Cultural Anthropogeny Since Göbekli Tepe: Constructivism, Religion, Cultural Transmission and Calendar Reform

George Christopoulos

To some extent, the history of human cultural and cognitive origins will always be a reconstructed narrative. Largely because methodological issues have epistemic consequences, forcing us into an inescapable and pronounced constructivism. But how the blanks are filled matters and we should actively try to undermine our biases and change conventions for the sake of philosophical rigour. Although there are infinite ways to carve a narrative of our cultural timeline, I argue we are justified in adopting a Holocene calendar, which adds 10,000 years to our current year. This has geological, cultural, and philosophical significance and merit. This point in time marks the end of the last ice age and the transition from stone age to space age over 12,000 years or so. It marks the construction of the oldest known temple, Göbekli Tepe, which is believed to have been built by hunter-gatherers. This archaeological find shows that organized religion did not require agriculture and settlements as a pre-requisite, demonstrating rather that it is likely the other way around.

The rate of change in human society is too staggering for biology alone and thus a cultural dimension is required to explain the uniquely human trait of inter-generational transmission. I argue religion played an adaptive role in human evolution and in particular, the feature of religion I focus on is teaching. I draw on insights from psychology and cognitive science to support my arguments. Although religion played an adaptive role, adaptations can become neutral or harmful vestiges. Today there is the danger of religion becoming the fire and we the moths that are helplessly drawn to it. To remedy this, we need to think critically about everything including where our year zero is drawn. The virtues of the proposed calendar reform are that it stands up to philosophical scrutiny, it is more universally culturally relevant, it is more practical for counting years and it gives a more impressive account of human origins.