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Why did human beings evolve out such that it always wants something or someone to pray to?

Do animals pray? Haven't heard of that .. Why did our mind evolve out such that it needs someone or something to pray to? Is the highly developed human intellect pushing itself to kneel down before someone ?. After all, we know it is this intellect that makes us different from animals.
Why do we feel the need to have an extra something to hold on to ? to get comforted from ?. Why did we evolve like that and not the other species?

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  • Oct 16 2013: First, of course, belief in prayer or the supernatural or divine are not universal. Some humans get along quite well without the need of someone or something to pray to. We cannot really know whether animals pray because we don't have any real understanding of the consciousness of animals, even relatively sentient ones.
    Those humans who do pray, however, do so as one of many higher order strategies for getting their needs met. Humans have evolved the ability think abstractly, to ask why, and to imagine answers to questions for which empirical or scientific proof is unavailable or insufficient. This ability to imagine the unknown, to think abstractly, and to seek answers is the at the heart of both religion and science. The difference is in the strategies employed, the kinds of evidence and "proof" required, and the ability to generalize results beyond the self.
    What evolved, therefor, is not the need to believe or to pray, but the ability to do so. The actual belief or prayer is a choice.
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    Oct 18 2013: On that line of thought you can ask yourself why did we evolve to read, sing, and dance...I don't think prayer came to us through the evolutionary process. I guess we pray because we evolved to be intelligent enough to see the immensity of the universe and that is overwhelming.
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      Oct 18 2013: I agree Anairda, that the idea of prayer is probably not part of the evolutionary process, and may be handed down to us as other practices like reading, singing and dance.

      Joseph,
      You ask...." Is the highly developed human intellect pushing itself to kneel down before someone ?"

      Based on statistics, which show us that more and more people are leaving religions and the belief in a god, it might be that as we humans evolve with more developed intellect we are seeing LESS of a need to kneel down before someone?
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    Oct 17 2013: Ask God, she is the only one I know of with that information. This is one of the few lines in the bible that make sense to me- James 1:5 "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally" On a more practical note here is my rewritten quote: "If any of ye lack wisdom, ask Google", just in case God is busy at the time.
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      Oct 18 2013: The Bible calls God the "Hearer of Prayer"

      Psalms 65:2-----"O Hearer of prayer, even to you people of all flesh will come."
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    Oct 19 2013: Because those that didn't pray used contraception.
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    Oct 18 2013: Interesting question! I don't think as humans we evolve at all in relation to wanting someone to pray to. Unlike animals (though I believe they have their own way of connecting to their Creator) humans were created with that innate ability to remain attached to their Source (whoever you refer to as your Source). We are naturally inclined to pray to someone because we feel we are brought here for something great, for something significant and not just to add numbers to the world. We believe somehow that someone is responsible for us being here, in other words we acknowledge that we are not here on our own accords but someone (Got to me) brought us here and for a particular purpose.

    Now to fully know and do that purpose, we then are naturally inclined to pray in search of our purpose because once we know that we would be in charge of our circumstances and live meaningful lives in this world. Since the beginning of time (Biblically speaking because that is where I draw out my inspiration from) humans were created to remain in attached to their Creator, this was for their effectiveness in knowing themselves and living their purposes fully. Whether you believe in God or not, this thirst to satisfy something within will always be there and somehow you have to resort to something/someone whether God or some other idols as it happens in some parts in reference to the holy Scriptures to satisfy that thirst.
    Having a desire to pray to someone is divine and natural, we are created to pray and remain in touch with our Source for our benefit because without knowing and remaining attached to our Source we won't know ourselves which will lead to us living useless, meaningless and frustrating life. Humans in this regard of praying to someone have not and will never evolve because it is the way they are created, this is natural to us as humans. Yes the ways we try to satisfy this thirst might differ but we are looking for the same thing which is our greatness and significance.
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    Oct 18 2013: Well, just maybe we didn't evolve. Just maybe we were created by God. Just maybe prayer is one of His lines of communication. The problem only arises when we start with the assumption that there is no god. Then we have to go through the whole rigmarole of universes sprouting from nothing, & nature self generating from self generated rocks.
    Depends where you put your faith, Jesus Christ or Richard Dawkins.

    :-)
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      Oct 19 2013: I don't understand the concept of prayer.
      Do you believe people can actually get things that they wouldn't have gotten from God if they pray for it?
      Or is prayer more lilke meditation, with no intend to interfere with God's perfect plan for everybody?
      Or is there a plan at all?
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        Oct 19 2013: To me prayer is just speaking to my dad. I can ask for stuff, but, just like an earthly dad, some I get, some I don't. He knows what's good for me, better than I do.
        He speaks to me, sometimest directly, sometimes through the bible, sometimes through circumstances. It's good to know He's there.

        :-)
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          Oct 19 2013: Well said!
          Also, I think you've given a great answer to Joseph's question.
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        Oct 19 2013: Thanks for that Gerald. :-))
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    Oct 18 2013: Because nature is powerful and enigmatic, human can only know a little about it. When they suffer from the natural disasters, in old time they only had the ability to imagine some existence of something or someone to help relieve their pains and fears.
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    Oct 17 2013: fear. superstition.

    the belief that the big, scary world can be influenced by wishing.
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    Oct 22 2013: Since we were created, there is an in-born tendency to respect a higher power. There seems to be an inert feeling that there is more to life than is obvious.
    It looks as if everything in this world has a use for the higher level of existence. One level supports the other.

    One big difference is that any animal that is born knows all it has to know, sometimes within minutes. Humans however are totally incapable to look after themselves for years. Why?

    Our life is supposed to be the way we, as individuals, want to develop and live. This is accomplished with a 'clean' slate and free will. Although we are born with hereditary tendencies, we are not forced into one way of thinking but are guided with love. And if we are not, then we can be helped to 'brake the cycle.'
    We are meant to grow and develop in freedom and rationality, while in humility. The less any of that is present, the less human we are, and will become.
    In addition to that, and because of that, every life form is only meant for this planet, except us humans. Our life in this world is meant as a 'spiritual womb' to develop for the next.
    Happy Birthday! :)
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    Oct 21 2013: .

    Evolution reasons:

    Asking for:
    . . (1) Symbiosis.
    . . (2) Solving the problem by our brain ---- the most powerful computer today.

    Both are ancestors' successful experiences in our DNA.
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    Oct 20 2013: we did not evolve in such a direction... we are enslaved with it.

    it is the same as believing we evolved from apes... why are the other apes not evolving???

    what has evolved are the characters of these beliefs and how the story is told...
  • Oct 20 2013: I think you asked the question - WHY? If your are not able to accept there may be no answer currently, then you start creating causes. Think of someone back in the middle ages when it snowed during summer and killed crops.
  • Oct 20 2013: I don't want something or someone to pray to.

    I think that it is a huge mistake to think that because evolution happens therefore everything is due to evolution. Let's imagine that it is true that humanity in general "wants" something or someone to pray to. How do you know this is an evolved characteristic rather than a cultural artifact? How would you know that tendency to prayer is not a secondary effect of something else?

    The point is: there's options other than direct evolution of a desire for something or someone to pray to.
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    Oct 19 2013: I think it because humans realize how dependent we are on other sources. Most animal are born equipped to deal with there environment having the ability to walk and so on. Humans have to be nurtured for years we are born help less (can,t see and can,t walk).
    It is the realization of our dependence on the environment or elements that have given us the need to idolise them eg the sun giver of life.
    over time this idolisation of nature and forces has morphed in to a lot of religions we see to day because of the manipulation of this dependence.
    Take the story of Jesus (son of god) or is it (sun god) this story follow the same astrological dates eg 25 December as other gods eg. rah the Egyptian sun god and many other so called gods.
    Back in yonder years most people made observations of nature or astrological movements that we over look these day because we are to busy playing angry birds on our I phone.
    But because people did not know that big yellow thing in the sky was just a ball of gas they seen it as a sheltering hand giver of warmth (life to crops) and so on.
    And that were I think humans need to believe in some thing stems from.
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    Oct 19 2013: I believe it's because humans in general want to believe that thereis a higher purpose than what we can percieve with the five senses; something over and beyond the physical world that gives us a sense of purpose: a grand design as it were. the thought that thereis nothing else beyond this life, that when we die we just lose consciousness and slowly turn back into dust can be quite depressing. I believe that when you get down to the bare bones of any religion it's just a matter of keeping ones spirits up.

    Have you read the complete Dune saga? All 17 books? fantastic story that also covers many different aspects of religion and evolution.
  • Oct 19 2013: Let me comment on the human belief based on factual history, without getting into the question of the spiritual belief of who is the creator of the humans on earth. (I neither confirm nor deny the existence of such a creator.)
    In China, they probably have had the most number of ad lib "gods" than anyone else. There are goddess of delivering a male infant if one disparately wants one. There is a god of wealth, longevity and god of patriotic spirit. There are gods for good harvest of grain, or god for the seafarers. There are even god of kitchen and a goddess living on the moon. Of course, there are so-called saints for teaching of morality. All these gods have their own temples to prove their identity and a place of worship by the believers. The "gods" are mostly made up with or without historical records, and their inventors are usually unknown, but got the roots established almost everywhere nevertheless. In Taiwan with most of the residents originated from the mainland of China, they have slightly different set of gods who are openly worshiped by the political candidates for high offices before the election.
    In other places of the world there are similar belief systems in their ancient cultures , and at least partially kept until now. For example, the ancient Greeks had multiple gods of many titles. The Mayan Indians worshiped the Sun. And so did the Egyptians.
    By the way, a new study by a paleontoanthropologist in the news TODAY seems to indicate that almost all the humans on earth were the descendants from a single group of humanoids in an African village in some 2 million years ago.
    But regardless of this news, it seems clear to me that humans are usually try to make up some one to pray for either to avoid certain disaster or death, or to wish for something they want to get or be successful for their endeavor. And the means to obtain these could vary greatly, and often derived from some random or opportunistic thoughts or inspirations.
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    Oct 19 2013: I suggest that the origins of most religious faith can be found in superstition and fear when our ancestors where unable to comprehend natural events such as death, flooding, electrical storms. Early human communities would have been dominated by those individuals who were more charismatic, or more cunning or simply bigger and stronger than the rest. Therefore it was equally possible to believe that some force or entity(s)Gods was also dominating the elements and humanity itself.

    The very human characteristics attributed to Gods helps support this premise and the need to appease these Gods just as there was often a very real need to appease those who dominated their communities. Therefore it would have been a natural progression to move from praising or pleading for a favour or even one's life with the strong men and women of the day, to pleading and praying and praising to the Gods of the day as well.

    This is not to say that spirituality and faith are irrelevant or without substance. Simply that praying and praising are behaviours which are far too similar to human deference to be a coincidence.

    Of course organized religion is a whole other thing.
    .
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    Oct 18 2013: Hi Mary, not yet. I suppose you're talking about Amanda Bennett? I will, actually later today. Anyway I think that behavior such as prayer, religious rituals, reaction to death cannot be understood through evolutionary theory but rather through anthropology and while the biological evolution applies to the species the social evolution of these forms of behavior varies geographically across different cultures.
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      Oct 18 2013: Hi Anairda, Yes, the Bennett talk is the latest.
      But also, there is a second talk....about death.....given by Kelli Swazey, an anthropologist.
      If you are able, look at both of them. I think you will enjoy them.
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    Oct 18 2013: I have been preoccupied by a similar question and I doubt it can be answered trough evolutionary theory: Why do you think we evolved to be scared and suffer in the face of death? It is the only certainty in life and it happened all the way along the evolutionary process...how come we didn't adapt to it and continue to suffer in the face of it? Or maybe we did and are too involved in the civilized life with socially created issues to see it?
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      Oct 18 2013: Perhaps the lack of knowledge of what death really is brings fright and suffering.
      And of course, losing someone you love is a very hard experience.
      Have you watched the two talks on death that TED posted this week?
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        Oct 18 2013: Hi Mary, I just watched Amanda Bennett's talk about death; it sounded to me like a very positive story about a good relationship and a beautiful life that you don't want to let go of. She talks from the shoes of someone privileged that had the means to buy hope and time and take the kids in beautiful trips in the meantime. What she is proposing is unfeasible if you are to consider all humans having the same right to life. Maybe Kelli Swazey's talk tells the same story on how to hold on to the loved ones when you don't have access to advanced medicine.
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          Oct 18 2013: Oh, I'm glad you watch them both. It is interesting how depending on our circumstances we approach death from different angles.

          I do not necessarily think that not having access to advanced medicine is the reason that the Indonesian tribe practices their rituals. I think it is rooted in tradition.....many peoples from around the world also lack advance medicine techniques, and yet they do not undergo such extreme rituals with their dead.

          I have watched to talk twice, and each time I am fascinated by it.......I never tire of learning about my fellow earthlings.......never.
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      Oct 18 2013: Anairda and Mary M.,
      I agree that your question about death Anairda, probably cannot be answered with evolutionary theory. There are some cultures which do not fear death.

      Perhaps there is fear of pain and suffering with some people? Perhaps there is fear of the unknown, as Mary suggests? Perhaps some cultures, like some western cultures, are preoccupied with youth, and deny the aging/dying process? Perhaps the advancements in medicine give some people hope that we can live forever?
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        Oct 18 2013: Hi Colleen this is a fascinating subject of how different cultures deal with the subject of death. Have you watched Kelli Swazey about practices in Indonesia? I also ran across Lisa See's FB page where she has an article about 'ghost marriages' that are still practiced in remote areas of China:
        http://behindthewall.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/03/24/17389580-search-for-love-in-china-fuels-ghost-marriages-grave-robbing?lite
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          Oct 23 2013: Hi again Anairda, and thanks for the article, which is FASCINATING!!! That is a new story for me!

          I love the last sentence........
          ""Ghost marriage between two dead people is stable and lasts forever," said Zhao Ming, one of Wei Guohua's grandsons. "There is no such thing as divorce."

          I guess that's one way to avoid divorce.....get married after we die!!! OH my goodness!!!
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    Oct 18 2013: Your question is a fine one Joseph.
    There are many layers to it.

    In prayer, or in having a say in our heart to no one in particular, we might find solace.
    Many times we may come under stress and might feel no one around us understands what we are going through.

    It is at these times we may feel a natural inclination to speak to ourselves, which sounds kind of crazy........so perhaps we then speak to no one in particular, but we articulate our thoughts in a way that we release our concerns to whoever might be listening out there in the universe.

    Many search and search and wonder if there is someone invisible......a being/power that is willing to come to our personal aid in trying times, and to whom we can offer expressions of thanksgiving when our life is filled with good things.

    Have you yourself ever tried to pray?
    • Oct 19 2013: Ofcourse ! I was a beliver, but I quit religion. The more I got closer the more I found errors with it ( lets leave that ). All I wanted to find out is why I wanted to pray in the first hand. It seem atleast many cultures around the world almost independently developed the concept of God. Just felt curious.
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        Oct 19 2013: Thanks for your reply.
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    Oct 18 2013: I dont think we will be able to anwser said question for many many years. We simply do not know enough, actually we barely know anything, about our own brains and all of their inner workings and potential. I wouldnt say we have evolved a "need" to pray, I suppose you can call it a want. Needs are food & water, wants are tv & computers, you can survive without a want, as people survive without prayer or a spiritual aspects, however you cant survive without needs. One could actually pose the same question about those 2 wants. As I had stated we simply do not know enough about our brains & that of the rest of the species in the animal kingdom. We dont know how brains really work, or understand all their processes, or comprehend their potiental. Also we dont know how our brains got to the point they are today. As of now the only anwser to your question is subject to an individuals own beliefs. There are a number of different possiblities for why we have the ability to pray & believe in abstract & spiritual things. Could be that it is just the way god made it, could be simply by chance, possibly as we became the dominant species on the planet and as our inteligence rose we couldnt handle or comprehend being the top dog above of everything and needed some sort of higher power to look to, who knows maybe its because of a genetic altering of our very first ancestors in the creation of modern man by acient alien space travelers. It all depends on what you think or believe in right now. Hopefully one day we will be able to understand our brains fully, their inner workings & reasonings, how & why they do the things they do. Then maybe we will be able to comprehend our ability and strong connection with our beliefs in faith, religion & prayer.
  • Oct 18 2013: Its not something we're born with. A higher power concePt is a learned idea. All it took was the first humans to invent an idea to get the ball rolling and its very likely that you carry on customs and traditions when your born into them
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    Oct 17 2013: I don't know if animals think if there is God or none but I believe they know that there is such thing as master and hierarchy. We as a human we were born with an instinct that there is God not knowing who is he.. That is why people are tend to pray to different gods or they make their own god. People are praying because I think when things aren't bearable anymore they always find comfort and hope in praying.
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    Oct 17 2013: from your talk ,you don't said i don't believe in God but you're complaining to who believe why you do that?...from it i'll say ,i have my faith and haven't asked about yours and really it's dosen't matter for me cause i feel satisfied with it and even the cause i did by respect only...from it too if you believe only about what you touch so by why you'll prove your existance now and don't tell me cause i can see myself in the miror plz ,and don't do the mistake that you're feeling it cause you can't touch or see your feelings... the faith can't be proved we can only respect each faith can exist for we can live together like should the human doing normaly...normaly again not specially..in my faith everything is praying the God only us who doubt it cause the free will we have.Thank you
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    Oct 16 2013: Humans have evolved from people that had direct contact with the spiritual world to people that have grown out of the desire and apparent need to have that contact.

    The human development is very much in parallel with the development of each individual. So over time the need to have contact with parents, for whatever reason, becomes a choice and less of a priority.

    During the change of human development God's Revelation has changed and was adopted to our 'development.'
    Only humans have freewill and thus can change what they love. Animals do not have that option, or choice between heaven and hell.

    A child starts in the innocence of ignorance, while at the end of the development we are meant to arrive in the innocence of wisdom.
    It is anyone's guess where, in between those stages we are now.
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    Oct 16 2013: Perhaps out of a deeper innate recognition we are created beings.
  • Oct 16 2013: I've personally never felt the need to pray to any higher power, and know of no small number of people who feel the same way. Religion isn't universal, and in some parts of the world, religion is practiced in a way that would appear completely non-spiritual to your average westerner.

    As for animals, I wouldn't know. You'd have to ask one yourself (I think there's a noble prize in there somewhere for the first person to manage that particular feat). I rather doubt most of them are intelligent enough to grasp such concepts anyhow; they don't worship a higher power for much the same reason a piece of furniture doesn't.
    Even the most intelligent animals, like dolphins and chimps, are incredibly dumb by human standards--I think the concept of well, an abstract concept, is a bit much for them. Not sure how you'd go about testing that hypothesis though...
    • Oct 18 2013: I'm sorry but the furniture analogy is just bad. You are comparing intelligence with inanimate objects and making some serious assumptions.
      • Oct 18 2013: The furniture analogy is for things like cockroaches, not dolphins.
        Most animals are completely reactionary creatures. They smell food, they go after it, they see a predator, they run. There is nothing suggesting your average beast grasps how or why, in much the same way a computer doesn't understand an algorithm; it just does it.

        As for the more intelligent animals, things like crows or elephants, who knows what goes on inside their heads?
        I rather doubt they believe in a higher power though, even if this is pure speculation on my part. No evolutionary advantage to it.
        • Oct 19 2013: Ill agree with you on that. Though believing in a higher power has helped numerous people I.e Narcotics anonymous, it is not necessary for all people but what grounds can you base the statement on that there is no evolutionary advantage to believing in a higher power when life's inherent ability to evolve takes so........................freakin. .............. Long.