted 02-13-2011 11:59 AM Straggler has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 332 by Straggler, posted 02-13-2011 12:28 PM Jon has not replied

Straggler
Member (Idle past 144 days)
Posts: 10333
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


Message 332 of 373 (604603)
02-13-2011 12:28 PM
Reply to: Message 331 by Jon
02-13-2011 12:16 PM


Re: Animal Experiences
Why don't you tell us what you position is on the role of language and it's relevance to the cognitive abilities required for the sort of beliefs under discussion?
Instead of just telling us what you didn't say?

This message is a reply to:
 Message 331 by Jon, posted 02-13-2011 12:16 PM Jon has not replied

onifre
Member (Idle past 3029 days)
Posts: 4854
From: Dark Side of the Moon
Joined: 02-20-2008


Message 333 of 373 (604604)
02-13-2011 12:30 PM
Reply to: Message 330 by Straggler
02-13-2011 11:59 AM


Re: Animal Experiences
Neuroscience?
Well no, they cannot in fact know the details of your dreams, or an animlas for that matter. All that can be said is that the do have dreams, the details of which are currently impossible to know.
If you have the cognitive where-wth-all to of dream of non-existant entites and ascribe them causal roles how is that not a base form of "supernatural belief"?
I would say that IS the basis for supernatural beliefs...but you don't know that chimps or any lesser animal can do this.
They are called "religious" or "supernatural" when those who have them believe them to be caused by supernatural agents.
So it remains that they are claimed to be religious and/or supernatural.
But they nevertheless believe in things that we would class as "supernatural" (e.g. gods).
Sure, in a very broad sense you can describe something as a god. And that calling it god, by todays definition, automatically makes it supernatural. But as you can see, and with your example of cargo cults which I was familiar with since reading The God Delusion, not all gods are supernatural beings.
So it remains a question as to whether or not simply ascribing a causal agent to an event, given that apes can do this, makes for a belief in the supernatural.
I think the "homo-sapien only because that is all we know" stance is too simplistic.
Fair enough, but it is the best educational guess that I can make. I can only tell you what the evidence points to.
Given the graduated nature of evolution it would be startling if the cognitive abilities required for supernatiural belief were not present in preceding species to some extent.
I would agree, but not really either. The evolvement of our frontal lobe separates us from just the last member of the homo species, erectus. IF for example, belief requires a large frontal lobe, then it was not present that far back. So there is a boundary.
The only real question is how far back it is relevant to go.
The real question is what are the brain areas required for such belief?
- Oni
Edited by onifre, : No reason given.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 330 by Straggler, posted 02-13-2011 11:59 AM Straggler has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 334 by Straggler, posted 02-13-2011 12:57 PM onifre has replied

Straggler
Member (Idle past 144 days)
Posts: 10333
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


Message 334 of 373 (604606)
02-13-2011 12:57 PM
Reply to: Message 333 by onifre
02-13-2011 12:30 PM


Re: Animal Experiences
Oni writes:
Straggler writes:
Given the graduated nature of evolution it would be startling if the cognitive abilities required for supernatiural belief were not present in preceding species to some extent.
I would agree, but not really either. The evolvement of our frontal lobe separates us from just the last member of the homo species, erectus.
Homo erectus the last member of the homo genus before modern humans? Is that right? I thought we had both agreed that Neanderthals were capable of religious beliefs so it seems likely that the common ancestor between us and them at least was in possession of such cognitive abilities. No?
Oni writes:
IF for example, belief requires a large frontal lobe, then it was not present that far back. So there is a boundary.
I would suggest that there is never really a "boundary" in evolutionary terms with anything as remotely complex as brain development. If your scenario were true (is there any reason to think it is?) then it would simply limit how far back it is reasonable to go quite severely. Maybe to the common ancestor of humans and Neanderthals?
Oni writes:
Straggler writes:
The only real question is how far back it is relevant to go.
The real question is what are the brain areas required for such belief?
In evolutionary terms they are the same question.
Oni writes:
Straggler writes:
If you have the cognitive where-wth-all to of dream of non-existant entites and ascribe them causal roles how is that not a base form of "supernatural belief"?
I would say that IS the basis for supernatural beliefs...but you don't know that chimps or any lesser animal can do this.
Which ability do you think they are lacking?
Oni writes:
Straggler writes:
They are called "religious" or "supernatural" when those who have them believe them to be caused by supernatural agents.
So it remains that they are claimed to be religious and/or supernatural.
No. They meet the definition of what we would call supernatural (look in any common dictionary for a definition of what this means if you need one)
Oni writes:
Sure, in a very broad sense you can describe something as a god. And that calling it god, by todays definition, automatically makes it supernatural.
Some call David Beckham a god. But nobody I am aware of calls him supernatural.
Oni writes:
But as you can see, and with your example of cargo cults which I was familiar with since reading The God Delusion, not all gods are supernatural beings.
The fact that people ascribe supernatural properties to things that you and I know are perfectly natural is neither here nor there. As concepts thay are supernatural because as concepts they have been ascribed supernatural properties.
Oni writes:
Straggler writes:
I think the "homo-sapien only because that is all we know" stance is too simplistic.
Fair enough, but it is the best educational guess that I can make. I can only tell you what the evidence points to.
I think the evidenced graduated nature of evolution means that it is highly likely that species prior to homo-sapiens held such beliefs.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 333 by onifre, posted 02-13-2011 12:30 PM onifre has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 335 by onifre, posted 02-13-2011 2:26 PM Straggler has replied

onifre
Member (Idle past 3029 days)
Posts: 4854
From: Dark Side of the Moon
Joined: 02-20-2008


Message 335 of 373 (604612)
02-13-2011 2:26 PM
Reply to: Message 334 by Straggler
02-13-2011 12:57 PM


Re: Animal Experiences
Homo erectus the last member of the homo genus before modern humans? Is that right?
Yes, they lack the enlarged frontal lobe that homo-sapiens have.
If your scenario were true (is there any reason to think it is?) then it would simply limit how far back it is reasonable to go quite severely.
If it is true, depends upon whether or not Andy Thomson, in the video Mod presented (Source), is correct.
Now, I did agree with you that Neanderthals were capable of religious behavior, but note that is different from religious belief.
Behavior is simply the comparison to our behavior; actual belief would require much more evidence. Like a figure, somekind of being or entity that they worship, or something like that. And I haven't see any of that.
Strag writes:
If you have the cognitive where-wth-all to of dream of non-existant entites and ascribe them causal roles how is that not a base form of "supernatural belief"?
Oni writes:
I would say that IS the basis for supernatural beliefs...but you don't know that chimps or any lesser animal can do this.
Strag writes:
Which ability do you think they are lacking?
It's not an ability that I think they're lacking. It's the context of their dreams, that would suggest they're dreaming of supernatural entities that they then ascribe them causal roles in reality, that I'm saying you have no evidence for.
No. They meet the definition of what we would call supernatural
What does that even mean? I'm saying that, just because someone claim an experience was caused by religious or supernatural agents, doesn't mean that it was a religious experience or supernatural experience.
Some call David Beckham a god. But nobody I am aware of calls him supernatural.
Exactly my point, Starggler. If you then claim Beckham caused the waters of the rivers to flow, it would not constitute a belief in the supernatural. Just a belief in Beckham to be able to cause rivers to flow.
So even if a chimp can ascribe a causal agant, doesn't make that agent supernatural or the chimps belief in the agent a religious belief. Is my point.
As concepts thay are supernatural because as concepts they have been ascribed supernatural properties.
Please then explain what the supernatural properties of John Frum from the cargo cults is?
I think the evidenced graduated nature of evolution means that it is highly likely that species prior to homo-sapiens held such beliefs.
Maybe, but that has nothing to do with your topic. If Neanderthals, erectus and every species in the homo genus were proven to have religious beliefs, it wouldn't answer the question of whether animals do too.
Modern animals don't exibit any behavior of religious belief, at all. More so, they don't exibit any religious beliefs such as worshiping a god-like shrine or something of that nature.
So the question remains as to whether or not animals can have such beliefs or behaviors?
- Oni

This message is a reply to:
 Message 334 by Straggler, posted 02-13-2011 12:57 PM Straggler has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 337 by Straggler, posted 02-14-2011 6:26 AM onifre has replied

Monsterspaghettiflying 
Suspended Junior Member (Idle past 4869 days)
Posts: 16
Joined: 02-13-2011


Message 336 of 373 (604632)
02-13-2011 4:50 PM


Edited by AdminModulous, : spam

Straggler
Member (Idle past 144 days)
Posts: 10333
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


Message 337 of 373 (604664)
02-14-2011 6:26 AM
Reply to: Message 335 by onifre
02-13-2011 2:26 PM


Primordial "Supernaturalism" (and Some Semantics)
You seem determined to turn this into some sort of semantic argument about the word "supernatural". I am not sure why. In this context a precise definition of this term just isn't important and any common dictionary definition will suffice. But if we must define this then I suggest the following (picked pretty much at random from an online dictionary): The term supernatural (Latin: super, supra "above" + natura "nature") pertains to being above or beyond what is natural, unexplainable by natural law or phenomena. As a clear example of such a concept I would suggest the spirit of a dead ancestor of the sort believed to exist by all known hunter-gatherer societies (Note: Who themselves make no distinction between what we call natural and what we call supernatural)
Oni writes:
Straggler writes:
They meet the definition of what we would call supernatural
What does that even mean?
It means that we apply our definition to the concept in question and see if it qualifies as something we would call "supernatural". What else could it possibly mean? I fear that you and I are coming at this from such different angles that we are talking at major cross purposes. But let’s plough on and see where we get to.
Oni writes:
Straggler writes:
As concepts they are supernatural because as concepts they have been ascribed supernatural properties.
Please then explain what the supernatural properties of John Frum from the cargo cults is?
The concept of Jon Frum is a messianic prophet who upon his return will make the old young again, rid the world of disease and bring with him the cargo from heaven to those that worship him. He is variously identified as a god who lives in the crater of Tanna's highest mountain with his several thousand strong army or the 'king of America'. Jon Frum communicates with his followers by means of a spiritual "radio" which consists of a an old woman in a trance holding a wire and muttering in tongues-like gibberish which the high priest of the Jon Frum religion is able to translate to his followers. Oni I am struggling to see which part of this concept isn't supernatural?
Oni writes:
If you then claim Beckham caused the waters of the rivers to flow, it would not constitute a belief in the supernatural. Just a belief in Beckham to be able to cause rivers to flow.
If we start ascribing additional supernatural properties to the concept of David Beckham then of course the concept of David Beckham becomes supernatural. How could this possibly not be the case? Did you know that David Beckham is just masquerading as a past-it footballer? Did you know that actually David Beckham is the physical embodiment on Earth of the immaterial omnipotent omniscient creator of the universe and source of all moral good whose miracle-capable physical form was born from a virgin jackal? Now are you seriously going to tell me that this concept of David Beckham is not supernatural? And if you are even thinking of pointing out that this concept of David Beckham bears little semblance to the real David Beckham let me tell you that my response will be "So what? Since when did that ever stop anyone?"
Oni writes:
Now, I did agree with you that Neanderthals were capable of religious behavior, but note that is different from religious belief.
In a thread of this speculative nature that seems like a very fine and (frankly) overly pedantic distinction. Given their close relatedness to us why would we not consider their very comparable behaviour to be indicative of very comparable motivations?
Oni on chimpanzees writes:
It's not an ability that I think they're lacking.
If we both agree that chimps have the cognitive capabilities to ascribe causal roles to imaginary beings and both agree that other apes (i.e. us humans) definitely do this then we have a clear evidential basis for asking the question whether chimps might also hold some primordial version of supernatural beliefs do we not?
Oni writes:
So the question remains as to whether or not animals can have such beliefs or behaviors?
I thought you just said they weren’t lacking any cognitive ability required for this? If they have the cognitive abilities to hold such beliefs in what sense are they incapable of them?
Oni writes:
It's the context of their dreams, that would suggest they're dreaming of supernatural entities that they then ascribe them causal roles in reality, that I'm saying you have no evidence for.
I genuinely have absolutely no idea what you are talking about here. What does "the context of the dreams" mean? Why does it matter? If a chimp dreams of a non-existant being (e.g. a recently deceased relative) and then ascribes this entity a causal role in the real world (e.g. the cause of a storm) then how is this not a base and simplistic primordial version of exactly the sort of beliefs we describe as "supernatural" when talking about humans?
Oni on homo erectus writes:
Yes, they lack the enlarged frontal lobe that homo-sapiens have.
With a fulltime job and 2 kids at home an hour to just sit and watch that lengthy vid is a luxury I am not afforded. So can you tell us what role this frontal lobe plays in human supernatural beliefs? If there is evidence to suggest that this region of the brain is both pivotal to holding supernatural beliefs and missing in all other species then we may have a reasonably conclusive answer to this thread. Is this what you are saying?
Oni writes:
Straggler writes:
I think the evidenced graduated nature of evolution means that it is highly likely that species prior to homo-sapiens held such beliefs.
Maybe, but that has nothing to do with your topic. If Neanderthals, erectus and every species in the homo genus were proven to have religious beliefs, it wouldn't answer the question of whether animals do too.
It has absolutely everything to do with this topic. IF true it would provide a solid evidential basis for concluding that the cognitive abilities under discussion emerged in our evolutionary past prior to the split with our animal cousins and demand the question of whether chimpanzees (and possibly other great apes) share a simple version of these cognitive abilities and hold some primordial version of such beliefs too.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 335 by onifre, posted 02-13-2011 2:26 PM onifre has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 338 by onifre, posted 02-14-2011 12:04 PM Straggler has replied

onifre
Member (Idle past 3029 days)
Posts: 4854
From: Dark Side of the Moon
Joined: 02-20-2008


Message 338 of 373 (604696)
02-14-2011 12:04 PM
Reply to: Message 337 by Straggler
02-14-2011 6:26 AM


Re: Primordial "Supernaturalism" (and Some Semantics)
You seem determined to turn this into some sort of semantic argument about the word "supernatural". I am not sure why.
You don't? Well it's because, you seem to be claiming, or at least the words you type are leading me to understand that, if one ascribes a causal role to a being, it is automatically supernatural. Which I don't agree with. So now we get lead down the semantics path...
It means that we apply our definition to the concept in question and see if it qualifies as something we would call "supernatural".
A causal agent is not automatically a supernatural agent.
Again, even if chimps can ascribe a causal role to a being, that doesn't make it a belief in the supernatural. They could very well imagine that the bi-pedal apes they see building things and that are far more advanced than them are the causal agents.
The concept of Jon Frum is a messianic prophet who upon his return will make the old young again, rid the world of disease and bring with him the cargo from heaven to those that worship him. He is variously identified as a god who lives in the crater of Tanna's highest mountain with his several thousand strong army or the 'king of America'. Jon Frum communicates with his followers by means of a spiritual "radio" which consists of a an old woman in a trance holding a wire and muttering in tongues-like gibberish which the high priest of the Jon Frum religion is able to translate to his followers.
First, nothing like "heaven" exists in the cargo cult religion, so lets leave out that add-on that would begin to qualify as supernatural. Nor is he to make anyone young again. Also, it is not known if he was a kava-induced vision or not, so nothing can be said about that. He also doesn't live on a mountain, the God they believe in does - although some claim Frum was the manifestation of that god. But not all. So again it's vague as to what is truly believed.
This is what they claim: And it was not claimed that he'd return, just that he promised a new age when the white people would leave Tanna and the natives would enjoy the wealth the white people had.
Now, what about that is supernatural?
If we start ascribing additional supernatural properties to the concept of David Beckham then of course the concept of David Beckham becomes supernatural. How could this possibly not be the case?
Well yeah, but I didn't so why are you even bringing that up?
Given their close relatedness to us why would we not consider their very comparable behaviour to be indicative of very comparable motivations?
Because the evidence doesn't point to that. All you're doing is saying hey, we do so they should too.
But I do draw a distinction between behavior and belief. Sam Harris would be an example of someone who is spiritual, studies eastern philosophy and meditates, yet, has zero belief in anything supernatural. I fall under the same catagory. I'm both spiritual and meditate. I behave as someone who is religious but I lack the belief...so does Harris.
So why are you holding to your position that they are the same?
I thought you just said they weren’t lacking any cognitive ability required for this? If they have the cognitive abilities to hold such beliefs in what sense are they incapable of them?
I said animals, you now said I said they have the cognitive funtion for this. When the fuck did I say that? When I said maybe chimps do? Does that cover all animals?
.....I'll get to the rest of your long, long, long post later.
- Oni

This message is a reply to:
 Message 337 by Straggler, posted 02-14-2011 6:26 AM Straggler has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 339 by Straggler, posted 02-14-2011 12:40 PM onifre has replied

Straggler
Member (Idle past 144 days)
Posts: 10333
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


Message 339 of 373 (604702)
02-14-2011 12:40 PM
Reply to: Message 338 by onifre
02-14-2011 12:04 PM


Re: Primordial "Supernaturalism" (and Some Semantics)
Oni writes:
Well it's because, you seem to be claiming, or at least the words you type are leading me to understand that, if one ascribes a causal role to a being, it is automatically supernatural. Which I don't agree with. So now we get lead down the semantics path...
If we are talking about the primordial origins of supernatural beliefs and the sort of thing chimps are likely capable of are we really going to quibble over a precise definition of "supernatural". Is that really the important point here?
If a chimp dreams of a non-existent being (e.g. a recently deceased relative) and then ascribes this entity a causal role in the real world (e.g. the cause of a storm) then how is this not a simplistic primordial version of exactly the sort of beliefs we describe as "supernatural" when talking about humans? Who cares if a dead ancestor meets some pernickity pedantic definition of "supernatural" or not?
Onion Jon Frum writes:
First, nothing like "heaven" exists in the cargo cult religion, so lets leave out that add-on that would begin to qualify as supernatural.
I got that from here: Link
"At the heart of the movement is a mythic messianic figure called Jon Frum, who allegedly appeared on the island of Tanna and who is variously identified as a god who lives in the crater of Tanna's highest mountain with his several thousand strong army or the 'king of America'. Jon Frum day is celebrated annually on 15 February; it is believed that Jon Frum will return on this day, bringing with him the cargo from heaven that westerners are selfishly diverting for themselves."
Oni writes:
Nor is he to make anyone young again.
According to the God Delusion (which you cited as your source of knowledge for this phenomenon) he is. From the God Delusion: Link
"His apocalyptic vision included a 'great cataclysm; the mountains would fall flat and the valleys would be filled;* old people would regain their youth and sickness would vanish;"
Oni writes:
This is what they claim: And it was not claimed that he'd return,
Again from the God Delusion:
"It is believed that the day of John Frum's return will be 15 February, but the year is unknown. Every year on 15 February his followers assemble for a religious ceremony to welcome him. So far he has not returned, but they are not downhearted. David Attenborough said to one cult devotee, called Sam:
'But, Sam, it is nineteen years since John say that the cargo will come. He promise and he promise, but still the cargo does not come. Isn't nineteen years a long time to wait?'
Sam lifted his eyes from the ground and looked at me. 'If you can wait two thousand years for Jesus Christ to come an' 'e no come, then I can wait more than nineteen years for John.'
Oni writes:
Now, what about that is supernatural?
The concept of Jon Frum is indisputably supernatural. But if you remove all the supernatural properties from the concept then obviously it won't be supernatural anymore.........
Oni writes:
So why are you holding to your position that they are the same?
I'm not saying that beliefs and behaviours are the same. I am saying that the motivations of humans and neanderthals are likely to be highly comparable.
Oni writes:
Does that cover all animals?
I was talking about chimps. And I know you were talking about chimps. I apologise if this was not clear.
Edited by Straggler, : No reason given.
Edited by Straggler, : No reason given.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 338 by onifre, posted 02-14-2011 12:04 PM onifre has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 340 by onifre, posted 02-14-2011 12:57 PM Straggler has replied

onifre
Member (Idle past 3029 days)
Posts: 4854
From: Dark Side of the Moon
Joined: 02-20-2008


Message 340 of 373 (604705)
02-14-2011 12:57 PM
Reply to: Message 339 by Straggler
02-14-2011 12:40 PM


Re: Primordial "Supernaturalism" (and Some Semantics)
I'll concede on the cargo cult thing.
If a chimp dreams of a non-existent being (e.g. a recently deceased relative) and then ascribes this entity a causal role in the real world (e.g. the cause of a storm) then how is this not a simplistic primordial version of exactly the sort of beliefs we describe as "supernatural" when talking about humans? Who cares if a dead ancestor meets some pernickity pedantic definition of "supernatural" or not?
Yeah, something like that would qualify.
But, it is not known what chimps dream about, nor does anyone know if chimps do ascribe causal roles to such an entity.
There is just no way of knowing something like that. The only reason we know humans do is because they can tell us.
- Oni

This message is a reply to:
 Message 339 by Straggler, posted 02-14-2011 12:40 PM Straggler has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 341 by Straggler, posted 02-14-2011 1:15 PM onifre has replied

Straggler
Member (Idle past 144 days)
Posts: 10333
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


Message 341 of 373 (604709)
02-14-2011 1:15 PM
Reply to: Message 340 by onifre
02-14-2011 12:57 PM


Re: Primordial "Supernaturalism" (and Some Semantics)
Oni writes:
But, it is not known what chimps dream about, nor does anyone know if chimps do ascribe causal roles to such an entity.
Well of course we don't know. I’m not claiming to have any answers. I am defending the evidential legitimacy of the question.
As (yet again) AdminMod put it: This thread poses the question: "What evidence might look like and try to resolve one way or another what we can say we know about this topic."
I think we can say that it is not beyond the realms of evidenced possibility that chimpanzees are capable of some sort of individual primordial "supernaturalism". Whether you want to call it strictly "supernatural" or not by some rigid definition or other I have little interest in pursuing.
Oni writes:
The only reason we know humans do is because they can tell us.
The most sophisticated believers tell us that they believe in "something" that they deem to be incomprehensible and which they can't adequately define. Yet we accept their beliefs on this basis. Which kinda puts the whole "because they can tell us" into context.
Deistic chimps anyone?

This message is a reply to:
 Message 340 by onifre, posted 02-14-2011 12:57 PM onifre has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 342 by onifre, posted 02-14-2011 1:31 PM Straggler has replied

onifre
Member (Idle past 3029 days)
Posts: 4854
From: Dark Side of the Moon
Joined: 02-20-2008


Message 342 of 373 (604711)
02-14-2011 1:31 PM
Reply to: Message 341 by Straggler
02-14-2011 1:15 PM


Re: Primordial "Supernaturalism" (and Some Semantics)
Well of course we don't know. I’m not claiming to have any answers. I am defending the evidential legitimacy of the question.
The question was already asked in song in the movie The Hangover: What do tigers dream of when they take a little tiger snooze. Source
No offense, but I don't think there is any question to be asked when it comes to what animals dream of.
I think we can say that it is not beyond the realms of evidenced possibility that chimpanzees are capable of some sort of individual primordial "supernaturalism".
I don't disagree, it isn't beyond the realm of possibility. But capable of that just because they show signs of absrtact thinking, seems weak as far as evidence goes.
I say it isn't beyond the realm of possibility because they are a distant cousin of ours, and if any animal would be capable, I'd start with the chimps. But I don't think there is evidence to support that hypothesis beyond the fact that we're all primates and maybe they can do it.
Deistic chimps anyone?
Maybe, but I'd need to hear it from them directly because I couldn't know what they're thinking any other way.
- Oni

This message is a reply to:
 Message 341 by Straggler, posted 02-14-2011 1:15 PM Straggler has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 343 by Straggler, posted 02-15-2011 3:25 AM onifre has replied

Straggler
Member (Idle past 144 days)
Posts: 10333
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


Message 343 of 373 (604813)
02-15-2011 3:25 AM
Reply to: Message 342 by onifre
02-14-2011 1:31 PM


Re: Primordial "Supernaturalism" (and Some Semantics)
Oni writes:
But capable of that just because they show signs of absrtact thinking, seems weak as far as evidence goes.
We all seem to agree that it is a necessary first step. And the focus on that aspect came about not because I think it the most important but because others were denying chimps this ability and making their case in this thread on that basis.
Oni writes:
No offense, but I don't think there is any question to be asked when it comes to what animals dream of.
The focus on dreams came about purely because you said:
"Concept of cause and effect? Sure. Concept of intent? Sure. An ability to imagine and dream? How could you know what goes on subjectively in the mind of an ape? 2 out of 3." Message 304
The various focuses of this thread have not always been where I would have chosen to make the best case. They have been shaped by those who are challenging the idea.
Oni writes:
I say it isn't beyond the realm of possibility because they are a distant cousin of ours, and if any animal would be capable, I'd start with the chimps.
Exactly my point. Except to say that in evolutionary terms chimps are far from "distant" cousins. This is my argument in summary:
1) We know humans are capable of and deeply prone to such beliefs.
2) We know that humans evolved from "non-humans" (for lack of a better term).
3) We don't know when the cognitive abilities required to hold "religious" beliefs manifested themselves in mans evolutionary past but given the graduated nature of evolution there is every reason to think they didn't just pop into existence fully formed with homo-sapiens.
4) Evidence suggests that other great apes (e.g. our closest living relatives chimpanzees) have the basic cognitive abilities to grasp cause and effect, ascribe intent and use their imagination.
5) This raises the question of when the cognitive ability to ascribe causal roles to imagined entities arose - Before or after the breaking away of the homo-genus line?
6) Neurological evidence suggests that apes (and indeed many other mammals) are capable of what humans call "religious" experiences.
7) What most less intelligent animals make of these experiences is probably beyond even speculation but those who have observed apes in particular describe behaviour that is comparable to that of humans and speculate that the internal mental processes and motivations may not be a million miles away from those that we know of in humans.
Oni writes:
But I don't think there is evidence to support that hypothesis beyond the fact that we're all primates and maybe they can do it.
See above. But does this mean you now think there is more evidence for this possibility than for telepathic dogs? (to use a comparison cited by you earlier in this thread)
Edited by Straggler, : No reason given.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 342 by onifre, posted 02-14-2011 1:31 PM onifre has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 344 by onifre, posted 02-15-2011 2:04 PM Straggler has replied

onifre
Member (Idle past 3029 days)
Posts: 4854
From: Dark Side of the Moon
Joined: 02-20-2008


Message 344 of 373 (604850)
02-15-2011 2:04 PM
Reply to: Message 343 by Straggler
02-15-2011 3:25 AM


Re: Primordial "Supernaturalism" (and Some Semantics)
We all seem to agree that it is a necessary first step. And the focus on that aspect came about not because I think it the most important but because others were denying chimps this ability and making their case in this thread on that basis.
Fair enough.
But I'll add that it's about as necessary of a first step as sight is.
The focus on dreams came about purely because you said:
"Concept of cause and effect? Sure. Concept of intent? Sure. An ability to imagine and dream? How could you know what goes on subjectively in the mind of an ape? 2 out of 3."
Yes, and I still stick to that. That apes have dreams is not my concern, it is what apes are dreaming that would need to be known to know if they are dreaming and imagining a causal agent, etc, etc, etc.
It is that which is still an unknown. So yeah they can dream, but about what? And if you don't know that, bringing up dreaming as evidence is pointless.
3) We don't know when the cognitive abilities required to hold "religious" beliefs manifested themselves in mans evolutionary past but given the graduated nature of evolution there is every reason to think they didn't just pop into existence fully formed with homo-sapiens.
But I did provide you with the evidence that linked religiosity with the frontal lobes and the cortex.
Here's another link to support that theory.
from link:
quote:
The study found that several areas of the brain are involved in religious belief, one within the frontal lobes of the cortex — which are unique to humans — and another in the more evolutionary-ancient regions deeper inside the brain, which humans share with apes and other primates, Professor Grafman said.
But the point being that it involves the entire use of all these functions for religiosity.
As it states here:
quote:
Scientists searching for the neural "God spot", which is supposed to control religious belief, believe that there is not just one but several areas of the brain that form the biological foundations of religious belief.
The question would then be if some, but not all areas, acting together could still lead to such beliefs?
Which I think is where archeological evidence of religious behavior could help correlate the growth of the frontal lobes to the first evidence of such behavior.
When that is done, it seems to show that religious behavior didn't show up until the growth of the frontal lobes took place.
I would say this leaves little, as far as evidence is concerned, to support the theory of early primates and religiosity.
6) Neurological evidence suggests that apes (and indeed many other mammals) are capable of what humans call "religious" experiences.
No, it said spiritual, and like I have shown, spirituality is separate from beliefs in the supernatural.
But does this mean you now think there is more evidence for this possibility than for telepathic dogs?
Not really. I would say it's about the same.
- Oni

This message is a reply to:
 Message 343 by Straggler, posted 02-15-2011 3:25 AM Straggler has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 345 by Straggler, posted 02-15-2011 4:02 PM onifre has replied

Straggler
Member (Idle past 144 days)
Posts: 10333
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


Message 345 of 373 (604860)
02-15-2011 4:02 PM
Reply to: Message 344 by onifre
02-15-2011 2:04 PM


Re: Primordial "Supernaturalism" (and Some Semantics)
Oni writes:
I would say this leaves little, as far as evidence is concerned, to support the theory of early primates and religiosity.
What do you mean by religiosity? In this latest post you seem to have reverted to the sort of ritualistic complex religion that we all agree is unique to humans rather than the sort of primordial supernaturalism I thought we had agreed was relevant here. Currently observed human abilities (and proclivities) have to have developed from something more primitive must they not? That is what we are talking about here. When did the capacity for supernatural belief first emerge in it’s most primordial form? That is essentially the question. Not - When are the first signs of organised ritualistic religion to be found? That is a very very different question indeed. Let’s not conflate the two.
Oni writes:
But I did provide you with the evidence that linked religiosity with the frontal lobes and the cortex.
Complex religiosity of the human variety — Sure. But we are not talking about Sikh or Hindu chimps here. We are talking about primordial supernaturalism of the sort that presumably preceded our uniquely human capacity for such things. The links you have provided seem to indicate that many areas of the brain involved are indeed shared by both us and chimps. And as far as I can see a lot of the brain activity investigated is primarily concerned with susceptibility to stories and subjective experiences rather than indicating that the frontal lobes are vital to ascribing causal intent to non-existent entities which is essentially what we are talking about at the most primordial level.
Oni writes:
The question would then be if some, but not all areas, acting together could still lead to such beliefs?
The question would then be what is required for primordial beliefs of the sort under discussion. If frontal lobes are known to be associated with this then you have a watertight case and I will shut-up. Do you think this is the case?
Oni writes:
That apes have dreams is not my concern, it is what apes are dreaming that would need to be known to know if they are dreaming and imagining a causal agent, etc, etc, etc.
To say that we can have absolutely no idea at all as to what chimps are likely to be dreaming about is just not true at all. Based on what we know about human dreams and studies of animals ability to dream we can say that chimps are almost certainly dreaming about the things they interact with and that matter to them in their everyday lives. Things like their fellow chimps. Frankly — What else would they be likely to be dreaming about? And why would this not include things like recently deceased relatives with whom they had a close relationship?
Oni writes:
So yeah they can dream, but about what? And if you don't know that, bringing up dreaming as evidence is pointless.
The ability to dream provides evidence of the ability to hold representations of things that may not exist (because they have died or been destroyed) in ones mind. If (for example) a chimp is dreaming of a recently deceased relative and then when they awake they associate some aspect of the real world (e.g. a storm) as being caused by the object of that dream then as far as I am concerned we have supernaturalism in it’s most primordial form. Are they doing this? Who knows. But all of the individual cognitive abilities required to do so (ascribe intent and appreciate cause and effect as well as dream) seem to be in place with regard to chimps specifically.
Oni writes:
Straggler writes:
Neurological evidence suggests that apes (and indeed many other mammals) are capable of what humans call "religious" experiences.
No, it said spiritual, and like I have shown, spirituality is separate from beliefs in the supernatural.
Are you serious? At the sort of base primordial level we are talking about here you are making a distinction where there is just unlikely to be a difference. You earlier described Neanderthals as exhibiting religious behaviour but refused to associate this as likely to be caused by supernatural belief on the basis that you and Sam Harris are spiritual beings who are not religious. Frankly I think this comparison is ridiculous. Whilst I am sure that some Neanderthals would have loved to do a bit of atheistic-yoga after a hard day in the cave it seems far more likely that their reasons for exhibiting religious behaviours are identical to those of prehistoric humans. Namely that they were engaged in a daily struggle for survival in a hostile and seemingly inexplicable environment. Constantly trying to ascribe cause to aspects of nature (e.g. the weather) by imbuing inanimate objects and elemental forces with conscious intent of the type they had themselves. In other words a primitive form of supernaturalism. You and Sam Harris, needless to say, are not engaging in spirituality for these same reasons. What chimps make of these sorts of spiritual experiences is unknown. But I would suggest that it is more akin to primitive humans and Neanderthals than you or Sam Harris.
Oni writes:
Straggler writes:
But does this mean you now think there is more evidence for this possibility than for telepathic dogs?
Not really. I would say it's about the same.
C’mon Oni. Be serious.
  • Firstly we know that belief in the supernatural exists. We have no reason to think telepathy exists at all.
  • Secondly we have evidence that chimps possess the cognitive abilities that would seem to be required for some form of primordial supernaturalism. We have no evidence to remotely suggest that dogs have the cognitive abilities for telepathy.
  • Thirdly we know that we humans are evolved apes and that our cognitive abilities must have emerged at some point in our evolutionary path. A path of which much is shared specifically with chimpanzees. Nothing suggests that telepathic abilities have ever evolved in the dog lineage. Or indeed any other.
    Basically it is an indisputably unjustifiable evidential comparison and you are being silly to make it.

  • This message is a reply to:
     Message 344 by onifre, posted 02-15-2011 2:04 PM onifre has replied

    Replies to this message:
     Message 346 by onifre, posted 02-15-2011 6:09 PM Straggler has replied
     Message 347 by Jon, posted 02-15-2011 7:22 PM Straggler has replied

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