13 thoughts on “The Evolution Of Cooperation”

  1. But you may find the idea of a supreme being usefull as an easy way to present socially usefull human value judgements.

  2. Bah. I don’t need to “feel watched” to play nice.

    But if you’re not playing nice, you ARE being watched. By me. And my Big Stick of Justice.

    Further, I don’t think this experiment (as described) even shows that religious priming encourages cooperation. Rather, I agree (more or less) with their second hypothsis:

    The second hypothesis is that religious primes “activate cultural norms pertaining to fairness and its enforcement and occasion behavior consistent with those norms.”

    I think it shows how differently we treat “group members” and “the other.” Religions teach us that we all have souls given to us by God; that we are all the same (more or less, to simplfy greatly and ignore lots of other stuff). I think that would prime us to treat the other people in the game as equals, rather than as “marks”.

    By the way, I’ve played the dictator game. I always offer 50% precisely, and always turn down anything less than 50% precisely. I don’t need the money, and anyone who tries to take more than a fair split clearly needs to learn a lesson.

  3. It’s pretty sloppy research. Fails the “correlation is not causation” test, and when even Wikipedia editors can criticize your work you’re kind of an idiot.

    A pity, really, since the ideas are, indeed, intriguing. Myself, I feel the existence of religion needs very little in the way of additional explanation. You’ve got three very obvious candidates:

    (1) It’s all actually true: there’s a Big Fella keeping a close eye on us. (That’s for you, ken. Good scientists include all hypotheses not actually ruled out by evidence.)

    (2) We are so wired to detect patterns in noisy data that we will routinely detect patterns in what is actually pure noise. OMG! Ogg was struck by lightning mere moments after he spat on the shaman! It must all be true!

    (3) Our psychologies of reward and punishment, right and wrong, are branded into us at a deep level when we are ages 1 through 4, by Mom and Dad, who at that age are perfectly indistinguishable from gods, and our later intellectualization of our morals can’t really dent the primitive emotional circuits that were etched into our hypothalamus.

  4. According to a documentary I watch last year, there is archeological evidence that specialization of skills began about 28,000 years ago in what is now Europe (I forget the specific location). Before that, everyone basically was a jack-of-all-trades and had to be able to do everything for themselves. Specialization of skills is, to me at least, the beginning of cooperation. One person may make great spears but be unable to hunt because of physical limitations. He trades his spears for food. Likewise, others weave baskets or make clothing out of skins in exchange for other things. This has been going on and advancing ever since.

    Since that European beginning predates the written word by over 20,000 years, it’s unknown what if any religious views those people may have had. It’s quite possible they had no or perhaps very primitive beliefs that had no impact on their cooperation whatsoever.

  5. Altruism seems hardwired in some personality types. Although I’m certain it can be modified or influenced, I don’t see too many road to Damascus events.

    Although I can be hard, I tend to have an unusually high amount of empathy that includes people very unlike myself. It’s almost an out of body perspective (not in any spirituous or new age sense.)

    (I’ve corrupted Carl? How will I go on living?) /bad/weak/typical-me humor

  6. Carl, your (1) is broken. Science can’t be performed on unfalsifiable hypotheses. You can’t create an experiment to test them.

    Before someone says ‘prove that its unfalsifiable’… consider where the burden of proof falls.

  7. Ryan, Karl Popper’s falsability is another way of saying suspension of disbelief. Until the day a theory is falsified, there is no need to reject the assumption of an inductive reasoning.

    God’s existence is one such in that evidence exists of his existence the same that evidence exists that the sun rises every morning.

    Much that is considered good science today is unfalsifiable (and perhaps that should not be the case. It certainly shouldn’t in some cases.)

    I’m told string theory is unfalsifiable because essentially it’s just mathematics and can be adapted to whatever new information we discover.

  8. I’m not certain I grok what you’re trying to say Ken, but this is the way I read it: Until a theory is falsified, it doesn’t need to be rejected.

    And althought I have a physics background, I was never interested in the ‘string theory’ hypothesis (theory being a currently incorrect use of language for the subject) for the reason that my perception of it is similar to what you state. My understanding of it today is that String ‘theory’ is effectively a daydream of ‘perhaps this’. If it is unfalsifiable it doesn’t meet the criteria to be called science, which would make it a math based fantasy.

    I’m not sure what to make of your 3rd paragraph. I’m not aware of any ‘good science’ that is unfalsifiable – that statement is a contradiction by the definitions I use. Perhaps the confusion is that ‘unfalsifiable’ is different than ‘not-falsified’. Or maybe it is that ‘considered’ is the operative word in your statement, and the reminder should be that consensus (or any spectrum of society) does not determine truth.

  9. No it’s not, Ryan. It’s a perfectly reasonable hypothesis, and it’s only unfalsifiable if the definition of “God” makes it so. Historically speaking, there are plenty of hypothetical gods about whom falsifiable statements were made, e.g. Zeus and Hera live on the top of Mount Olympus and Vulcan manufactures lightning bolts on his forge nearby.

    There are oodles of possible definitions for “God” that would be both widely accepted by the religious and empirically falsifiable. For example, a being who can (1) raise the recently dead, (2) do everything implied by the ability to change matter to energy and back again, making any re-arrangement of particles he pleases on the way, and (3) predict the future.

    None of those three things contradicts the laws of physics as we know them, and anyone who could do all three would very probably be hailed as “God” by nearly anyone. I doubt there’d be very many philosophy PhDs who caviled yeah, but that’s not INFINITELY powerful, so you may be very very awesome, but you’re not GOD God, you know.

    Besides, any such would probably be smitten by lightning and turned to ash and carbon monoxide.

  10. Or maybe it is that ‘considered’ is the operative word in your statement, and the reminder should be that consensus (or any spectrum of society) does not determine truth.

    Exactly Ryan, you hit it out of the park with this one.

    Another point, what we believe, theory, hypothesis or god is subject to change with new information. Again, this is another way of talking about falsifiability. I would also like to avoid any ‘god of the gaps’ type of thinking.

    I believe in god because I’m not gullible. Many seem very gullible and are an embarrassment.

    Inflation theory seems wrong to me. Louise makes more sense talking about C slowing. If she’s right, a lot of dark energy and dark matter scientists might look as silly as some ignorant bible thumper.

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