[ExI] Basis of Belief (Meta)

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Wed Feb 27 09:25:31 UTC 2008

Keith writes

> Why do people have beliefs, particularly religious beliefs at all?

"beliefs" with a small "b" include perceptions, sensations, 3D knowledge,
appreciations of personality differences, recall of favors, what local
landmarks there are, and so on and on. We've had them forever, and
so do animals.

But you are talking about "Beliefs" with a capital "B". In his very nice
book "Before the Dawn (Recovering the Lost History of our Ancestors)",
author Nicolas Wade mentions the not-very-recent theory that religion
evolved as a defense against lies. It started as a marker of who you
could trust and who you could not. Obviously this fed into group 
loyalties, and the evolution of "us" vs. "them". 

We might say, in the case of religion and nationality (of the "nationalism"
variety) that these were developments that allowed for social cohesion
to extend much further.  That is, your "tribe" need no longer be restricted
to just those who you had met.

Once in place, I will suggest, this evolved towards "us-them" in everything
else. Not just Republicans vs. Democrats, for instance, but in everything 
imaginable.  As a mathematical Platonist, I am tempted to look upon
everything that the Formalists, or (shudder) the Intuitionists may have
to say with great suspicion... :-)

BTW, it's particularly funny to me to hear people who suppose
themselves to be paragons of utter rationality and logic deign to
dismiss others as irrational. We all have "Beliefs" of one sort or
another, even if they're based on nothing more profound than,
for example, not wanting to be inconvenienced.  Everyone here
would be mightily inconvenienced, for example, if we had to
learn that there was a divine order to the universe, or that the
Trilateral Commission really does run everything.

> I think I know the answer, do you?



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