Surely when seeing this type of alien practice you have ever wondered how much is true in our own religious beliefs, how they arose or why many of us believe in supernatural forces and beings. To try to answer some of these questions, biologists, psychologists, anthropologists, and historians, among others, have been joining forces for decades.
The key could be found in a mechanism that humans share with other animals: the hyper detection of agency, present at the base of animism, the belief that life, intentionality, will, or feelings similar to those of man are attributed to all objects of nature.
Agency Hyperdetection And The Principle Of Participation
Natural selection has fostered in most species a self-preservation instinct. That has fostered the spread of both their gene pool and their learned behaviors.
To maximize this evolutionary success, many animals, including humans, have developed an evolutionary strategy commonly known as agency hyper-sensing. This mechanism makes us stay on alert by assuming that there may be threats to our integrity behind certain unexpected sounds or movements.
A clear reflection is the detection of faces and bodies. Both human and animal, in all kinds of natural elements. From stones and trees to clouds and star clusters in the sky.
Probably one of the oldest examples of pareidolia is found in the cave of Lascaux, France. In it, dating around 15,300 BC, the constellation of Taurus would have been represented under the Pleiades cluster. Precisely, this constellation was one of the most revered in the Mediterranean and the Near East during ancient times.
Theoretical And Methodological Implications
Ultimately, significant efforts have been made to try to explain these evolutionary mechanisms. Thus, while a state of over-alert could facilitate the survival rate. The belief in supernatural agents could have arisen as a by-product. Ultimately generating advantages along the same lines.
The most widely accepted explanation for this is known as ” Pascal’s wager.” With this argument, it is argued that the belief in supernatural forces. And beings that can harm those who do not comply with their will have a priori few risks and great benefits. Regardless of whether these ideas and practices are true from a religious beliefs view.
For non-practitioners, to act or not in relation to its existence would not influence anything in their lives as long as it does not actually exist. However, if not, performing rituals and carrying objects against him would be much more beneficial than not doing so. From this point of view, the emergence of religious thought would have managed to consolidate thanks to the fear of the unknown.
As the reader will have noticed, the explanation developed here does not focus on religion’s personal and social utilitarianism. Instead, an attempt has been made to explain what could have been the emergence of such practices and beliefs. Animism is not a group resource to explain the beginning of beliefs in the supernatural.
Based on this assumption, animism could have been constructed from a sum of individual perceptions. From this point of view, the origin of religious beliefs can be traced anthropologically and, by comparison, with the archaeological record. This apparent contradiction between presentist hypotheses and studies on past groups should not be seen as a problem. Quite the opposite. Being aware of its limitation offers enormous potential for the archaeological discipline.
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