Biology, Culture, Religion and Ethics and Mythology

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Last Updated: Wednesday, August 23, 2001

Why do humans have so much mythology? Is it biology, culture or are there deities in the universe? Is it for entertainment, ethical teaching, moral coercion, or innate knowledge about reality? What would it take to answer these questions?

My prejudice is that it is an innate. But I always love finding articles where careful empirical research illuminates the processes that show how mythologies are created and maintained; and the best research tries to answer the question why do people create myths. Certainly my collecting of research shows that people create myths spontaneously, and then they maintain them and when a culture benefits from a created myth they institutionalize the myth maintenance process, calling it a religion at that point. Myths that benefit some people often do not benefit all people within a culture, so there is a constant resistance to the accepted myths. And the response to that resistance can be mild or harsh, depending on the level of fear of those who benefit.

Here are some people who also thought or think that mytholizing is innate:
  1. Carl Jung: who thought that we all have inate myths (archetypes) and have collective myths (the collective unconscious) a result of our biology, and collective myths (the shadow) as a reaction to the collective unconscious mythset. Carl Jung says...
  2. Sigmund Freud: He felt that myths would disappear, replaced by Scientific thought. Jung disagreed with him and it was one of the reasons for their famous split in 1912,
  3. Joseph Campbell: deriving ideas from both Freud and Jung he added to the body of evidence but his interpretations were usually psychanalytic.
  4. Levi-Strauss: Tries to show the invariants of myth structures; criticized that approach is too abstract, unfeeling and pointless.
  5. Adolph Bastien: Elementary Thought are myths that are innate. His thinking influenced Carl Jung in particular,
  • Let's say that the desire for mythology is carried by genes. This does not mean that some religion is phoney, untrue or whatever, just that people have as something deeper than a habit, they carry with them in their cells, and pass it on to their progeny.

  • One mark of gene carried behavior is that it constantly arises, and does not disappear even under adverse conditions, and is recreated by individuals not exposed to prior sources of it.

  • This fits in with the facts that it arises in individuals even when no one expects it, whole generations of people have been annihilated for following a mythos, and in isolated societies myths have always arisen. There are no exceptions in any known human society.

  • This also fits with the primate behavior seen in all monkeys, chimpanzees, utang-orangatangs, and baboons, human close cousins every one, dominance and subordination is a fact of life. All the exceptions are done so that the dominant ape does not know what is occuring.

  • And modern cults, religions particularly the ecstatic variety have human males with charismatic personalities and often the leaders are tall and strong.

  • This page will be updated with references to biology, and genetics, and animal studies, including humans when I learn of them and have time to post the knowledge here.

    As anyone with children knows, children spontaneously create myths. Their parents and other adults call this lying.

    Edward O. Wilson discusses some of the biological evidence in his article on morality (which I consider often connected to myths),
    The Biological Basis of Morality, The Atlantic Monthly, April 1998

    Finally here is an article from the October 29th,1999 issue of Nature "The neurobiology of morals". The text of the article follows: here



    "The Torah", various authors
    "The New Testament", various authors
    "City of God", St.Augustine
    "Summa Theologiae", Saint Thomas Aquinas
    "Principia Ethica", G.E. Moore
    "A Theory of Justice", John Rawls


    "Nicomachean Ethics", Aristotle
    "A Treatise of Human Nature", David Hume
    "The Descent of Man", Charles Darwin

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