Say what?

 

The title brought you here because it was intended to provoke a response.

 

But seriously, this question deserves some serious thought. We have seen recent debates (largely dismissing) the "God Spot" and Hope has enlightened us with some discussion of the God helmet... but consider this for a moment: were we born to believe?

 

Believing what we are told is a powerful survival mechanism. I had thought that we instinctively feared different creatures and things with a certain sexual bias. Men feared things that could harm them; women the same and both sexes feared things that could harm us equally.

 

There's some credence to the theory that women (for instance) tend to be more fearful of spiders and creepy crawlies than men; and I had wondered if that was pre-wired but it makes more sense if this is actually a learned response: handed down over thousands of generations just like a physical gene.

 

The ability to believe without question that which is told to you as a child is a powerful survival mechanism - which I suspect we have evolved as sure as we have developed language.

 

Gods were invented by primitive man to explain the world around him. Over time, most have either being replaced or cobbled together into one mystery that we still cannot explain: the creation of life. (You can replace that with the creation of the universe, but that's actually demonstrable and probably better understood.)

 

Dawkins and others refer to this idea as a meme - but memes, as I recall, seem to have fallen into disuse.(Someone, please do correct me if I'm wrong).

 

Real atheists (that is ones who have thought it out) seem to be those most able to think outside of a box; whereas people who devoutly believe in some form of all-powerful creator are almost always the product of a powerful outside influence. An influence that is able to connect a memory with strong emotion from a very early age (or occasionally, when the subject is in a receptive state; such as when suffering a bereavement.)

 

This is a very wide brush on what I believe to be a very detailed subject, but if this assertion is correct, we're in serious trouble: we might not have a "god" spot but we do seem to have a belief area - in a very primitive part of our memory - and that's just as dangerous; perhaps even more so.

Tags: evolition, psychology

Views: 8

Replies to This Discussion

The last I heard, the meme is alive and well.  I see it pop up all over the place, online.  Dawkins still makes heavy use of it.  Christopher Moore wrote a best-selling novel about it, in 2003.

 

Dawkins wrote about the evolved abilities of our brain, the malfunction of which may have helped create our gods, in Chapter 5 of the 'God Delusion'.  Do you know of any other books that cover that sort of material?

Not only could everything we do be considered a product of natural selection, socializing and acting within the group being important, but we seem to be wired for looking at things and searching for purpose in them. This is how an animal looks at a rock and sees that it would be a fine thing to crush a nut with. This is what compelled an ape to make for the plains perhaps. It's strange how this compulsion to see purpose and meaning in everything has overflowed into our view of the universe and our place and purpose in it. Purpose is merely a frame of reference, there is no absolute meaning. We are mistaken in thinking there must be purpose in all things, but it worked well for smashing nuts, fishing ants from tunnels, and making fire.
Interesting, so when someone hears about a god or a rock falls from the sky they think how they can use it to subjugate others to their will and that of their offspring. Now that is a useful tool.
Pure speculation. The Scandinavians, Chinese, Japanese and others seem to have no such problem with their "belief area".  More of them also believe in evolution than do the USAsses.  And as far as  I remember the primitive brain controls coordination, not memory.  Sorry, there is no mystery here, just education.

You're missing the point here.  We're talking about the creation and evolution of the god concept in our development as a species, not necessarily its existence in its current form.  The Scandinavians, Chinese, and Japanese had plenty of god activity going on throughout their history.

 

And the primitive brain does far more than just motor functions.  I've usually heard it used in terms of our more raw instincts, buried back in our subconscious.

In other words you fear that we are gullible and are vulnerable to believing authority figures and other dominant personalities. Fortunately with the advent of the Internet we can confront these demons that seek to enslave our wills.

As far as god evolving along with humans, there is no doubt that our concept of god has evolved as we have. I think of god as a concept though, not that we were born to believe or anything like that, more nurture than nature.

 

We are born knowing very little - we are almost as blank a slate as we can be. Whatever memories we have of the womb or birth seem to be lost in the first year (I forget when) as the brain undergoes a fairly small, but notable, reorganization.

 

Nature provided as with blank slates - but I think it takes a fine mind to break the primitive programming that we experience as children.

 

We accept orders from our parents (and tribal elders) without question pretty much until puberty and those memories will stay with us forever. The child who ignores his parents plea to stop playing near the cliff's edge will not survive to breed; could it be that an overly anxious parent could give the survivor of such an incident a fear of heights?

 

I think considered, learned atheists are evolutionary a different branch to our "religious" peers. We have the gumption to challenge what we have been taught and break the program - discard the meme if you will. I suspect we've always been around, but in the pre-industrial age and into history, atheists would have been unable to breed (they'd be killed, or at best, shunned) so such a gene/geneplex could not propagate easily; I suspect that there are more atheists alive today than there have ever been.

 

It's a sign of how powerful this meme really is, that even learned scientists (and let's not forget the Behe's and others are seriously intelligent and intellectual people) are unable to break free of this program.

 

I wasn't raised a creationist, but I was raised to believe in God (the Xian one) in High Church of England. It was my own imagination and intelligence that broke the meme and realised the amazing (if discomforting) fact that I was alone, unique and that death was the end.

 

God is a great cushion for our fragile human emotion and reject that for something more complex is probably too much to bear.

 

@Joseph: much as I admire Dr Dawkins, I've given up reading his stuff as I find it clouds my judgment - it's difficult to remain detached as we must - when reading such virulent and erudite argument from only one side.

... and yet, a lot of what you're saying is exactly what he said in 'The God Delusion'.  Certainly, you should pull from multiple sources, which is why I was asking about other authors who touch this sort of thing.  Are you referring to his thoughts on the subject expressed in that book or one of his earlier ones?

 

We're talking about how gods form within the meme-pool, over centuries, not how they evolve within our own minds.  There's a significant difference.

You seem to be glorifyng atheists for having a "fine mind" and being able to discard their meme more easily, and that you were able to do it even though other scientists were not and that there are memories stored in our primitive brain and its all thrown into a big hash of unsubstantiated generalities, suppositions and a lot of imagination and nothing solid to hold onto.

What ^he said. Thanks, Roman.

 

Yes, I shrugged off the God concept as ridiculous when I was 5 or 6 years old, but I mostly thank my father.  He buried me in kids' science books even as early as kindergarten (maybe a year before that; I don't remember for sure).  I wish I could thank him.

Yes, I am way the hell above average intelligence, but that alone wouldn't have necessarily led to my early atheism.  My thought processes were already tempered by early exposure to science, so the Catholic-dogma brainwashing just slid right off.

Others, even though they may eventually attain much greater scientific knowledge than me, may not have had the early exposure to harden them against the religion soaking in.

I have a more complex idea than that and it is predictive. Nevertheless, I do suspect that an atheist who breaks programming from traditional belief is more likely to be a brain function than an a pure accident.

 

For instance, it's been show recently than the chess masters have distinctly different brains from non-chess masters; and the theory goes that this wiring is present from "conception" rather than something that arises from decades just playing the game.

 

So no, I'm not saying that we have better minds, I'm suggesting that we have different ones. My suspicion is that we have accidentally lost something that is required to believe.
If there isn't a god spot, there is almost certainly a gullibility area (to put a slightly comedic stance on it).

 

@Joseph, et al. I have read early Dawkins, yes, but I prefer to study as little pre-defined ideas as possible and develop my own by observation. I'd developed the idea of a meme long before I heard Dawkins talk about it - although it was Dawkins who solidified the idea.


Did I believe in evolution? Well, I accepted it as being good science at A level but I didn't actually become a devotee until many years later. Using techniques just like Darwin, I can see how creatures have evolved from common ancestry.


One of my favourites is the example of reptiles and birds - so different on the surface yet strangely similar at even a cursory inspection of the digestive and reproductive systems; and you don't even have to dissect any to see that!

 

Now that's cool!

Actually, it doesn't really have anything to do with authority figures.  It's more to do with what Richard Dawkins calls an intentional stance.

We've evolved to personify everything.  It's a shortcut for sensing whether something is likely to be dangerous to us or not.  We can look at a tiger and guess what its intentions likely are, by judging what it looks like it was built to do.  We can look at a crossbow and guess that it intends to harm us.

Where the system malfunctions is when we see lightning bolts kill someone and ascribe the same intention to them.  We try to figure out why the lightning bolts want to do that to us.  It's looking for intention where none exists, which generates spirits and gods.

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