[lit-ideas] Re: Eugene Marais, baboons, and religious "instinct"

  • From: Omar Kusturica <omarkusto@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 28 May 2014 02:30:04 +0200

Well, in a matter such as this where there is no compelling evidence either
for or against, choice probably plays some role. Although, it is probably
not a conscious choice.

I have had some periods of being attracted to religion, even wanting to
believe, but ultimately it did not overcome my secular upbringing .My
parents may have had some periods of being attracted to religion as well,
but when I was a child growing up in Socialist Yugoslavia, and they having
been Communist Party members, they have raised me accordingly, thinking
that this would be the best way for me to fit into the' modern' society.
Since then, religion (Christian and Muslim)  has seen some growth in
popularity and official acceptance in these parts, but I am still not
really a believer.

How are the things standing with you in this matter ?


On Wed, May 28, 2014 at 2:09 AM, Lawrence Helm

>   Thanks, JL, for the* African Genesis* (written by Robert Ardrey) reference.
> I searched page after page looking for references to Raymond Dart only to
> learn it was not Dart but Eugene Marais who had the baboon story.  He
> wrote a book entitled* The Soul of the Ape* in 1919, published
> posthumously in 1939.  He also wrote some articles one can find collected
> under the title* My Friend**s** the Baboon**s**.*
> I’ve gotten Dart and Marais confused, but I’ll leave them that way and
> simply quote Robert Audrey describing the Baboon story I sort-of
> remembered.  The following is from pages 82-83:
> “Marais could always tell when a leopard was in the neighbourhood of his
> own band.  Protected by nothing but the rocky hollows in the krans and
> concealed only by the limbs of the massive wild fig, the troop would begin
> to move uneasily.  He would sense the restlessness, and then hear a
> particular cry of disturbance.  Helplessly the troop would wait for unseen
> death to pass unseeing.  But one night the leopard came early.
> “It was still dusk.  The troop had only just returned from the feeding
> grounds and had barely time to reach its scattered sleeping places in the
> high-piled rocks behind the fig tree.  Now it shrilled its terror.  And
> Marais could see the leopard.  It appeared from the bush and took its
> insolent time.  So vulnerable were the baboons that the leopard seemed to
> recognize no need for hurry.  He crouched just below a little jutting cliff
> above him.
> “The two males moved cautiously.  The leopard, if he saw them, ignored
> them.  His attention was fixed on the swarming, screeching, defenceless
> horde scrambling among the rocks.  Then the two males dropped.  They
> dropped on him from a height of twelve feet.  One bit at the leopard’s
> spine.  The other struck at his throat while clinging to his neck from
> below.  In an instant the leopard disemboweled with his hind claws the
> baboon hanging to his neck and caught in his jaws the baboon on his back.
> But it was too late.  The dying disemboweled baboon had hung on just long
> enough and had reached the leopard’s jugular vein with his canines.
> “Marais watched while movement stilled beneath the little jutting cliff.
> Night fell.  Death, hidden from all but the impartial stars enveloped prey
> and predator alike.  And in the hollow places in the rocky, looming krans
> a society of animals settled down to sleep.”
> *Comment: * I have this account in quotes because I’m quoting Ardrey, but
> he doesn’t have it in quotes.  I checked a few Wikipedia references,
> couldn’t find any other reference to this story but found this one
> interesting:
> *http://www.authorsden.com/categories/story_top.asp?catid=32&id=22445*<http://www.authorsden.com/categories/story_top.asp?catid=32&id=22445>
>  I
> especially noted the paragraph, “In 1948, twelve years after Marais’
> death, Nikolaas Tinbergen[2] (1907-1988) reformulated Marais’ extremely
> important concept of the phyletic (inborn) and causal (acquired) memory.”
> I’m assuming that Marais had informed the difference between instinctiveand 
> acquired memory in apes
> in some clever way; which caused me to wonder if the human genes
> governing the learning of language are considered “instinct.”  Growing upI 
> was taught that nothing in us is
> instinctive, Locke’s influence no doubt, but does anyone still say that?
> The ability to learn language is instinctive – or does the fact that we
> don’t all know the same language but can instead at a certain age rapidly
> learn any language, disqualify it as “instinct”?
> Nicholas Wade argues that our religious inclination is as instinctive as
> language, contra Locke.  We don’t all practice the same religion – no
> more than we learn the same religion, but most (not those raised by
> wolves or apes, perhaps) of us learn some language.  But we all (perhaps)
> have the God-shaped vacuum referred to by Blaise Pascal.  But what about
> the fact that some of us have become atheists?  Does that disprove this
> idea?  Not necessarily.  I’ve noticed that many who claim to be atheists
> have taken up other religious-like beliefs.  Carl Jung wrote a very
> interesting book on Flying Saucers:
> *http://www.amazon.com/Flying-Saucers-Modern-Things-Skies/dp/0691018227*<http://www.amazon.com/Flying-Saucers-Modern-Things-Skies/dp/0691018227>I
>  read this book years ago and no longer have it, but if I recall correctly
> (a doubtful ability as is evidenced above) Jung argued that the belief in
> Flying Saucers was driven by the modern “abandonment” of religion.  He
> argued that humans have something like an “Oversoul” that satisfies the
> human need for religion, or God, by projecting the image of perfection (the
> mandala) in the sky.  Also, many turn to other things, astrology, for
> example.  Blaise Pascal believed that people couldn’t be completely
> satisfied by such ideas, but they did have the Locke-like freedom to
> fulfill this instinct-like need for God with other things.  But if Wade
> and Jung are right, could a person still manage a sort-of “pure” atheism in
> which he felt no “toward-God” urge?  I don’t know.  I have known people
> who claimed to have managed something like that, but then some of them
> later became believers in God.  Perhaps also there is the option of
> continuing in a state of unbelief, without flying saucers, astrology or
> anything equivalent, but having to suffer psychologically for this state.  I
> suppose one could* choose* to not-believe in God . . . or even speak for
> that matter.
> Lawrence

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