Mary Cole: The Systematic Supernatural / Systematic Ideology as a Framework for the Origin, Function, and Alteration of Religion

Winner, 2013 George Walford International Essay Prize.

In an evolutionary context, a belief in the supernatural is costly. Evolutionary cost refers to anything that reduces an individual’s eventual reproductive success from what that individual would otherwise achieve. Such cost includes unnecessary practices that either neglect or consume resources that otherwise could be used provision oneself or one’s offspring. Mentally, believers dedicate emotional and cognitive effort to elaborating and sustaining supernatural frameworks. Physically, adherents allocate time and resources to religious displays rather than survival or reproduction. [1] Evolutionary cost also includes practices that directly reduce or even eliminate reproductive efforts. Supernatural believers may subject their bodies to ritualistic alteration, periods of abstinence or celibacy, or obliteration through martyrdom. [2]

Once supernatural beliefs and associated rituals are established in a given culture, anthropological theory provides many schools of thought regarding the benefit of these beliefs in the society. Different theories explain rituals as ultimately serving social needs, uniting and sustaining social structures, masking power differences of the status quo, or carrying historical or emotional significance. Yet any of these functions of belief could be served more directly, and with less resource and reproductive cost, by specific vocalization and negotiation of social needs. Why, then, did human evolution produce a mind that tended to interpret experiences as supernatural and then attach them to nonhuman beings and rituals? Does belief in supernatural supervision of a desire, rather than rational planning to fulfill that desire, provide a greater benefit despite its high cost? In other words, did belief in the supernatural arise or survive through an evolutionary adaptation?

Systematic Ideology provides a theoretical foundation for examining why societies employ an intermediate supernatural entity, rather than a direct rational discussion, for regulating social norms. The theory explains the cognitive method by which ideologies generate behaviors, the psychological reason why early ideologies are not rational, and the cultural mechanism by which increasingly rational ideologies appear. The theory was created by Harold Walsby in the 1930s to help explain the absence of mass rationality and the subsequent rise of another intermediate regulator of behavior, the political state. [3] George Walford continued this work from the 1970s to the 1990s, applying it specifically to supernatural ideologies in several publications. However, he notes in his outline sketch of the religious application that ideological theory has still hardly been applied to this area.[4]

This essay will begin with an overview of systematic ideology. Next, a history of anthropological thought will highlight the unique theoretical perspective of Systematic Ideology. This essay will then fundamentally argue that supernatural ideas and rituals originally developed to help societies sustain altruistic, cooperative interactions. The thesis will be addressed through a series of five questions regarding the origin, function, and alteration of supernatural concepts:

1. Why Do Humans Have Supernatural Experiences?
2. Why Do Groups Adopt Rituals?
3. Why Does Organized Religion Replace Magic?
4. How Does the Supernatural Respond to Science?
5. Can the Supernatural Be Eliminated?

I. A Brief Overview of Systematic Ideology
A. The Social Inspiration for Systematic Ideology
During the 1930s, Harold Walsby recognized the failure of the public, in mass, to rationally choose a political system that maximized freedom from restriction. Societies with a fascist, conservative, or liberal political system all rely to varying degrees on the state to adjust intellectual freedoms and economic divisions. Individuals have greater economic freedom to gain a resource advantage over others, but for each coercing individual there is at least one human that is deprived and coerced. [5] Proponents of political approaches such as socialism, communism, and anarchism believe that the public will behave “rationally” to maximize freedoms if given the opportunity. Through elimination of the state intermediary, individuals would gain increasing intellectual freedom, and increasing freedom from economic divisions. In an anarchist society, the abolishment of all state institutions leaves individuals with complete political and intellectual freedom. The economic collectivism in such a society also prevents differential control of resources and the subsequent potential for coercion of poorer individuals. [6] Socialism and communism both take increasingly rational steps towards this end by attacking the state structure, although to a lesser degree than abolishment. [7] Yet the public has never established a truly socialist, communist, or anarchist society when the state is left open for this change. The British Labour Party includes a small socialist contingent, but the power trade union delegation pushes for changes within the capitalist status quo. Communist revolutions in Russia and China collapsed back into individual pursuits by the public mass regardless of the needs of the commune. [8]

B. Ideological Origins: The Public Retains Economic Impulses
In response to this failure of the public to behave as expected, Walsby established Systematic Ideology to study the origins, actions, and changes of ideology. Ideology shared above the level of the individual might be assumed to originate in a rational approach to the most beneficial relationship between individuals. Yet as Walsby discovered, the general public does not adopt ideologies that increase individual economic gains if that change is proposed through resource equalization. Therefore many individuals remain in political systems with lower economic portions than could be obtained through this alteration. [9] The transition to equalization relies on each member of society to desire freedom that is specifically conceptualized as the absence of class divisions. In the words of Walford, anarchists believe that they are “leaving people free to follow their inherent leanings towards peaceful cooperation.” [10] If anyone instead acts in opposition to equality, thereby restoring class divisions, then some form of state entity must again arise to suppress these anti-anarchist tendencies. As Zvi Lamm explains, “Anyone living in a society where anarchist freedom reigns must be an anarchist.” [11] Walford adds that “impulses towards independent economic action would have to be eliminated for such a society to function.” [12]

Systematic Ideology agrees that all intentional behaviors and ideas of humans are directed towards the impulse to achieve freedom from restriction. This impulse stems from the “absolute assumption” that we are completely unlimited, as a fetus might assume in the complete nourishment of the womb. [13] However, this freedom from limitation is not itself restricted to equalized intellectual freedom accompanied by an equalized portion of the economy. Instead, Walsby links this impulse quite explicitly to differential evolutionary survival, writing that for every living thing, “All reactions, then, are resistances; and in this connection, such phrases as “struggle for existence” and “survival of the fittest” at once spring to mind.” [14] The impulse for a “freedom from restriction” therefore must include a desire to overcome the limitations imposed by one’s neighbors – how much one can eat, how long one can live, how many children one can sustain. This hardly matches the anarchists’ vision of inherent desires for peaceful cooperation. Walford notes that the majority of intentional human behavior is expedient, chosen “because that seems to be the quickest, pleasantest, cheapest, easiest, most advantageous way… being usually what we mean when we describe an action as ‘only natural.'” [15]

This impulse stems from what Walsby calls the “absolute assumption,” or the idea that the self is totally free from limitations and therefore completely self-determined. [16] All further assumptions about reality are crafted to support this underlying concept of non-limitation. These cognitive assumptions may range from assuming that one’s visual cells are communicating reality, to assuming that one’s grandiose philosophical perspective reflects the intricacies of the universe. [17] The cognitive effort of sensing and responding to an external stimulus expends energy. Therefore encountering a stimulus violates the assumptions that all of one’s interactions with external reality are self-determined. Stimuli must become part of the self, rather than an external reality which an individual must expend energy conceptualizing. Individuals craft assumptions that produce a conditioned response to the stimulus. Therefore the response to the stimuli no longer occurs anew in the external world, but is relayed to internal assumptions. By saying that one “knows” something about a stimulus – that eyes perceive objects, that chairs will hold our weight, that personal philosophy is correct – one regains the power of self-determination in regards to that stimulus. [18]

Assumption simply refers to the individual accepting something as real without proof beyond his or her capacity to conceive the idea. [19] The underlying assumption of non-limitation is presumably induced in the fetus through the survival of its preceding lineage. Walsby’s association of this drive with the survival of the fittest would seem to confirm this association. An organism that accepted limitations on its capacity to survive and reproduce would be quickly out-competed by other lineages. However, further assumptions are crafted in the same manner as conditioned reflexes. If a stimulus continually results in a corresponding stimulus without much contradiction of this pattern, the individual forms the assumption that this pattern will continue. When the stimulus occurs again either confirming or lacking its coupled stimulus, the assumption is tested. The individual forms either a positive or negative emotional identification with the stimulus. Positive identifications result from the stimulus matching the assumption of the couple stimulus that will follow. This leads the individual to manifest behaviors that accept and encourage the individual, group, or idea that is source of the stimulus, believing it to be an affirmation that the individual is unlimited. Negative identifications occur when the stimulus violate the assumption of the reality that will follow. The emotional identification produce behaviors that seek to reject, oppose, and destroy the stimulus source, since this source threatens the absolute assumption by revealing a limitation. [20] Taken together, the set of assumptions and emotional identifications that allow an individual to self-identify with all the stimuli of the external world is what Systematic Ideology labels as ideology. [21]

C. Ideological Actions: Individuals Behave Altruistically for Individual Net Benefits
The astute anarchist will take this opportunity to interject that cooperative behaviors ultimately produce fewer limitations on survival and reproduction than purely individualistic behaviors. This is quite obviously true – all social structures beyond groups of related individuals rely on some measure of altruism between non-relatives. Ideology shared above the family level may have economically selfish origins in each individual’s absolute assumption. However, the actions that this ideology produces, produced by the interaction of assumptions, emotional identifications, and behaviors, cannot similarly be purely economically selfish. In response, Walsby identifies a facet of evolutionary thought that has only recently come to great prominence in anthropological thinking. Individuals who cooperate altruistically have a greater individual payoff than individuals who behave only selfishly. Therefore altruistic actions are still fundamentally self-seeking because the individual is cooperating with others in order to obtain the net benefit. An individual who behaves altruistically will not feel limited and violate the absolute assumption as long as the benefit of that altruistic act exceeds the cost. Specifically, Walsby writes, “In accepting the limitations imposed upon him by relations with his fellows – in other words, by co-operating in social life – each member of the community avoids the greater limitations which he would otherwise have to suffer in isolation.” [22]

In a perfectly anarchist society, all individuals would be entitled to equal intellectual and economic freedom. This could conceivably satisfy these conditions for altruism, as long as that equal portion exceeded the portion that the individual would obtain through less equalized political systems. While richer individuals would certainly suffer a loss in this system, the mass of the public is much more likely to gain economically through equal distribution. Furthermore, the richer or more powerful individuals are likely to be either converted or deposed in the revolutions expected to precede the demise of the state. Therefore a “rational” public would recognize the potential gain and embrace complete altruism. Walsby then pinpoints this assumption of mass rationality as the second fundamental weakness of the socialist, communist, and anarchist programs. He notes that every ideology, from the far Right to the far Left, proclaims that its ideals are universally the most beneficial. [23] He also writes that he does not question whether individuals have the intellectual capacity for this realization, but whether they can all come to that conclusion in the numbers and timespan to affect the change. [24] Individuals cling to assumptions about the relationship between stimuli because they have observed what they believe to be this relationship repeatedly in the external world. Since true socialism, communism, and anarchism have only existed in theory, how the public, in mass, be expected to assume that these political changes will produce a net personal benefit?

D. Ideological Changes: Driven by Net Benefits and New Limitations
While the public in mass has never reached this conclusion, Walford writes a few individuals do reach this conclusion in every society. Furthermore, some societies have increased both intellectual freedom and economic collectivism through moving from Conservative to Liberal political systems. Therefore some mechanism must exist for small but increasingly rational approaches to economic cooperation on a large scale. Walsby explains that social changes in this rational direction provide a net benefit, but they also carry increasing limitations. For example, the advent of farming increases resource abundance and availability, but produces the new limitation of harder physical labor. Scientific and technological advances can reduce the physical labor cost of this resource production. However, this imposes an additional maintenance cost of the resources and people needed to power and operate the machines. In both cases the net benefit of resource production is greater than the system preceding the technological change. Yet the continued application of costs is a constant violation of the absolute assumption of being unlimited. [25] Societies do not seem to be seeking the greatest net benefit that can be humanly conceived, as much as responding to the costs of the immediate system. Accordingly, systematic ideology proposes that societies gradually shift to ideologies that solve some of the costs of the preceding system. Walsby produces seven categories of ideologies in three groups, which Walford renames. Each ideology will be treated in detail when applied to the corresponding seven questions about the supernatural, so a brief sketch will suffice here.

E. Categorization of Ideologies Within Systematic Ideology
The first group of ideologies embraced by an individual, group, or society is termed Ediostatic. These ideologies identify limitations on the self as arising outside of the aspect of human society attached to that ideology. [26]

All people begin life in the first ideology, which Walsby calls Protostatic and Walford terms Expediency. The majority of human actions fall under Expediency, meaning that humans perform acts as quickly, easily, and advantageously as possible. [27] This response assumes that reality is static enough to continue the same behaviors without alteration. [28] These actions are not regarded as distinctly moral in opposition to any alternative actions, since the same pattern is always expected. [29] For many patterns of social life, this holds true. The most ardent anarchist does not dedicate an equal portion of thought and effort to both conceptualizing political theory and conceptualizing what to say in response to “Hello!” Instead, this individual will likely respond with “Hello!” just as quickly as would the fully ideological expedient individual who never conceptualizes political theory at all. Only small foraging societies can embrace a fully Expediant ideology because it is nonpolitical, lacking explicit mechanisms for social control. [30] However, Walford notes that fascist states such as that of the Nazis attempt to appeal to Expedient adherents by promising an eternal or long-lasting political system. [31]

The second Ediostatic ideology, called Epistatic or Domination, recognizes alternative behavioral responses to the same stimulus. However, the ideology regards these options as largely dualistic and provides moral associations that direct the individual to the choice of the behavioral pair that the ideology deems acceptable. For example, given behavior is either good or bad, or perhaps appropriate for either a ruler or a follower. [32] The individual’s behavioral response within this ideology can be predicted because it is prescribed by the social institutions of that society, such as education or law enforcement. Conservative political ideology falls within this category, alongside political systems ruled by royals. [33]

The third Ediostatic ideology is referred to as Parastatic or Precision, and arrives with a scientific perspective on reality. Now multiple ideas, behaviors, and views of reality are discovered and acknowledged in response to the same stimulus. Some of these ideas have a basis in external reality and can be scientifically tested for correctness, rather than relying on the prescription of the state. Other ideas are seen as equally valid and deserving of universal suffrage. [34] However, this equality is pursued through the bureaucracy of the existing state or social structure associated with the ideology. Accordingly, Liberal political ideology falls within this stage. [35]

The second group, containing Ediodynamic ideologies, begins to recognize that limitations arise from within the very aspect of human society associated with that ideology. Modification of the social structure, state, or religious perspective is no longer viewed as the method for the greatest net benefit, since limitations arise from the system itself. The first ideology in this group, the Protodynamic or Reform ideology, recognizes the existence of interconnected classes within the system. This ideology notes class differences but not necessarily oppositions between the classes. Socialism continues the suffrage of the Parastatic or Precision stage, now amending the political structure rather than working through its existing limitations.36 This change is pursued gradually without violent overthrow of the system. [37] Epidynamic, or Revolution, ideologies do recognize this class conflict and demand its resolution. Violent overthrow of the system may be seen as the only method for resolving this conflict, as has occurred prior to attempts to establish Communist systems. Unlike Socialism, the entire state must experience overhaul in place of gradual modification. [38] Paradynamic, or Repudiation, ideologies embody the political thought of Anarchism and Anarcho-socialism. Even Communist states which divide resources are viewed as limiting individual freedoms and must therefore be abolished. [39]

The final group, which contains Metadynamic ideologies, contains only the Ideology of Ideologies. This approach studies the origin, behavior, and development of ideologies themselves. Every preceding ideology is limited by the assumption that its principles are somehow true and a part of external reality. Systematic ideology’s identification of the failed assumptions of peaceful cooperation and mass rationality indicate that even anarchist does not correctly predict human behavior. [40] Rather than taking the role of directing human behavior, the ideology of ideologies studies how human behavior is directed. As Walsby concludes, “Human society would then be master, not only of inanimate nature, but of itself.” [41]

II. Uniqueness of Systematic Ideology Among Anthropological Thought
Walford notes that ideology is generally conceptualized in terms of the mental or physical responses of an individual to external stimuli. These reactions might include “a person’s system of ideas, or set of beliefs or values, or his general outlook, or mental attitude.” [42] Modern anthropological textbooks quite similarly tend to define “culture” as a set of ideas and behaviors that are both learned and shared between individuals, or a phrase to this effect. Early in anthropological thought, culture was generally not considered to be a learned behavior, but rather an inherent property of a given group. Nineteenth-century cultural evolutionism espoused this view and accordingly divided world cultures into progressive “stages.” Neo-evolutionism briefly resurrected cultural stages, now attributing the progression to technological development rather than some inherent driving force.

Later anthropological theories came to view culture as historically determined and therefore learned by group members, either from the historical event itself or its reflect in customs. Culture was viewed as functional, structural, or simply carrying personal meaning for members of the group. Systematic Ideology reflects this change by realizing that stimuli activate a learned cognitive reflex, which triggers an underlying assumption about the place of the stimulus in reality. The proximity of the stimulus to this assumption then produces an emotional identification or value judgment that results in the mental or physical response. [43] Due to this approximation, this section will use the terms “culture” and “ideology” interchangeably. However, anthropological theories that consider culture to be learned generally do not contain cultural stages. Without an evolutionary or technological force that can drive the transition of whole cultures from one stage to the next, these theories have largely abandoned the concept.

Systematic Ideology is unique among anthropological theories because it contains ideological stages, but also believes that these ideologies are learned and modified by individuals in response to external stimuli. The theory reconciles these concepts through three modifications that do not significantly occur in other anthropological theories with cultural stages. Ideologies are not ascribed differential value and are not treated as inherently progressive or inevitable. Additionally, each “stage” of ideology is not abandoned, but retained to some degree in each society and within each individual. A brief history of anthropological theory will better describe these differences and perhaps ease the hesitation of modern anthropologists in relating ideological stages to culture.

A. Anthropological Theories Containing Cultural Stages
i. Nineteenth-Century Evolutionism
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many of the educated and political elite espoused Social Darwinism, or the idea that all social circumstances resulted from an evolutionary drive towards progress. These genetic impulses to outlast other groups were thought to be deterministic of human behavior. [44] According to this logic, human groups ascended to power due to superior fitness, driven by irresistible genetic impulses to overcome. [45] While the specific cultural stages varied by the theorist, nineteenth-century evolutionists generally began with something similar to “savages” and added increasingly western technologies, beliefs, and behaviors in increasingly superior stages. Nineteenth-century evolutionism assumed that the end state of this drive for superior fitness was a western ideal of mind and body. Western theorists believed that western man held power due to genetic fitness “for maximum coping with the threats and challenges of a less than completely bountiful world” according to psychologist Richard M. Lerner. [46] German biologist Ernst Haeckel wrote, “Savage man, as we have him to- day in the Veddah or Australian negro, is physiologically nearer to the apes than to highly civilized man.” [47] This adherence to a hierarchy of civilization dates back to Aristotle’s Great Chain of Being, or scala naturae. Psychology professors Lance Workman and Will Reader note, “In this scheme, which was later adopted by the Christian religion, God occupied the topmost rung of the ladder followed by angels, then the nobility (males then females), then ordinary men, ordinary women, animals, plants, and finally inanimate objects.” [48]

Progressive evolution first demands a singular nature for society so that the collection of minds can simultaneously adopt the next stage in complexity. For theorist Herbert Spencer, the evolutionary stage of a given society can be discerned by a system that cannot be opposed or overthrown. To illustrate this collectivity, he points to the “spontaneously evolved” division of labor in England into “producers, wholesale distributers, and retail distributers.” [49] Feudal systems, heritable jurisdictions, policies of leaders and even despots are likewise sustained because “their fitness to the social state” prevents the people from overthrowing them. [50] By declaring man capable of influencing his own evolution, Spencer can hold less complex elements responsible for retarding their own growth or wider social progress. Labor reforms are useless because unfair conditions “are not due to any special justice of the employing class, and can be remedied only as fast as men in general advance.” [51] Social Darwinism has been widely criticized by modern anthropologists for its exploitation by politicians who did not wish to reform social policies. It is not difficult to imagine the ease with which social, race, class, and gender issues could be dismissed not as beacons for reform but as products of the teeming, under-evolved masses.

ii. Neo-evolutionism
E. B. Tylor is unique among his nineteenth century evolutionary contemporaries because his cultures progress through stages due to technological achievements. He sought to “eliminate considerations of hereditary varieties or races of men, and to treat mankind as homogenous in nature, though placed in different grades of civilization.” [52] This attempt at equalization produces Tylor’s theory that all cultures pass through the same technological stage and share an identical history of development. Tylor builds his theory on the observation that groups tend to embrace a predictable sequence of technological developments. He marks the inventory of stone tools common to many cultural histories, the subsistence occupations found among many people, and the myths retold by diverse peoples. [53]

During the 1940s, Neo-Evolutionism under Leslie White, George Murdock, and Julian Steward resurrected the progression through cultural stages according to technology. A student of Boas, White essentially proposed that cultural progress could be defined as the efficiency with which a culture controlled energy, thereby leaving more time and resources for cultural elaboration. Steward similarly grouped cultures together based on similar subsistence practices, and then sorted these groups by complexity.[54]

B. Anthropological Theories Lacking Cultural Stages
i. Historical Particularism
In the early 20th Century, the school of historical particularism founded by Franz Boas began to question the passage of culture through predetermined stages. Boas’ theories discounted unilineal cultural evolution largely based on evidence that cultures could arrive at similar customs through vastly different historical experiences. Boas noted that diffusion and trade often produced a convergence of cultural ideas. Cultures might also produce similar customs if an idea or behavior could only be approached in a few ways. [55] Historical particularlism was also a reaction to the social consequences of nineteenth-century evolutionism. Boas’ followers were immigrants and often Jewish, like Boas himself. His school clashed with the WASP-ish proponents of social Darwinism over anthropological justifications for what Silverman describes as “immigration policy, race relations, nationalism and isolationism during World War I, American Indian separatism and assimilationism.” [56]

Boas also acknowledged that individuals could create and spread their own ideological perspectives. He writes, “The activities of the individual are determined to great extent by his social environment, but in turn his own activities influence the society in which he lives, and may bring about modifications in its form” [57] His student, A. L. Krober, rejected the individual as having “no historical value.” Instead, Krober proposed that civilization exists as an independent entity that people transmitted. [58] Regardless, Boas’ work forced a temporary abandonment of evolutionary models in the United States. Historical particularism eliminates cultural stages but facilitates individual changes in ideology.

ii. Functionalism
Britain lacked a similarly strong reaction to cultural evolution, and instead transitioned to variations of functionalism. Functionalism fundamentally defines culture as the structuring of responses to need. Structural and psychological functionalism both begin by assuming that
cultural phenomena exist and reproduce because they are needed by the group. Neither seeks to identify that need because the theory prescribes it universally. Structural functionalism, as described by A. R. Radcliffe-Brown, states that people need a preservation of the social order. [59] Psychological functionalism, as described by Bronislaw Malinowski, examines humankind’s universal biological necessities and environmental pressures, reducing them to nine elements: Nutrition, reproduction, bodily comforts, safety, relaxation, movement, and growth. [60] The anthropologist is responsible for linking the cultural idea or behavior to the need it fulfills, such as a food taboo that ensures the consumption of a nutritious diet.

Unlike historical particularism, individuals have no capacity to alter their personal ideologies or the ideology of the group. Individuals as powerless, replaceable units are vital to functionalism because an individual change to culture also destroys the functional benefit of that custom. Radcliffe-Brown borrows an organic analogy from cultural evolutionist Herbert Spencer when he describes the same social roles maintaining the same relationships while being filled by different but replaceable individuals. Even a military revolution is likely to preserve some of this continuity.61 Malinowski dismisses “the figment of the individual as a detached, self-contained entity.” He considers specific persons important only in the context of group membership Since functionalism assumes that systems spring out of need, individuals are static. They cannot reject their role in social phenomena without suffering a deficiency of the vital resources it provides. Malinowski explains that the individual depends totally on the group’s cooperative facilitation to fill his table, provide him with mates, and educate him to survive. [62] While the unconsciousness of this structure surely aides easy compliance and reproduction, functionalists also attribute this feature to the supposed ignorance of “savages.” Malinowski elsewhere concludes, “They know their own motives, know the purpose of individual actions and the rules which apply to them, but how, out of these, the whole collective institution shapes, this is beyond their mental range.” [63] Functionalism therefore eliminates both cultural stages and individual changes to ideology, viewing the whole system as essentially static as long as needs remain constant.

iii. Structuralism
In the 1960s, Claude Levi-Strauss challenged functionalism’s attribution of social structures to biological needs and stability. [64] Rather than using historical and ethnographic data to identify structures, he sought to eliminate this “noise” of adaptation through structuralism. Most speakers cannot describe their language’s rules for combining phonemes, or units of sound, into meaningful words. To Levi-Strauss, this indicated that people have an underlying comprehension of how linguistic structures fit together. [65] He saw culture as a system of unconscious rules for the way that cultural elements should combine. Transformations in one element affect all of the others predictably. The cultural elements are often pairs of binary opposites, such as good / evil and male / female. [66] While these structures are cognitive rather than facilitative of survival, they resemble functionalism in shaping the way an individual can interact with the world. Levi-Strauss describes a “neolithic” or savage mind that operates like a handyman, piecing together new cultural understandings from old elements while maintaining their associations. The modern mind works as an engineer, innovating and testing elements of new concepts individually. [67] Cultural concepts remain unconscious, since conscious participant models reinforce phenomena rather than explaining their elements. [68] Structuralism allows individual modification of ideology, either through recombining or inventing its basic components. While Neolithic and modern thought may be considered “stages” in that they compose different modes of combining cultural elements, one mode of thought is not seen as inevitably evolving into the other.

iv. Interpretive Anthropology
After the 1930s, funding sources for anthropology coincided with a rise in area studies. Harvard, under the influence of Talcott Parsons pressed for the definition of cultural anthropology as the study of ideas and values, distinct from sociology’s social systems and psychology’s individual cognition. Clifford Geertz and David Schnieder, both Harvard educated, moved together to the Chicago school and there entrenched symbolic anthropology in the tradition of Parsons. [69] Geertz initiated the second theoretical departure from functionalist and structuralist attempts to locate or justify cultural elements. He instead valued the meaning that phenomena held for individual persons. He claimed that people spin their own webs of significance, with the webbing material being “interworked systems of construable signs.” [70] Personal meaning grants consciousness of culture to individuals in this model, but Geertz largely denies them the power to actually shape symbols. He writes that “social and public” mechanisms in an individual’s community provide the individual with symbols to orient him or herself within experience. The person may offer “some additions, subtractions, and partial alterations” but largely leaves only “the narrowness and specificity of his actual accomplishments.” [71] Interpretive anthropology views ideology as having a deeply personal meaning for individuals, negating any discussion of cultural stages or trends. However, this theory also denies individual agency to modify ideology due to its prescription by the social and cultural surroundings of an individual.

v. Historical Materialism
Historical materialists advanced a third theoretical departure from functionalism in the early 1960s. They challenged the dominance of Soviet ethnographers by adapting Karl Marx for traditional societies, especially in the context of colonialism’s impact. [72] Marxists view society as an interconnected whole of entities, such that a change to one component alters relationships throughout the system. Human labor produces value by transforming nature into material commodities.The interaction of other entities with this value ultimately determines relationships. For example, an exploitative relationship occurs when an entity removes some surplus value, or commodity-producing labor, from an individual. The forces of production, including resources and labor, compose the mode of production that makes up the “base” of a society. The “superstructure” of a society contains ideological beliefs about which aspects of the base are “natural.” [73] By normalizing and therefore obscuring contradictions within the base, such as the uneven distribution of resources, ideology prevents social conflict and change. [74] Institutions throughout society employ power, especially discipline, to correct deviations from the ideological norm. [75] Historical materialism and critical theory apply Marxist precepts to cultural and temporal contexts outside of the theory’s original conception. [76]

Donald Donham writes that Marx saw “free and creative” labor as the crux of human culture and need, since it allowed individuals to symbolically create themselves. This symbolic consequence of labor takes the form of new needs such as thought, action, and innovation, distinct from the subsistence needs of animals. Differently placed social groups have different interests in improving their cultural modes of production, potentially causing “tensions,” “radical readjustments,” and even gains of the periphery over advanced strata. This theory does stem from interrelations between productive structures, infrastructures, and superstructures, so individual consciousness and agency require a focus on production. [77]

Some modern historical materialists have instead justified individual agency with a view of culture as dynamic and unpredictable, rather than explicitly tied to modes of production. For example, Eric Wolf argues that individuals and histories are never historically isolated, and that social reactions to natural or artificial needs cannot therefore be predicted from an isolated system. All historical events occur in the context of the past and present happenings of other people. For example, the United States expanded not through some social compulsion of Manifest Destiny, but through the misfortune of other occupiers. [78] The Louisiana Purchase cheapened for Jefferson after a Haitian slave revolt against the French, while the Mexican War secured slave production of cotton in the south. Modern historical materialism affords perhaps the greatest agency to individuals to change their ideological structures. Yet cultures with different modes of production can also influence one another economically and therefore and alter each other’s internal class relationships. This outside interference hampers the classical Marxist progression through stages of production, making modern historical materialists reluctant to predict cultural stages.

C. Modifications to Ideological Stages in Systematic Ideology
The general impression gained from anthropological theory is that stages of culture and the capacity of individuals to modify culture are mutually exclusive. Nineteenth century evolutionism and neo-evolutionism move whole societies from one stage to the next, driven by a universal impulse for either survival or technological advancement. Each stage is defined by a whole suite of cultural characteristics presumed to belong to a “savage,” “barbarian,” or whatever the anthropologist has arbitrarily decided. Conversely, anthropological theories that maintain an independent historical origin for aspects of culture also tend to maintain that culture is consequently unpredictable.

Systematic ideology classifications combine these approaches because they can be applied at any scale, from individual actions to entire political systems. The first unique aspect of this theory is the use of ideological stages to describe components of culture, rather than the whole. At the personal level, individuals have the freedom to theorize about, negotiate with, and adopt increasingly rational ideologies. Systematic ideology does not prescribe a given ideology for individuals, but instead considers the historical circumstances that may encourage individuals to strike upon and then adopt these ideologies. At a level above the individual, a specific ideology may be used to describe a particular aspect of a group, such as a conservative or liberal government. However, it does not follow early anthropological thought in resigning any other aspect of that group to the same stage. Systematic ideology notes that multiple ideologies exist within a given society, and even within a single individual. All ideologies, once they appear in society, remain present in lesser numbers than the preceding ideology and greater numbers than the following ideology. [79] As previously explained, most human actions follow an expedient ideology regardless of the individual’s political leanings. In other words, a “stage” of systematic ideology is not a label for an entire culture, but a description of an ideological aspect of some members of that culture accompanied by theories regarding the development of that aspect.

Systematic ideology further demonstrates uniqueness by preventing exploitation by political institutions that might hope to once again dehumanize and deprive “lower stages” of culture. Walford notes that different levels of ideology have no greater value than others, and are not produced by differential intelligence of the individuals at any level. [80] Trevor Blake confirms, “No major ideology is better than any other, in the same way that a heart is no better than a lung… Each major ideology appears to have its function in a larger system.” [81] A related third innovation of systematic ideology is its affirmation that these stages are not inherently progressive. [82] As explained above, the ideologies appear essentially chronologically because each ideology produces new limitations that the following ideology is produced to solve.

Systematic ideology offers a promising solution to the three pitfalls of previous concepts of cultural stages. An ideology can be applied to describe the assumptions underlying an individual or cultural behavior without stereotyping every aspect of each societal member. These ideological assignments are void of the assumptions of moral superiority or eventual domination that tainted previous cultural stages. Finally, these ideologies have no inherent drive towards “progress” that might produce such a moral judgment of worth. Ideologies instead move through chronological stages as a function of their own continual production of limitations.

III. The Application of Systematic Ideology to Supernatural Concepts
Walsby created Systematic Ideology to explain why societies embrace states as intermediates between the public and their intellectual and economic resources. While states may be modified to increase intellectual freedom and economic equality, most of the public would have reaped an even greater economic benefit from free access. Similarly, Walford began to use Systematic Ideology to question why societies established supernatural entities and rituals as arbitrators of social norms. Due to the broad spectrum of religions, Walford defines the term as the ideological span between magic and atheism. [83] He echoes Emile Durkheim in isolating “a distinction between the sacred and the profane” as the mark of a religion. [84]

Explicit, rational discussion of the benefits of social norms could have avoided the costs expended on their supernatural enforcement. Walford writes, “Why not do away with it? Why not cut straight across, just explaining to people in the first place why it’s better to think rationally? Why bother with symbols, myths and legends? Why not go straight to the ideas?” [85] In the cases of economic equality, non-supernatural social norms, and any other aspect of ideology, the rational approach fails because humans, in mass, do not think rationally. In fact, most individuals do not dedicate any thought to questions of life, death, and the place of humanity in the university, much less thought that is rational. Religion attracts attention to these philosophical questions with decorations that inherently interesting to humans – promises or threats regarding food, sex, power, and survival. Only after human attention is drawn to these philosophical questions can they be considered without their supernatural aura. [86] Walford concludes, “Religion is important to humanism, so important that if religion did not exist, humanists would have to invent it.” [87]

IV. Supernatural Origins: Why Do Humans Have Supernatural Experiences?
Walford’s explanation produces a further question – why did humans not simply evolve the cognitive capacity or tendency for rational thought? Why was the cognitive effort dedicated to supernatural perception and ritualization not instead directed to an interest in philosophical questions? Two options immediately appear. First, supernatural experiences, rational thought, or both tendencies might not be evolvable aspects of cognition. If these mental processes are not associated with heritable genes, then they cannot be perpetuated by biological evolution. Second, either of these cognitive processes might be evolvable, but supernatural thought might be more strongly associated with cognitive processes that increase individual fitness. This section will reject a direct genetic origin for supernatural experiences, but acknowledge their strong association with adaptive cognitive processes.

A. Evolution of a Trait Requires Heritability
As previously discussed, the absolute assumption of non-limitation and self-determination is associated with the evolutionary impulse for survival. Walford confirms, “The ideological structure found today has come into being over time, and what has been said in the foregoing pages enables us to recognise its development as an evolutionary process.” [88] The “evolution” of a trait in modern evolutionary thought refers to an increase in its frequency in a population through natural selection. Darwin’s system for the natural selection of a trait has three parts, each of which is a condition for its operation. First, organisms must show variation in the trait. Second, this variation must be heritable such that it passes from parent to offspring. Third, organisms must have differential reproduction because more organisms are produced than can survive to reproduce. Natural selection is the concept that inherited variation will benefit certain organisms such that they survive to reproduce in greater numbers than those lacking this variation. This will increase the frequency of that inherited trait in the next generation, since more offspring carrying that trait have been produced. [89]

To claim an origin in the modern synthesis between evolution and genetics, cultural behaviors must play by genetic rules for heritability. This requires a genetic model of culture, where behavioral traits and any associated genes pass to subsequent generations at a higher frequency than alternative behaviors. [90] The absolute assumption of systematic ideology, the urge to survive, is clearly heritable in any surviving lineage. Yet systematic ideology is wary of assigning a genetic origin to any additional ideological assumption. [91] Walford cautions, “But let me emphasise at once that I do not suggest genetic transmission of ideology, or propose to make ideological transitions directly consequent upon biological developments.”

B. Sociobiology Claims Heritability of Supernatural Beliefs
The anthropological theory of Sociobiology must here be addressed because it most strongly contests Systematic Ideology’s rejection of the gene-behavior linkage. Ethology, or the study of animal instincts, served as the forerunner of Sociobiology in the 1960s. [92] Ethologists came to see “instinct” as too vague a source for animal behavior, and turned to genes as the directors of these “hard-wired” actions. [93] Konrad Lorenz, one of the founders of ethology, concluded that natural selection must have allowed successful behaviors to develop. In his tome On Aggression (1967), he compared human and animal violence, postulating that aggressive display in hunt and sacrifice could enhance human bonds.94 The zoologist Desmond Morris followed with The Naked Ape (1967), comparing the sexual activity of apes and humans. The primatologist Jane Goodall also noted similarities in ape and human behavior through In the Shadow of Man (1971). Anthropologists Lionel Tiger and Robin Fox, in The Imperial Animal (1971) suggested that foraging and competition by male primates led to the sexually divided hunting economy in humans. These texts traced the contemporary ideological states of humans back to early evolutionary states, but did not elaborate on the evolutionary processes that generated and then propagated these behaviors. [95]

E. O. Wilson, a myrmecologist, wrote that evolutionary expositions such as that of Tiger and Fox were “advocacy theories” that proposed only one nonfalsifiable hypothesis. [96] Wilson sought a fundamental theory of social behavior that could create testable phenomenological theories for specific behaviors. In Sociobiology: A New Synthesis (1975), Wilson coined the term “sociobiology” to describe “the systematic study of the biological basis of all social behavior.” His central premise was that genes for behavior arise through mutation within an individual. Propagation of these behaviors depends on the selective pressures of that group’s environmentally-influenced demography. Gene-based behaviors that promote survival, reproduction, or childcare within this context pass from parent to child directly. These genes then spread through the population because individuals expressing these behaviors have greater reproductive success. [97]

John Bowker, who studies religion’s relationship to biology and psychology, divides sociobiological thought into two phases. Theory in the first phase claimed that genes directly inclined individuals to express certain behavioral traits. [98] Wilson argued that genes influence maturation and learning rules of behaviors through the functions of the sensory, nervous, and hormonal systems. Natural selection will favor the transmission of genes that control these physiological functions in a manner that promotes religious beliefs, provided that those beliefs promote an individual’s survival or reproduction. [99]

Wilson cites altruistic behaviors as the “central theoretical problem of sociobiology,” since these actions actually decrease an individual’s fitness. [100] More precisely, social psychologist C. Daniel Bateson defines such altruism “a desire within one organism to increase the welfare of another organism as an end-state goal.” This precludes accidental helping and altruistic acts that are consciously performed to condition reciprocity or social rewards that increase one’s own welfare. [101] Yet sociobiology promotes a genetic origin and reproductive propagation for consciously sacrificial acts, including religious displays. The question of the benefit provided by heritable supernatural propensities will be discussed in a later section regarding relationships to the group.

Some sociobiologists directly propose a direct genetic tendency to perceive encounters with the supernatural. Evolutionary biologist Dominic Johnson and psychologist Jesse Bering hypothesize that a genetic mutation produced cognitive illusions characterized as religious sensations. [102] Wilson writes that religious experiences stem from ritualistic behaviors that stimulate emotive centers. [103] Faith, or the acceptance of group authority and tradition about beliefs, verifies these mutually contradictory and subjective religious experiences. Based on these interpretations of the world, religion prescribes beliefs about lifestyle and behaviors for carrying out that lifestyle. Sociobiology also assigns a genetic origin to behavioral tendencies to conform to this group authority. Wilson writes in On Human Nature,

The mental processes of religious belief – consecration of personal and group identity, attention to charismatic leadership, mythopoeism, and others – represent preprogrammed predispositions whose self-sufficient components were incorporated into the neural apparatus of the brain by thousands of generations of genetic evolution. [104]

C. Supernatural Belief Lacks a Direct Genetic Origin
Sociobiology assumes that neural structures for supernatural experience and conformity first arose through genetic mutation and then proliferated through somehow enhancing reproductive success. [105] Yet individuals capable of generating their own supernatural experiences seem to compose a very small part of the population. Neuroscientist Michael Persinger has found epileptic-like charges in the temporal lobe of a transcendental meditation teacher during a peak experience and Pentecostal sect member experiencing glossolalia. Persons with temporal lobe epilepsy likewise show significantly higher rates of religiosity and involuntary responses to religious words.[106] [107] Yet Atran comments that even if all religious experiences involved such temporal lobe disturbances, evidence of activity in the frontal lobe would also be required to assign or invent supernatural agency. [108] Psychologist Azim Shariff further questions how beliefs in supernatural agents experienced through cognitive events could then become encoded in a person’s DNA to be passed on to offspring. [109] While 25 – 33% of American and British participants report having some kind of religious experience, only 2 – 3% report an “intensely emotional mystical experience.” [110] Sociologist James McClenon concludes that temporally- perturbed experiences may inspire new religions in a select few, but other mechanisms outside of genetic predispositions must facilitate widespread reception of these ideas in the rest of the population.[111]

D. Sociobiology Suggests Gene and Culture Co-Evolution
Sociobiology encountered the most widespread opposition in this first premise of genetic predispositions for behavior, fielding criticism from biologists, social activists, and evolutionary psychologists. Subsequent premises about the reproductive transmission of behavior all hinge on the genetic argument. Geneticist Richard C. Lewontin, who worked alongside Wilson at Harvard, joined Stephen Jay Gould in spearheading the biological opposition. They criticized sociobiology as a “just-so story” which imagined a selective environment for a specific behavior and then invented a gene that caused the behavior. [112] Lewontin and Gould also opposed this association on ethical grounds, writing that sterilization, immigration restrictions, and eugenics policies relied on biological explanations for divisions between social groups. Social activists took up this charge, spilling water on Wilson during his speech at a 1978 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and protesting with noisemakers during his lecture in 1984. [113]

Subsequent works by Wilson hedged against accusations of genetic determinism by emphasizing gene and culture co-evolution, which Bowker considers sociobiology’s second phase.114 Biological anthropologist William Durham proposed that brain structures create biases for behavior, making previously adaptive actions easy to learn. Cultural changes or individual rejection of these behaviors can inhibit these biases. [115] Working with biomathematician Charles J. Lumsden, Wilson likewise wrote that brain structures or neural pathways affect mental development, shaping the innovation and adoption of new cultural ideas. However, cultural change also alters the behavioral environment and influences the survival of these genes Behavioral traits mutate much faster than they would through reliance on genes alone, since a single mind can test combinations of genes and thus alternative solutions against the environment. [116]

Under this model, not only underlying behavioral traits but also the manifested religious differences can undergo natural selection. Religious doctrine now presents a cultural combination of gene-based behaviors that have been tested against the environment for reproductive fitness.117 Importantly, this shift did not alter the genetic origin of behavioral predispositions, such as the capacity for supernatural experiences or the tendency to conform. Lumsden and Wilson confirm, “The key element in the theory of gene-culture co-evolution is the role of the epigenetic rules in culturgen choice.” [118] These “epigenetic rules” comprise the genetically determined screening, organization, and deeper cognition processes of the mind, which sociobiology now favored as a structural intermediate linking interacting genes and cultural products. [119] However, the acknowledgement of cultural feedback did allow subsequent sociobiologists to argue that the specific doctrine of a religion was adapted for the environment of its host culture. For example, Reynolds and Tanner would claim that specific religions codified the fertility schedules that were optimal for a given culture and environment. [120]

E. Evolutionary Psychology and Indirectly Heritable Cognition
Sociobiology acknowledged cultural feedback on behavior, but still continued to search for a specific genetic origin of supernatural experience. Evolutionary psychology stepped into this academic gap by demonstrating that non-heritable supernatural experiences could be linked to presumably heritable cognitive systems. The discipline arose in the early 1990s through a group at the University of California at Santa Barbara, with psychologist Leda Cosmides and anthropologist John Tooby as the most prominent members. [121] Following later sociobiology, Tooby and Cosmides propose that the neural circuits of the brain were adapted to generate environment-appropriate behavior. As before, behaviors biased by neural wiring allowed individuals to increase their reproductive success, thereby propagating the genes directing this circuitry. [122]

Dedicated neural circuits labeled “modules” developed in response to specific adaptive problems. Yet Tooby and Cosmides propose that these modules were wired in humankind’s “environment of evolutionary adaptedness,” a combination of all of the selective environmental pressures through human evolution. Most authors, including Tooby and Cosmides locate this environment within the Pleistocene, which covers approximately 2.5 million years of human evolution prior to the cultural revolution about 40,000 years ago. [123] Tooby and Cosmides comment, “Cognitive mechanisms that exist because they solved problems efficiently in the past will not necessarily generate adaptive behavior in the present.” Unlike sociobiology, evolutionary psychology does not consider gene-linked behaviors adaptive for modern reproductive fitness or continually selected in modern populations by this mechanism. [124]

Cognitive modules respond to triggers associated with their adaptive environment, dispensing a genetically encoded interpretation of the properties of that stimulus. Cultural information about the world changes rapidly but can continue to meet modular trigger conditions. [125] For example, Haidt and Joseph propose five moral modules that evolved to produce emotional and behavioral responses to adaptive challenges. Early humans developed a module of “Purity/Sanctity” that suggested emotional disgust and behavioral cleanliness when triggered by waste and diseased individuals. Those lacking this cognitive module and its associated disease aversion were selected against through decreased survival. Cultural innovation expanded the stimuli that trigger the cognitive modules and their emotional responses. For example, a perfectly healthy individual that is “impure” or “unsanctified” according to the taboos of a ritual or religion triggers the same emotional identification of disgust and the same behavioral response of aversion. [126]

Walsby’s concept of ideology operates in a strikingly similar manner to the cognitive module systems of evolutionary psychology. An external stimulus triggers a cognitive module, or assumption about reality. This assumption produces an emotional identification with that stimulus, and then a behavioral reaction. An individual will assign an assumption to a stimulus based on the personal experience of their repeated associated. Yet, why does an individual choose that particular assumption to explain how the stimulus is behaving in external reality? Evolutionary psychology argues that evolution can produce the cognitive tendency to associate certain survival-linked stimuli with certain assumptions and emotional responses. Individuals will probably not live to pass on their cognitive modules if they see an openly diseased and contagious individual, but do not have a tendency to assume impurity, do not emote disgust, and do not respond with aversion.

F. Supernatural Experiences Are False Triggers of Cognitive Modules
The risk of having such a sensitive cognitive module is that the assumption, emotion, and response can be triggered by harmless stimuli that are similar to the intended stimulus. Evolutionary psychologists commonly link supernatural experiences and constructs to an incorrect triggering of cognitive modules for agent detection. Atran writes that humans are “trip- wired” to respond to fragmentary environmental details, as failing to identify a hostile or helpful person or animal could prove fatal. [127] Cognitive modules allow humans to detect and then distinguish animate and inanimate objects. Modules may also discern the social category of an agent, such as their status and relationship relative to the detector. This allows the individual to choose a set of social rules for interaction. [128] Psychologist Justin Barret (2004: 34) characterizes this module as a hypersensitive agent detection device (HADD), triggered when an object appears to violate an individual’s assumptions about its physical properties. According to psychologist Joseph Heinrich, features displayed by “intentional beings, animals, inanimate objects, or events” may contradict expectations.129 Early experiments (Heidler and Simmel 1944, Michotte 1963) showed that humans would view shapes moving across a surface and assign them emotions, desires, and even genders based on their movement patterns. [130] [131]

Anthropologist Stewart Guthrie suggests that supernatural beliefs similarly developed based on the false perception of human-like qualities, such as human faces “seen” in trees and clouds or human behaviors assigned to animals. [132] Systematic Ideology similarly argues that children oppose the limitation of the non-responsiveness of material objects. Through intensive investigation, the child forms a set of assumptions about the limitations imposes by matter. This mastery of assumptions allows the child to bring the material world under the realm of self- identification, thereby removing or at least accepting some material limitations. [133]

If these encounters remain “minimally counterintuitive”, violating only a few assumptions, the individual may apply normal social rules for interaction with the agent. The typical category provides details about the agent’s assumed behaviors and wishes. The few exceptional properties of the agent can infer their responsibility for some non-normal events. Individuals may interact with these agents to access this supernatural control or insight. [134] Religious beliefs grow out of this combination of biologically triggered supernatural experiences and culturally learned social roles. [135] When individuals perceive contradictory aspects of objects or events, the HADD searches for an explanation based on known properties of agents. In choosing existing supernatural concepts as the source of this behavior, the individual expands and reinforces the religious belief system. [136]

V. The Protostatic Supernatural: Why Do Groups Adopt Rituals?
Cognitive modules theorize about individual detection and construction of assumptions about of supernatural agents. Yet they do not speak to why these supernatural concepts are adopted by others in the group. Traits that are heritable can provide a benefit that increases reproductive fitness, thereby multiplying the numbers of offspring that also carry the trait. Might “group religious behavior” have evolved as a heritable trait through its capacity to increase fitness, even if the propensity for supernatural experiences is not genetic? To answer this question, this essay will examine three methods by which group religious behavior might be both a heritable and beneficial trait.

A. Group Religious Behavior and Personal Fitness
While these traits arise spontaneously within individuals, they spread through a population if their expression promotes the individual’s reproductive fitness. [137] [138] Behavioral scientist Brant Wenegrat identifies a behavioral trait as innately probable to occur in humans if it is evolutionarily stable, meaning that it increases the fitness of those who carry the gene, and if it appears universal, illustrating a subsequent history of propagation. [139] Wilson similarly describes an established behavioral trait as adaptive, or sustained in a population by natural selection. When expressed in multiple social situations, even a slightly altered behavioral trait can massively shift social structures. Wilson terms such amplification as “the multiplier effect” and writes that these gene-based behavioral shifts must precede changes in social structure. [140]

In addition to suggesting a genetic origin for supernatural experiences, sociobiology also proposes that genes for group religious behavior are reproductively advantageous. Wilson claims a genetic origin for religious “conformer” genes that emphasize loyalty to group identity and a charismatic leader. [141] As with all social behaviors in sociobiology, these conforming tendencies as well as the religious costs must proliferate through enhancing the individual’s reproductive success. [142] Some sociobiologists also propose that groups are genetically pre-dispositioned to seek sexual restrictions, and eagerly adopt a religion that fills this roll. Human men can produce offspring with many women simultaneously, but they must compete with other men for access to mates. Human women must carry the offspring of one man, but they can choose among men for the best mate. These contradictory sexual strategies can produce conflicts within competing members of a sex, between sexual partners, and between associated relatives. Wenegrat proposes that religion prevents such clashes from inhibiting reproduction by providing strict rules for sexual decisions. The reduction of stress over reproductive strategies may also benefit an individual’s personal health and survival. In its most extreme manifestation, individuals with severe sexual anxiety may join cultlike religious groups with antisexual norms. [143] Yet sexual taboos would accomplish the same ends without the cognitive and emotional effort of supernatural belief systems or the resource expenditure of sacrifice. [144]

Biological anthropologist Vernon Reynolds similarly suggests that individuals are genetically predisposed to adopt religious behaviors because they control reproductive schedules. “Pro-natalist” religions develop in resource-insecure areas and carry doctrines that favor early, frequent reproduction to produce population growth. In producing many children at an early age, individuals offset inevitable losses to infant mortality before their own early death. Under this model, Islam developed in Asia to encourage large families and discourage celibacy due to Asia’s history of famine, endemic disease, and destructive wars. “Anti-natalist” religions develop in resource-secure areas which do not necessitate such large families. These belief systems favor delayed production of few offspring. Europe encouraged celibacy-promoting Christianity due to its lower frequency of resource stressors. [145] Wenegrat rejects this theory, arguing that the reproductive doctrines of religious beliefs actually decrease reproductive fitness. Pro-natal beliefs sometimes impoverish regions by increasing their population to ecologically unstable levels. Furthermore, groups often adopt and sustain religions that originated in completely different areas of the world, even though those religions are presumably only reproductively beneficial in the region of their origin. [146]

B. Group Religious Behavior and Fitness of Relatives
Perhaps group reproductive behavior instead operates through a benefit to that group, rather than on a personal reproductive level. Hamilton’s theory of kin selection states that such heritable altruistic behaviors will increase in frequency if the reproductive benefit to a relative outweighs the reproductive cost to the individual. [147] Hamilton’s inclusive fitness explains that an individual’s total fitness is the sum of their own reproductive success, and the reproductive success of their relatives. Relatives carry some portion of an individual’s genes, so helping a relative survive or reproduce propagates that fraction of the individual’s genes. [148]

Genetic predispositions to group religious behaviors might proliferate through these mechanisms if the subsequent beliefs encouraged sacrificing time or resources for kin. As Wilson notes, “When altruism is conceived as the mechanism by which DNA multiplies itself through a network of relatives, spirituality becomes just one more Darwinian enabling device.” [149] Yet the vast majority of religious beliefs are not restricted to consanguineous groups. Furthermore, kin selection should favor more direct altruistic behaviors that do not hinge on the additional cost of a supernatural middleman.

Some sociobiologists have advanced the theory that religion imitates kin relationships in non-related groups, triggering altruistic behaviors that previously evolved to aid relatives. [150] Drawing on the psychology of attachment theory, worshippers may view their relationship with God as that of a child and its mother. Psychologist Lee Kirkpatrick proposes that God concepts trigger the evolutionary adaptation to bond with a caregiver. [151] God then serves as the parent of all, reinforcing altruism among the unrelated “kin” who make up the group. Batson notes the religious preaching of “brotherly love” and care for neighbors. [152] According to Wilson, kinship systems promote the reproductive success of all group members by allowing alliances between tribes and subtribal units, sustaining bartering systems, and pooling resources during hardship. [153]

Religious beliefs bridge the triggered evolutionary adaptations of caregiver attachment and altruism towards kin. This pseudo-kinship prevents non-relatives from hoarding resources, allowing the group to increase its net reproductive fitness through cooperation. [154]

Systematic Ideology directly addresses this proposition, stating that, “It has been suggested that the child’s experience of its parents, and especially of the dominant father, provides the model on which the figure of deity comes to be constructed.” Walford rejects this connection because parents are associated with domination, which can be resisted, while supernatural beings are constructed as omnipotent and therefore non-resistible. [155]

Atran counters attachment theory by noting significant differences between parental and divine caregivers. He writes that many societies ritualistically rupture the relationship between a mother and child when the child is religiously initiated. Deities may not replace this caregiver in adulthood, appearing violent rather than protective. Supernatural entities are often portrayed as predator animals, sometimes dwelling in dangerous environments that require risky pilgrimage. Furthermore, gods typically demand petition and sacrifice not seen in parent-child interactions. [156] Numerous psychological experiments demonstrate that young children can distinguish the properties of God concepts from those of parental figures [157] [158] [159] This suggests that religious beliefs do not “trick” populations into group religious belief by imitating kin altruism.

C. Group Religious Behavior and Whole Group Fitness
Wilson claims that selection against genes for selfish behavior occurs at the group level. In groups lacking genes that encourage indoctrination and conformity, selfish individuals advance their own reproductive fitness at the expense of others. Wilson writes that such societies become weakened and disappear, to be replaced by societies full of cooperative and conforming individuals. [160] If enough individuals in a group do not evolve altruistic behaviors, then the whole group will die off when competing against more cooperative, and therefore stronger, enemy groups. Evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson proposes that religion serves as a superorganism in such groups, dictating altruistic practices that promote survival and reproduction in the whole group. He considers this mechanism “multi-level” selection because individuals can vary in altruistic predispositions. Yet the selection against selfish traits occurs at the group level, based on their frequency relative to other groups. [161]

Johnson and Bering hypothesize that group members who feared supernatural oversight behaved less selfishly, avoiding a negative reputation that would preclude sharing. [162] Their conforming genes and associated altruistic behavior spread through the group as their cooperation for resources increased reproductive success over selfish compatriots. [163] Psychiatrist Eugene d’ Aquili proposed that the subsequent unity of ritualizing groups allows success over non-ritualizing collections. [164] Out-groups lacking these costly behaviors appear immoral, reinforcing the loyalty of in-group members and their opposition to infiltration from outside genes. [165]

The difficulty with group selection is that all competing groups must be internally homogenous in their traits. Primatologist Robert Hinde explains that inter-marriage and copying of cultural practices between groups tends to decrease group differences. [166] This restricts group selection to the extremely rare circumstances where highly fragmented populations have very low inter-group migration that inhibits gene flow. These genetically homogenized groups would then have to encounter high rates of whole-group extinction. [167] Outside of these parameters, selfish individuals would dominate groups reproductively by benefiting from the altruistic acts of “conformers” while contributing little themselves. [168]

Shariff also critiques Johnson and Bering’s argument that fear of supernatural oversight encourages altruistic behaviors in groups. He writes that paranoia over divine watchers can nearly paralyze relationships within communities practicing voodoo. Fears over witchcraft may decrease survival by inhibiting medical treatment of the “cursed.” [169] Atran concurs that loyalty to societies led by charismatic “megalomaniacs” may lead to in-group suffering and violent outside opposition. Paradigms that define in-groups versus out-groups tend to provoke hostility from those outgroups in general. [170]

D. The Absolute Assumption Implies Cheating in the Group
Group religious behaviors, much like supernatural experiences, fail to produce a convincing link to a heritable and reproductively beneficial trait. The preceding three attempts at a genetic explanation all assume that altruism produces reproductive success. Yet the options here are not limited to an individual who behaves selfishly and profits less, or behaves altruistically and reaps a net benefit. An even greater benefit can be gained by an individual who “cheats” the altruistic system. By falsely appearing to behave altruistically, this individual gains the bounty of altruistic collaboration without the cost. A man may hunt and expend energy alone, or he may hunt and expend the same energy on a greater kill with a group. Yet the man with the fullest stomach is the one who ate from the group kill, having lied about being a member of the hunting party. Walsby explains, “By accepting these mass modes, by identifying himself more closely, wholly, with them, the individual – by operating within their limiting framework can give vent to his egoistic impulses in organising, leading the group and becoming its spokesman.” [171]

The failure of mass rationality identified by Systematic Ideologies relies on a similar observation that individuals will cheat the altruistic system. First, the absolute assumption generates a fundamental impulse to be unlimited, which can only be satisfied in an economic sense when all resources belong to that individual. Second, mass rationality fails because each increasingly rational and equalizing system removes more of that individual’s potential to own all of the resources. The average individual, when confronted with anarchism, is not likely to think about how much they would gain if the national wealth were divided equally. Instead, that individual is likely to think of what they own – however little – being taken and given to someone who has less. The economic impulse is to seek to be unlimited in resources, and in the meantime to guard fiercely the little that one owns. As Walford writes, “Those who support conservatism and liberalism do not, for the most part, possess wealth or power themselves but they respect those who do.” [172]

Altruistic acts between unrelated individuals will produce a maximum payoff for all parties only if no one cheats. Reciprocal altruism, proposed by evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers, describes altruistic acts performed for non-kin with the expectation of similar treatment. In this “good samaritan” model, one person may save another from drowning with the expectation that the drowning man serve as the rescuer the next time. In this manner, both individuals survive and increase their personal reproductive fitness. [173] Wenegrat explains that true reciprocal altruism can only develop in a species when individuals live near specific companions over long periods and can recall their adherence to altruistic behavior. This “tit for tat” strategy facilitates cooperation in small groups. [174]

E. Group Religious Behaviors Prevent Cheating
Evolutionary psychology suggests that groups add ritual to group behaviors precisely because these rituals are costly. [175] Psychologist Jospeh Heinrich writes that “cheaters” could exploit a religious system by claiming special authority, such as pretending to be a divine mouthpiece that requires payment for services. [176] Yet if all religious adherents must make costly sacrifices of time, resources, and freedoms, then a false believer will also have to pay those costs. The association of group behaviors with rituals essentially places an “entry fee” on altruistic behavior and payoffs. Haidt and Joseph propose Fairness/Reciprocity as one cognitive module that is triggered by evidence of cheating or cooperation. [177] Group members activate these pathways through detecting what Heinrich terms Credibility Enhancing Displays (CREDs), or costly sacrificial rituals that reduce fitness and therefore would not be favored by a cheater. [178]

Certain extreme CREDs, such as martyrdom and celibacy, not only signal one’s dedication to the truth of the religion but preclude genetic reproduction of these cognitive tendencies. Heinrich suggests that these displays may convert remaining moderate believers into extremists, increasing their demands for costly CREDs and further suppressing cheating This would require group-level selection within the parameters previously mentioned. It seems equally plausible that extremist displays merely result from over-stimulation of the module that seeks to prove trustworthiness. [179]

F. Supernatural Belief Within a Protostatic Ideology
The two features of supernatural belief embraced at this point are the personal conception of supernatural dieties, and the attachment of group behaviors to ritual. Walford assigns concepts of magic, withcraft, and ritual to the Protostatic Ideology, in which individuals pursue behaviors that are quickest, easiest, and most immediately beneficial. Supernatural belief is generated solely from the collection of individual member experiences, rather than being standardized and enforced institutionally. Accordingly, supernatural beliefs are limited only by the associations that the individuals create, leaving them completely one-sided. Walford writes that this is the same protostatic assumption that “all value and validity are on one side, only falseness and unreality on the other.” The magician assumes that a ritual will succeed because he no reason to add supernatural weakness or opposition to his personal interpretation of the supernatural. [180] Protostatic ideologies also tolerate rituals within group behaviors only as long as they receive a net benefit. Walford writes that this ideology does not include “commitment to any set of religious or political principles.” [181]

II. The Epistatic Supernatural: Why Does Organized Religion Replace Magic?
Walford agrees that “small face-to-face” societies provide the familiarity necessary to impose “community entailed restrictions, upon behaviour towards one’s fellows, closer than those found in any of the societies that were to develop later.” [182] Yet when groups grow larger, individuals can no longer remember their interactions with each member. Ritual costs therefore lose some power in detecting cheaters, since not every cheater can be encountered or remembered. For larger groups that preclude individual tracking, individuals must behave with reciprocal altruism towards everyone. In this model, individuals will behave altruistically to aid the survival and reproductive success of others as long as this increases the frequency of other altruistic actors in the population. [183] Broad social behaviors are created to educate individuals on these expectations, and punish beneficiaries who “cheat” this arrangement by failing to reciprocate. Wilson writes, “Aggressively moralistic behavior, for example, keeps would-be cheaters in line – no less than hortatory sermons to the believers.” [184] Tan and Vogel found that religious individuals felt more trusting and cooperative towards other believers, even those in different religions. [185] As groups grow larger, precluding individuals from recalling all those who have cheated them, religions also develop higher moral dieties. Group members curry favor from omniscient deities that can see and punish cheating wrongdoers. [186]

Epistatic Ideology is associated instead with the establishment of institutions for authoritarian religion, including its permeation of educational and legal systems for its enforcement. [187] Blake specifically links this ideology to group enlargement, explaining, “‘Compliance with the rules gives predictable behavior, enabling large societies to function.” [188] Regarding leaders, Walford writes that it “is not possible for them to acquaint themselves personally with the millions who make up a modern nation… What they can and do undertake is to subordinate their own advantage and convenience to the practices, rules, traditions, conventions… ” [189]

The standardization of personal beliefs for a diverse group perhaps leads to the realization that other concepts of the supernatural exist. However, the epistatic worshipper draws his or her own concepts of truth and morality from the institutionalized group religion, creating a dualistic “mine religion / their religion” interaction with outsiders. [190] The recognition of outside ideologies also alerts the believer to the concept that his or her supernatural universe can be opposed. Therefore the paternalistic god or canon of gods must be begged for assistance, rather than set upon a previously defenseless world with full confidence of success. [191]

III.The Parastatic Supernatual: How Does the Supernatural Respond to Science?
The supernatural becomes less uncertain through this institutional standardization. Organized religions use promises of heaven and threats of hell to inhibit cheating on a large scale. However, the removal of these rituals and locations from the material world begin to strip away supernatural integration over that world. [192] A brief history of western scientific thought reveals this birth of modern inquiry about the material world from the progenitor of organized religion.

A. The Recovery of a Lost Paradise
Objectivity is a recent motivation in Western scientific thought, but the promise of control of the material world permeates every age of inquiry. Benedictine monks in the medieval period first pursued the practical arts as a tool for spiritual discipline and salvation. They believed that the manual labor required by increasing involvement with technology would control the body and force it towards spiritual perfection. Observing the accumulation of skill, natural philosophers hoped to recover the perfect natural knowledge that the biblical Adam was thought to have lost in the Fall. They expected science to restore this knowledge so that man could again hold dominion over an unruly and fallen creation. [193]

Yet the West preserved Aristotle’s assertion that all objects had true characteristics, easily discernable through musing about their natural role. Alchemists designed tests, fiercely hoarded information, and explained away contrary results according to the inherent nature of each object. [194] They expected to tap in to an object’s true nature and suddenly unlock its transmutation. [195] As the Protestant reformation and the rise of statehood shook Europe, political and religious bodies lost the power to dictate what ancient assumptions could frame understanding.

B. The Supernatural Ideology of Francis Bacon
English statesman Francis Bacon campaigned to replace what he called an “arbitrary ordering of nature” with inductive reasoning, actually manipulating objects to draw conclusions about their characteristics. [196] [197] First, Bacon rejected the wisdom of ancient philosophers as a guide to reality. Bacon’s works scoff at the unsubstantiated and ancient alchemical assumptions that man is a microcosm of the universe, that the world is composed of four elements, and that certain chemicals arranges themselves in matrices. [198] He instead upheld extensive experiments that seek to manipulate nature’s power, stating that “the nature of things betrays itself more readily under the vexations of art than in its natural freedom.” [199]

Bacon also envisioned scientific communities cooperatively accumulating knowledge before drawing conclusions or controlling natural properties. [200] Such collaboration required a system of open, reproducible experimentation. Due to acceptance of supernatural, non-experimental explanations, alchemists in Bacon’s time tended to hoard results and work in isolation to protect any chance discoveries of the magic keys. [201] Bacon criticized this magic because it “proposes to attain those noble fruits which God ordained to be bought at the price of labour by a few easy and slothful observances.” [202] If experimentation alone could discern the true nature of things, then the answer would appear not suddenly through this individual magic but slowly through cooperative accumulation of knowledge. Scientific historian Andrew Ede writes, “Bacon’s idea that the results of tests and tests themselves must be open to examination also challenged the traditional secrecy of alchemists.” [203] In public life Bacon called for and even compiled himself extensive tables and histories of the sum of human knowledge. [204] Subsequent replication of experiments by multiple scientists forged a more law-like perception of nature by the end of the Eighteenth Century. [205]

Bacon did not intend for the methods of his new science to abolish the basic ideological pursuits of alchemy. Once corrected for ancient philosophy, supernatural appeal, and secrecy, Bacon thought the transformation of substances very possible. Classics scholar Benjamin Farrington writes that “the transmutation of metals is with Bacon a dominant theme.” [206] He further notes that in Sylva Silvarum, a compilation of natural knowledge, Bacon included such alchemical facts as the perception inherent within all bodies and the power of imagination over physical processes. [207] In “Experiment Solitary, touching the Making of Gold,” Bacon predicted the effective creation of gold once men understand the characteristics of its simple composition and cease hoping for supernatural manipulation. He embraced the pursuit, but not contemporary methods. [208]

Additionally, history professor David Noble explains, “Bacon viewed science not as a speculative enterprise but as one rooted in the practical arts and dedicated to utility and invention.” [209] Like the alchemists, he refused to embrace the old Christian concept that world does not exist in its own right and that the natural order can only come to an end. Farrington states, “The alchemists and the magicians, whatever their other follies, kept alive a belief in the reality of the natural world and in the capacity of man to work great changes in nature by natural means.” [210]

Bacon likewise embraced the alchemists’ vision that transformation of nature and understanding of all natural processes would elevate man from the Fall. Noble writes, “He also thought, like his forbearers, that the advancement of knowledge was essential for salvation and the promised restoration of perfection”. [211] Historian Francis Yates explains that Bacon desired “a return to the state of Adam before the fall, a state of pure and sinless contact with nature and knowledge of her powers.” [212]

Alchemists sought utility, transformation, and redemption through appeals to ancient philosophy and the hoarding of magical codes. Bacon reformed this methodology to encourage unbiased and shared experimentation, but he sought the same ends as those before and beside him.

C. The Creation of a Superior and Limitless Paradise
Although Bacon still saw science as ideologically utilitarian, his work allowed scientists to dream of not only recovering but improving on paradise Science historian Steve Shapin writes that after the seventeenth century this connection to natural theology “advertised the cultural and moral goods that scientific activity might deliver.” [213] Ideological commonality also allowed budding communities of Victorian scientists to divert political and religious dissension or suspicion. [214] Yet as these groups became established by the 1840s, dogmatic assumptions appeared less as a legitimizing ally and more as a rival for intellectual and cultural leadership. [215]

American democracy inspired a more utilitarian view. Citizens expected publicly funded science to pay its due through public accountability and economic benefits. [216] They used the steam engine to turn their western wilderness into a paradise judged as superior to that of Adam.217 With Eden attained and improved, technology had no driving force or aim other than its own perpetuation. Historian Leo Marx describes this as “the atrophy of the Enlightenment idea of progress directed toward a more just, republican society, and its gradual replacement by a politically neutral, technocratic idea of progress whose goal was the continuing improvement of technology.” [218] Science could now ideally embrace knowledge as its own end. In practice, the identification of science with boundless progress invited institutions to seek the same label by association. [219]

Modern science envisions a limitless world, ever-expanding past the bounds of prior knowledge. Objectivity is the assurance that a scientist has advanced truthfully into an unknown frontier rather than falling under the sway of a preconceived interest. Historian Theodore M. Porter notes that objectivity is emphasized “with systems in which bureaucratic actors are highly vulnerable to outsiders.” [220] Error and misconduct in science has made the public sharply aware that national and personal interests do not always align with their own. [221] As noted by economic historian Robert L. Heilbroner, society necessarily believes in a desirable alignment of values before embracing a change. The public must choose new technology over older forms, incentivize it in government and market sectors, and see enough of a need to remodel industry for mass production. [222] Scientific and technological perspectives cannot force cultural alteration of values. Rather, the idea must interact with viewpoints forged through historical, political, and social events to make the idea both palatable and desirable. [223]

D. The Fate of Religion in a Parastatic Society
Modern western scientific thought embodies the same utilitarian drive for progress that characterized its birth among Benedictine monks. Limitless progress for the benefit of the state is no less an idol because it is promoted by someone wearing a lab coat rather than a priest’s robe. Institutions can also continue to monitor individuals for cheating by testing their how much they advance this goal of progress, through education, employment, and monetized economic achievement. Walford writes that the parastatic ideology is “still holding firmly to the main features of existing society, such as its authoritarian government and competitive economy…seeking rather to perfect than to preserve them, aiming at progress rather than stability.” [224] Like alchemists of old, these ideologies are still chasing not a “preserved” but a “perfected” paradise.
Scientific inquiry does further strip the supernatural aspect from the material world through investigation of material properties. [225] Individuals realize that multiple perspectives exist in response to a given stimulus, but can cling to their own scientific analysis of reality rather than the state’s prescription. This realization stimulates liberal cries for suffrage of these multiple groups. Accordingly, many individuals choose their own route to god and engage in direct discussion of spiritual concepts. [226]

IV. The Ediodynamic Supernatural: Can the Supernatural Be Eliminated?
Ediodynamic ideologies seek to remove, overthrow, or destroy the social structure attached to the ideology. Protodynamic ideologies regard religion as personal, sometimes producing mysticism rather than explicit doctrine. [227] The end goal of religious belief is service to humanity rather than divinity. Epidynamic ideologies require an overhaul of the state society, now actively opposing supernatural concepts. Paradynamic ideologies simply take atheism for granted because they assume the ideological homogeneity of their members. [228]

Ediodyanamic ideologies begin to chip away at social structures for cheating detection because they assume that, as people become more rational, they will stop cheating. In a society with complete adherence to altruism, as would be necessary in a true anarchist society, supernatural and scientific idols are not necessary to prove loyalty to the group. Yet Systematic Ideology recognizes that if ediodynamic ideologies exist in any portion in a society, the proportions of ediostatic ideologies regarding a cultural aspect will be much larger. As previously discussed, these ediostatic individuals cannot be expected to leap from disinterest in philosophical principles to humanistic thinking. According to Walford, believer reductions in official British Christianity have been compensated by believer gains in other religions. Seventy years of atheism had not suppressed Russian religion at the time of his writing. Walford maintains that the religious intermediate cannot be removed if humanists desire more humanist thinking, especially when the majority of members in any society remain in a protostatic ideology. [229]

V. Conclusion: Pursuing The Metadynamic Supernatural
Ultimately, altruism cannot be directly discussed and established, as would be rational, because individuals are evolutionarily predisposed to seek their own advancement over others. Rituals force individuals to expend time, energy, and resources for the group, demonstrating that they are indeed committed to altruism. Supernatural mysticism is replaced by organized religion, and then spiritual religion and scientific inquiry, as societies grow larger and probe further into humanity’s place in reality. Yet mysticism, religion, and scientific mandates of progress all serve the same role of setting up ideals for a society, and then imposing personal costs to show that the individual is really committed to those ideals. Ediodynamic ideologies must find a way to either convert their members to completely altruistic thinking, or prevent them from cheating the system without actually institutionalizing this test. The Metadynamic Ideology of the supernatural steps outside the ediodyamic impulse to destroy supernatural thinking. Subsequently, this perspective can study the origin, function, and development of religious and scientific ritualization within ediostatic ideologies. Before metadynamic ideology expects individuals to think, it allows them some room to believe.

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