Evolving Octopus Cats #FridayRecommends

A-to-ZI’ve just finished reading Barbara J. King’s EVOLVING GOD: A PROVOCATIVE VIEW ON THE ORIGINS OF RELIGION. Like all of King’s work, it’s nuanced and challenging. She leads the reader through studies of modern non-human primates, of modern hunter-gatherer societies, and of archeological sites/relics, weaving all these together to make educated hypotheses about the origin of the religious imagination.

Among her final thoughts are these:

I do not believe that science can “explain” religion. An evolutionary perspective will probably never be able to pinpoint the reasons why an apelike creature capable of empathy and meaning-making developed into a species that sings the praises of God and shakes in fear at the wrath of the gods, who goes to war in the name of religion and who sacrifices all worldly comforts in order to honor God by doing good for others.

I do believe that science can explain something meaningful about the evolution of the religious imagination.

A good, slow, thoughtful read, well worth the time.

For fellow octopus cognition fans, this video of an octopus not only using a tool, but understanding that a tool found in one location would be needed in the future in another location. No, I don’t eat octopus. Too squidgy. And, I now know, too cool and too smart.

A friend recommended I look up Jackson Galaxy, specifically his posts on aggression in cats. Munchkin wants me to leave it to him to explain why tomorrow on Caturday. In the meantime, let’s just say that I owe somebody an apology.

A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Write a scene with an octopus in it.



I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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One thought on “Evolving Octopus Cats #FridayRecommends

  1. Jane

    June 26, 2015 at 9:07am

    Good recommends.
    I just read Steven Mithin’s book on the evolution of the mind. He postulates that various intelligences exist in all brains. Most have some degree of general intelligence. We see this all the time. But there are also modules of abilities present in varying amounts in many creatures. And of which they are not strictly conscious. Ex: bees instinctively making their hives, dancing their directions to pollen, etc. This stuff has evolved to be part of their genetic heritage. Ex: chimps can learn to make tools and do stuff and even talk about it a litle, but they have all kinds of difficulty communicating beyond demands, and they take years to pass on the small amount of tool use they exhibit in the wild. Seriously. Years.

    So Mithin says that at some point, the human mind made the leap to connect all its parts and grow an imagination. Religion, art, expanded language, etc. ensued.

    Just a rough summary.

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      June 26, 2015 at 10:41am

      King references Mithin’s work in EVOLVING GOD, specifically his “module” postulation.

      Something that I find interesting is the hypothesis of evolution through adaptation — not sure what the actual hypothesis is called. That any number of (for instance) chimps might be born with an enhanced ability for learning, so they catch on to tool use within months or weeks or days or hours rather than years. HOWEVER if circumstances are such that this quick learning doesn’t give them an edge in survival and/or procreation, that enhanced ability won’t populate the gene pool any more than ordinary learning ability does. Evolution happens under pressure of adaptation to circumstances. EXCEPT WITH PEOPLE. We’re like, “Oh, let’s start doing this THIS way. Why? BECAUSE WE FIGURED OUT HOW.” Too “smart” for our own good, us. lol

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