Origin of religion

Ronald Kephart (rkephart@OSPREY.UNF.EDU)
Thu, 8 Aug 1996 10:39:01 -0400

In message <> "Dwight W.
Read" writes:

> But this begs the question of where the notion that there forces/events
> outside of ordinary understanding and or control arises. Let me go back to
> my previous comment: Is it possible that "religious thought" arises
> precisely because the mind/brain "insists" on their being an "origin" for
> what is observed, hence it creates a dilemna for itself that can only be
> internally resolved by positing "forces outside of ordinary understanding"?

See Derek Bickerton's (1990) Language and Species. In a brief and
oversimplified nutshell, he argues that humans are predisposed to impose order
on the universe in particular ways. Some of this may result from general
properties of the human mind/brain, and some directly from the nature of
language (Bickerton seems to feel that language is the key factor).

(1) the tendency to place events in a cause-effect relationship

(2) the thematic role of agent

(3) the feature of language called "prevarication" (Hockett) which allows for
the invention of unicorns, klingons, etc.

(4) the existence of "null elements" in syntax which, while phonologically
empty, are functionally/semantically filled

These things taken together make possible

"...the setting up of unlimited hypothetical entities; these hypothetical
entities, whether gods, spirits, natural laws, or scientific hypotheses, may
differ in the ease with which they can be empirically supported but they all
belong to the same logical and linguistic types." (Bickerton 1990:226)

Have fun with this, y"all!

Ronald Kephart
University of North Florida