Brown and Eff: The State and the Supernatural: Support for Prosocial Behavior
- comments on Roes and Raymond's article Belief in Moralizing Gods, showing how ordinary methods of cross-cultural analysis lead to spurious results. They use instead the all-important approach (further refined in *Rccs*) of Eff, E. Anthon, and Malcolm Dow. 2009. How to Deal with Missing Data and Galton's Problem in Cross-Cultural Survey Research: A Primer for R. Structure and Dynamics: eJournal of Anthropological and Related Sciences 3#3 art 1.
Abstract: Using the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample, Roes and Raymond (2003) find that large societies are more likely to be located in resource-rich environments, engage in warfare, and hold beliefs in gods actively supporting human morality (“moralizing gods”). We revisit the Roes and Raymond study, using the methods presented in a series of papers by Dow and Eff. Our findings suggest that moralizing gods are less likely to be found in resource-rich environments or amongst societies frequently engaged in external warfare. We find that cultural transmission over geographic space is the most significant force in conditioning belief in moralizing gods; that moralizing gods are more likely to be found in pastoral societies; and that the relationship between society size and moralizing gods is non-linear, with both very large and very small societies less likely to have moralizing gods. We explain this non-linearity by arguing that the functions of moralizing gods can also be performed by the state, and we also argue that moralizing gods play an important role in stabilizing property rights.
Keywords: Galton’s problem, religion, prosocial behavior, movable property, human competition, cultural transmission, Standard Cross-Cultural Sample
Roes, Frans L. 2009. Moralizing Gods and the Arms-Race Hypothesis of Human Society Growth. The Open Social Science Journal 2:70-73.
- Abstract: Following evolutionary ideas, it is argued that human societies grew in size while competing with other societies over preferred habitats. Larger human societies are more successful in competition, but they also experience more pressures to fission. Morality unites a society by limiting infringements upon the rights of other society members.
- This leads to the prediction that a belief in ‘moralizing Gods’ is more often found in larger societies. A previous analysis of data from the Standard Cross Cultural Sample and the Ethnographic Atlas support these predictions. However, in this paper the statistics of the tests are largely ignored. The primary aim of this paper is to illustrate that evolutionary logic helps understanding of human social behavior.
The initial phases of classroom use of *Rccs* software for studying scores of SCCS variables showed, interestingly, a curious triangle of potential causal effects in which the absense of Milking (part of the economy of pastoral societies) was a precondition of Money (v155) but the presence of Milking (v245) was a precondition of belief in Evil eye (v1122), *and* societies with Money also predict presence of Evil eye beliefs. Moral gods (v238) were found to be a potential casual variable both for Money and Evil eye societies and a dependent variable of Milking.
White, White, Ren, and Oztan 2010, in Causal Inference for Multilevel Networks of Early Ethnographically Well-Described Populations, report on these findings and explain the basic for causal inference from *Rccs* regression analysis using the Eff and Dow (2009) "peer effect" controls for networks of closeness in language and spatial distance, and their methods for imputing missing data. They find further support for Brown and Eff's conclusion about pastoral and small-state associations with Moral gods but argue that the two distinct exchange economies of pastoralism (exchanges of herd fertility and human fertility as mutually wealth-generating) and monetary economies (buying and selling commodities and exchanges of wealth) generate fluctuating inequalities over time, and that economic inequality leads to envy which leads to the common feature of Evil eye beliefs.