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Author Topic: Why do we believe in God? Because we're paranoid.

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Why do we believe in God? Because we're paranoid.
« on: 05 April 2010 at 15:03 »

Why do we believe in God?

Summed up, this article says that we attribute natural phenomenon to intelligent forces because our ancestors that did so were the ones to survive.

Religion is a cultural universal. Humans in every known society practice some type of religion. So it’s tempting to believe that religiosity is part of evolved human nature, that humans are evolutionarily designed to be religious. Well, the answer is yes and no.

In my last post, I discussed how Haselton and Nettle’s Error Management Theory explains intersexual mindreading, why men always overinfer women’s sexual interest in them. One of the great features of Error Management Theory is that it can explain a wide variety of phenomena. It is a truly general theory.

Imagine you are our ancestor living on the African savanna 100,000 years ago, and you encounter some ambiguous situation. For example, you heard some rustling noises nearby at night. Or you were walking in the forest, and a large fruit falling from a tree branch hits you on the head. What’s going on?

In an ambiguous situation like this, you can either attribute the phenomenon to impersonal, inanimate, and unintentional forces (for example, wind blowing gently to make the rustling noises among the bushes and leaves, or a mature fruit falling by the force of gravity and hitting you on the head purely by accident) or to personal, animate, and intentional forces (for example, a predator hiding in the dark and getting ready to attack you, or an enemy hiding in the tree branches and throwing fruits at your head). The question is, which is it?

Once again, Error Management Theory suggests that, in your inference, you can make a “Type I” error of false positive or “Type II” error of false negative, and these two types of error carry vastly different consequences and costs. The cost of a false-positive error is that you become paranoid. You are always looking around and behind your back for predators and enemies that don’t exist. The cost of a false-negative error is that you are dead, being killed by a predator or an enemy when you least expect them. Obviously, it’s better to be paranoid than dead, so evolution should have designed a mind that overinfers personal, animate, and intentional forces even when none exist.

Different theorists call this innate human tendency to commit false-positive errors rather than false-negative errors (and as a consequence be a bit paranoid) “animistic bias” or “the agency-detector mechanism.” These theorists argue that the evolutionary origins of religious beliefs in supernatural forces may have come from such an innate cognitive bias to commit false-positive errors rather than false-negative errors, and thus overinfer personal, intentional, and animate forces behind otherwise perfectly natural phenomena.

You see a bush on fire. It could have been caused by an impersonal, inanimate, and unintentional force (lightning striking the bush and setting it on fire), or it could have been caused by a personal, animate, and intentional force (God trying to communicate with you). The “animistic bias” or “agency-detector mechanism” predisposes you to opt for the latter explanation rather than the former. It predisposes you to see the hands of God at work behind natural, physical phenomena whose exact causes are unknown.

In this view, religiosity (the human capacity for belief in supernatural beings) is not an evolved tendency per se; after all, religion in itself is not adaptive. It is instead a byproduct of animistic bias or the agency-detector mechanism, the tendency to be paranoid, which is adaptive because it can save your life. Humans did not evolve to be religious; they evolved to be paranoid. And humans are religious because they are paranoid.

Some readers may recognize this argument as a variant of “Pascal’s wager.” The seventeenth-century French philosopher Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) argued that given that one cannot know for sure if God exists, it is nonetheless rational to believe in God. If one does not believe in God when He indeed exists (false-negative error), one must spend eternity in hell and damnation, whereas if one believes in God when he actually does not exist (false-positive error), one only wastes a minimal amount of time and effort spent on religious services. The cost of committing the false-negative error is much greater than the cost of committing the false-positive error. Hence one should rationally believe in God.

However, Pascal cannot explain why men always come on to women, whereas Haselton and Nettle can. The intriguing suggestion here is that we may believe in God and the supernatural forces for the same reasons that men overinfer women’s sexual interest in them and make unwelcome passes at them all the time. Both religious beliefs and sexual miscommunication between the sexes may be consequences of the human brain designed for efficient error management, to minimize the total costs (rather than the total numbers) of errors. We may believe in God for the same reason that women have to keep slapping Beavis and Butt-head to set them straight.
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Re: Why do we believe in God? Because we're paranoid.
« Reply #1 on: 06 April 2010 at 00:12 »
I think all religion is just customs and habits you were taught as a child-Santa,Easter Bunny,Tooth fairy,Boggy man,god and a hundred more.Once you grow up,your 'supposed" to learn to face the realities of real life and put all the childish nonsense behind,but apparently all too many keep hold of the JC fantasy for life.I trained all my children to be atheist and all are adults now and have had no problems with it or me,yet I've seen well over a dozen men die and almost all last words were something about religion-pathetic.Personally,I believe that religious belief is a mental disorder brought on by parents.Fear of the unknown is passed on from generation to generation.
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Re: Why do we believe in God? Because we're paranoid.
« Reply #2 on: 06 April 2010 at 01:44 »
I remember once conferring with some colleagues on the possibility of there being a giant that lived in the sky on the clouds as per Jack and the Beanstalk and other stories. We decided that it was entirely possible that there lived a malevolent being on the clouds who threw buckets of water over the edge to make it rain because of some kind of personal vendetta against us. Of course my colleagues and I were only three to five years old at the time. We knew absolutely nothing of the world other than fairy stories and television. Consider further a primitive society where no further knowledge exists than that required for survival along with a few fairy stories, and there you have your origins of religion.

An inability to explain the unknown combined with a deliberate effort to apply pre-existing abstract knowledge to inappropriate instances is typical of all men. If all your abstract knowledge consists of is fairy stories, then the unknown becomes the land of make believe, which follows on to belief in the supernatural and hence religion. Therefore, factual knowledge should counteract any false notions of religion, but it doesn't. The reason for that is not because of people's (a majority at least) willingness to avoid reality, but a willingness for cultural conformity.

Remove the spookism from a generation and replace it with factual knowledge, and all so-called religions will falter and die, with the remaining delusional believers being seen for what they really are.

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Re: Why do we believe in God? Because we're paranoid.
« Reply #3 on: 08 April 2010 at 15:53 »
Great post brother Veritas. I've heard about this theory of the beginning of religious thought before. Professor Richard Dawkins goes into great depth on it in his book "The God Delusion". Well worth a read if you are interested.

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Re: Why do we believe in God? Because we're paranoid.
« Reply #4 on: 10 May 2011 at 23:55 »
Yeah Religions evolve. Bad Religions destroy one, good Religions help you survive ( and i don't mean exist- I mean pass your genes on to the next generation). I notice most religious folks have more children than secular people. Religious people whether Hasidic Jews, Muslims or Christian fundamantalists beleive thay have a mission " to populate the world with their own kind". Having that mindset helps pass the genes on... even if what they belive is garbage or gobble-de-gook. As in Nature.. strategies evolve by chance and if they help spread genes they persist. Even if what they believe is nonsense.
With Creativity we recognise that , "hang on a minute.... if our genes are bastardised.. that isn't survival but a living death..." so we aim to preserve the White race because we recognise that a mongrel existence is worthless compared to a White existence. The important thing for Creators is that we too become a fertility Religion (commandment 2 "populate the world with White people.") as well as a Religion of proselytism to Wake up our People.
Formerly with the Premier Church of Creativity under Ben Klassen, PM.


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