The human species faces the dawn of a new age, often referred to as the “anthropocene,” where the actions of humanity may have a direct impact upon the very ecosystem of the planet earth.[i] For example, climate change due to nonneutral human carbon input into the atmosphere may influence the price of agricultural commodities.[ii] Human practices may benefit from a rigorous scientific approach to a social practice of cooperation, which would engender in people a deep belief in the importance of environmental and social stewardship. The emergence of cooperative theology, which transcends traditional religious boundaries, may reveal new social practices and beliefs that might help humanity unite to mindfully wield power over the earth in the post-industrial age. Since language is the framework upon which cooperation is constructed, careful linguistic analysis is essential to evolving cooperative frameworks in human society. At present, religious practices, such as Islam, Judeo-Christianity, and Buddhism, are the largest religious systems, and while they engender cooperation, they also breed conflict particularly at the intersection of locations of economic strife. A super-religious theological system(s) is needed to transcend traditional religious boundaries. To this end, a careful Darwinian analysis of religious systems may aid in the construction of such a cooperative theology. According to Darwin in The Descent of Man, “… numerous races have existed, and still exist, who have no idea of one or more gods, and who have no words in their languages to express such an idea. … If, however, we include under the term “religion” the belief in unseen or spiritual agencies, the case is wholly different; for this belief seems to be universal with the less civilized races.”[iii]
Since all humanity possesses spiritual language, but only a fraction of humanity possesses language for gods or God, a gradient of ideas exists within which the evolution of a super-religious system of cooperation may occur. As, E.O. Wilson states, “The final decisive edge enjoyed by scientific naturalism will come from its capacity to explain traditional religion, its chief competition, as a wholly material phenomenon. Theology is not likely to survive as an independent intellectual discipline.”[iv] Generally, I agree with Wilson’s point, and find it interesting to think about developing a materialist theology. On the other hand, with approximately 50% of Americans[v] still professing to believe in a form of creationism, this idea would be a tough sell. A much more productive approach to developing cooperative theology may be to employ an experimental approach to discern universal language that all humanity could agree upon to describe divinity. Appealing to the recently discovered five rules for the evolution of cooperation, I propose an experiment to discern language that may aid in the construction of a theology of cooperation.[vi]
Outline of the paper:
I. Kin selection may aid in the transmission of cooperative religious language among families.
II. Direct reciprocity describes the cooperation emerging after repeated altruistic acts between the same two individuals.
III. Indirect reciprocity is based upon “reputation,” and a helpful individual is more likely to receive altruistic acts from others.
IV. Network reciprocity means that clusters of cooperative individuals in clusters may out compete defectors.
V. Group selection indicates that cooperation is not only between individuals but also occurs between groups.
VI. Heart rate monitor experiment for discerning language that is cooperative from language which is of a selfish nature.
[iii] Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man, pp. 116-117.
[iv] E.O. Wilson, On Human Nature, p. ?.
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