Van Homo na sapiens: Die evolusionere rol van religie in die ontwikkeling van die mens

Troskie, Sandra (2021-03)

Thesis (DPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2021.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Studies in the health sciences have found overwhelming evidence for a positive correlation between religious practice and the life quality and life expectancy of religious practitioners. Given the strong indications that religious practice affects the way in which the brain processes feelings, one may reasonably assume that the processes of evolution have selected for religion because religious beliefs and behaviour has enabled the practitioner to cultivate his or her inner world of feelings to the benefit of personal wellbeing. If this is the case, these studies offer scientific support for one of the most common claims of religious traditions around the world, namely that unbridled feelings pose a threat to the welfare of both self and society. The fundamental problem with this assumption, however, is the fact that etiological and primatological research shows that feelings are not unique to humans, but are in fact physiological states shared by several social species. This is a strong indication that evolution has probably selected for feelings because these dispositions promotes the welfare of some social species. The question to ask is therefore why it is that humans are the only species for whom the processes of evolution found it advantageous to select for attributes that would enable us to cultivate not only our external environments, but also the inner worlds of our feelings? This question underpins the ultimate goal of this thesis, which is to utilise religion as a lens for conducting a neuro-cultural enquiry into the processes by which an "anatomical, neurological, genetic, physiological ape”, in the words of prominent neuroscientist Vilayanur Subramanian Ramachandran, becomes human. The focus is thus not on religion as a cultural phenomenon, but rather on what the emergence of this phenomenon — and its impact on both our evolution and personal wellbeing—reveals about the nature and existence of human life.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Bevindings vanuit die gesondheidswetenskappe dui oorweldigend daarop dat daar 'n voordelige verband tussen religie beoefening en die lewensgehalte en –verwagting van die toegewyde bestaan. Gegee die sterk aanduidings dat religie beoefening die wyse beïnvloed waarop die brein gevoelens verwerk, is dit redelik om aan te neem dat daar vir religie geselekteer is omdat die aannames en praktyke aan die grond daarvan toegewydes in staat stel om hul gemoed —die innerlike omgewing van gevoelens —tot voordeel van welstand te kultiveer. Indien wel, bied dié bevindings wetenskaplike steun vir een van die mees algemene veronderstellings wat in die wêreld se religieuse tradisies aangetref word. Dit is naamlik dat ongeskoolde gevoelens 'n bedreiging vir die welstand van beide self en samelewing is. Die grondliggende probleem met dié aanname is egter dat navorsing binne die etologie en die primatologie daarop dui dat gevoelens nie eie aan slegs die mens is nie, maar fisiologiese ingesteldhede is waaroor verskeie sosiale spesies beskik. Dié gegewe is 'n sterk aanduiding dat daar waarskynlik vir gevoelens geselekteer is omdat dit 'n eienskap is wat die welstand van sekere sosiale spesies bevoordeel. Die onwillekeurige vraag is dus waarom ons die enigste spesie sou word by wie die prosesse van evolusie dit voordelig sou vind om vir kenmerke te selekteer wat ons in staat stel om nie net ons buite–omgewing nie, maar ook ons innerlike omgewing te kultiveer? Dié vraagstelling onderlê die oorhoofse doel van hierdie proefskrif, naamlik om religie as lens in te span vir 'n neurokulturele ondersoek na daardie prosesse waarin 'n “anatomiese, neurologiese, genetiese, fisiologiese” aap, in die woorde van die bekende neuroloog Vilayanur Subramanian Ramachandran, mens sou word.Die fokus is dus nie op religie as kulturele verskynsel nie, maar op wat die ontstaan van dié verskynsel —en die invloed daarvan op beide ons evolusie en ons persoonlike welstand —oor die aard en wese van menswees verklap.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/110116
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