21st April 2009

“You never see animals going through the absurd and often horrible fooleries of magic and religion… Dogs do not ritually urinate in the hope of persuading heaven to do the same and send down rain. Asses do not bray a liturgy to cloudless skies. Nor do cats attempt, by abstinence from cat's meat, to wheedle the feline spirits into benevolence. Only man behaves with such gratuitous folly. It is the price he has to pay for being intelligent but not, as yet, quite intelligent enough.”

Aldous Huxley1894 – 1963

4 Responses to “21st April 2009”

  1. Prime Directant Says:

    I believe this is a quote from Ape and Essence, which was an incredibly powerful book.

    My guess is that the need for religion that Huxley describes is a result of humans attempting to control their environment, and are still not able to completely do so. So our ancestors assumed that there was a more poewerful person controlling the environment.

  2. Chris Says:

    I think I like the way Daniel Dennett refines this in Breaking the Spell. He says we have a “Hyperactive Agency Detector” that evolved beneficial to survival. Those that were more apt to see “agency”, that is, a bias toward deciding that motion was from a lurking lion rather than wind in the grass, were more likely to survive. It is assuming that things that happen outside of ourselves were directed by other minds. Wind in grass = lion. Lighting = god.

  3. Prime Directant Says:

    That makes sense, it seems a bit vestigial now

  4. Chris Says:

    Precisely PD! Useful in its context but no longer needed for survival. A mental wisdom tooth.