Triune brain's mechanisms of thought and behavior, death awareness, and origin of religion in early humans.

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Abstract

According to ethological point of view, the most important religious displays consist in the gathering of several human groups who perform repeated and prolonged demonstrations of submission toward dominant individuals. These dominant individuals take different forms in each culture but they share some characteristics including an immense power. For what concerns the genesis, in human mind, of the ideas of such immense power beings, some scholars, as Freud (Totem und tabu, 1913), felt that such beings could be the projection result of the figure of the “primordial horde’s father” in a super- human world. In The Naked Ape (1967), Morris has proposed a sort of biological updating of the Freudian hypothesis. Divine beings risulted not from the projection of a “father”, rather than from the projection of the figure of the dominant male of a “Single Male” breeding group. But, on the basis of the sexual dimorphism noticed in fossils, and inferring social behaviour from it, most scholars think that in ancient groups of Hominini endowed with low sexual dimorphism (especially in genus Homo), there wasn’t any individual, as for dominant male of a SM social group, that could act as realistic example of a “Being with immense power”. How did it happen, therefore, that among human beings with a low male-male competition social system we can find a projection in the super- human world of a being with immense power that should have to be associated with a high male-male competition social system? A possible answer is that the human brain preserved (and still preserves) structures and hierarchy forming functions, which gave rise to conceive powerful leaders. Let us examine the human brain and its functions. MacLean described primate’s brain as formed by three principal philogenetic structure that have been super- imposed and have been integrated during evolution. He called these basic types Reptilian (protoreptilian, R – complex), Old mammalian (limbic system), and Neo mammalian (neo-cortex). According to MacLean the counterpart of the reptilian brain in mammals is fundamental for genetically constituted forms of behavior as hunting, homing, mating, breeding, imprinting and forming social hierarchies. The limbic system may be seen as a regulator of the R – complex, and most of this regulation seems to be inhibitory, while the neomammalian brain is the main seat of mind capabilities as, in humans, self-consciousness or the connections of causality. The neocortical concept of an “Immense powerful being” can be only created, according to the triune brain model, after a propose of the R–complex to the neomammalian brain. Consequently we can deduce that at some time in the course of human evolution such a nervous structure has been set free from the inhibitory action of the limbic system; this was presumably a consequence of a strong external stimulus which, causing a psychic trauma, weakened the inhibitory action of the limbic system. Indeed, according to evolutionary psychology, all human (or animal) behaviors are a product of internal mechanisms in conjunction with inputs that cause activation of those mechanisms: No mechanism, no behaviour; no input, no behaviour. We may presume that the “input” for the Prehistoric man consisted in the acquisition of the awareness of his own mortality. Homo sapiens is the only animal conscious of being mortal (also at collective level), but he does not recognize this fact as a natural datum. Instead he feels that death is a violence he has to suffer: we may presume that in this way death could have been considered by e
Original languageEnglish
Pages140-141
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 2008

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