[ExI] Atheists and agnostics know more about religion

Dan dan_ust at yahoo.com
Wed Sep 29 17:24:37 UTC 2010

I don't know if it makes such questions meaningless at all. It's merely another 
way of looking at the question. Surely, you wouldn't say, were we to question 
people about "impetus" -- and it seems to me that viewing the world as if 
impetus were valid and true is close to being hardwired in in much the same way 
as religion -- and find almost all of them, save for a few people educated 
enough to understand why impetus can't explain much, would think it's true and 
valid -- you wouldn't say that this makes whether impetus is true and valid 
meaningless, would you?

Also, it seems almost all religious believers make claims about more than mental 
states. And these claims are often tied directly into their religious beliefs. 
The three Abrahamic religions, for example, make particular claims are 
cosmogenesis, biogenesis, and historical events (such as what happened in 
Ancient Canaan, that there was an empire-wide census, or certain battles in 
desert towns, and the lives of certain supposedly historical figures, such as 
King David and Jesus). In so far as these claims can be tested, there's the 
possibility for refutation.

There's also logical coherence of various doctrines or concepts. In so far as 
the coherence can be shown to be lacking or more lacking than alternative 
doctrines or concepts, these can be refuted. (The concept of God itself is a 
prime target for this.)

I'm sure, too, you wouldn't apply the sort of reasoning you give below to 
evolutionary psychology itself: it can't be refuted because you're simply the 
kind of being that prefers evolutionary psychology hypotheses.

And, regarding inner states, their meaning is another matter. As inner states, 
they just are. But this is no different than me having the inner state of being 
angry at someone -- say, a friend. Yes, I can recognize my anger, but the moment 
I start connecting it to things -- such as judging my anger to be okay because 
he slighted me in some fashion -- I open that connection up to validation or 
refutation. Maybe, sticking with this instance, I'm angry at him because I feel 
I'm always getting the check at restaurants and then, latter on, I find out that 
this is not the case. I still felt the anger, but my judgment about its 
justification was off.

That said, I do agree that people have experiences they can't explain and that 
seem justification enough for them to believe all sorts of things. And I'm not 
out to trash all evolutionary psychology hypotheses. I would, however, question 
the latter when they are self-refuting -- as when they attempt to undermine 
logic or objectivity.



----- Original Message ----
From: Keith Henson <hkeithhenson at gmail.com>
To: ExI chat list <extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org>
Sent: Wed, September 29, 2010 10:46:49 AM
Subject: Re: [ExI] Atheists and agnostics know more about religion

On Wed, Sep 29, 2010 at 4:31 AM, Ben Zaiboc <bbenzai at yahoo.com> wrote:
> Keith Henson <hkeithhenson at gmail.com> observed:
>> I don't know how one would refute religion.  It's a
>> near universal feature of human cultures.
>> Rather than refute something that is a widespread feature
>> of humans, I
>> would think it more important to understand how the
>> psychological
>> mechanisms that result in religions (i.e., religious memes)
>> evolved.
>> At some point in the past, having these mechanisms must
>> have improved the survival of genes for the mechanisms.
>> I hope the logic here is not beyond the average person on
>> this list.
> Isn't that confusing truth and utility?

I don't think so.  If religions are a side effect of some feature of
human evolution, then you don't need to consider a true/false question
with respect to any of them.  I.e., understanding the evolutionary
origin of the brain mechanisms behind religions makes such questions

> Refutation has to do with showing that something is not true, not that it's no 

It near impossible to refute something that's based on internal mental
states.  It may be possible to understand the origin of the mechanisms
that created such mental states

> Something can be both false and useful. The placebo effect and some aspects of 
>NLP show this in action.

Not sure how I could respond to this.  I suppose you could attempt to
understand both in terms of evolutionary psychology.  I don't know
why/how they function nor why hypnosis does either.



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