SPb brain evolution explains faith in God and the supernatural

No matter how amazing we are with you it seems, but to believe in the supernatural is actually natural. Almost 6 billion people in the world identify themselves to one religion, and that 84% of the world population. It is expected that in the coming decades these numbers are only going to increase. According to the results of the conducted survey, 90% of US citizens believe in some higher spiritual power or God. In Russia, according to “Levada-center”, more than 50% believe in God and various supernatural forces. It turns out that people tend to belief in the unbelievable. This is definitely not news to anthropologists, because the origins and ubiquity of religious beliefs can be explained evolutionary theory.

How evolution explains religion?

Today, there are two main hypotheses that explain the belief in the supernatural: first, our ancestors developed certain mental abilities that are useful for survival and reproduction, which predisposed them to religious beliefs. Then, from the set of beliefs emerged, spread, and preserved a separate religion. The fact that deities and rituals contributed to the cooperation between people. But the second hypothesis proposes to consider the evidence first: the idea that religion is an accidental byproduct of cognitive abilities arose for other reasons. Recall that the cognitive abilities or skills referred to as higher brain functions, which include the ability to speak, to think, to navigate in space, etc.

For religion as we know it, needs different spiritual components. Scientists distinguish three trends that are pronounced in humans, but is minimal in other species: we are looking for patterns defined by the intentions and learn to imitate. Is a cognitive adaptation that helped to survive our ancestors. So, we love to find connections and patterns where there really are not: for example, to predict the future wondering coffee grounds or to attribute intentions to non-existent forces, blaming all the troubles of evil spirits. At the same time, we are willing to go to great lengths, if only the unhappiness to end, so this is the origin of sacrifice and fasting. Thus, our adaptive mental abilities could lead to religious beliefs.

Psychological preconditions for religion

One hypothesis is that a search of role models has obvious advantages for the search for food, avoid predators, weather forecasting, etc. moreover, we constantly observe the world, trying to bring the causal connection. The result is obvious: almost all of us happened to wear lucky socks for an important meeting, put a fiver in boots during exams to read tea leaves and even see the face of Jesus on a cheese sandwich. Also do not forget about “Theory of Mind” — understanding that others have beliefs, desires and goals that influence their actions. Theory of mind allows us to have complex social relations and to predict how others will behave. According to experts, our desire to ascribe a mind to inanimate or imaginary objects is a measure of theory of mind. Classic psychological experiments have shown that people “animate” even geometric shapes. Moreover, people use theory of mind to the forces of nature, ancestral spirits and unseen gods. The results of the MRI scan showed that areas of the brain associated with theory of mind are activated when people hear about the Divine emotions and his involvement in worldly Affairs.

Finally, the natural tendency of excessive imitation predisposes us to adopt religious practices. Instead of having to rely on experience and trial and error, people learn most of the skills of others: “monkey see — monkey do”. So, many cultures have developed methods to make toxic plants edible. As a result of their ritual actions, including complex and time-consuming movement, were transmitted to descendants. Thus, reproduction of others, even if the reasons are not obvious, can help the survival. This mentality extends to religious practices. In other words, if prestige your community sacrificed deer every solstice, you probably would be doing the same.