The Evolution of Religion
The dimensionality of the human organism is a mystery
that reductionist biology is in danger of missing, whatever the confusions of human ‘species’ beliefs here: that’s the irony, such beliefs come into existence with human speciation. Why? Man begins to experience a new ‘software’. The construct of the man-machine evolving by a law of natural selection, like a dead object tracked by a law of physics, is an illusion of modern science.
The Evolution of Religion Scientists armed with Darwinism exhibit something close to obsession in their attempts to reduce religion to Darwinian genetics, in the process mechanizing explanations of ethical agency. The search for the god gene, and the scenarios of evolutionary psychology are desperate attempts to save the reductionist viewpoint. But the question of the evolution of religion is clearly seen from the study of world history.
Here Alfred Wallace is an important, but neglected, figure in the emergence of evolutionary theory. Let us note, in the context of the ‘descent of man revisited’, that one of the co-discoverers, if not actual source, of selectionist theory later dissented on the question, as far as the descent of man is concerned. Wallace (who started as a super-selectionist) saw something that severely challenges Darwinism, that is, the appearance not of adaptive traits, but of potential ‘traits’ that emerge through self-realization (making the term ‘evolution’ ambiguous). His classic observation was that
…in creating the human brain, evolution has wildly overshot the mark.
An instrument has been developed in advance of the needs of its possessor…Natural selection could only have endowed the savage with a brain a little superior to that of the ape, whereas he possesses one very little inferior to that of the average member of our learned societies….
This sentiment springs to life once we see the way Wallace’s dilemma reflects on history. We are confronted with questions about the meaning of evolution, if history shows yogis exploring consciousness in traditions as old as the emergence of civilization. It is entirely possible such men came into being in times unseen in the Paleolithic. Religions such as Buddhism point to another dimension to religion, one that might clarify the confusions over ‘naturalism’.
The Buddha Phenomenon That close observation of historical facts might uncover some surprising indications of what is left out of Darwinism can be seen in the history of Indian religion. That Wallace was righter than he knew is obvious to any student of world religion. Man in his ordinary state is unaware of the potential of his ‘self-consciousness’, let alone able to produce a theory of its evolution. History shows the extreme antiquity of explorations of self-consciousness in the discovery of the famous cylinder seal possibly showing a meditating yogi from the period ca. -2000 (denied by some scholars) in a possible hybrid with Shiva mythology. That what we find in later Buddhism should be discovered much earlier was to be expected, and makes us suspect still earlier forms of such explorations stretching backwards into the Neolithic, or before.
A simple question haunts the Darwinian account. At what point do we first see the Buddha phenomenon and what evolutionary process can account for it? In fact, we don’t know. The most outrageous aspect of Darwinism is to completely ignore such issues, to promote its oversimplification. We can mention this particular case as a theory stopper, and reminder that Darwin’s theory only exists in a culture of ostriches.