...Overall the tribe seems to have a rather attenuated tendency toward engaging in abstract thought, and has been incredibly immune to any attempts by Christian missionaries to convert them. At some point in the piece the author notes that occasionally someone will ask a Christian if they've ever met this Jesus Christ that they keep talking of, and when they're told that he died 2,000 years ago all interest disappears. Below, I argued that humans have psychological propensities which bias them toward being religious. If the research about these Amazonians pans out I think you have here a group which is totally insulated by their culture from the attractions of religion because they lack some of the necessary psychological propensities (I suspect, and the article pretty much claims, that those propensities can be developed by tribal members who are raised outside of the group, but that culture constrains cognition in this case). Now, I've said that though I'm not religious myself and kind of find the whole behavioral tendency kind of alien and strange, I think that we'll have to turn humans into autistics for them to truly be "rid of" religion. The Amazonians are not autistic, but, in some ways they are pretty strange, and I don't know if we want most people live like them if that's the price for being grounded in the empirical present instead of delusions of the supernatural.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Lacking in Religious Thought
Razib of Gene Expression (definately my favorite of the atheist science blogger set) has an interesting not up today talking about an article in the New Yorker about an Amazon tribe whose cultural assumptions basically rule out the ability to understand religious concepts. I'd be curious to know if the tribe lacks a sense of the supernatural and/or superstition, or if they simply can't wrap their minds around some of the abstract ideas and understanding of past events which Christian missionaries have tried to present them with.