Religion & Evolution

Think about the mind as being like a house with many rooms, most of which we’re very familiar with. But sometimes it’s as though a doorway appears from out of nowhere and it opens onto a staircase. We climb the staircase and experience a state of altered consciousness… [T]his staircase takes us up…to the level of the sacred. When we climb that staircase, self-interest fades away, we become just much less self-interested, and we feel as though we are better, nobler and somehow uplifted. So here’s the million-dollar question for social scientists like me: Is the staircase a feature of our evolutionary design? Is it a product of natural selection, like our hands? Or is it a bug, a mistake in the system — this religious stuff is just something that happens when the wires cross in the brain[?]

And after all, how could it ever be good for us to lose ourselves? How could it ever be adaptive for any organism to overcome self-interest? … In “The Descent of Man,” Charles Darwin wrote a great deal about the evolution of morality — where did it come from, why do we have it. Darwin noted that many of our virtues are of very little use to ourselves, but they’re of great use to our groups. He wrote about the scenario in which two tribes of early humans would have come in contact and competition. He said, “If the one tribe included a great number of courageous, sympathetic and faithful members who are always ready to aid and defend each other, this tribe would succeed better and conquer the other.” He went on to say that “Selfish and contentious people will not cohere, and without coherence nothing can be effected.” In other words, Charles Darwin believed in group selection.

Religion, evolution, and the ecstasy of self-transcendence | TED: Jonathan Haidt

Video: Religion, evolution, and the ecstasy of self-transcendence | Jonathan Haidt • notthisbody