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An Interview with Dr. Christopher DiCarlo (Part Three)


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2018/10/01


Dr. Christopher DiCarlo is an Author, Educator, and Philosopher of Science and Ethics. He discusses: evolution of human reasoning; SR value; supernaturalism; and enforced ignorance for social control.

Keywords: author, Christopher DiCarlo, educator, philosopher.

An Interview with Dr. Christopher DiCarlo: Author, Educator, Philosopher of Science and Ethics (Part Three)[1],[2]

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: In terms of the evolution of human reasoning, that formed the basis of one book. The other book was on the evolution of religion. Daniel Dennett has done the same. I believe it was Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon.

I might have that wrong. What sources did you consider for writing that text and what is your overall theory or hypothesis?

Dr. Christopher DiCarlo: For the evolution of religion?

Jacobsen: Yes.

DiCarlo: Here’s what happened. If you look at the history of human evolution and we have said the degree of complexity on the Y-axis and we have time on the X-axis, what happens is, it is low. The degree of complexity of tools and all that stuff is low for most of our evolutionary past.

Even at the 200,000-year level where we have speciated and Homo Sapiens comes out of South East Africa and what not, it is still static. Once we get to 40,000 years ago, it goes off the scale. The degree of complexity of art, of tools, clothing, so many different forms of movable statues and fertility rates. We see this reflected in the statues and artworks and cave paintings and hunting and all that stuff. 40,000 years ago, they call it the cultural explosion.

What happened was humans are the only primates where our larynx drops in our throat at about the age of 2, we have a gene that kicks on and our larynx drops.

Jacobsen: A single gene?

DiCarlo: A specific gene yes, a mutation. This is what allows humans to speak unlike any other primate is to articulate and enunciate better. That is why kids can no longer breastfeed because they cannot circular breathe right.

They can breathe and swallow at the same time. I would not suggest you try that now. You will get a bit of a shock. So, when that larynx does drop, and it drops about the age of 2, you cannot normally shut kids up. They have been babbling and doing this proto-language.

Suddenly now, they have the hardware that will facilitate language development better. so we know roughly when the genes mutated. We can hypothesize as to when this occurred. We know no other primates or apes have this.

To me, that along with the development of the brain and not the brain itself because Neanderthal brains were larger, but they did not develop technologically as well as Homo Sapiens did, led to a perfect storm. Feudalism, diet change, meat feeds the brain, the brain is a very expansive organ. 20% of your bodies’ energy goes into feeding your brain.

We do not have claws or camouflage or fangs but 3 pounds of electric meat here. All these things were coming together. Bipedalism, nomadic movement through Africa and Asia, genetic differentiation, pharyngeal developments.

Philip Lieberman at Chicago has done some of the best work in understanding that aspect of human evolution. So, absolutely, his son was at Harvard. he is still there. He is the one in the Danube and maintains that when you look at humans when you look at Homo Sapiens when you look at us, we are one of the few that can rotate.

Our rib cage rotates as we run. If you look at other apes, they do not have that ability. Other apes are bow-legged. The way our hips extend, the femoral is different. The way women give birth and so on and so forth. So, Dan at Harvard believes that Homo Sapiens were runners.

You look at the arch of our foot, when you look at our glutes and how they attach to our hamstrings and you look at the fact we can rotate as we run, they have shown the bushman of the Kalahari running wildebeest to their death.

They hyperventilate because they must stop and breathe to cool down and these bushmen keep running and running until they collapse from heat exhaustion. So, I looked at all these factors as humans were evolving and then my hypothesis is that consciousness and language were fed on each other like a cyclical feedback loop.

The more consciously aware you are of an environment, the more you are going to be able to use a language to describe that which you are conscious. the more aware our ancestors would have become of various things that would have led to what I call, “SR value,” or “survival reproductive value.”

Certain things you ought to do, certain things you ought not to do! Gravity is a great lesson. So, I tie this into what I call natural logic or how I believe Aristotle might have figured out the 3 laws of logic. The Law of Identity, the Law of Contradiction, and the Excluded Middle; that is, they are extremely dichotomous.

As my dog knows, there is either something in his bowl or there is nothing in his bowl. He may have some grey area that there’s something in there. Animals know distinctions more clearly than they know vagueness or that shady area between those states. Our ancestors would have been like that.

Predator-prey, male-female, friend-foe, night-day, hot-cold, all these varying diverse types of degrees, would have led them to think of the way the world works. When it came to the perfect storm of all these elements, the brain size is complete, bipedalism is complete, pharyngeal development is complete; now, we start moving along through Africa and Asia and running into diverse groups. Boys can communication and ideas start to take off.

How to start fires, how to hunt differently, and they would have ripped each other left, right and centre because whatever is going to increase your survival reproductive value, we tend to think are going to be operationally taken.

So, in trying to understand causality, that is one element in the picture of the development of the mythology of religious views. Then there’s morality. There is a system of “do’s and don’ts” within any group. You should or should not hunt this way. We need to act in that way.

If it were an alpha male type of tribe before pair bonding began, then as we see with pan troglodytes, if you mess with the big guy, you are going to pay. If you try to get in on the harem of females, you are going to pay. Where bonobos are not dimorphic, they are equal in size, so they have an entirely different strategy of accommodating actives and that thing.

Again, we must be careful when we look at activities of other species. We cannot say, therefore, one group of species act this way so, therefore, our ancestors did. Because Dewahl would say they do not act anything.

Needless to say, once all of this started to develop and we saw 40,000s years ago, 30,000 years ago, 20,000 years ago, we saw more and more specific ways they were hunting and foraging and trapping and putting objects in art. We can conclude that they had to consciously know what they were doing at that time that.

It took foresight and forethought to imagine the world in a way. All right, so then how does religion come into being? Well we have causality, we have morality, “the do’s and don’ts” within a group and then there is mortality. We start to see the first ritualistic burials about 70,000 years ago.

Jacobsen: Did Neanderthals have this as well?

DiCarlo: Neanderthals did but not as complex as Cromagnon or the rest of the Homo Sapiens. Much more complex involved about 30,000, 45,000 years ago. Finding skeletons buried with beadwork and things of value, e.g., straightened mammoth tusks, which take forever to heat and then retract and all that.

So, stuff that would be valuable. We know by that; we can infer by that that something was going on. It is not by accident they kicked all this stuff in. They are laid there very precisely. This stuff was of excellent value to them. So, mortality, we had causality trying to explain what is going on in the world so it can increase your survival reproductive value.

Morality or sense of morals within a group or the “do’s and don’ts,” which are hopefully going to keep the cohesion of the group working well. Now mortality, which is by analogy, you are going to end up like the person you buried.

So, to me, those 3 things more than likely gave way to the development and invention of things beyond their capacity to reason. They did not have a seismic plate tectonic model to explain the volcanic activity. They did not. It made more sense that the mountain is angry.

I have camped deep off the beaten path in my life and in one week we had 5 days of rain straight, 5 days and 5 nights. Nothing worsens your trip more than having waterproof matches not work because they are so bloody damp.

And on the night of the 5th day when we started to see some blue sky and then the skies finally cleared, and we saw a very spectacular sunset, the guy I was with was pretty much giggling like an idiot. It hit me why people could worship the Sun. It hit me. I was grateful but there was nothing really; there is no God.

It was the events and my circumstances that led me as a highly educated 21st-century person to say, “Boy am I glad the rain has stopped.” I wanted to thank something or someone. I wanted to show my gratitude.

When you step back from yourself, even as emotional as that is, you’ve been through a nasty time for 5 straight days and nights. Now, you’re being thrown a bone as it were, it seemed perfectly natural for me to understand why people with unsophisticated levels of scientific understanding to say, “Of course, the mountain is angry,” or, “Look at what the gods have done for us.”

That is why all 3 of those factors, understanding causal forces, developing a moral system within your group: if you cannot enforce, then you develop something that will enforce it. Because it sees you no matter where you are.

Then the mortality thing, “No he’s not dead, he’s still alive but he’s alive in some other sense that we don’t understand.” These were then naturally developing proto-scientific ways to try and deal with natural factors in the environment.

2. Jacobsen: In terms of SR value, if you have causality, morality, and mortality with respect to youth and the fertility of men and women, how would these 3 factors play into a hypothetical scenario? To make it concrete for people reading this.

DiCarlo: So if you’re talking about several thousand years ago on a South Pacific island that happens to be volcanic and it can threaten the entire life of the particular group that is inhabiting nearby and you want to appease the mountain god, the most prized thing you have is your virgins who haven’t yet laid down with men.

So, the old cliché of chucking the virgin into the volcano to appease the mountain god. If a group did such an act and the mountain, the seismic activity coincidentally subsided, it is very easy to have confirmation bias and maintain that that must have been the cause.

So, my old saying is, show me a Polynesian group living on an island with an active volcano and I will show you a lot of nervous virgins. Interestingly enough, it might be motivation enough for those virgins to not be virgins anymore. They could try to get out of that classification group.

So that is one very crude, simplistic example, but you can see it in ways of not having a robust understanding of the true forces that are in work. The natural, not the supernatural but the natural, forces at work. Maybe, it might be a clever idea to put your efforts into shipbuilding and get off that island and get to a nearby one that has the same types of natural resources, but is not going to kill you!

3. Jacobsen: Those 3 same factors, as is it applied to not only religion but another broader term, supernaturalism, how would that play into the evolution of a supernaturalist? the general principle for looking at the world from which you can derive various angels and demons and ghosts and these things.

DiCarlo: I do not wish to oversimplify this in any way. Remember, we do not have the time machine, so we must put the pieces together hoping that we are doing an accurate enough job.

What you and I both know is that should supernatural belief systems become entrenched and embedded in a group, those become the most valued beliefs that that group is going to have. Therefore, those that are the “experts” in those beliefs. Are they going to be the least powerful?

Jacobsen: Not even close, they are going to be the shamans.

DiCarlo: They’re going to know right away, “I got a good thing here.” They are going to get more sex, more food. They are going to get treated better. They are going to get levels of privilege that will increase their SR value right off the scale. Once that came to be realized by members of a group; do not forget, we know that the genes for mental health issues like schizophrenia are recent. They are recent mutations.

Jacobsen: Like tens of thousands of years recent?

DiCarlo: I am not saying every shaman was schizophrenic, but hearing voices and seeing the world differently from others might have been valued in an organization that was living in a proto-scientific world and thought, “Wow, you hear voices?”

“Yes, from the great beyond!”

Meanwhile, they have a gene mutation right.

So, we cannot say that is the case in every example but what we can say is, “Okay, power is affiliated with belief systems that are amongst the most valued with any particular group,” and we have seen this for a long time throughout history, through recorded history.

We have seen it through the dark ages, you have seen it. What were the value places during the dark ages? Monasteries. These guys, all they had to do was pray for the villagers and the villagers would bring them food, they would be protected, it would be a decent life to be a monk as far as you are probably never going to starve.

You might get sacked every now and again from marauders. Whether they are Islamic or Christian or whatever but for the most part, they are doing all right because they are the keepers of the greatest knowledge. Once Gutenberg comes along and we have a movable type and people are becoming vastly literate, my favourite book of all time gets translated from the Greek to the Latin.

It is Outlines of Empiricism, the basis for skepticism. The other two names were Zappa because I am a huge Frank Zappa fan. Bonzo because John Bonham, to me, was the greatest rock and roll drummer, from Led Zeppelin, of all time. Anyhow, this little book wreaked a lot of havoc in Europe. The Vatican feared this book.

Here is a book saying there is no definitive proof of any god whatsoever, so you must suspend judgement. You cannot say you know, so suspend judgement! The ancient skeptics were the precursors for the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and Pragmatism. In many estimations, the scientific method that we have now.

When people start yipping at each other, I pull this book out and say, “You have some philosophers to be thankful to because they saw the world in a naturalistic way.” They said, “There may be supernatural elements out there, we are not denying them. that nobody can demonstrate that.”

We do not have a reality-measuring stick. So, until you do, let us figure out how to function within the natural world and try to know it as best as we can and if there is something supernatural out there, maybe, someday, we figure it out. Maybe, someday, we don’t figure it out, but we’re not waiting around for it to happen.

The old saying is somebody must take out the trash. At the end of the day, we still must live. So that book, thanks to Gutenberg and so many others, the unwashed masses now become literate and what a huge threat that became to these established monasteries, to the Vatican, to other very well-established places within Western Europe, where this stuff was away and was very privileged information.

It served the monasteries well to keep the people ignorant and fearful, which, when you think about other political regimes throughout the world, that is a theme. That is a major theme. If you can keep your people uneducated, you can keep them a little fearful; you can control them extremely well.

4. Jacobsen: Didn’t the British empire do that to the Irish?

DiCarlo: Yes, look at the shaman, the shaman who claimed to know certain things. If anybody can, and I have often thought, how would you challenge a shaman? Even if a shaman is telling you something that is going to reduce the groups SR value significantly, would there have been a schism? Where one person says, “You’re nuts man, you’re crazy. We are not going to sacrifice my daughter. I have had enough of this. We are gone. We are going to go our way and you go your way. “

What would it have taken to have gone against those types of sacred views? The views that were amongst the most important to a group.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Author; Educator; Philosopher; Fellow, Society of Ontario Freethinkers; Board Advisor, Freethought TV; Advisory Fellow, Center for Inquiry Canada.

[2] Individual Publication Date: October 1, 2018:; Full Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2019:


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


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