This is in response to Sydni Moser's comment
asking for suggestions on simultaneous humane/atheist discussions.
Has anyone seen the NOVA special Ape Genius
? A couple things really struck me about some of the studies.
In one puzzle-box study using chimps and children, both sets had to figure out this somewhat complicated series of steps to open a trap door in an opaque puzzle box in order to get a treat.
When the test was repeated with a clear puzzle box, the children still went through the same steps, while the chimps saw they didn't need to go through the steps and just went to the trap door.
The takeaway: The chimps were showing themselves to be more rational than the children. (There were other examples of ape rationality, not just this one.)
The other test showed that children -- and dogs, actually -- have the ability to be taught. They can triangulate between an authority figure, and object, and themselves, and learn to understand the meaning the authority intends. Take dogs: If you point at something, the domestic dog will follow your finger to the object you point at. Wolves don't do this; they'll keep staring at your hand, even if they're raised domestically.
Apes, like wolves, don't seem to be able to "follow the finger" and be taught. They can mirror behaviors and will learn, but being taught is something else. One ape in the documentary had a lightning-fast, near Rain Man -like facility for numbers, and a photographic memory far stronger than most humans, but the scientist working with him had a hell of a time getting the ape to learn the number 4, then the number 5, etc. He didn't get the idea of just adding one digit to the previous digit.
The suggestion was that since apes lack this kind of pro-social capacity for being taught, this may be one reason why humans have evolved to the point we are at today, and apes haven't.
So that got me thinking: The chimps proved to be more rational than 4-year-old kids, but they can't be taught. However, if you turn the capacity to be taught around, it can also be seen as a capacity for uncritically following an authority figure. This can be useful when you're young, small and vulnerable, but as a social trait, it may facilitate either a tendency towards religious thinking, or a tendency to follow authorities like religious figures.
So in short, it seemed like a kind of weird evolutionary trade-off; giving up instinctual rationality for the capacity to be taught, at the price of possible religiosity. This is not to say that rationality and religiosity are necessarily connected, and the documentary never suggested so, but I wonder if there is any connection.