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Complex society gave birth to "Great Gods"



An international research team, including a member of the Complexity Science Hub Vienna, investigated the role of the "great gods" in the rise of complex large companies. Great gods are defined as moralizing deities who punish ethical transgressions. Contrary to the prevailing theories, the team noted that belief in great gods is a consequence and not a cause of the development of complex societies. The results will be published in the current issue of the journal Nature.

For their statistical analysis, researchers used the Seshat: Global History database, the most comprehensive and ever-expanding collection of historical and prehistoric data. Currently, Seshat contains approximately 300,000 records on social complexity, religion and other characteristics of 500 past societies from 1

0,000 years of human history.

"For centuries it has been a debate as to why humans, unlike other animals, work together in large groups genetically unrelated individuals," says Seshat director and co-author Peter Turchin of the University of Connecticut and the Complexity Science Hub Vienna. Factors such as agriculture, warfare or religion have been suggested as major drivers.

A prominent theory, the hypothesis of great or moralizing gods, assumes that religious beliefs are the key. According to this theory, people tend to cooperate if they believe in gods who punish them if they do not. "To our surprise, our data contradicts this hypothesis," says lead author Harvey Whitehouse. "In almost every part of the world we have data for, moralizing gods tended to follow the social complexity, not to go ahead." More, standardized rituals seemed to appear on average for hundreds of years to gods who cared for human morality , 19659002] Such rituals create a collective identity and a sense of belonging that acts as a social glue and encourages people to be more cooperative. "Our findings suggest that collective identities are more important for facilitating collaboration in societies than religious beliefs," says Harvey Whitehouse.

Big Data: A New Approach to Social Theories

Until recently, it was not possible to distinguish between cause and cause effects on social theories and history, as standardized quantitative data from world history was lacking. To address this problem, the data and social scientist Peter Turchin founded in 2011 together with Harvey Whitehouse and Pieter François from the University of Oxford Seshat. The multidisciplinary project integrates the expertise of historians, archaeologists, anthropologists, social scientists and data scientists into a state-of-the-art open access database. Dozens of experts around the world helped to compile detailed data on the social complexity, religious beliefs, and practices of hundreds of independent political entities ("Polities"), beginning with Neolithic Anatolians (now Turkey) in 9600 BC.

The complexity of society can be estimated by social characteristics such as population, territory and complexity of state institutions and information systems. Religious data includes the presence of beliefs in the supernatural enforcement of reciprocity, justice, and loyalty, as well as the frequency and standardization of religious rituals.

"Seshat allows researchers to analyze hundreds of variables in terms of social complexity, religion and war farming and other characteristics of human culture and society that differ in time and space," explains Pieter François. "Now that the database is ready for analysis, we can test a long list of theories of human history." These include competing theories on how and why humans evolved to work in large societies with millions and more people , [19659002] "Seshat is an unprecedented collaboration between anthropologists, historians, archaeologists, mathematicians, computer scientists, and evolutionary scientists," says Patrick Savage, corresponding author of the article. "It shows how Big Data can revolutionize the study of human history."

This article was republished from materials from the Complexity Science Hub Vienna. Note: The material may have been edited for length and content. For more information, please contact the specified source. Reference : Whitehouse, H., François, P., Savage, PE, Currie, TE, Feeney, KC, Cioni, E., … Turchin, S. (2019). Complex societies precede moralizing gods in world history. Nature, 1. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-019-1043-4[19659013 (Funktionsweise (d, s, id) {
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