Many of the readers who visit these blog pages might have wondered why on earth this so-called website on religious tolerance pays so much attention to a totally unrelated subject of puberty rites. This is a very fair question and those who didn’t read ‘the lure of noma: on the elegance of religion’ would definitely ask this question. A In this blog, this is the question taken up.
It is not uncommon that the dawn of religion is usually talked about in the same breath as the paleolithic venuses. For some, this is the era where a fertility cult was taking shape and the idea of a Mother Goddess was in vogue (1). Are these figurines representative of some form of magic related to a fertility cult, a Mother Goddess or are they representing some personage or personages related to girls at puberty? Whether this was a divinity or girls themselves or some other personage related to girls’ puberty we don’t know as a certainty. But, the dawn of religion can still be related to these figurines and to the puberty rites. This is so as the Venus art is one of the earliest forms of symbolic art.
This leads us to the idea that the religion may not be all that evolutionary in a Darwinian sense. It might have been a human invention. If we invoke the modularity of mind to explain this through our biological proclivity to avoid predators, we might be misusing the theory of evolution. Are we being truly scientific when we take such a big leap in theorizing? When the dogs bark without no apparent reason, people from my childhood used to say that they are barking at ghosts. Is this now scientifically true? I don’t think so. I don’t get into details about human uniqueness or non-uniqueness here. There are excellent discussions by far more qualified scientists on this topic. However, I don’t think humans are so stupid to base the supernatural purely on a logic that is flawed. Thus, the question now comes down to whether we like to accept unprovable ‘scientificity’ or more plausible mundane explanation?
On the other hand, let us ignore for a moment Cheater-Detection hypothesis of logical reasoning. We can then argue science arose through our non-human past which developed skills to avoid predators. Our phylogenic ancestors needed to develop a logic to filter out false warnings, a fine tuning module. This needed some logical deductions. This is where the roots of our reasoning lie and the prehistoric roots of our scientific thinking.
That is where NOMA comes in. If religion is a human invention, it cannot be dismissed as some vestigial inheritance. It arose through our need for logical reasoning and helped to preserve social order in the past. Unless and until we conclusively prove there is nothing more to human thinking than our evolutionary ancestry and our religious beliefs are unnecessary burden to carry,, we should let religion to coexist with other human inventions.
( (1) ‘many figurines such as Late Pleistocene Venuses, as well as other representations of females…were evidence that people had worshipped a female deity, the Goddess.’ p251-2- The invisible sex, Adovasio, Soffer & Page, Smithsonian books, 2007)