A few months back, I started a "links I would send to chanson" series. This would be another link I would have sent to chanson (but I'm posting it here for discussion/reflection). There was another program in the npr series that I will write more about in part 2.
Did a belief in the supernatural (or supernatural consequences) help humans evolve into who we are today?
I thought this was a really interesting program. The question this program (and others in the series) have asked is, what makes us human? What gave us an advantage over other species?
One of the theories is, humans cooperate, human strangers cooperate and no one knows why. As the article says, there's often tension between the interests of the group and the individual.
The article also points out that if in ancient communities, someone stepped out of line (or outside of the boundaries), it made much more sense to say that a person was enforcing "God's law", rather than open the punisher up for vengeance or grudges. An example of this would be that the executioner would wear a mask. Even though many people might know who the executioner was, the person would wear a mask to prevent reprisals.
And the article points out the different criticism of these theories - other theories about why humans cooperate.
This program, The Human Spark on pbs some months ago also talks about the nature of evolution - why humans and chimps are similar but different.
I find the experiments with the very young children compelling. It is amazing to me how early humans learn socialization and about social rules. That even an 18 month old will try to help the experimenter figure things out. Humans like to work together, they like to cooperate; and they also like to make and enforce social rules and norms.