The caveman instinct may explain our belief in gods and spirits

The caveman instinct may explain our belief in gods and spirits
26 March 2024 J.W.H

Concepts of gods appear in all human societies, from all powerful and omniscient deities to easy forest spirits. The newest method the study of non secular thought and behavior connects their ubiquity and the similarity of our beliefs with the ways wherein human mental processes were adapted to survive in prehistoric times.

It is predicated on A some observations about human psychology. First, when an event occurs, we often assume that it was brought on by a living thing. In other words, we assume that we’re behind the event. If you consider events that will have occurred in prehistoric times, you’ll be able to easily see why agency bias could be useful. The rustling of a bush or the snap of a twig could also be brought on by the wind. But it's a lot better to assume it's a lion and run away.

The survivors, who tended to attribute blame more easily to the event, passed on their genes from generation to generation, increasingly ingraining this manner of creating quick decisions into the brain. This shouldn’t be something people should learn. This happens quickly and mechanically.

Empathic tendencies

The second characteristic concerns how we perceive others. While living together as a tribe provided many survival advantages in prehistoric times, getting together with everyone wasn't all the time easy. Understanding the behavior of others requires understanding their thoughts and beliefs, especially if they could be incorrect because someone doesn’t know all of the facts a few given situation.

Prehistoric group.
Robert Adrian Hillman

This known as “theory of mind.” This idea says that we mechanically assume that there are reasons for the behavior of others, which we try to find out with a view to higher understand why they behave the best way they do. Lack of this ability was proposed cause developmental disorders comparable to autism.

You could also be wondering what these two built-in processes should do with belief in gods. Imagine a pebble falling from the back of a cave. Our agency device tells us that somebody caused this. Since there isn’t any evidence, could it’s an invisible entity or spirit? If so, why would he be sneaky? To learn secrets about ourselves or discover whether we’re good or bad people?

Another example could be a volcanic eruption. In the absence of geological knowledge, the agency system of our tribal ancestors would have attributed this event to an individual – but actually one with superhuman abilities. And why would they wish to cause such destruction? Perhaps the eruption meant punishment, perhaps since the tribe had not behaved in response to the entity's will.

About ghosts and gods

These two very simplified examples should help illustrate how these built-in mechanisms can result in the beginnings of a belief in gods, in addition to ghosts and other supernatural creatures. Our ancestors would have drawn conclusions in regards to the supernatural by combining these instincts of agency and theory of mind.

Are ghosts just a part of the human survival function?
Jeff Krause, CC BY-SA

This is even true of Abraham, the all-knowing, all-powerful god. At first glance it could appear very inhumane, but it has been shown that we take into consideration Him in a really human way. For example, we depict Him helping one person before He went to the opposite side of the world to assist another person. Programmed reasoning processes help explain why religious ideas are so enduring, spreading across continents and from generation to generation.

The children's observations seem to substantiate these and other ancient instincts. Very young children appear to have a really thorough understanding of physical laws. They know, for instance, that two solid objects cannot develop into one or that horses shouldn’t have metal gears in them. Developmental psychologists suggest that children are intuitive biologists, physicists and – using the speculation of mind – psychologists.

We are pink!

Concepts that violate these intuitive understandings appears to be more memorable than others. A rose that whispers in Latin violates the intuitive understanding that plants don’t have any minds or mouths and subsequently cannot whisper in the traditional language – or some other language.

It could also be that the violation of an intuitive concept attracts special attention and interest and thus helps to repair the concept in memory. Many religious stories contain concepts that appear to violate this particular sort of intuition, comparable to a person walking on water or a burning bush talking. These stories use this feature of memory to spread effectively and never be forgotten.

Do you’ve gotten a glass of water?
Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

Combining these ideas is one technique to explain religious thought and behavior. One could go further and suggest that if these ideas are correct, religion is merely a byproduct of faulty mental processes.

However, this assumes that religious/supernatural experiences usually are not real. If the human mind were to actually experience God, then theories of agency and mind, and our memory of the counterintuitive, would help us understand it. If this were the case, the conclusions wouldn’t be flawed in any respect.

Dr. Kelly will discuss these ideas intimately on the conference lecture in Glasgow on the evening of Thursday, May 22.

Image Source:

  • J.W.H

    About John:

    John Williams is a Reincarnationist paranormal Intuitive freelance writer...he is living proof of reincarnation existence, through his personal exploration, he has confirmed its authenticity through visits to the very lands where these events transpired.

    Through guided meditation/s using hemi-sync technology he has managed to recollect 3 previous lives to his own, that go back to the Mid to Late 19th century.

    JWH - "You are the GODS! - Inclusion of the Eternal Light of Love and you shall never die”.

    “Death is Just the Beginning of Life”