The Spirituality of Chimps

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Feb 18, 2006, 5:25:12 PM2/18/06
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This is a funny.

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"Although the evidence is sparse, we can say that typically chimpanzees
welcome
the newborn into this world. In one case, a birth at the Yerkes
Regional Primate Research
Center, the entire Yerkes chimp colony of about 200 animals gathered in
silence around
the mother-to-be who soon squatted and delivered the newborn into her
own hands."


"At the other end of the alimentary process, chimpanzees use leaves to
wipe themselves after
defecating, a practice also considered a cultural tradition."

"I suggest that consortship pattern in contrast to the other two
patterns is analogous to what might be called the practice of 'deep
love'-an expression of a distinct libido instinct-in human
relationships. It is of a different order from that of the
procreative drive or sexual instinct per se. In Jungian psychology this
practice is called
'eros' and it ultimately gives rise to what in alchemy is called
the 'mysterium
coniunctionis'."

"Neuroscience indicates that these instincts, like their delusional
modes, appear to have their
neural substrate in the parahippocampus. They also have neural
associations with basal
ganglia functions, whose derangements in obsessive-compulsive disorder
include
respectively, symmetry obsession, compulsive ordering, arranging,
counting; sexual
obsession, compulsive touching, and repetitive body motion; obsession
with dirt, germs,
toxins, bodily wastes, secretions, compulsive washing and cleanliness;
obsession with
terrible events, compulsive checking back, apotropaic rituals;
compulsive hoarding and
collecting rituals; and scrupulosity. Whether chimpanzee spiritual
instincts have
comparable neuro-behavioral substrates is a question for future
research."


James B. Harrod v.1 4.12.2004

Chimpanzee Spirituality: A Concise Synthesis of the Literature
Version 1
April 2004
© James B. Harrod, Ph.D
James B. Harrod v.1 4.12.2004

Chimpanzee Spirituality: A Concise Synthesis of the Literature

In discussions about the evolution of human religion, it may be useful
to consider
the evidence for spirituality in our evolutionary cousins, the
chimpanzees. As I have not
found any studies that comprehensively address the question of
spirituality or religion
among chimpanzees, I reviewed Goodall (1986) and other primatology
sources for
evidence of spiritual behaviors. I analyzed this evidence in terms of
standard categories of
religious ritual used in the field of history of religions and
anthropology. I conclude that
chimpanzees have an array of behaviors that show a remarkable overlap
with those of
human religious ritual. This has implications for the definition of
religion in the fields of
anthropology and religious studies as well as for how humans define
their own humanity.
Are chimpanzees religious? Do they have behaviors that may be called
religious?
Do they express spirituality? Before the great advances in the science
of primatology in
the latter part of the 20th century one could hardly imagine how to
answer or even
formulate such a question. Now primatologists suggest that chimpanzees
have cultural
traditions and they do not reject out of hand the idea that our closest
cousin species
engages in behavioral patterns that might be called spiritual.

As I will show one might even say these patterns are 'religious'
but at this point I will simply argue that these patterns express
'spirituality'. Some people who consider the subject would hesitate
to apply the term 'religion' to any chimpanzee behavior, hoping to
reserve the prerogative for applying this term to Homo sapiens sapiens
only. This, of course, is an anthropocentric and specieist view. For
this review I will use the term 'spirituality'.

How might we proceed to answer the question of chimpanzee spirituality?
First, I
reviewed research literature on chimpanzees to see if they have
cultural traditions that
humans might call spiritual. It turns out that chimpanzees express a
number of behaviors
that primatologists call 'cultural'. They occur across populations
and are considered to be
cultural patterns or practices having more or less variability from one
population to
another. Among these are some behavioral patterns that I suggest
categorizing as directly
or indirectly 'spiritual'. They appear to fall into three groups. I
will take up each in turn,
first, six practices that might be called 'spiritual' practices,
strictly speaking, then a group
that might be called 'socio-political' practices, and, third, a
group that might be called
'life-instinct' practices.

As I will show in a series of indented notes, these three chunks of
practices might be
construed as expressions of cortical, limbic, and diencephalon neural
substrates.
I derive the first group as follows. After Van Gennep (1960), Eliade
(1958, 1964)
and Lévi-Strauss (1969, 1973, 1978), I suggest that the basic
categories of human religious
ritual seem to be:

· Birth rites
· Marriage rites
· Mortuary rites
· Culinary rites
· Initiatory rites
· Ecological rites

I have reviewed primatology literature to identify chimpanzee
behavioral patterns
that might be considered analogous to these types of human
'spiritual' or 'religious' rites.
(Table 1 gives a detailed summary of my literature review for these
behaviors.) In the light
of the six categories of human religious ritual, there are a group of
six analogous
chimpanzee behavioral patterns.

· Birth practices
· Mortuary practices
· Consortship practices
· Culinary practices
· Medicinal-healing practices
· Deep ecology practices

Although the evidence is sparse, we can say that typically chimpanzees
welcome
the newborn into this world. In one case, a birth at the Yerkes
Regional Primate Research
Center, the entire Yerkes chimp colony of about 200 animals gathered in
silence around
the mother-to-be who soon squatted and delivered the newborn into her
own hands. The
mother's closest companion, an elder female named Atlanta (who has
had quite a few
infants of her own), screamed in reaction to the birth, embraced two
other chimpanzees,
and spent the next several weeks closely attending the mother and her
offspring (de Waal
no citation).

Generalizing, chimpanzee birth behavior includes gathering in silence
and
then screaming and embracing at the birth, expressing elation to match
that of the new
mother. In a second case, at the Georgia State University Language
Research Center, as
Panbanisha gave birth Sue Savage-Rumbaugh exclaimed "it's your
baby" whereupon she
smiled broadly, pushed downward and delivered the baby. After
suctioning, she gave the
baby back to her mother exclaiming, "Panbanisha, this is YOUR
baby". She gasped, took
it, pressed it to her ventrum and rushed to her nest with it
(Savage-Rumbaugh 1998).
Thus, in our two examples a midwife is present-in one case an elderly
female
chimpanzee, in the other a human caretaker-to acknowledge and mirror
the mother's joy
at delivering a baby. This complex of interactive behaviors and
emotional expressions
constitutes a 'behavioral practice' that is similar among
chimpanzees and humans, and a
practice implicitly spiritual. It borders on human rituals of birth,
which center around
successful midwifing of the delivery, the joyous and warm welcoming of
the newborn into
the family and community, and the assistance of 'godmothers'.

Across multiple populations, wild and captive-with examples from
Gombe,
Mahale, Tai Forest and the Arnhem Zoo-chimpanzees display a common
pattern of
behavior in relation to death of a group member (Telecki cited in
Goodall 1986; de Waal
1996, 1989; Boesch and Boesch cited Pettitt 2002; Huffman cited in
Engel 2002a).
Typically, chimpanzees make calls that announce the death. There is
some form of group
silence and visitation around the corpse; some chimps may keep a vigil
for long periods of
time. Males may engage in aggression displays, perhaps out of anger at
the death. Highranking males may guard the corpse only allow other
high-ranking females or males to
come near. There may be bouts of grooming to reaffirm group solidarity
and the corpse
may itself be touched in a kind of grooming. There are clear
expressions through calls,
looking, or other gestures of loss and sympathy. Females seem to more
actively lament
deaths than males.

Apparently, chimpanzees have awareness of both birth and death and, as
evidenced
in the acts of silence in both cases, the mystery of these events and
bring forth a responsive
array of emotions and behaviors. Chimpanzees show at least three mating
patterns including(a) estrous promiscuity involving direct male
courtship displays with erect penis, relative female choice, and rump
presentation; (b) monopolization of sexual rights by higher ranking
male; and (c) exclusive consortship away from main group for up to
three months, during estrous and anoestrous phases (Goodall 1986).

I suggest that consortship pattern in contrast to the other two
patterns is analogous to what might be called the practice of 'deep
love'-an expression of a distinct libido instinct-in human
relationships. It is of a different order from that of the
procreative drive or sexual instinct per se. In Jungian psychology this
practice is called
'eros' and it ultimately gives rise to what in alchemy is called
the 'mysterium
coniunctionis'.

Chimpanzees engage in a culturally determined culinary practice, a
typical manner
of meat eating. Chimps tear off chunks of meat with their teeth and
hands. Large bones
are cracked open and marrow extracted; small bones chewed and
swallowed. In case of
small prey, first the face is bitten into and the skull is bitten open,
blood sucked and the
brain consumed. Large prey skulls are bitten open or opened by
enlarging the foramen
magnum; then viscera are eaten. Almost always a morsel of meat is
chewed together with
a wadge of leaves, and usually discarded along with unwanted pieces of
bone or skin.
Sometimes the brain is scraped out of the skull with a leaf wadge
(Goodall 1986). The leaf
wadge practice is one of the 'cultural' practices of chimpanzees
(Whiten 1999). (At the
other end of the alimentary process, chimpanzees use leaves to wipe
themselves after
defecating, a practice also considered a cultural tradition.) At least
for human emotions
and apparently for those of chimpanzees, spitting out gristle, skin and
bone is felt by the
spitter as an act of contempt and by the witness, as crude and
disgusting behavior. Rather
than spitting out gristle or bone chimpanzees may be avoiding crudeness
in the eyes of
other chimpanzees or they may be showing respect for the source of
their food, another
living being. Either way the etiquette of the leaf wadge belongs to a
chimpanzee culinary
code. While chimpanzees may not have developed cooking to the extent of
'the raw and
the cooked' among Homo sapiens, they clearly have table manners.

Chimpanzees engage in 'zoopharmacognosy', the process by which wild
animals
select and use specific plants with medicinal properties for the
treatment and prevention of
disease (Rodriguez and Wrangham 1993). They swallow leaves of Aspilia
and 18 other
species of plants, sometimes carefully folded, as mechanical scours to
expel intestinal
worms (Huffman and Caton 2001; Huffman 1997; Huffman et al 1996;
Wrangham 1995;

Messer and Wrangham 1995; Newton and Nishida 1990; Wrangham and Goodall
1989;
Rodriguez et al 1985). They eat the inner pith of Vernonia amygdalina,
to cure intestinal
problems. African herbalists often prescribe this plant to treat
malarial fever,
schistosomiasis, amoebic dysentery and other intestinal parasites and
stomach disorders
(Huffman and Seifu 1989; Koshimizu et al 1994; Huffman 1997; Huffman
2003; Engel
2002a). Chimpanzees eat termite mound clay, apparently for mineral
supplementation,
toxin adsorption, anti-diarrhoeal action, and gut pH adjustment
(Goodall 1986; Mahaney et
al 1996; Krishnamani 2000; Aufreiter et al 2001; Gilardi et al 1999.)
They practice
dentistry (McGrew and Tutin 1973; Goodall 1986). A female chimp cleaned
the teeth of a
young male and pulled out a rotten tooth with a simple wooden lever she
made herself.
Chimps have been observed to use toothpicks and pull out their own
rotten teeth.
Many primates go out of their way to ingest psychoactive plants,
including
fermented fruits containing alcohol, Lobelia, Euphorbia and other
hallucinogens, many of
which also have medicinal properties (Gibbs 1996; Engel 2002a). The
adaptive benefit
may be energy; alcohol provides twice the calories of carbohydrates
(Dudley 2002, 2000);
such fruits may be packed with minerals, vitamins and carbohydrates,
and alcohol in
moderation has a variety of known health benefits for humans (Engel
2002a). Primates are
reported to use plants that have psychoactive hallucinogenic properties
and are therapeutic
for parasitic worms (Rodriguez et al 1982). While there are sparse
observations of
substance use among chimpanzees-Temerlin's Lucy developed a
spontaneous taste for
alcohol of fermented apples-the fact that chimpanzees are frugivores
and leaf and pitheaters
suggests that they, like other primates, would have a taste for alcohol
and other
psychoactives (Temerlin 1975 cited in Goodall 1986). This is also
suggested by the
existence of a human predisposition to alcohol intoxication, which must
have evolutionary
roots and evolutionary advantage (Dudley 2002, 2000).

At first glance chimpanzee societies have no direct analogue for human
initiatory
rituals. However, we may consider these chimpanzee cultural practices
pertaining to selfhealing, both medicinal and psychoactive, as the
missing analogue. If so, this suggests that human initiatory rituals,
which are generally viewed as involving the theme of death and
rebirth (Eliade), really have as their primary motivation self-healing.

Finally, chimpanzees engage in a number of practices that express their
awareness
and attunement to their ecological world and the mystery of being alive
in this world.
Males and sometimes females play in and gaze for extended periods of
time at waterfalls
and streambeds. At the onset of thunderstorms or sudden wind gusts
chimpanzee males'
hair bristles; they perform spectacular aggression displays, charging,
swaying back and
forth, breaking off and brandishing branches. Dominance plays a
secondary role (if any) in
most of these displays. Anthropologists have taken to call these
displays 'rain dances'
(Goodall 1986; Goodall 2001; Wallauer 2002). The rain dance is
considered one of the
'cultural' components of chimpanzee societies (Whiten et al 1999).
Water watching, rain
dance and waterfall dance--these appear to express reverence for nature
and its mysteries
(Wallauer 2002). Goodall (1986) observed Gombe chimpanzees who seemed
to enjoy the
peaceful contentment of evening and beauty of sunsets. She interprets
it as an 'intimate
moment.' I would say that surely these chimpanzees express an
awareness of their
contentment and the beauty of a sunset, and this is also an example of
their reverence for
the beauty and mystery of life in this world.

Chimpanzees show respect and curiosity toward nature's wildlife,
which also may
be construed as a reverence for life. Chimpanzees at Gombe were
observed to show
respect and intense curiosity over snakes, particularly pythons, which
are not dangerous to
adults. They utter a 'snake wraa' call to gather the group around.
They stare at the snake.
Typical facial expressions are those of fear and curiosity. Physical
reassurance contact is
often made (especially mutual embracing), and eye contact among
individuals is frequent.
After tens of minutes, members finally begin to disperse, although some
chimpanzees have
been observed to linger, stare and call for as long as 30 minutes
(Wallauer 2002).
Chimpanzees express empathy toward other wild creatures. Wild
chimpanzees at Bossou
were observed capturing, playing, sleeping with and grooming hyraxes as
if they were pets
(Hirata et al 2001). Captive bonobos at the Georgia State University
Language Research
Center express concern about the happiness and well being of their
favorite animals in the
forest, Deer, Turtle and Snake; they like to visit and feed Turtle (Sue
Savage-Rumbaugh,
William Field, personal communication).

I suggest that the chimpanzee practices are analogous to what in humans
may be
called the 'deep ecology' instinct, which expresses itself in
rituals toward the mysteries of
nature and wildlife. Such rituals are found throughout the religious
traditions of Homo
sapiens, and are typified in the oldest hunter-gatherer traditions by
the rites of honoring
slain game animals and the myths of primordial times in which animals
and humans shared
a common language.

Thus, at first glance, there are remarkable overlaps between the basic
categories of
chimpanzee 'spiritual' behaviors and the basic categories of human
religious ritual.
Chimpanzees appear to practice at least five of the six basic types of
human ritual
behavior. One might say six of six if one were to count
medicinal-healing behaviors,
which include the use of psychoactive substances, as analogous to human
initiatory rites.
The six basic kinds of ritual among humans appear to be expressions of
what C.G. Jung
called 'creative and spiritual libido instincts'. I suggest that
these libido instincts are six in
number: the creative instinct, 'deep love' instinct (partner love
deeper than bonds for
reproduction, protection, and provisioning), justice instinct, social
equity instinct, spiritual
instinct (or 'initiatory' instinct) and ecological ('deep
ecology') instinct. In their deranged
form these 'libido instincts' contribute to at least five types of
delusional states as defined
in current psychiatric nosology: grandiose identifications, erotomania,
persecutory,
jealousy, and somatic-to which a sixth may be added topological
delusions.

Neuroscience indicates that these instincts, like their delusional
modes, appear to have their
neural substrate in the parahippocampus. They also have neural
associations with basal
ganglia functions, whose derangements in obsessive-compulsive disorder
include
respectively, symmetry obsession, compulsive ordering, arranging,
counting; sexual
obsession, compulsive touching, and repetitive body motion; obsession
with dirt, germs,
toxins, bodily wastes, secretions, compulsive washing and cleanliness;
obsession with
terrible events, compulsive checking back, apotropaic rituals;
compulsive hoarding and
collecting rituals; and scrupulosity. Whether chimpanzee spiritual
instincts have
comparable neuro-behavioral substrates is a question for future
research. In any event, the
six libido instincts find expression in the six modes of human ritual
behavior.
Thematically, then, chimpanzees engage in at least six 'cultural,'
ritualized spiritual
practices. They might be viewed as three pairs Birth and Death
Practices, Consortship and
Culinary Practices, and Medical-Healing and Deep Ecology Practices. How
chimpanzees
philosophize about their place in the world we do not know, but humans,
especially human
mythologies, view birth and death as opposites. If humans view them as
opposites,
perhaps chimpanzees view them on a continuum. They may respond to birth
and death,
love and food, their life-world and the need for healing and
self-healing on a single
continuum, something like the following.

Continuum of Chimpanzee Spiritual Practices

death
practices
culinary
practices
eco-practices healing and
self-healing
consortship birth
practices

In addition to these 'spiritual' behavior patterns, chimpanzees
engage in a cluster of
'collective' or 'socio-political' behavior patterns. These
patterns have been discussed
extensively in primatology. (Table 2 gives a detailed summary of my
literature review for
these behaviors.) Eight behavioral patterns stand out.

· Grandmothering-Midwifing
· Festal Food-Sharing
· Reparation-Reconciliation-Forgiveness
· Begging Food-Sharing
· Group Affiliative Bonding
· Group Dominance Coalitions
· Temporary Task Party Bonding
· Group Cohesion Territorial Bonding

Chimpanzees engage in what anthropologists call 'grandmothering'
practices.
These include 'midwifing' babies and 'grandmothering' or
'playing aunt' to newborns and
infants. At Gombe Gigi had a strong interest in infants and she became
'auntie' to a
succession of them. Patti, who may herself have been an orphan,
severely neglected her
newborn and within a week he was dead. Later after her next birth, Gigi
became her
companion and helped care for the infant. By her third infant, Patti
was an excellent
mother (Goodall 1989). At Yerkes after a birth the mother's closest
companion, an elder
female named Atlanta spent the next several weeks closely attending the
mother and her
offspring (de Waal, no citation). Sue Savage-Rumbaugh (1998) assisted
Panbanisha at the
birth of her first baby, and, of course, continued to assist her and
her newborn, playing a
role similar to Atlanta and Gigi. For grandmothering as a factor in
human evolution see
Hawkes et al (1999).

Both common chimpanzees and bonobos emit loud food calls that announce
their
arrival at, and the presence of, food, both vegetal and meat. This
attracts others to access
the food resource. It benefits the community as a whole. Goodall notes
that these food
calls are not 'altruistic', since there is enough food to go around
(Goodall 1986:136; Kano
& Mulavwa 1984). In analogy to human feasting practices, I would call
this a 'festal'
sharing of food surplus. It involves a festal feeling of joy and
excitement that leads to
sharing access to food surpluses.

Wrangham et al (1999) and Hawkes et al (1999) discuss group cooperation
to prevent
thievery of food resources versus grandmothering as principles
effective in human
evolution. While each argues for their preference, I suggest that the
two principles might
be seen as symmetrical and probably co-dependent. Since these factors
are also at work in
chimpanzee evolution they may not be sufficient to explain human
evolution. The thievery
hypothesis does not seem to apply to chimpanzee society (or rhesus
monkeys for that
matter), although the Hawkes hypothesis does apply. Chimpanzee
societies do have
grandmothering behaviors and they have festal food calls that announce
food surplus for
general community food sharing. The social challenge among chimpanzees
appears to be
not food theft, but, as is more likely, fighting among females for
access to food resources
or silent solitary eating, which are patterns characteristic of
chimpanzee society.
(Observations of bonobos indicated that of a total of 983 feeding bouts
only 7 involved
theft, all by young adults or adolescent males who were attacked by the
possessor.) If so,
the solution appears to be the festal food call with its joy and
excitement at sharing access
to a food surplus.

Goodall, de Waal, and others have detailed chimpanzee practices for
reconciliation,
reparation and peacemaking. For example, after a slap, common
chimpanzees perform
reconciliation sequence involving offering of hand for kiss and
consolation embraces for
witnesses. Fights are reconciled with a hug and kiss. Bonobos reduce
competitive
aggression and reconcile after conflicts using sexual activity (de Waal
1989; de Waal
1997). Many human religions emphasize forgiveness; here we see that it
is a basic feature
of chimpanzee society.

Chimpanzees engage not only in festal food sharing, they engage in food
sharing in
response to begging. The most common begging gesture is an open hand
held out.
Generosity seems obligatory to avoid beggars' tantrums (de Waal
1989). In one study,
ninety per cent (90%) of bonobo feeding bouts involved active begging
or passive begging,
the latter either staring or cautious taking (Kano & Mulavwa 1984;
Kuroda 1984). In
contrast to food sharing associated with food calls, which Goodall
(1986) interprets as not
altruistic given the surplus of food, Goodall interprets food sharing
in response to begging
to be the basis of altruism in humans. (Perhaps we may see in this an
analogy to the
human distinction between social justice and charity.)

In addition to the foregoing, there are at least four more social
bonding mechanisms
in chimpanzee society. De Waal observes that two distinct,
complementary types of
relationships, coalitions and social bonds, typify chimpanzee society
(1989:50). Group
affiliative, social bonds are friendly relationships, primarily
caretaker, two-way
friendships, and follower/mentor relations. They are maintained through
networks that
exchange favors, especially grooming, but also food, reassurance,
protection, mentoring
('follower'), and play. Failure to reciprocate may be punished
(Goodall 1986). Male
coalitions are instruments to achieve and maintain power and status in
a ranked social
dominance hierarchy. They concern power and status. In contrast to
affiliative partners,
coalition partners are replaceable with little room for sympathy or
antipathy. Female
coalitions are more stable over time and overlap kinship bonds and
personal preferences.
By direct threat or attack, dominants express disapproval of
subordinate's behavior, which
may be viewed as punishment for disobedience (de Waal 1989; Goodall
1986:322).
Inferiors attacked or otherwise frustrated by superiors may redirect
aggression on innocent
bystanders, scapegoats (Goodall 1986:323).

There are two other types of bonds, which may also be considered to be
complementary. Chimpanzees have a fusion-fission society; portions of
the main group
may on a regular basis separate from and then rejoin the rest (Goodall
1986). They
typically forage, travel and sleep in parties of five or less. Parties
may be of one gender or
mixed, or just one individual. The membership of parties is constantly
changing. These
subgroup bonds are temporary and task oriented. In contrast,
chimpanzees are
aggressively territorial in defending the cohesion and homogeneity of
the collective.
Males not only patrol boundaries and defend them; they also raid
neighboring territories,
killing adult males and capturing territory and females. An indirect
consequence is
scapegoating. A male feeling aggressive tension on a border patrol may,
on return to their
safe, core area, displace aggression on a scapegoat (Goodall 1986:523).
As Goodall first
observed chimpanzee males are particularly murderous against mixed
gender groups that
go off on their own, claiming their own territory; they will attempt to
kill not only the
males but all the females and children in such a group. (Compare the
similar intense
hatred and resulting savagery in human males who feel betrayed by their
colonies or other
spin off groups, sometimes called after Shakespeare's play by the
name, the 'Coriolanus
effect').

In sum, then, there appear to be eight chimpanzee 'socio-political'
practices, that is,
practices of the 'collective'. They might be viewed as four
complementary pairs.
Grandmothering/Midwifing and Festal Food-Sharing;
Reparation-Reconciliation-
Forgiveness and Begging Food-Sharing; Group Affiliative Bonding and
Group Dominance
Coalitions; and Task Party Temporary Bonding and Group Cohesion
Territorial Bonding.
How chimpanzees philosophize about their social relations we do not
know, but humans,
especially human mythologies, view the individual and the collective or
the family and the
collective as opposites. If humans view them as opposites, perhaps
chimpanzees view
them on a continuum, something like the following.

Continuum of Chimpanzee Socio-Political Practices

group
territorial
defensive
bonding
dominance
hierarchy
coalitions
food
sharing
(charity)
reparation,
forgiveness
midwifing,
grandmothering
food
sharing
(festal)
affiliative
bonding
task
bonding

As in the case of chimpanzee 'spiritual' practices, there seem to
be remarkable
overlaps between chimpanzee and human behavior patterns. All eight of
these chimpanzee
practices occur in and structure human social collectives.
After Freud, human 'drives' may be viewed as including
self-preservation ('fear'),
inseminability ('sexuality'), attachment and aggrandizement (power,
territory, females,
goods). In humans these drives appear to have their neural substrate in
the amygdala, and
hence radically distinct from the earlier mentioned 'spiritual and
creative libido instincts'.
Just as chimpanzees seemed to have libido instincts corresponding to a
great extent with
human libido instincts, it also seems that chimpanzees have basic
drives analogous to
those that humans have.

Finally, we have a third set of behavioral practices, which we need to
consider in
our attempt to outline the overall array of behavioral practices to
which chimpanzee
spirituality belongs. These might be called 'life instinct'
behaviors. (Table 3 summarizes
the details of my literature review for these behaviors.) These
behaviors include the
following.

· Exo-Infanticide-Cannibalism
· Endo-Infanticide-Cannibalism
· Compassion for the Suffering of the Marginalized (the Disabled)
· Compassion for the Suffering of the Marginalized (the Orphaned)
· Family Planning (Reproductive Choice)
· Healthy Pregnancy (Conscious Pregnancy)

While in isolation any one of these practices could be considered not
of a 'spiritual' nature,
taken as a whole and in relation to the two previously discussed groups
of practices these
practices may be viewed as a third realm of chimpanzee spirituality
('religion'). With the
exception of cases of starvation and pathology, even cannibalism among
humans, which at
first glance may seem so un-spiritual, manifests primarily in complexes
of religious ritual.
Primatologists have observed a number of incidents of cannibalism among
the
common chimpanzee. [It has not yet been observed among the bonobo,
perhaps due to
female dominance and solidarity against male aggression (de Waal and
Lanting 1997).] In
her fieldwork over a period of years, Goodall (1986) observed six
infant chimpanzees
killed and eaten. Three were consequent adult male attacks on stranger
females with
infants. The adult female Passion killed and ate three infants of local
females.
Cannibalism was observed at Budongo Forest; adult males ate a newborn
chimp (Suzuki
cited in Goodall 1986). At Mahale males were observed killing and
eating not only infants
of non-local females but also infants of within group females (Nishida,
Kawanaka, Seifu,
Norikoshi and Takahata cited in Goodall 1986). This difference between
Mahale and
Gombe with respect to male endocannibalism may be considered another
example of
'cultural' variation.

Cannibalism is also found among other primates, including a male
redtail who
twice killed and ate infants of a troop he took over. An adult male
chacma baboon seized
and ate an infant. At Gombe a female baboon ate part of her own infant
that had died of
severe injuries and another female ate the body of premature infant.
Fossey reported feces
of a female gorilla and her son had gorilla infant remains in it.
However, in most cases of
infanticide among langurs, gorillas and baboons the victim is not eaten
(Goodall
1986:285). Estimates for infant mortality due to infanticide are 37% in
mountain gorillas;
43% in red howler monkeys; and 29% in blue monkeys (Sterk et al cited
in de Waal 1997).
Primatologists generally consider that infanticide is a male
reproductive strategy since it
drives the female back into estrous.

While primatologists do not make the distinction that is a commonplace
among
anthropologists, it is possible to categorize the Gombe incidents of
infanticidal cannibalism
as either 'exocannibalism' (adult male against foreign infants) or
'endocannibalism' (adult
female against local infants). On the other hand, in the instances from
Mahale, males
engage in infanticidal endocannibalism.

In any event, once again we see a remarkable overlap with the human
species,
which also practices, as anthropology recognizes, exocannibalism and
endocannibalism,
the former including 'warfare' cannibalism and the latter including
'starvation'
cannibalism, 'mortuary' cannibalism and 'pathological'
cannibalism.
While on the one hand, chimpanzees practice, though infrequently,
cannibalism, on
the other hand, they practice compassion for the suffering of the
marginalized, whether
disabled, ill, dying or elderly. They also adopt orphans, which is also
a practice of
compassion. Chimpanzees show empathy and take special care of kin who
are injured,
sick or fatally ill. They groom, feed, protect them and wait for them
to catch up on walks
or assist them to walk. They also show similar empathy and respect for
the elderly. An
elderly female may be watched over by her offspring. Older males
receive fewer male
aggression threats, and younger, stronger males tolerate their threats
without retaliation.

Elderly chimpanzees are honored with more grooming than they give and
are allowed
access to meat while others are rebuffed (Huffman and others cited
Engel 2002a).
Chimpanzee females and also males adopt orphans whose mothers have
died. Goodall
(1986) observed 13 orphans. Female sibs or unrelated females adopted
seven (7) and male
sibs two (2). Two older orphans aged 7 and 8 years themselves adopted
infant sibs.
However, two younger orphans who were not adopted died within weeks.
For Goodall
(1986) all these empathic behaviors exemplify "love and
compassion". They contribute to
survival and presumably have evolutionary adaptive benefit.

Finally, chimpanzees practice reproductive choice and conscious and
healthy
pregnancy, two complementary practices. Females of several primate
species engage in
family planning to maximize fertility and nutritional resources for the
newborn. They are
known to regulate the timing of pregnancy and even gender selection
through ingestion of
phytoestrogens and other hormones affecting plant chemicals. Female
chimpanzees
sometimes consume plants that local people use to abort fetuses
(Combretum and Ziziphus
leaves), although it is not known whether they were pregnant before or
after consumption
of these plants. Female chimpanzees in the wild go off their food
during early pregnancy
and they eat small amounts of acacias, hibiscus, smilax, Alcornea
cordifolia and Celtis
africana, all used by local people to treat morning sickness and other
stomach upsets

Thus, chimpanzees appear to practice reproductive choice; they seek
conscious and healthy pregnancy. In that these acts enhance survival
for both the mother and her offspring, they should be included among
chimpanzee 'life-instinct' practices. Whereas chimpanzee birth,
death, consort ship and related practices can be viewed as analogues
for human religious ritual, which is an expression of human 'creative
libido instincts' and chimpanzee socio-political practices can be
viewed as analogues for human 'collective' psychology and their
'drives', this third group of chimpanzee practices seem to be
analogues for similar human 'rites', which are expressions of
'life instincts'. In humans these instincts, which include
sexuality, predatory aggression, affective rage, competitive
aggression, nurturance and separation distress, have their primary
neural substrate in the hypothalamus. Thus they are clearly distinct
from the amygdaloid 'drives' and parahippocampal 'creative libido
instincts'. Primatologists generally view infanticidal
cannibalism-in particular exocannibalism-reproductive choice and
healthy pregnancy, and compassion for the sick,
disabled, old and dying and the orphan as cultural practices that
enhance individual and
group survival and contribute to evolutionary adaptation. I suggest
that they are also
expressions of the deepest instinct for life, and as such they too
belong to chimpanzee
spirituality just as they are thematized the world over in human
religion and culture.
While at first glance seemingly disparate practices-as opposed as
murder and
compassion a human might say-chimpanzee infanticidal cannibalism and
compassion for
the disabled and orphan appear from the chimpanzee point of view to
belong to a single
spectrum of behaviors. In this light, cannibalism, reproductive choice,
and compassion for
the disabled and orphan go hand-in-hand, as the left hand with the
right.

Continuum of Chimpanzee Life Instinct Practices

infanticidal
exocannibalism
infanticidal
endocannibalism
reproductive
choice
perinatal health compassion for
the orphan
compassion for
disabled, dying

Reproductive choice and healthy pregnancy mediate the seeming opposites
of cannibalism
and compassion. They are so to speak at the point of transformation in
the series, the point
of consciousness. They are perinatal optimization behaviors, which on
the level of the life
instincts are parallel to the 'higher' drives, such as
midwifing/grandmothering, which also
optimizes perinatal health and the 'higher' spiritual instincts,
such as consortship, which
further optimize perinatal health.

Once again we see the most remarkable parallel between a group of
chimpanzee
cultural practices and human religious ritual and beliefs. I wonder if
this same continuum
resonates at the 'deepest' level of the human soul, which in one
human religious tradition
is described as the lowest chakra, the survival chakra which is the
origin of the impulse to
enlightened consciousness, and which in psychoanalysis is the realm of
the life and death
instincts.

In contrast to chimpanzees, humans seem to possess one cultural
practice, which
chimpanzees seem not to possess, namely sacrifice, including human
sacrifice, selfsacrifice
and suicide. Interestingly, the sacrifice motif in human religions
sometimes
features aspects of infanticide. See for instance the Jewish and
Islamic Sacrifice of Isaac
and Aztec human sacrifice, where, in the Xipe cult, the victims, who
were war captives,
were ritually adopted as 'sons' of their captor 'fathers' prior
to their sacrifice (Sanday
1986:185).

In sum, we have examined chimpanzee behavioral patterns that can be
categorized
into three groups, spiritual practices senso stricto and
socio-political practices and lifeinstinct
practices, which might be viewed as spiritual practices senso lato. The
three
groups of practices might be viewed as hierarchically organized. They
appear to be
expressions, so to speak, of the chimpanzee soul.

In striking analogy to human ritual practices, chimpanzee spiritual
practices senso
stricto are cultural responses to birth, death, deep love, the source
of food, the need for
healing and self-healing, and emotions of awe and respect for the
cosmos and its life
forms.
* * * *
If chimpanzees have types of spirituality that seem to fully overlap
those of
humans, this has serious implications for the definition of religion in
the fields of
anthropology and religious studies as well as for how humans define
their own humanity.
It certainly raises a number of questions for further research and
theorizing.
If chimpanzees have spirituality with strong moral characteristics can
we still
adhere to the Enlightenment notion of 'natural religion', which
held that, at least, the
'higher' religions, or, subsequently, the major 'world
religions' shared an underlying moral
sense, a universal morality, definitive of 'humanity'?

Can we still view religion as bearing a simple distinction between
'humans' and
'the brutes'? Can we view religion as definitive of 'humanity'
or 'humanness'?
Can we any longer speak of 'sui generis' religion or 'homo
religiosus' in the
manner of Mircea Eliade and others in the fields of comparative
religions and history of
religions?

What can it mean in Biblical terms to speak of humans as bearing the
'imago dei',
of being spiritual beings in the image of a god? How can we assert such
a thing if
chimpanzees are capable of spiritual experience?

How can one assert any of these positions if chimpanzees have cultural
responses
to the spiritual issues of life that are not radically other than those
promulgated by human
'religions'?

Mark Thomas

unread,
Feb 19, 2006, 7:33:12 PM2/19/06
to
The hypothesis is that religion is a part of being human and that this
has evolved because of the selective advantage it confers through group
cohesion. (Thomas 1994), Sloan Wilson (2001) Dunbar (2006) .
Specifically, (Thomas 1994) that larger and more militarily effective
groups are able to form with religious bonding than with lower level
bonding through other ties.

As with language, neurophysiological structures are seen to have
developed so that religious behaviour can be engaged in. These are
most likely to have developed from the existing mechanisms that enable
individuals to co-operate socially. Central to this is the faculty of
status recognition (new hypothesis published here for the first time?)
All social mammals need to learn the hierarchy and where they fit into
it. It is therefore most likely that considerable neurophysiology is
dedicated to this function, and that such a centre will be located
close to the limbic system. Such a status centre would regulate
aggressive interactions to avoid futile/self-destructive conflicts with
higher ranking individuals and to allow them with lower rankers.

Knowing the alpha individuals and 'respecting' them is essential to
survival in the group/band.

With the development of larger groups, with extended territory,
(through religious ties, rather than the simple use of force) this
recognition would have to extend to the development of the ability to
recognise an absent alpha or King. Failure to recognise such a 'King',
through behaviour unfitting to a lowly status e.g. territory siezing
etc, even though the individual may not have been met, would lead to
ultimate punishment.

Once the brain centre is equipped to recognise an absent alpha, perhaps
through the repeated repetition of his name, his music, his threats,
his deeds etc then the ground is laid for belief in a permanently
absent alpha who rules without being seen. (New hypothesis published
here).

So, for these reasons, without having read all of your post, I would
aggree that the chimpanzees probably exhibit proto-religious behaviour
that has developed into the religious behaviour that we see in humans.

Mark Thomas BSC Zool
East Sussex, UK


white...@msn.com

unread,
Feb 20, 2006, 1:55:16 PM2/20/06
to

I haven't read your work. I assume you are the same Thomas cited 94'. I
haven't read Dunbar. I haven't read Sloan Wilson but have read several
reviews of "Darwin's Cathedral". Darwin didn't come up with a theory
for group selection. His theory was based on individual selection.
Since that time there has been theories on kin selection (which seem to
have some support) and theories on
group selection (which seem to have less support). In terms of "group
selection" the theories seem most applicable to eusocial insects. You
see religion as an example of adaptive group selection and group
evolution. You state, "The hypothesis is that religion is a part of

being human and that this has evolved because of the selective
advantage it confers through group cohesion. (Thomas 1994), Sloan
Wilson (2001) Dunbar (2006) . Specifically, (Thomas 1994) that larger
and more militarily effective groups are able to form with religious
bonding than with lower level bonding through other ties." Yes, I agree
with you. You also mention, "As with language, neurophysiological

structures are seen to have developed so that religious behaviour can
be engaged in. These are most likely to have developed from the
existing mechanisms that enable individuals to co-operate socially.
Central to this is the faculty of status recognition (new hypothesis
published here for the first time?) All social mammals need to learn
the hierarchy and where they fit into
it. It is therefore most likely that considerable neurophysiology is
dedicated to this function, and that such a centre will be located
close to the limbic system. Such a status centre would regulate
aggressive interactions to avoid futile/self-destructive conflicts with

higher ranking individuals and to allow them with lower rankers."

I don't think status recognition or hiarchy are new hypotheses. They
operate in the animal kingdom, man included, without any religion. The
fact man uses his religion for status recognition and hiarchy doesn't
make it the causative agent. As you point out neurophysiological
structures are seen to have developed so that religious behavior can be
engaged in. You mention, "All social mammals need to learn the hiarchy
and where they fit into it." You give the subtle impression of an
almost seamless 'status centre' which would regulate aggressive


interactions to avoid futile/self-destructive conflicts with higher

ranking individuals and to allow them with lower rankers. I don't think
such a 'seamless status control center' exists. To be sure, it is more
obvious in the military. Your thesis relies way too much on obediance.
For example you write, "Knowing the alpha individuals and 'respecting'
them is essential to
survival in the group/band." Yes, it is but there are limits. The alpha
individuals don't always make the appropriate or right decisions and
this could conflict with a lower ranking individual in terms of their
wellbeing. The lower ranking individual has to make a decision between
the group/band or his or her personal wellbeing and the two aren't
always synonymous.

You write, "this recognition would have to extend to the development of


the ability to recognise an absent alpha or King. Failure to recognise
such a 'King', through behaviour unfitting to a lowly status e.g.
territory siezing etc, even though the individual may not have been
met, would lead to ultimate punishment. Once the brain centre is
equipped to recognise an absent alpha, perhaps through the repeated
repetition of his name, his music, his threats, his deeds etc then the
ground is laid for belief in a permanently absent alpha who rules

without being seen. (New hypothesis published here). I don't think
this is a new hypothesis but a rather old one. Yes, I can see this to
an extent even with "my own" ALPHA leader President George W. Bush. He
appears on television and the radio once in awhile but he is basically
unseen. And obviously you can run afoul of the Administration and never
have met President Bush. And many people do believe in the largely
unseen President.

You started out stating, "The hypothesis is that religion is a part of


being human and that this has evolved because of the selective

advantage it confers through group cohesion. If neurophysiology enabled
religion in humans than one can reasonably state religion will not
disappear until such underlying neurophysiology is altered. In the past
I've mentioned 'Mismatch Theory' which posits humans are currently not
adaptive to their environment. I would like to add I don't think
religion is currently adaptive to our environment. Although religion is
still popular and almost everywhere are hundreds of churches in a
surrounding area, it has gradually weakened over the centuries both
politically and by science. At one time the Church ruled in Europe.
Whether it be Copernicus, Galileo, Darwin, etc. the
Church has been on the wrong side of knowledge. In many cases
'religion' has taken positions against valid science and progressive
technologies; Darwinian evolution, embryonic stem cell research,
cloning, genetic engineering.

What selective advantage other than group cohesion is conferred here?
Looking at human history I'd have to say groups i.e. group cohesion has
been involved in a lot of war and bloodshed. In my opinion, religion
confers no current evolutionary advantage and if you see chimpanzees as
being a prototype of religion then I would ask how many of us want to
continue to be "like" the chimpanzees? We have little choice for the
time being.

Michael Ragland


g

unread,
Feb 22, 2006, 12:13:54 PM2/22/06
to

"Mark Thomas" <m.tho...@ntlworld.com> wrote in message
news:dtb2o8$173i$1...@darwin.ediacara.org...

> Knowing the alpha individuals and 'respecting' them is essential to
> survival in the group/band.
>
> With the development of larger groups, with extended territory,
> (through religious ties, rather than the simple use of force) this
> recognition would have to extend to the development of the ability to
> recognise an absent alpha or King. Failure to recognise such a 'King',
> through behaviour unfitting to a lowly status e.g. territory siezing
> etc, even though the individual may not have been met, would lead to
> ultimate punishment.
>
> Once the brain centre is equipped to recognise an absent alpha, perhaps
> through the repeated repetition of his name, his music, his threats,
> his deeds etc then the ground is laid for belief in a permanently
> absent alpha who rules without being seen. (New hypothesis published
> here).
>
> So, for these reasons, without having read all of your post, I would
> aggree that the chimpanzees probably exhibit proto-religious behaviour
> that has developed into the religious behaviour that we see in humans.
>
> Mark Thomas BSC Zool
> East Sussex, UK

But have we considered the impact of this thought process in relation to the
hypothesis that, if frogs had wings, and halos, they might not get their
halos jammed down around their necks?

The problem I have with this thinking is that it bases muddy thinking upon
muddy assumptions and arrives at an unscientific non-conclusion.

And it could be argued, also, that for frogs to have necks, we might have to
redefine what we would mean by "neck." Perhaps there is a religious
definition for it that we could borrow for sake of arriving at a testable
hypothesis.

(:>)

g


Mark Thomas

unread,
Feb 22, 2006, 12:13:54 PM2/22/06
to
Thomas (1994) was a newsgroup posting I made in
alt.philosophy.objectivism which laid out the hypothesis.

If, as you indicate, you know of a reference to a hypothetical brain
centre, close to the limbic system, but working with the neocortex,
that manages status i.e. which enables the individual to know its own
status in relation to that of others then please let me know of it.

Like chimpanzees? Fighting it out for dominance in gangs? Gang on
gang? I don't need to go far from here to find people living at that
level.

It a choice between that low level and civilisation - and civilisation
only happens when people have a set of shared beliefs be they in the
Holy Trinity or in the State, Money and the Law.


Mark Thomas

unread,
Feb 25, 2006, 1:44:24 PM2/25/06
to
Fair enough to be sceptical until you understand why it makes sense.

It is a big call.

However, as oxygen was always there and phlogiston wasn't wasn't there,
and just as the Earth was so obviously flat, so we should always be
prepared to challenge our deepest held assumptions - even if everyone
else shares them. Always remember those millions of flies, they keep
the frogs in business.

You are so used to religion being in this box and evolution being in
another, that you, perhaps, find it easier to ridicule the idea that
they may be in the same box, rather than to think your way out of your
box.

A testable hypothesis?

Or a null hypothesis? As Dunbar pointed out, religion is very costly -
it just has to have a selective impact.

The status centre hypothesis is eminently testable by brain scanning.
It should light up under social stress. I would further suggest that
clinical depression is in there too and occurs when an individual is
forced so far down, or even out of the hierarchy, that they feel unable
to control their lives any further. Clinical depression is part of the
mechanism that stops the game (as it is being lost) and so gives the
individual the chance of a new start somewhere else.

I would then stick my neck out, if it is a neck, and not a constriction
caused by a misplaced halo, and suggest that the part of the status
centre that lights up to the alpha will also light up for God i.e. when
a person believes they are in the presence of their God, or are engaged
in what they believe to be meaningful communication with their God.

Mark Thomas


Mark Thomas

unread,
Feb 27, 2006, 12:53:19 AM2/27/06
to

g wrote:
> But have we considered the impact of this thought process in relation to the
> hypothesis that, if frogs had wings, and halos, they might not get their
> halos jammed down around their necks?
> g

g

My reply to your question is below. I managed not to quote your post
in mine.

Mark Thomas


Glen M. Sizemore

unread,
Feb 27, 2006, 12:53:19 AM2/27/06
to

"Mark Thomas" <m.tho...@ntlworld.com> wrote in message
news:dtq8i8$16r1$1...@darwin.ediacara.org...

> Fair enough to be sceptical until you understand why it makes sense.
>
> It is a big call.
>
> However, as oxygen was always there and phlogiston wasn't wasn't there,
> and just as the Earth was so obviously flat, so we should always be
> prepared to challenge our deepest held assumptions - even if everyone
> else shares them. Always remember those millions of flies, they keep
> the frogs in business.
>
> You are so used to religion being in this box and evolution being in
> another, that you, perhaps, find it easier to ridicule the idea that
> they may be in the same box, rather than to think your way out of your
> box.
>
> A testable hypothesis?
>
> Or a null hypothesis? As Dunbar pointed out, religion is very costly -
> it just has to have a selective impact.

It does have a selective advantage - at the level of culture. It functions
largely to control the behavior of the members of the culture, and cultures
that did not do this are no longer around.

>
> The status centre hypothesis is eminently testable by brain scanning.
> It should light up under social stress. I would further suggest that
> clinical depression is in there too and occurs when an individual is
> forced so far down, or even out of the hierarchy, that they feel unable
> to control their lives any further. Clinical depression is part of the
> mechanism that stops the game (as it is being lost) and so gives the
> individual the chance of a new start somewhere else.
>
> I would then stick my neck out, if it is a neck, and not a constriction
> caused by a misplaced halo, and suggest that the part of the status
> centre that lights up to the alpha will also light up for God i.e. when
> a person believes they are in the presence of their God, or are engaged
> in what they believe to be meaningful communication with their God.

The "status center"? Yup. That's what is silly about all the imaging junk.


>
> Mark Thomas
>
>

white...@msn.com

unread,
Feb 27, 2006, 12:53:25 AM2/27/06
to

Thomas (1994) was a newsgroup posting I made in
alt.philosophy.objectivism which laid out the hypothesis.

Ragland: Okay. Do you have a copy of it you could post here?

If, as you indicate, you know of a reference to a hypothetical brain
centre, close to the limbic system, but working with the neocortex,
that manages status i.e. which enables the individual to know its own
status in relation to that of others then please let me know of it.

Ragland: I never stated I knew of a reference to a hypothetical brain


centre, close to the limbic system, but working with the neocortex,
that manages status i.e. which enables the individual to know its

own status in relation to that of others. I said I agreed with you
there
are neurophysiological structures which enable religion. I stated your
two so-called new hypotheses were not new at all but quite old. Those
were
status recognition and the "absent King or Alpha". In any event you
conceded this brain center is "hypothetical".

Mark Thomas:


Like chimpanzees? Fighting it out for dominance in gangs? Gang on
gang? I don't need to go far from here to find people living at that
level.

Ragland: Neither do I. They are thirty miles away from me. I have no
desire
to research them while they are active because they are much more
dangerous than chimpanzees.

Mark Thomas:

It a choice between that low level and civilization - and civilization


only happens when people have a set of shared beliefs be they in the
Holy Trinity or in the State, Money and the Law.

Ragland: Successful criminal gangs definitely have a set of shared
beliefs
and anybody stepping too far from those shared beliefs may be savagely
beaten up or murdered.


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Mark Thomas:
Fair enough to be skeptical until you understand why it makes sense.

It is a big call.

Ragland: Does meaning I don't necessarily agree with 100% of what you
say makes me skeptical? If you
read what I wrote I agree with some of what you say. To advance your
arguments your going to have to do more research and write more.

Mark Thomas:

However, as oxygen was always there and phlogiston wasn't wasn't there,

and just as the Earth was so obviously flat, so we should always be
prepared to challenge our deepest held assumptions - even if everyone
else shares them. Always remember those millions of flies, they keep
the frogs in business.

Ragland: I've noticed something about you. First, you write of religion
being
necessary yet you seem to have animosity towards it. For example, your
use
of the word "halo". Are the frogs the "alphas"?

Mark Thomas:


You are so used to religion being in this box and evolution being in
another, that you, perhaps, find it easier to ridicule the idea that
they may be in the same box, rather than to think your way out of your
box.

Ragland: Thanks for telling me what I think. What I do know is religion
is a product of early primitive man and largely symbolization of his
thoughts and feelings. There are some universal motifs I think you
would learn a lot about religion by studying anthropology and
archeology. You write, "The hypothesis is that religion is a part of


being
human and that this has evolved because of the selective advantage it

confers through group cohesion." It does more than this. It represents
to a degree the very innermost feelings and thoughts, largely through
symbolization, of mankind. This can be traced all the way back to
around the ancient campfire. Because humanity is involved in a
transition (which will ultimately spell the death of religion) it has
weakened. Still, it has maintained itself quite well up to 2006 and
will
do so beyond for quite some time.

Mark Thomas:

A testable hypothesis?


Or a null hypothesis? As Dunbar pointed out, religion is very costly -

it just has to have a selective impact.

Ragland: What is the selective impact Mr. Thomas. You haven't
addressed the most important question in your equation.

Mark Thomas:

The status centre hypothesis is eminently testable by brain scanning.
It should light up under social stress. I would further suggest that
clinical depression is in there too and occurs when an individual is
forced so far down, or even out of the hierarchy, that they feel unable

to control their lives any further. Clinical depression is part of the

mechanism that stops the game (as it is being lost) and so gives the
individual the chance of a new start somewhere else.

Ragland: Social stress and clinical depression can be caused by
numerous factors. Your status centre is very vague.

Mark Thomas:

I would then stick my neck out, if it is a neck, and not a constriction

caused by a misplaced halo, and suggest that the part of the status
centre that lights up to the alpha will also light up for God i.e. when

a person believes they are in the presence of their God, or are engaged

in what they believe to be meaningful communication with their God.

Ragland: Tell that to the victims of the Jonestown massacre or the
millions who cheered Hitler or the Japanese during WWII. Yes,
you are right. There are times when group cohesiveness leads to
almost total loss of autonomy and individuality and people will
believe they are in the presence of their God, or are engaged in what
they believe to be meaningful communication with their God. This can
be extremely dangerous. So while I acknowledge what you are
saying in some instances I would personally deplore it and resist it.
Of course, there are much less malignant varieties. Would you
consider Pat Robertson, Oral Roberts, Billy Grahm,etc.
to be "alpha males"? You are in UK so you probably don't know
these people.


William Morse

unread,
Feb 27, 2006, 12:53:29 AM2/27/06
to
"Mark Thomas" <m.tho...@ntlworld.com> wrote in news:dtq8i8$16r1$1
@darwin.ediacara.org:

By the way, it is hard to follow the argument when you don't include at
least a part of the post you are following to.



> The status centre hypothesis is eminently testable by brain scanning.
> It should light up under social stress. I would further suggest that
> clinical depression is in there too and occurs when an individual is
> forced so far down, or even out of the hierarchy, that they feel unable
> to control their lives any further. Clinical depression is part of the
> mechanism that stops the game (as it is being lost) and so gives the
> individual the chance of a new start somewhere else.
>
> I would then stick my neck out, if it is a neck, and not a constriction
> caused by a misplaced halo, and suggest that the part of the status
> centre that lights up to the alpha will also light up for God i.e. when
> a person believes they are in the presence of their God, or are engaged
> in what they believe to be meaningful communication with their God.

Don't know about the "status centre", but there is an area in the temporal
lobe that has been identified as being associated with "feelings of
spiritual transcendence". This is noted on page 13 of Rita Carter's
"Mapping the Mind". She quotes Canadian neuroscientist Michael Persinger,
but I haven't followed up on this any further.


Yours,

Bill Morse

Mark Thomas

unread,
Feb 28, 2006, 1:27:07 PM2/28/06
to
I need to explain that all that frog stuff was in reply to the
introduction of amphibians by 'g' - I was replying in like kind. My
fault for not quoting who I was replying to.

white...@msn.com wrote:
> Thomas (1994) was a newsgroup posting I made in
> alt.philosophy.objectivism which laid out the hypothesis.
>
> Ragland: Okay. Do you have a copy of it you could post here?

This was my original posting in Nov 1994:

"What I was trying to say, but so obviously failed to say clearly, was
that
the evidence indicates that we are born with a need to find a God ie
that
we have a 'God slot' in our brains.


Were you to design an intelligent, highly adaptive, social biped then
you too
would probably make him want to discover a God - it's a neat way of
achieving
social organisation. Man succeeds when he can gang up - and he gangs
up
best when he has a powerful 'God'(even if it is a flying sheep).

By way of analogy consider what the Gods, ie the rule givers, are in
computing.

You can build yourself your own device, but it will be limited if it
can't
co-operate, on standard protocols, with other machines e.g. TCP/IP

None of the Gods that people imagine actually exist - they are, as
Nietsche
(or however you spell it) said: 'making God in their own image'.

However the belief that there are forces in the universe that are more
powerful than any individual, or group of individuals, and which need
to
be respected, studied even, is an entirely healthy approach. If people

sum up and focus their feelings through worshiping a God or Gods then
they
are doing what comes naturally - that activity is written into man's
hardware.

Natural selection eliminates the Godless - they are just too weak when
faced
with a hoard of religious zealots.

'God' exists alright. As a concept - as a part of the human brain.

Whether or not there is some intelligent being out there who operates a
system
of eternal justice and gives out eternal life to the good is quite
another
matter, and one which can't ever be examined by our senses.

If an all powerful being arived and gave us a five minute warning
before he
destroyed the Earth, we would all die believing he was a psychopathic
alien who
had a God delusion.

Mark Thomas "


> Ragland: I've noticed something about you. First, you write of religion
> being
> necessary yet you seem to have animosity towards it. For example, your
> use
> of the word "halo". Are the frogs the "alphas"?

This was in relation to the posting by 'g', and was following his
example.

> Ragland: Thanks for telling me what I think. What I do know is religion

Sorry, that wasn't you - again it was 'g'.

> is a product of early primitive man and largely symbolization of his
> thoughts and feelings. There are some universal motifs I think you
> would learn a lot about religion by studying anthropology and
> archeology. You write, "The hypothesis is that religion is a part of
> being

I have read a fair bit - and teach secondary/high school, so I've met a
few cases!

> human and that this has evolved because of the selective advantage it
> confers through group cohesion." It does more than this. It represents
> to a degree the very innermost feelings and thoughts, largely through
> symbolization, of mankind. This can be traced all the way back to

Might I suggest that it isn't that it represents the innermost feelings
but that those innermost feelings are there because they are part of
the neurophysiological mechanism that is 'religion'.

We enjoy sweet things because of their survival value, they taste good.
That is inbuilt. So, in the same way, we have a sense of awe not
because the external world creates that in us but because it pays us to
have that sense, when certain stimuli present themselves, just as it
pays us to have positive feelings about sugar etc.

> around the ancient campfire. Because humanity is involved in a
> transition (which will ultimately spell the death of religion) it has
> weakened. Still, it has maintained itself quite well up to 2006 and
> will
> do so beyond for quite some time.
>

Religion will never die, no more than language will die. Languages
evolve, languages die but language will always exist. How we
understand what religion/God is will change.


>
> Ragland: What is the selective impact Mr. Thomas. You haven't
> addressed the most important question in your equation.
>

The selective impact was explained in my 1994 post - the zealots, while
meek to one another, will easily defeat the gang, because the zealots
can amass numbers that the gang cannot.

This closely relates to some contemporary biology in which deals are
being studied in relation to punishment. People co-operate when laws
are formed and backed up with punishment. When cheats are not punished
people act selfishly etc.

> Ragland: Social stress and clinical depression can be caused by
> numerous factors. Your status centre is very vague.

So they say, but perhaps because they are looking at it in the wrong
way. See the other thread in this newsgroup which mentions the
publication of this same theory of depression (minus the centre) by, is
it, Jane Caplan?

> > Ragland: Tell that to the victims of the Jonestown massacre or the
> millions who cheered Hitler or the Japanese during WWII. Yes,
> you are right. There are times when group cohesiveness leads to
> almost total loss of autonomy and individuality and people will
> believe they are in the presence of their God, or are engaged in what
> they believe to be meaningful communication with their God. This can
> be extremely dangerous. So while I acknowledge what you are
> saying in some instances I would personally deplore it and resist it.

I don't think we differ here, except that I am not advocating anything.
I am, I hope, pointing to an understanding of Hitler et al and one
that will enable us to manage the phenomenon rather than fall prey to
it.

Of course, there are much less malignant varieties. Would you
> consider Pat Robertson, Oral Roberts, Billy Grahm,etc.
> to be "alpha males"? You are in UK so you probably don't know
> these people.

I know of them, Billy came here in the '50s and brought about a
religious revival that ultimately led to the banning of certain
salacious seaside postcards (on TV a couple of weeks back!)

Mark Thomas


Mark Thomas

unread,
Feb 28, 2006, 1:27:11 PM2/28/06
to

William Morse wrote:

> "Mark Thomas" <m.tho...@ntlworld.com> wrote in news:dtq8i8$16r1$1
> @darwin.ediacara.org:
>
> By the way, it is hard to follow the argument when you don't include at
> least a part of the post you are following to.
>

My apologies.

Yes, I have looked up Persinger. I wasn't that impressed with his
work.

I would have thought someone with a scanner could subject subjects to
situations in which they are either in charge or subordinate, socially
stressed, relaxed etc in order to find the spot. A sports fan after a
big win/loss should show the effect.

Mark Thomas


white...@msn.com

unread,
Mar 1, 2006, 1:23:44 PM3/1/06
to
whitesic...@msn.com wrote:
> Thomas (1994) was a newsgroup posting I made in
> alt.philosophy.objectivism which laid out the hypothesis.

> Ragland: Okay. Do you have a copy of it you could post here?

This was my original posting in Nov 1994:

"What I was trying to say, but so obviously failed to say clearly, was
that
the evidence indicates that we are born with a need to find a God ie
that
we have a 'God slot' in our brains.

Ragland1: That is the case for most people.


Were you to design an intelligent, highly adaptive, social biped then
you too
would probably make him want to discover a God - it's a neat way of
achieving
social organisation. Man succeeds when he can gang up - and he gangs

up
best when he has a powerful 'God'(even if it is a flying sheep).

Ragland1: I would dispute this being an example of an intelligent and
highly
adaptive human. In our evolutionary past that may have been the case
but
today cultural evolution has far outpaced our biological evolution. We
are
no longer adaptive to our environment (Mismatch Theory) and our
so-called
intelligence needs to be reconsidered in the light whether it has any
long
term survival value.

Mark Thomas:


By way of analogy consider what the Gods, ie the rule givers, are in
computing.


You can build yourself your own device, but it will be limited if it
can't
co-operate, on standard protocols, with other machines e.g. TCP/IP

Ragland1: The way technology develops and comes into being and
establishing a unifiorm system is complex. I don't see, however, it
has anything to do with a need for God. I did read, however, an
interesting tidbit from a computer scientist who developed the
Eliza program that computers may mean the death of "God" i.e.
us. He was mentioning how people refer to their brains being
computers and how some aren't concerned if the human species
dies because computers will just take over. This is a comfortable
position to take because it removes uncertainty.

Mark Thomas:


None of the Gods that people imagine actually exist - they are, as
Nietsche
(or however you spell it) said: 'making God in their own image'.

Ragland1: Well religion is certainly anthropomorphic.

Mark Thomas:


However the belief that there are forces in the universe that are more
powerful than any individual, or group of individuals, and which need
to
be respected, studied even, is an entirely healthy approach.

Ragland1: Of course.

Mark Thomas:


If people sum up and focus their feelings through worshiping a God or
Gods then
they are doing what comes naturally - that activity is written into
man's
hardware.

Ragland1: Yes.

Mark Thomas:


Natural selection eliminates the Godless - they are just too weak when
faced
with a hoard of religious zealots.

Ragland1: It depends on many factors. In the U.S. the "Religious Right"
tried in twelve states to teach ID-Creationism. They failed.

Mark Thomas:


'God' exists alright. As a concept - as a part of the human brain.

Ragland1: That's right.

Mark Thomas:


Whether or not there is some intelligent being out there who operates a

system of eternal justice and gives out eternal life to the good is
quite
another matter, and one which can't ever be examined by our senses.

Ragland1: In my opinion anybody who has "sensibility" should know when
they die they end up in the food chain or burned ashes out the chimney.
Your
consciousness, your life...is gone. In other words you're dead. There
is no
eternal justice. There are ninety year old men who have spent their
whole
life hurting or murdering people and when they die the same processes
occur which happen to a good person. There is not even a lot of justice

while you're alive on earth.

Mark Thomas:


If an all powerful being arived and gave us a five minute warning
before he destroyed the Earth, we would all die believing he was a
psychopathic
alien who had a God delusion.

Ragland1: I don't think a mere five minute warning would be sufficient
for people
to register much of anything. I think most would consider it a joke and
it probably would be. No, if an alien life form wanted to destroy us it
wouldn't announce anything. Maybe like Independence Day without the
happy ending.


Mark Thomas "

> Ragland: I've noticed something about you. First, you write of religion
> being
> necessary yet you seem to have animosity towards it. For example, your
> use
> of the word "halo". Are the frogs the "alphas"?


This was in relation to the posting by 'g', and was following his
example.


> Ragland: Thanks for telling me what I think. What I do know is religion


Sorry, that wasn't you - again it was 'g'.


> is a product of early primitive man and largely symbolization of his
> thoughts and feelings. There are some universal motifs I think you
> would learn a lot about religion by studying anthropology and
> archeology. You write, "The hypothesis is that religion is a part of
> being

Mark Thomas:


I have read a fair bit - and teach secondary/high school, so I've met a

few cases!

Ragland1: Few cases of what?

> human and that this has evolved because of the selective advantage it
> confers through group cohesion." It does more than this. It represents
> to a degree the very innermost feelings and thoughts, largely through
> symbolization, of mankind. This can be traced all the way back to

Mark Thomas:


Might I suggest that it isn't that it represents the innermost feelings

but that those innermost feelings are there because they are part of
the neurophysiological mechanism that is 'religion'.

Ragland1: No. When you are dealing with mythology it focuses on
universal representations. They are a part of neurophysiological
structures
but it is filtered through and represented in symbolization.

Mark Thomas:


We enjoy sweet things because of their survival value, they taste good.

That is inbuilt. So, in the same way, we have a sense of awe not
because the external world creates that in us but because it pays us to

have that sense, when certain stimuli present themselves, just as it
pays us to have positive feelings about sugar etc.

Ragland1: I don't think the sugar analogy cuts it.

> around the ancient campfire. Because humanity is involved in a
> transition (which will ultimately spell the death of religion) it has
> weakened. Still, it has maintained itself quite well up to 2006 and
> will
> do so beyond for quite some time.

Mark Thomas:


Religion will never die, no more than language will die. Languages
evolve, languages die but language will always exist. How we
understand what religion/God is will change.

Ragland1:
Yes, religion and God will change. But the possibility exists such
change in
thousands of years will result in the death of religion. For example,
you mention
languages evolve, languages die but language will always exist. I would
use this
example instead. There will possibly be other forms of communication in
the
distant future which don't involve language. I agree human beings would
have
to be fundamentally altered genetically so that religion-God wasn't
hardwired
in their brains.


> Ragland: What is the selective impact Mr. Thomas. You haven't
> addressed the most important question in your equation.


Mark Thomas:


The selective impact was explained in my 1994 post - the zealots, while

meek to one another, will easily defeat the gang, because the zealots
can amass numbers that the gang cannot.

Ragland1: That isn't progressive. It represents an extreme situation. I
don't like such
selective impacts. What evolutionary advantage does it have?

Mark Thomas:


This closely relates to some contemporary biology in which deals are
being studied in relation to punishment. People co-operate when laws
are formed and backed up with punishment. When cheats are not punished

people act selfishly etc.

Ragland1: This sounds like classical group selection. Reminds me of
Hitler writing about how draconian measures should be taken with
deserters and how every deserter should be shot because this had a
deterrent effect not only for the individual but the entire army. Are
you concerned about the negative and even highly murderous effects
group selection can have?


> Ragland: Social stress and clinical depression can be caused by
> numerous factors. Your status centre is very vague.

Mark Thomas:


So they say, but perhaps because they are looking at it in the wrong
way. See the other thread in this newsgroup which mentions the
publication of this same theory of depression (minus the centre) by, is

it, Jane Caplan?


> > Ragland: Tell that to the victims of the Jonestown massacre or the
> millions who cheered Hitler or the Japanese during WWII. Yes,
> you are right. There are times when group cohesiveness leads to
> almost total loss of autonomy and individuality and people will
> believe they are in the presence of their God, or are engaged in what
> they believe to be meaningful communication with their God. This can
> be extremely dangerous. So while I acknowledge what you are
> saying in some instances I would personally deplore it and resist it.


I don't think we differ here, except that I am not advocating anything.

I am, I hope, pointing to an understanding of Hitler et al and one
that will enable us to manage the phenomenon rather than fall prey to
it.

Ragland1: How would you manage the phenomenon? You've already
discussed how the "Godless" are naturally selected, how religious
zealots will always have a "selective impact" and beat the "gang".
It seems to me there is an underlying current in you which is
advocating this. If so the next question is "why"?

Mark Thomas

unread,
Mar 1, 2006, 1:23:46 PM3/1/06
to

Glen M. Sizemore wrote:
> The "status center"? Yup. That's what is silly about all the imaging junk.

I am not quite sure what you mean, but I take it that you find the
concept of a status centre to be less than credible.

I would suggest that our sense of status ranks up there with the other
5, and that it is innate.

We know our place in the hierarchy. There are no stronger feelings
that the feelings associated with status. Being put down hurts.
Rising up feels good.

There used to be a school science experiment in which a class was asked
to line up in order of status. The boys (in the case I know of) did
this instantly, with the last one saying, 'Yes, I know my place!'.

There just has to be a brain centre organising this, and it is
primitive. Somewhere close to the amygdala?

Mark Thomas


William Morse

unread,
Mar 3, 2006, 1:13:08 PM3/3/06
to
"Mark Thomas" <m.tho...@ntlworld.com> wrote in
news:du4ori$2k33$1...@darwin.ediacara.org:

I don't deny that people have a sense of status. And certainly a sense of
status anciently predates humans (e.g. pecking order among chickens). But
your "science experiment" sounds to me like urban myth. Any class I have
ever been in could probably slowly line up (with some confusion) in order
of height or weight. They could probably line up (with much confusion and
much overlap) in order of general intelligence, some specific
intelligences (e.g. math ability, spelling ability, etc.), general
athletic ability, some specific athletic abilities (basketball, long
distance running, etc.), general popularity, some specific popularities
(attractivity to the opposite sex, easy to talk to, etc.), work ethic,
singing talent, best dressed, and a number of other factors. If you
asked them to line up according to "status" you would get a universal
blank stare, because you hadn't specified the kind of status you were
referring to.

Yours,

Bill Morse

Mark Thomas

unread,
Mar 7, 2006, 11:49:48 AM3/7/06
to

William Morse wrote:
> "Mark Thomas" <m.tho...@ntlworld.com> wrote in
> news:du4ori$2k33$1...@darwin.ediacara.org:
> I don't deny that people have a sense of status. And certainly a sense of
> status anciently predates humans (e.g. pecking order among chickens). But
> your "science experiment" sounds to me like urban myth. Any class I have

I believe it was in the Nuffield Science Biology series - I will see if
I can look it up. Teachers in the UK will have performed this over 10
years in the 1980s.

> ever been in could probably slowly line up (with some confusion) in order
> of height or weight. They could probably line up (with much confusion and
> much overlap) in order of general intelligence, some specific
> intelligences (e.g. math ability, spelling ability, etc.), general
> athletic ability, some specific athletic abilities (basketball, long
> distance running, etc.), general popularity, some specific popularities
> (attractivity to the opposite sex, easy to talk to, etc.), work ethic,
> singing talent, best dressed, and a number of other factors. If you
> asked them to line up according to "status" you would get a universal
> blank stare, because you hadn't specified the kind of status you were
> referring to.
>
> Yours,
>
> Bill Morse

Maybe we are more 'Lord of the Flies' over here on this remote island
but the first thing boys do on the playground is fight it out for
status. Still, that is an interesting challenge, I will see if I can
find some harder evidence to support my contention.


John Edser

unread,
Mar 8, 2006, 1:08:20 AM3/8/06
to

"Mark Thomas" m.tho...@ntlworld.com

> > Bill Morse wrote:
> > much overlap) in order of general intelligence, some specific
> > intelligences (e.g. math ability, spelling ability, etc.), general
> > athletic ability, some specific athletic abilities (basketball, long
> > distance running, etc.), general popularity, some specific popularities
> > (attractivity to the opposite sex, easy to talk to, etc.), work ethic,
> > singing talent, best dressed, and a number of other factors. If you
> > asked them to line up according to "status" you would get a universal
> > blank stare, because you hadn't specified the kind of status you were
> > referring to.

> Maybe we are more 'Lord of the Flies' over here on this remote island


> but the first thing boys do on the playground is fight it out for
> status. Still, that is an interesting challenge, I will see if I can
> find some harder evidence to support my contention.

JE:-
I think that you will find that true to our tribal past, you firstly have to
status rank the different groups. Does basket ball rank higher or lower than
spelling ability as a free choice (not a dictated choice by teachers etc)?
Once you obtain a group status ranking, the more dominant individuals are
predicted to turn out to be alpha types within the highest ranking group.
They will attempt to attract the highest ranking females as determined by
ALL of the males no matter what group they are in. The interesting thing is
that most males happily agree as to what constitutes an attractive female no
matter what the status ranking of their group or their ranking within their
group. OTOH females are much less likely to agree. They will not necessarily
be attracted to the most dominant male within the most dominant group. They
may be attracted to a dominant or just a sub dominant male within a low
status group. Darwinism can explain these effects without any resort to
group selection.

Regards,

John Edser
Independent Researcher

ed...@tpg.com.au


Mark Thomas

unread,
Mar 9, 2006, 1:44:03 AM3/9/06
to

John Edser wrote:
> "Mark Thomas" m.tho...@ntlworld.com

> I think that you will find that true to our tribal past, you firstly have to
> status rank the different groups. Does basket ball rank higher or lower than
> spelling ability as a free choice (not a dictated choice by teachers etc)?
> Once you obtain a group status ranking, the more dominant individuals are
> predicted to turn out to be alpha types within the highest ranking group.
> John Edser
> Independent Researcher
>
> ed...@tpg.com.au

In other words, you end up with one hierarchy. While some may
disagree, I suspect that their is a general concensus over status and
that this supports my hypothesis that we have significant neural power
dedicated to this particular piece of processing.


John Edser

unread,
Mar 10, 2006, 1:41:51 PM3/10/06
to

"Mark Thomas" <m.tho...@ntlworld.com>

> > JE:-


> > I think that you will find that true to our tribal past, you firstly
> have to
> > status rank the different groups. Does basket ball rank higher or lower
> than
> > spelling ability as a free choice (not a dictated choice by teachers
> etc)?
> > Once you obtain a group status ranking, the more dominant individuals
> are
> > predicted to turn out to be alpha types within the highest ranking
> group.
> > John Edser
> > Independent Researcher
> >
> > ed...@tpg.com.au

> In other words, you end up with one hierarchy.

JE:-
Maybe, but this hierarchy is not just a simple lineal hierarchy it is a
webbed hierarchy which contains hierarchies within hierarchies. A good model
for a maximal web based hierarchy is Pascal's Triangle:

http://ptri1.tripod.com/

Regards,

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