[ExI] psychology

Ben Zaiboc ben at zaiboc.net
Thu Apr 23 18:20:15 UTC 2020

On 23/04/2020 18:36, bill w wrote:
> to wonder how evolution shaped humans to believe in gods.
> Keith
> That's my question.  Perhaps there is some cognitive function that we 
> absolutely need to function properly that has the consequence, or side 
> effect, or extension, of believing in things without data or reason.
> Speculation invited.

I always thought that religion was the result of our desire to 
understand how the world works, but kind of gone wrong. I remember 
writing a little story a long time ago called "The Heavy Breathing Sea 
Slapper" or something similar, which was about how people managed to 
come up with the idea of a crazy invisible being, on the basis of their 
observations of the weather, and a desire to /explain/ things, at any cost.

Another factor is probably our tendency to attribute agency to things, 
even when it's not appropriate. Kids do this all the time to inanimate 
objects. Something only needs to have a suggestion of big eyes, and it 
becomes a friend.

There might be a good evolutionary explanation, in the idea that it's 
better to assume that the rustling in the bushes is a lion, and run 
away, than to assume it's just the wind, and ignore it. So everything 
that moves becomes associated with something with (usually malicious) 

It seems to me that religions started off as just our own curiosity and 
drive to understand (with maybe a bit of fear and drive to survive, as 
well), then somehow turned sour. In that view, science and religion have 
the same roots, just very different outcomes.

The real puzzle, to me, is not how religion came to be, but how it 
persists. There are signs that it might not, in the long term, but that 
might just be wishful thinking.

Ben Zaiboc

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