Professor Maurice Bloch
I just love the Internet. It tells me all sorts of things I don’t want to know, that I should know and that I already know.
Now I have found the New Scientist magazine (online) which lets me know about all kinds of useful (USELESS) things like “The Secret Language of Cuttlefish,” “How an Email Address Can Reveal Your Character,” “Fruit Flies Trade Lifespan for Brain Power,” and so much MORE!
I’ve just learned that humans alone practice religion because they’re the only creatures to have evolved imagination.
And I thought vivid imagination was just for sex routines.
Anthropologist Maurice Bloch of the London School of Economics said the popular notion that religion evolved and spread because it promoted social bonding is not correct.
Instead, he argues that first, we had to evolve the necessary brain architecture (isn’t architecture what is used to design buildings??) to imagine things and beings that don’t physically exist and the possibility that people somehow live on after they’ve died.
What is this man talking about? But wait, it gets weirder.
Once we’ve developed this so called brain architecture we have access to a form of social interaction unavailable to any other creatures on the planet, according to Bloch.
Bloch says we form imaginary groups which are called the “transcendental social” to culturally unify.
“What the transcendental social requires is the ability to live very largely in the imagination,” Bloch writes. “One can be a member of a transcendental group, or a nation, even though one never comes in contact with the other members of it.”
Moreover, the composition of such groups, “whether they are clans or nations, may equally include the living and the dead.”
Modern-day religions still embrace this idea of communities bound with the living and the dead, such as the Christian notion of followers being “one body with Christ”, or the Islamic “Ummah” uniting Muslims.
No animals, not even our nearest relatives the chimpanzees, can do this, argues Bloch. Instead, he says, they’re restricted to the mundane and Machiavellian social interactions of everyday life, of sparring every day with contemporaries for status and resources.
Frankly, I think Bloch has been smoking a bit too much whacky weed.
But he says our ancestors proved this belief in the living and dead from art on cave walls and burials that include artifacts suggesting belief in an afterlife and by implication the “transcendental social”.
The gems of wisdom we can pick up from the Internet.