[ExI] Basis of Belief (Meta)

Emlyn emlynoregan at gmail.com
Thu Feb 28 06:39:25 UTC 2008

I understand that mainly we evolved to be social, due to the mental
social arms race in our past. Central to that was detecting the
purpose behind behaviours; we try to model the minds of those around
us, to figure out why they act the way they do (theory of mind). Also,
events in the inanimate world, irregularities or just things of
interest, might very well be the result of humans, and false negatives
probably killed us more often than false positives in that regard, so
we err toward seeing everything as ultimately the product of a
thinking being (who's mind we will then try to model). We are meaning
finding machines.

This would then lead to a universal tendency to see agency behind all
things. I think this explains the dual truth that belief in gods is a
cross cultural phenomenon, while the detail of that belief varies
wildly (randomly!), to the point that many belief systems are
unrecognisably different from one another.

Why we solidify these probably vague ideas into concrete bodies of
belief, that's probably all about in-group reinforcement, our tribal
circuitry taking the output of a misfiring heuristic and blowing it
out of all proportion. Maybe we love to do this with religion because
in the end it's still mostly not too damaging (in terms of fitness),
and is balanced by providing an opportunity to signal our group
loyalty. Because the belief system is complicated and outlandish, the
group loyalty signal is strong (one wouldn't accidentally profess the
belief, one would only do so to affirm place in the group).

Faith binds us together.



On 27/02/2008, hkhenson <hkhenson at rogers.com> wrote:
> Why do people have beliefs, particularly religious beliefs at all?
> I think I know the answer, do you?
> Keith
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