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Grand Theories and Everyday BeliefsScience, Philosophy, and their Histories$
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Wallace Matson

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199812691

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199812691.001.0001

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(p.59) Chapter 7 Babylon
Grand Theories and Everyday Beliefs

Wallace Matson

Oxford University Press

Organic Darwinian evolution is over, having been brought to an end by the vast explosion of technology that enables people to determine which species shall survive and which perish. This includes the evolution of people themselves. Though we live now in groups of many millions, the evolutionary stage at which we are stuck is that of the forty-member hunter-gatherer band. Edifying high beliefs, providentially there already when agriculture and civilization began, took on vastly enhanced importance as the social glue making cities and states and empires possible. And instead of the individual shaman of the band, civilization required and produced a class of professional priests, whose prestige and livelihood was bound up with the preservation of high beliefs.Political units in Egypt and the East were huge, whereas in the West they seldom exceeded the bounds of individual cities. This difference had a profound effect on the conceptions of the universe current in them.

Keywords:   Darwin, evolution, hunter-gatherer band, agriculture, civilization, social glue, city, priest

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