Hunter-Gatherers, Michelangelo, and the Buddha

IMG_8318In the Ideas & Trends section of The New York Times of  November 15th, Nicholas Wade waded into the murky waters of natural selection and religion (“The Evolution of the God Gene”). The idea is that religion – the potentiality for any and all religions – is hardwired into our brains from our hunter-gatherer days, some 50,000 years ago. Why? Because those  egalitarian groups of naked warriors from which we descend were in constant battle with their neighbors, and internal cohesion as generated by “religious” rituals (initially dancing, later ancestor-worship, later still, the worship of solar deities) had great utility to the group’s survival. And thus, procreation.

The article was illustrated with pictures of Catholic bishops and Buddhist monks doing their respective (but fundamentally identical) things.  But the article’s editors could as will have show Michelangelo’s famous frescoes in the Sistine Chapel or a bronze Buddha from Thailand at the Walters. Since both would be, no less than the bishops and monks in action, the glittering “residue” of our hunter-gatherer ancestors’ survival rituals.