Faith as an evolutinary trait

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Faith as an evolutinary trait

I've heard somewhere that virtually every behavior has some  basis in evolution.  How does this apply to things that are irrational such as faith? Can't it be argued that faith has (had?) an evolutionary benefit?


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wavefreak wrote: I've heard

wavefreak wrote:
I've heard somewhere that virtually every behavior has some basis in evolution. How does this apply to things that are irrational such as faith? Can't it be argued that faith has (had?) an evolutionary benefit?

 

Dawkins covers this briefly in the God Delusion.

 

He also talks about why we look to inject god into everything here


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Do YOU think faith has/had

Do YOU think faith has/had an evolutionary benefit?


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To a degree, yes.   When

To a degree, yes.

 

When you're a child, you have FAITH in what the authorities(ie parents, elders, adults in general) tell you. Your parents tell you not to get too close to a cliff, or not to eat the black berries, and you have faith in them and trust what they tell you. You live long enough to reproduce.

But just as you'll believe your mother when she tells you not to talk to strangers or they may kidnap you, you'll believe her when she says you shouldn't ever lie because there's a giant invisible man in the sky who knows all about everything you ever do.


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Fair enough.

Fair enough.


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Haven't read it yet, but

Haven't read it yet, but might be helpful: 

Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon (published 2006) is a book by the American philosopher Daniel Dennett, which attempts a scientific analysis of the origins of religion and of its pros and cons. Dennett implies that the spell he hopes to break is not religious belief itself, but the conviction that religion is off-limits to scientific inquiry.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breaking_the_Spell:_Religion_as_a_Natural_Phenomenon

http://www.amazon.com/Breaking-Spell-Religion-Natural-Phenomenon/dp/067003472X 


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Also, here's his speech

Also, here's his speech "Religion as a natural phenomenon", he talks about evolution of religions etc:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xwzzOTx4Ag (part 1)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6h13Zv40VvY (part2) 


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wavefreak wrote:

wavefreak wrote:
Do YOU think faith has/had an evolutionary benefit?

read this book. It is a fascinating theory that explores this very topic (and more). I found it very very interesting.

 

"The lucifer Principle" By Howard Bloom

 

Excerpt from Amazon.com's reviewer.

The "Lucifer Principle" is freelance journalist Bloom's theory that evil-which manifests in violence, destructiveness and war-is woven into our biological fabric. A corollary is that evil is a by-product of nature's strategy to move the world to greater heights of organization and power as national or religious groups follow ideologies that trigger lofty ideals as well as base cruelty.

 

 

The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition into the Forces of History


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LovE-RicH wrote: Haven't

LovE-RicH wrote:

Haven't read it yet, but might be helpful: 

Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon (published 2006) is a book by the American philosopher Daniel Dennett, which attempts a scientific analysis of the origins of religion and of its pros and cons. Dennett implies that the spell he hopes to break is not religious belief itself, but the conviction that religion is off-limits to scientific inquiry.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breaking_the_Spell:_Religion_as_a_Natural_Phenomenon

http://www.amazon.com/Breaking-Spell-Religion-Natural-Phenomenon/dp/067003472X 

I'm currently reading it. It's a brilliant book! Was gonna suggest it myself when I read the first post.


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So much to read, so little

So much to read, so little time.

 

Sigh. 


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wavefreak wrote: So much

wavefreak wrote:

So much to read, so little time.

 

Sigh.

 

See? This is what makes me sad about being an atheist sometimes.

Because I believe in no afterlife, I know that I have only a limited time to learn all of the things I want to learn about, and I know I'll never even get through a fraction of said learning. 


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Reading the Dennet book

Reading the Dennet book now.  It is interesting. 

 

Two points so far on how faith may have evolved.  

1. Divination; Sometimes making a desicion is hard so if you ask the tea leaves and act, well, at least a desicion has been made.  Confirmation bias will make the positive results stand out.

 2. Ritualistic Healing (i.e. the Placebo EffectEye-wink  Primitive health insurance.  The placebo effect works sometimes.  Add confirmation bias and simmer for millinea. 

 Proveable? Maybe, maybe not.  Worth investigating? Of course.

 

LV 

"The time appears to me to have come when it is the duty of all to make their dissent from religion known."
- John Stuart Mill

http://theistsanonymous.blogspot.com/


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Lee Vegas wrote: Reading

Lee Vegas wrote:

Reading the Dennet book now. It is interesting.

 

Two points so far on how faith may have evolved.

1. Divination; Sometimes making a desicion is hard so if you ask the tea leaves and act, well, at least a desicion has been made. Confirmation bias will make the positive results stand out.

2. Ritualistic Healing (i.e. the Placebo EffectEye-wink Primitive health insurance. The placebo effect works sometimes. Add confirmation bias and simmer for millinea.

Proveable? Maybe, maybe not. Worth investigating? Of course.

 

LV

 

GAAA! Sounds fascinating. Now I'm remembering another reason why I got away from all this stuff over the last ten years or so. There just isn't enough freakin time. 

 

I'd better start a book list. 


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wavefreak wrote:

wavefreak wrote:
I've heard somewhere that virtually every behavior has some basis in evolution. How does this apply to things that are irrational such as faith? Can't it be argued that faith has (had?) an evolutionary benefit?
There's a difference between faith and faith-religious faith. Religious faith is tantamount to insanity and needs to be forced. It is the belief in something you can’t see, hear, smell, taste, or feel. It’s like a hole in the mind in which the believer (the faither) can fill with what ever he/she wants and it is not inherited through evolution. Faith in things that exist in nature on the other hand is inherent in all animals (humans).

People who think there is something they refer to as god don't ask enough questions.


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wavefreak wrote: So much

wavefreak wrote:

So much to read, so little time.

 

Sigh.

 The very brief summary of what the current theories say about the biological evolution of faith, for those who don't' have time to read it all:

1. The universal(?) human perception of a divine intelligence is a side-effect of certain functional "modules" in human brain function:  (a) we are aware of the presence of other minds in the environment (b) we tend to attribute events in the environment to the actions of other beings (c) we try to follow chains of cause-and-effect.

 Each of these modules on its own has an evolutionarily advantageous function for social animals (other social animals like apes, birds, elephants have them too).  This accounts for their development in the gene pool. 

In humans, though, they combine in such a way that we tend to think by default that the natural events in the environment are cause by an unknown (powerful) intelligence.  That gives rise to the idea of a god or gods and explains the direct "perception" of the presence or intervention of god that many people--like Kirk Cameron--report experiencing.

2. Religion itself has an evolutionarily advantageous function for social animals. If you observe someone adhering to the rules and taboos of a known social system (like religion), it creates a level of predictability that facilitates trust and cooperation between individuals.  "If that guy is pious enough to wear that really uncomfortable holy hat all the time, I feel okay loaning him my donkey." 

Since cooperation, as we know, helps humans survive better, groups of humans who have a basis for increasing cooperation will tend to do better than groups of humans who don't.

Point 2, incidentally, could also account for the oddly passionate mistrust of atheists that permeates human history.

All this is, of course, backed up by a huge number of studies and a lot of elaborate research, including brain scans and animal studies.  Data is still coming in, but it's consistent so far. 

"After Jesus was born, the Old Testament basically became a way for Bible publishers to keep their word count up." -Stephen Colbert


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The need to develop a belief

The need to develop a belief about how the world works is definately innate. This belief does not have to be religious. We develop a system to make sense of how our environment works. This allows us to make quick decisions that help us survive. We learn that some responses are rewarded and others result in consequences. These need to be quick, or else you are eaten by the Lion. The ones who learned at a slower rate did not survive. These are more commonly know at stereotypes, heuristics, and biases. In the Jungle it was likely adaptive to attribute any movement to a lion and not just small mammall. However, we don't just develop one belief, but have mutliple interelated systems of belief. In psychology, we call these schemas.

"Those who think they know don't know. Those that know they don't know, know."


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Quote:

Quote:
We learn that some responses are rewarded and others result in consequences. These need to be quick, or else you are eaten by the Lion. The ones who learned at a slower rate did not survive. These are more commonly know at stereotypes, heuristics, and biases. In the Jungle it was likely adaptive to attribute any movement to a lion and not just small mammall.

Yeah, evolutionary biology calls this one "agent detection" and it's item (b) in my list above.

EB's take it even further though: if a bush moves off to the side of you and you don't know why, you're evolutionarily better off assuming by default that it's a bear than assuming that it's the wind. If you assume it's a bear and you're wrong, no problem. If you assume it's the wind and you're wrong, you're outta the gene pool.

So then that goes over into things like when the sun comes up and you don't know why, people would be hard-wired to tend to assume by default that *somebody* did it. Then they have to make up a rationalization for what kind of being could cause the sun to cross the sky every day and bam! A sun god.

Evolutionary biology extends the groundwork of cognitive psych by explaining how these psychological traits could be selected for not just within individuals, but actually across generations until they become general in the population.

"After Jesus was born, the Old Testament basically became a way for Bible publishers to keep their word count up." -Stephen Colbert


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wavefreak wrote: Sigh.

wavefreak wrote:
Sigh.
Yes, learning is work; believing is so much easier isn't it


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AiiA wrote: wavefreak

AiiA wrote:
wavefreak wrote:
I've heard somewhere that virtually every behavior has some basis in evolution. How does this apply to things that are irrational such as faith? Can't it be argued that faith has (had?) an evolutionary benefit?
There's a difference between faith and faith-religious faith. Religious faith is tantamount to insanity and needs to be forced. It is the belief in something you can’t see, hear, smell, taste, or feel. It’s like a hole in the mind in which the believer (the faither) can fill with what ever he/she wants and it is not inherited through evolution. Faith in things that exist in nature on the other hand is inherent in all animals (humans).

Sorry, I'm a bit dense, but can you please elaborate?  Faith is a belief in which one has no proof.  Religion-faith has to be instilled, or taught.  Then how do we know natural faith?  Why do we have natural faith? 

 I mean, as a kid, you have faith that you're parents aren't going to abandon you at the supermarket.  I think I'm just having difficulty actually formulating the difference.

If god takes life he's an indian giver


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pariahjane wrote:

pariahjane wrote:
I mean, as a kid, you have faith that you're parents aren't going to abandon you at the supermarket. I think I'm just having difficulty actually formulating the difference.
Exactly, we know parents exist and with being around them we observe their patterns of behavior. From the pattern we formulate probabilities with which to predict behavior. This is what contingent faith is. Similarly we have faith the sun will again show up tomorrow. From experience we can calculate the distance we can jump and so when we come across a chasm in our path, we size up the distance and come to a conclusion (faith) that it is not too wide to jump over.
Religious faith (noncontingent faith) exhibits no evidence of anything in which to derive any information for any probabilities.

People who think there is something they refer to as god don't ask enough questions.


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Most of what I believe I

Most of what I believe I cannot prove, simply for lack of time and money.

Many truths that I claim to know are because I have faith in others having proven them. The only evidence of anything is derived from information that exhibits truth.  That shows inextricably our truths or beliefs are tied up with faith of others. We all have reason for having faith in having faith

I have been reading these studies that believe, but cannot prove, that religious experience and practice is generated and structured largely by a few emotions that evolved for reasons. I cannot find a site that definitively explains which emotions or the cause or need for human emotion. There are theories but the scientific proof is not there. People say they experience emotions but science cannot measure or prove what emotion someone is experiencing, we have to rely on our personal experience. Human emotions prove to be both illogical and irrational and somewhat unproductive but I still believe in them.

Modern behavioral science is re-discovering the importance of faith that has been known to religions for a long time. I don’t believe science needs to decoupling faith from the belief in divine entities to prove knowledge. As bad as religion is depicted in most of these threads, the fact that we are still here, even with this destructive nature of belief, gives me reason to have confidence and faith to believe we need it if for no other reason than survival.

Just my thoughts


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Re: Mjolnin

Mjolnin wrote:

I have been reading these studies that believe, but cannot prove, that religious experience and practice is generated and structured largely by a few emotions that evolved for reasons. I cannot find a site that definitively explains which emotions or the cause or need for human emotion. There are theories but the scientific proof is not there.

The evidence is still too new for that kind of conclusion.  Science doesn't jump to conclusions like that--they want to be more sure of what's going on first.

Mjolnin wrote:
People say they experience emotions but science cannot measure or prove what emotion someone is experiencing, we have to rely on our personal experience.

Actually they're getting better at this.  They can tell a lot about your emotional state with brain scans.  They can tell, for example, if you're afraid or if you're angry, or if you are conflicted over a difficult question.  They can see your pleasure center light up or your memory kick in, or they can see when you're thinking with your logic centers (and when you're not). 

Mjolnin wrote:
Modern behavioral science is re-discovering the importance of faith that has been known to religions for a long time.

This may not be what you mean, but my example above talks about the importance of *religion* not faith.  The advantage of religion is that it facilitates social alliances.  But the Lion's Club and the DAR do the same thing without religion.  The Unitarians have been proving for centuries that you can get all the human benefits of a religion without requiring any faith.  In some ways, the Unitarians actually work better for not wasting a lot of time and energy modulating an abstract orthodoxy.

"After Jesus was born, the Old Testament basically became a way for Bible publishers to keep their word count up." -Stephen Colbert


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  Textom wrote: Actually

 

Textom wrote:
Actually they're getting better at this.  They can tell a lot about your emotional state with brain scans.  They can tell, for example, if you're afraid or if you're angry, or if you are conflicted over a difficult question.  They can see your pleasure center light up or your memory kick in, or they can see when you're thinking with your logic centers (and when you're not). 

thanks for the update. This is a new intrest for me and my investigations are limited.

Textom wrote:

In some ways, the Unitarians actually work better for not wasting a lot of time and energy modulating an abstract orthodoxy.

This is something I have been troubled with. Not some much as why people believe by why is so much of the cognative process used in this manner and to what true purpose. Seems like we have evolved a process that is a hellova waste if is not need.


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AiiA wrote: pariahjane

AiiA wrote:
pariahjane wrote:
I mean, as a kid, you have faith that you're parents aren't going to abandon you at the supermarket. I think I'm just having difficulty actually formulating the difference.
Exactly, we know parents exist and with being around them we observe their patterns of behavior. From the pattern we formulate probabilities with which to predict behavior. This is what contingent faith is. Similarly we have faith the sun will again show up tomorrow. From experience we can calculate the distance we can jump and so when we come across a chasm in our path, we size up the distance and come to a conclusion (faith) that it is not too wide to jump over.
Religious faith (noncontingent faith) exhibits no evidence of anything in which to derive any information for any probabilities.

Thanks!  If we can predict possible behaviors based on previous patterns, then would it be safe to say that natural faith couldn't accurately be described as proof without evidence?  Meaning, if we understand that the sun is going to rise every day and we have faith that it is, then the reason we have faith is because of the evidence we see (i.e. the sun rising).  Does that still count as faith, even though there is some evidence? 

Basically, natural faith still has some remote basis in evidence, whereas religious faith is based primarily on the supernatural.

If I am off base, feel free to correct me! 

If god takes life he's an indian giver


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AiiA wrote: wavefreak

AiiA wrote:
wavefreak wrote:
Sigh.
Yes, learning is work; believing is so much easier isn't it

 

Are you kidding? You have no idea how hard it is to conciously maintain a closed mind. 


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Textom wrote: Actually

Textom wrote:

Actually they're getting better at this. They can tell a lot about your emotional state with brain scans. They can tell, for example, if you're afraid or if you're angry, or if you are conflicted over a difficult question. They can see your pleasure center light up or your memory kick in, or they can see when you're thinking with your logic centers (and when you're not).

 

Cool. So once athiests have convinced the world that theism is a disease, and we will eventually know which region of the brain is responsible for the disorder, a little surgery - no more theism. 


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Hey wavefreak, You make a

Hey wavefreak, You make a lobotomy out to be a bad thing. Just think how great this world would be if it were filled with free thinkers with half a brain. Some movements pride themselves on being logical and on behaving rationally, (although bowel comes to mind that is not what I am talking about), but these are relative terms. A human action can only be rational or logical in the context of the situation, and of one’s history, desires, preferences, beliefs, and expectations – all interpreted through the rules of logic as one understands them, and perhaps especially as one does not understand them.

 


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wavefreak wrote: Textom

wavefreak wrote:
Textom wrote:

Actually they're getting better at this. They can tell a lot about your emotional state with brain scans. They can tell, for example, if you're afraid or if you're angry, or if you are conflicted over a difficult question. They can see your pleasure center light up or your memory kick in, or they can see when you're thinking with your logic centers (and when you're not).

 

Cool. So once athiests have convinced the world that theism is a disease, and we will eventually know which region of the brain is responsible for the disorder, a little surgery - no more theism. 

Oh yes, that's EXACTLY what he said. 

Um, no, not at all.  Where did you get that from?  Now suddenly Atheists are Dr. Mengele?

Textom was just informing everyone about advances in science and technology.  It's a pretty cool thing.

If god takes life he's an indian giver


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pariahjane

pariahjane wrote:
wavefreak wrote:
Textom wrote:

Actually they're getting better at this. They can tell a lot about your emotional state with brain scans. They can tell, for example, if you're afraid or if you're angry, or if you are conflicted over a difficult question. They can see your pleasure center light up or your memory kick in, or they can see when you're thinking with your logic centers (and when you're not).

 

Cool. So once athiests have convinced the world that theism is a disease, and we will eventually know which region of the brain is responsible for the disorder, a little surgery - no more theism.

Oh yes, that's EXACTLY what he said.

Um, no, not at all. Where did you get that from? Now suddenly Atheists are Dr. Mengele?

Textom was just informing everyone about advances in science and technology. It's a pretty cool thing.

 

LOL! You guys are too easy. I don't even have to yank your chains. They're dragging so low they get caught on every little bump in the road. 

 I'm am irreverent. I keep thinking all the smart people around here would figure that out. But I'm starting to feel a bit dissappointed.


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wavefreak

wavefreak wrote:
pariahjane wrote:
wavefreak wrote:
Textom wrote:

Actually they're getting better at this. They can tell a lot about your emotional state with brain scans. They can tell, for example, if you're afraid or if you're angry, or if you are conflicted over a difficult question. They can see your pleasure center light up or your memory kick in, or they can see when you're thinking with your logic centers (and when you're not).

 

Cool. So once athiests have convinced the world that theism is a disease, and we will eventually know which region of the brain is responsible for the disorder, a little surgery - no more theism.

Oh yes, that's EXACTLY what he said.

Um, no, not at all. Where did you get that from? Now suddenly Atheists are Dr. Mengele?

Textom was just informing everyone about advances in science and technology. It's a pretty cool thing.

 

LOL! You guys are too easy. I don't even have to yank your chains. They're dragging so low they get caught on every little bump in the road. 

 I'm am irreverent. I keep thinking all the smart people around here would figure that out. But I'm starting to feel a bit dissappointed.

LOL.  You are right.  I'm chagrined that I apparently can't take a joke.  In my defense it's early and I'm cranky (I know, not a very good defense). 

If god takes life he's an indian giver


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The biggest questions are

The biggest questions are is belief in a God and our ability to feel certain emotions culturally or biologically constructed? Does everyone have the same feeling? Cognitive science and evolutionary biology are working towards a better understanding of inherent “belief in hope beyond reason”. The researchers tend to agree that religious belief is an outgrowth of brain architecture and the drive to believe in something transcendent and unfathomable is a “natural” faith. This means our brains are primed for it, ready to presume the presence of God. Emotion is an intangible thing; belief in God is tied to our emotions that would make a God a real thing just like faith, trust, envy, etc. Belief then becomes normal and natural for humans. Atheist therapy and logic is a useless, ineffective, and potentially dangerous tool to society.

Now if the theory is proven would that make atheist outside of the norm, scientifically?? And how would you then identify true atheists? There is a distinct difference between feeling emotions and expressing emotions. Maybe science will invent a pill or something? The point is; If this scientific theory is correct I don’t think anyone could rationalize a theist into an atheist any more than convincing a straight person to give up their life for a gay life style, or visa versa.  That would make logic and rational behavior relative terms.

 A society that sacrifices the natural portrays its insensitivity to human needs