Complex societies precede moralizing gods throughout world history. #History #Evolution #Antiquity #Science #Religion #Anthropology #Sociology
This highlights moral gods as conventional simplifications of a social structure too complex for normal people's algorithms. It also justifies to promote to attention (given in particular that folklore interpretations neglect the fact) that the name of the notoriously forbidden tree of Genesis 2:17, defines (handed down?) morals. Knowledge of good and evil: morals.
I think we should always take this kind of data-based analysis of complex issues with a pinch of salt. A discussion of the various cases would be much more informative than statistics derived from a flat database.
Talking of the Torah, wasn't this - a moralising text with its clear lists of what should and shouldn't be done - delivered to the tribes of Judah, Benjamin and David in Jerusalem? Does that count as a complex society? It certainly has all the hallmarks of a religion designed to control its subjects, however complex or simple the society may be ... and this is the point isn't it? That moralising gods are about social control?
@Magic Fingers
I think we should always take this kind of data-based analysis of complex issues with a pinch of salt. A discussion of the various cases would be much more informative than statistics derived from a flat database.
The abstract suggests that a massive effort of bringing data together was led to put to the test a fashionable notion. It's not as if a database just happened to provide the data. "Informative" without stipulated object is an invitation to string salient anecdotal observations without order. What do we wish to be informed about?
Talking of the Torah, wasn’t this - a moralising text with its clear lists (...)
If this is meant in reaction to my mention of what Christians know as Gn 2:17 -- what I meant to point out is how salient the cognitive dissonance of that generally overlooked name, knowledge of good and evil, understood as an elementary definition of morals, in the role of something advised against -- how salient the cognitive dissonance thereof is with the ostensible and generally assumed intention of Gn 2-3 to second the handing down of morals from the deity.

There are two generic ways to deal with that dissonance, one is to downplay the identity explicitly given to the tree (or at least the possibility of taking it as alluding precisely to the blind adoption of morals "recorded from the mouth of God"). This occurs for instance when "knowledge of good and evil" gets processed as an pretty awkward fig leaf for "the experience of getting laid".

The other way is to assume the dissonance reflects an actual intention of the authorship that is subversive relative to the purpose for which this piece of text got adopted, and to take Adam and Eve's reaction of covering themselves, for a figure of the readership's own reaction to the dissonance.
@Boris B
yep.. the story of how God threw a tantrum when we learned right from wrong.
gods ''moral code'' is Amoral... neither moral nor immoral.. obedient and clueless worker-soldiers..are the devout.
.the folk who claim there's a moral absolute most loudly.. are Ae moral.
@Magic Fingers you mean david the foreskin enthusiast?
yeh.. ''gods'' are about control.. but come on.. the judeo-christian god is a brutal, bumbling moron above all else.
by data based.. you mean factual evidence and verified common experience?
you should y'know.. that IS what it means after all.
so i don't get your point.
data is the gathering of complex inputs dude..
it actually is.
data is the results of in depth complex analyses.
@Boris B yes the torah is a moralising list ... of who to kill and how to do it.
there's no such thing as an uncomplex society.. ''society'' means complex instinctive organisational herding.
society of it very nature is a complex of instinct, common cause and fear prevention.. at least it's supposed to be.. but we're a mad and scared intelligent species. You make my point for me - the one about data vs discussion. The data:
Society A: complex = True
Society B: complex = False
don't tell us much if we are not sure how the decisions were made to categorise A as complex and B as not. It's pushing a rich history through a narrow filter to get a 1 dimensional data set. Much information is lost. Which is (one reason) why statistics derived from complex situations should never be trusted on face value.
data is the results of in depth complex analyses.
You can spend a lifetime investigating all the wars of the 20th century and from this derive the datum: Number of wars = 30 (or whatever). It doesn’t tell you much does it?
@Boris B
My comment was not supposed to be a reaction to yours, just your mention of Genesis got me wondering if Jerusalem in BCE600 (or whenever it was) was "a complex society" or not.
@Magic Fingers yep.. you got my point too.. we differ a wee bit.. its just a question of what do we count as ''valid'' data..
well i dont count anything based upon general assumptions.
and no, you're flat out wrong that that the derived datum from 30= wars teaches us nothing.. quite the contrary.. it teaches us deeply profound shit which most of us do not want to know.
because ''they''
it tells you what the nature, consequences and bullshit reasos of and for war atre.
@Magic Fingers but hey.. what about them foreskins huh?
your mistake is one of litteracy.. you think ''data'' is the same as stock taking.. its not.. its an in-depth overviwew containing ALL valid points findings, facts and obvious conclusions.. its not about ''number of wars'' the ''data'' on war.. tells us that war is hell.
that's a fact.. and the data INCLUDES that because it's inescapably fucking true. numerically ,historically. societally.. philosophically, personally, and EVIDENTLY obviously true.
where does ignoring the obvious get you? huh?
yes.. it WAS a complex society.. there's no such thing as an un-complex society.
its like looking for a wheeless bicycle.
the problem isn't whether it was complex or not.. the problem is.. was it brutal, stupid and ugly?
yes.. the answer is ''yes'' btw.
@Tom's Ghost The multiplication of your comments together with the multiplication of ... in them, gives a thorough impression of contempt for the reader -- that they are not worth the effort to think through what you want to write and to organize it agreeably, before posting.
au contraire my freind.. the point of my seemingly disdainful and disjointed method is to clarify the reader's failure to bother learning any other valid view.
i have contempt for assumption, and disdain for ignorant attitudes in otherwise soundly educated individuals who's opiinions suffer from such assumptions.
i am NOT exempt from such ''failings''
to be honest.. i could call you out for cultural abuse for what you said.
satire, reflection and ''loony insult'' are intrinsic features of my culture, class and experience.
i talk like sandpaper dude..
you learned nothing? huh?
i cut the rough edges off .. with mere words.
hey.. if i thought you were beneath me.. why the fuck would i bother with the effort to dissect anything you say?
au contraire.. again.
if you cannae be bothered reading my word-wankery-.. that's YOUR contempt for the written word not mine for half baked opinion
google ''satire'' then google ''philosophy''
trouble is.. when insulting halfwits make statements which do not track.. they cannot see the harm, disdain and insult intrinsic in what they say.. so i.. reflect that.. but i dont talk crap though.
and you're so paranoid that you don't get that i was agreeing with you ffs. lol
no @Boris B
i suspected you were doing the same..
which is why i ''dickheaded'' it.
so.. we cool?
have a lol.
stop ''fannying about'' :D
your mistake is one of litteracy… you think ‘‘data’’ is the same as stock taking… its not… its an in-depth overviwew containing ALL valid points findings, facts and obvious conclusions
OK, so we have different understandings of the word "data". My use of the word here refers to the data used in the study, obviously. Take a look. It's flat, one dimensional data.
To overcome these limitations, here we systematically coded records from 414 societies that span the past 10,000 years from 30 regions around the world, using 51 measures of social complexity and 4 measures of supernatural enforcement of morality.
In my book, this means that the data is literally 55-dimensional.
@Magic Fingers oh no... i get your point.. totally, however.. the filtered data in the report isn't reflective of the data available on the topic.. that's what i'm getting at. i was being facetious about the term ''data'' is all.
the filtered data in the report isn’t reflective of the data available on the topic…
Of course when not aiming towards conclusions assembling observations and thus free to not align them (heard of "all other things equal"?) there's lots more observations available, only not usable to the given end. No worries

The 55 dimensions are a stepping stone from the evidence to a 1 dimensional "Mean social complexity" variable. (And it seems that many of these 55 variables are not given values because the evidence is not available).

I think their work collating this information is great, it means that researchers can get a snapshot which may guide them in their research. My complaint is that a respected journal should publish an article with the clear conclusion, Complex societies precede moralizing gods throughout world history. The evidence from many ancient civilisations and the evidence is often very scant, but the implication is that the use of a scientific style, statistical analysis somehow gives validity to this definite conclusion, that by turning patchy and subjective evidence into numbers and sorting it into categories and then analysing this data can give a reliable result. It's smoke and mirrors.
Check out Scott Atran's book In Gods We Trust as reviewed here.
@Magic Fingers it's pretty standard to map a many-D space to 1D to answer yes/no questions or to pick among candidates. While there's certainly space to complain the exact form of the mapping deserves thorough scrutiny, arguing against or negatively from the simple fact of its existence a different proposition it's unclear there's any real difference relative to simply arguing against the form of the headline, whatever the alleged justfications.
I know this kind of method is pretty standard. That doesn't make it any better.

I do complain at the mapping. Eg. they categorise Buddhism as having a moralising god.

I argue against the existence of the mapping because it hides the facts rather than reveals them. History is a vague and difficult thing to unravel. As the abstract says, the relationship between complexity and a moralising god is disputed. Forcing vagueness into definite categories gives the impression of certainty, where in actual fact it has reduced even further what little information we had to start with.
To me the question is really more whether are compatible with known facts, narratives that would explain the emergence of God-given morals as a functional response to critical thresholds of social complexity.

I see at first blush two ways to argue for this.

One is to say that social complexity correlates with the fact of cohesive action becoming something substantially different from walking, flying or swimming in literal unison with a literal herd, flock, or school.

So instead of directly adjusting position and speed relative to neighbors... God-given morals provides an autopilot to the drone enabling it to function without necessarily having the example of another drone under the eyes, to follow.

The alternate argument is to assume the simpler ancestral societies having been formed of no less intelligent individuals who had therefore an advantage of understanding their society in complete detail, because they could. God-given morals substituted as an heuristic, when complexity became such that they couldn't any more.
I prefer your second argument. I think what is more relevant, though, is that in larger societies people become cut off from the natural environment and so from their own natures.
Seeing the similarities between the beliefs of indigenous societies across the world it would be reasonable to assume that the beliefs of indigenous peoples would also be similar across time. One of things they all seem to agree upon is that their knowledge and wisdom - their "beliefs" - come from the natural world around them. There is no need for a list of codified rules to be obeyed because their knowledge is gained by direct experience, either personally or through a local shaman. Perhaps it is only when this source of knowledge is removed that people become susceptible to being fooled by political religious doctrine.
For example, in Europe, the Catholics knew they had to get rid of the witches before they could impose their beliefs on the populace. Moralising gods are a tool of political power, a mechanism of control. Whether or not they have been used in the creation of complex societies, or introduced to control already complex societies is unclear in the data used in this study, data that "shows" complexity preceding moralising gods by around 100 years or less, thousands of years ago. Do we really know with such precision what was going on in people's minds that long ago, when beliefs may have been shaped by the spoken word, and not necessarily written down in a form which is still in existence today?
@Magic Fingers
data that “shows” complexity preceding moralising gods by around 100 years or less, thousands of years ago. Do we really know with such precision what was going on in people’s minds
I don't see it as a precise but rather as a vague portrait of peoples' minds contents (vagueness/precision vs inaccuracy/accuracy). At least it doesn't trigger me as I often am over an all-too-frequent tendency to portray the minds contents of people as uniform. I feel plausible portrayals of what people would typically think or believe usually fail to include an assessment of how widely reasoned outliers could distribute. And this is important given the arbitrary bits of the very poor record we have.

For an example, I believe the intuition of the tree-of-life -- common descent -- was always accessible by conjecturing family air as experienced in proximity for an effect of known common descent, to be the same thing as family air of otherwise unknown origin, in all its realizations throughout the tree-of-life. While it's reasonable to think that the viewpoint was difficult to argue convincingly and thus had reduced chance to become dominant, it's much less reasonable to think it wasn't repeatedly attained by isolated thinking individuals.
Actually I meant precision of timing - when people started following a moralising god.
Cheers Boris.