Do people have a religious instinct?

Is Religion an Instinct?

A Northern Irish and a Dutch scientist try to explain why atheists do better on intelligence tests

The psychologists Edward Dutton and Dimitri Van der Linden, who research at the Ulster Institute for Social Research and the University of Rotterdam, have published a hypothesis in the Personality and Social Psychology Review with which they want to explain why atheists do better on average in intelligence tests than participants who do themselves assign to a religion. The scientists take the latter from the results of 63 studies that they have evaluated.

Not part of conscious problem solving

The hypothesis is based on seeing religion - although it often takes on very complex forms - not as part of a conscious problem-solving, but as an "instinct" that man developed in the course of his evolutionary history, because in earlier situations he developed as a survival and / or proven reproductive benefit. People and their ancestors were able to solve recurring problems quickly and without much thought.

The two scientists, on the other hand, see intelligence as the ability to overcome instinctive action and to react to challenges analytically-reflexively as well as creatively. That is why it is of use to people currently living in an environment that changes rapidly, technically, economically and socially, potentially more than in a savannah that confronts hunters and gatherers with the same situations over many generations.

Dutton and Van der Linden explain that religion still plays a major role in the 21st century with stressful situations, in which it comes to the fore as well as other innate behaviors such as flight or aggression.

Magic, religion, science

Although the two psychologists themselves cite the London evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa as their theoretical basis, they also tie in with the research results and considerations of a scientist outside their field: In his study Magic, Science and Religion1, published in 1925, the ethnologist Bronislaw Malinowski used material to show this in the South Seas, according to that societies are not - as was previously believed - determined in an evolutionary order exclusively by magical, religious or scientific thinking, but that all three forms occur in all societies. Those areas are always treated "scientifically" that humans can influence technically, "magically" those areas that are outside of his or her influence.

Malinowski defined magic as a supernatural, impersonal power in the human imagination that moves and controls everything that is important and uncontrollable for him at the same time.2 Magic is carried out with awe and shyness, secured with prohibitions and elaborate rules of behavior.3 It feeds itself from tradition, while science results from experience, accompanied by reason and corrected by observation. Magic, on the other hand, is impenetrable for both. And while mysteries are made about magic and passed on through initiation, science is open to everyone, a public domain.4 Where, according to Malinowski, science is based on experience, effort and reason, magic comes from the belief that "hope." not deceive and the wish can never be in vain ".5

Entities that cannot be controlled by the individual

While the inhabitants of the Trobriand Islands examined by Malinowski practiced safe lagoon fishing without magic rituals and treated minor ailments with massages, steam and medicinal herbs, magic was used for serious illnesses and unsafe deep-sea fishing. 6 The natural forces on the high seas were for them Trobriander just as unmanageable as cancer or a stroke. That is why they used magic here.

Fields for magical thinking are also opened up by entities made by humans but nevertheless not controllable by the individual, such as "market" in general and "labor market" in particular. Walter Benjamin7, Christoph Deutschmann8 and Thomas Frank9 pointed to the perception of economic terms as supernatural powers. Hesiod had already recognized this effect in the 7th century BC and spoke, for example, that a rumor could also be a "god" (cf. The magic of application). (Peter Mühlbauer)

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