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Evolutionary Need For Faith?
Posted: 19 December 2005 02:42 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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The percentages of those with "faith" in either a God or an afterlife seem to indicate that there may be some sort of biological imperitive for such belief.  Could this tendency toward faith be just a survival mechanism, a self-delusion born of the need to avoid the void?  Perhaps those of us without faith are actually mutants.  As a strict materialist, I can't say my particular approach to reality gives me any advantage.  If anything, it just creates more stress in my life as I have to deal with the delusional people.

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Posted: 30 December 2005 07:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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Here, we must ask, whether a social group possessing a religious philosophy, might in the scheme of existence, be thereby placed in a position of advantage, in contrast to other groups who have a less definite religion or no religion at all. Any ideal i.e., “a religious view, or prejudice,” based on intellect seems to have a considerable social value and tends to assist an individual or a group of individuals in the struggle for existence. It can be seen, how a near universal ideal may exist, without being established on a practical basis? We can perhaps trace its historical growth and see how it took root and the mode in which it has developed. The most we can assert is, that its origin and growth have been due to the assistance it appears to give the human race in the struggle for a meaningful life. What is true of such ideals, and the resulting prejudices or beliefs in the minds of the majority of mankind, applies equally as well to the customary beliefs of minority groups within society. Such beliefs that have no rational basis may indeed be shallow or false, but the race, the tribe or the society, may in the long run, due to a prevailing social factor forced upon the majority, if not all of its members; those who do not accept their beliefs may be either destroyed, expelled or ostracised. The deeper knowledge, the clearer insight, may show the individual that many beliefs are not provable and in the long run tend to intensify pain and misery. We may go so far as to dispel all such delusions, but can such dispelling limit the power of these traditional (security-based) belief structures? Is it not possible that non-believers may also exist and prosper, without the need of these idealistic beliefs? But this does not prove that God is a reality. It proves, at most, that believing in God is useful. “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.” Perhaps. But if the public has any suspicion that he does not exist, the invention is in vain.

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Posted: 02 January 2006 08:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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In terms of the history of people thinking god (a god, I suppose) was talking to them (evolutionary or not), take a look at a seminal book, “The Origin of Conciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind”, by Julian Janes. Interesting premise, really says that a form of “internal” god was being obeyed, and at some point, the separation of the two halves of the brain was effectively connected somewhat seamlessly (a very poor summary of a truly profound book).[removed]emoticon(’:)’)
Smile

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Posted: 22 January 2006 06:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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Judging by the age of these posts, I probably won’t see any reply to this, but none the less…
When I first saw Sam Harris on C-span, and heard in his bio that he was studying neurobiology, I wanted to ask him about a lay theory that I have held for a some time: That the belief in god, and for that matter almost all “spiritual experience” to some degree, is the result of a dialogue that is constantly going on between the 2 hemispheres of the brain. The brain as a whole using this dialogue as a way to catalogue and store new memory, and prioritize memory for access by the conscious mind. Or more simply: in the development of the human brain, this dialogue began to be externalized (one side of the dialogue ceased to be self…and became god.)
I am sure that some form of this theory has been proposed at one time or another (although I haven’t personally seen it espoused anywhere, and was hoping maybe it would be somewhere in this forum).
Over time, I thought of how this model explains several aspects of the “spiritual” experience that run the spectrum from meditation to being “saved” as it were. The intensity of the experience dictated by what degree one side of the dialogue is dominant over the other. (Deep states of meditation being an open flow of the dialogue, with no side being dominant, explaining the feeling of “one” with a larger collective, or the zeolot conversion:  one side of dialogue being extremely dominant, flooding the brain with neurotransmitters, convincing the individual of being in contact with a powerful external force, revealing previously unknown truths, or different planes, or a communication with god.
I am aware that there are many people alive today with only one brain hemisphere (through birth, injury or accident) I am suggesting a physiological mechanism that is not dependent on that, which I think is born out by the fact that in people who have undergone removal of one hemisphere, the age of the person at the time plays a great part in how well they are able to recover and adapt to the condition. (Younger patients grow up with full functionality, despite losing literally one half of their brains.)
A few years ago, I vaguely remember a show on PBS that examined different aspects of brain injuries and their effects on cognitive function. (One patient had short term memory only, one was convinced that everyone around him was an imposter while in their presence, but was sure they were real when he talked to them on the phone).
There was a particular patient who constantly suffered petit-mal, frontal lobe seizures, and after each one was convinced that he had just undergone a spiritual “awakening”. This case alone should convince anyone that there is a definite bio-neurological component to spirituality in all of its forms. It also explains the “plasticity” of brain function that Sam briefly alludes to in his talk on c-span.
Anyway, I wonder if there is anyone out there in the forum with a sufficient knowledge of brain function and evolution to address this theory, or bring forth any new discoveries on the subject.
It would be nice to get beyond the philosophical arguments over what should be obvious, and begin to explore the amazing aspects of a physiology that is most likely responsible for what someday will be looked upon as another evolutionary tool that brought us to where we are today.

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Posted: 03 February 2006 09:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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If we start with the biggest picture - the Cosmos - order and harmony are natural elements.  This would also include human beings.  But human beings are not orderly and harmonious?  So is there a reason? The body is an organism subject to natural laws.  Now what about the ‘mind’.  Are there natural laws governing the mind?  Perhaps there are.  The proposal is that human behaviour is exhibiting the consequences of being out of natural order.  There is an order operating but it is like the order of a cancer, an order not in relationship with the health of the body.
What is this sense of ‘me’?  What is this ‘I’.  Who do ‘I’ think ‘I am’?
Religion is all about ‘me’ and ‘mine’.  My salvation etc.  But it is not the only reflection of this phenomenon of ‘me’.  Nationality, status, ownership, name, achievement etc.  All to do with identity.  Identity of ‘me’. 
This is getting to be a little long winded.  However, press on. 
Now if there is a sense of ‘me’ then there automatically has to be correspondingly, a sense of ‘not me’.  If something is labelled ‘good’ then it presupposes the ‘not good’.  If there is ‘God’ there has to be ‘not God’.  And so on.  Thus has there been inadvertantly a division created in consciousness? In the mind? I am ‘this’ and ‘I want to be that’!  But is the ‘not me’, the ‘not good’ also just as much ‘me’?  Is it that consciousness, the mind, cannot be divided?  What ever ‘I’ experience, the whole thing is ‘me’?
So is the state of the world that we now all participate in the consequence of this division, this separation into ‘me’ and ‘not me’?  The implications?  If it is an illusion then trying to solve problems created by an illusion is obviously maintaining the illusion, yes, no?
But the ‘urge’ to do somthing is very strong, driving us to seek solutions.  There may not be ‘a solution’ to a problem created by an illusion.  It might be enough to see the illusion?
Also, is a major feature of such an illusion, the illusion of a ‘me’ the precipitate urge to disagree.  To separate?  How else will ‘I’ know I’m different and separate from ‘you’?  So we need to look at this together don’t we?  All together, preferably. smile

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Posted: 03 February 2006 11:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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The direction of your comments make sense to me, Jonnydor.

What is real and what is illusion? This is a question worthy of serious reflection. Do any ingredients of the mind live up to what is casually thought of as “real”?

Obviously, mind consists of no matter. It’s a concept. But some people feel that mind and its constituent parts somehow exist, perhaps in another dimension.

What do you think?

As for the question of humanity’s obsession with “me,” “mine,” “I,” etc., I suspect that this distinction came about naturally once our ancestors started inventing word use. Or is this over-obvious since there can be no “me” without the word “me.” (Now I’m getting confused.)

I hope to hear more from you.

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Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

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Posted: 04 February 2006 01:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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Yes indeed homunculus, what is real and what is illusion?
After considering the question there was an answer but…....no! 
That left the question again?????
Then this - what is the state of the mind when such a question is posed? Is this a ‘shift’ in the mind.  A shift from question and answer to question and effect (of the question)?  Is this then the real -  the state of the mind itself, our state of being, rather than subject matter in the mind, in fact regardless of what the subject matter might happen to be?
Afterall when we consider this a little more, at the moment we are concerned with subject matter primarily.  Not how we approach that subject matter.  Not the state of the mind, the state of the body, that acts on that subject matter.
Yes, it feels like there is ‘me’ here.  What would make me question it?  Maybe the fact that the Cosmos appears to be Order and yet not me.  Over to you?[/url]

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Posted: 04 February 2006 04:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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I have worked out a solution to this problem, but the solution probably only works for me. It may not make sense to anyone else, but for some reason it allows me to feel comfortable.

It involves breaking down the question of mind and its existence to fundamental constituent parts. To play this little game, I look at other animals and try to imagine what goes on in their “minds.” That is, how does the brain of an ant influence the actions of the ant? What about the brain of a turtle? A cat? . . . and so on. Even plants are directed by their environments to “act,” in a sense, right? How else can a tomato plant align its leaves to maximize the angle of the sunlight?

Does this make any sense? To summarize, I’ll just say that mind, as it’s usually assumed to be, is an illusion, but an extremely useful illusion. A memory can be thought of as a hallucination, in the sense that your brain is sending you signals about something beyond what is actually before you in a literal sense. This is mind. Consciousness is present when mind is awake to an environment.

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Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

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Posted: 04 February 2006 06:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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Yes.  The point for me is to keep it very simple.  The state of my mind seems to be a key factor. But first is it possible that we human beings have more in common than our differences seem to suggest?  As I see it, we do.  We have general things in common, joy, humour, hope, imagination, fantasy, anger, fear, discontent, unhappiness, sorrow, regret, belief, opinion, attachment, struggle, desire, jealousy etc. etc. We have these general things in common.  The particular form they take in me, the way they are expressed, is different to you.  It seems to boil down to this basically, we have ‘problems’ in common.  And we are individually trying to solve these problems.  This is what I see, but I may be wrong. But if not then the question might be - do all human problems have a common source? I think they do but again, is this so?  To me the common source is ‘emptiness’, ‘nothingness’, ‘void’? Are these the actual problem though or is moving away to ‘something’ the real problem?  Just asking? (Do you see why the question?  Has this sense of emptiness created religions?) 
If we come upon this experience of emptiness, a ‘bottomless pit’, then what is it like for us?  What is the effect on us?  Do we stay there and wonder what it is. Or not?  Keeping it simple, what is the fact of the matter?  What is going on in the mind, the body, when it is confronted with this?  And is it possible to face it and understand it once and for all? Can we be aware of what is going on in us at this point or is it too disturbing?  In either case if we are detached enough we will have observed the actual fact.  Can I ‘move’ with that, the fact, deal with the fact, not get immersed in ‘my’ opinions, solutions, regarding the fact?
I would really like to see if it is a fact that there is a common source to all human problems and in so doing not delude myself or anyone else for that matter.
Sam Harris has written a ground-breaking book.  Will it be a step toward general change or a variation on the theme of particular change?

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Posted: 04 February 2006 03:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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Jonnydor:

. . . the question might be - do all human problems have a common source? I think they do but again, is this so? To me the common source is ‘emptiness’, ‘nothingness’, ‘void’? Are these the actual problem though or is moving away to ‘something’ the real problem? Just asking? (Do you see why the question? Has this sense of emptiness created religions?)

To the last question above, I see things in reverse order. That is, religious and other superstitious ways of viewing life are built in to our languages and cultural institutions. This condition tends, it seems to me, to build up our expectations far beyond what is reasonable. Expectation and emotion are closely tied to each other. If we choose to live without religion then we need to also carefully steer clear of hidden religious aspects of our culture. Not an easy thing to do. But emotional maturity and general happiness hinge on our ability to avoid the mental traps that push expectation beyond the reasonable.

So I’d say the subject matter of Sam Harris’ book does indeed seem to point to a significant solution to humanity’s problems. But not all of them. And I would say that not all human problems have a common source, but of course such an answer depends on your methodologies of arriving at such conclusions. A talented philosopher could convincingly argue both sides of the question.

If we come upon this experience of emptiness, a ‘bottomless pit’, then what is it like for us? What is the effect on us? Do we stay there and wonder what it is. Or not?

My recommendation is that you stare down any and all thoughts and emotions that might seem to need inspection. How else can we become comfortable with our self understanding? So many people seem to fear stark reality but utter frankness and self-honesty are at times essential for solving problems in the most effective ways.

For an overview of how one can live a meaningful life free of Deistic bullshit, I would recommend that you read as many CanZen posts as you have time to do. He could compile his writings on this forum into a best-selling book, I suspect.

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Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

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Posted: 04 February 2006 09:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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Homunculus,

I appreciate your responses.  This is new for me entering a forum.  I’m hesitant because I don’t want to get into a discussion and state my view of things from my personal perspective.  I look at the human being phenomenonologically.  Not divorced from emotions or anything, including everything.  As a human being I can be aware of how my mind works and actions follow or not from that.  By not getting caught up in ‘my’ particular expression of ‘self’ or someone else’s, I find my mind has opened to the general expression of ‘self’.  In simple terms, rather than ‘move’ from the particular religion I was raised in to its opposite, atheism, the pertinent thing for me is why do human beings believe anything at all, and want to stick to that regardless of the destruction it might be causing?  Religion is just one aspect of the destruction.  We destroy wildlife, whole natural environments,  Why? What is the difference believing there is God and believing there is not a God?  The common factor in both is Belief surely.  That is where I want to direct my attention, to the whole picture.  So is there anyone who wants to do that too?  That is the question for me.  smile

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Posted: 05 February 2006 04:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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Jonnydor:

. . . the pertinent thing for me is why do human beings believe anything at all, and want to stick to that regardless of the destruction it might be causing? Religion is just one aspect of the destruction. We destroy wildlife, whole natural environments, Why?

Most people, it seems to me, are afraid to think for themselves. They rely on instructions of others, whether alive or from the past. If the human organism were set up differently, where each of our brains informed us individualistically, we might have billions of conflicting agendas—one for each human being on the planet.

I think this is why people such as Sam Harris are taking a stand. It’s why environmental activists and activists of all kinds take a stand. Humanity desperately needs competent leadership.

I’ve said it on other posts: We are currently starting a new era, so to speak. It will be an incredibly destructive one unless we can manage to find and adhere to proper, competent leaders.

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Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
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Posted: 06 February 2006 03:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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Homunculus.  I think you are focused on a central point.  We have had leaders, and therefore followers, for the last 2000 years and we are where we are today.  Is that the path to continue taking - follow the leader - or, strike out on ones own? 
After all if you don’t ‘know’ what leads you to think anybody knows?
We have been educated at all levels to think and ‘believe’ we are seperate ‘selves’, separate individuals with ‘free will’.  Hence the perennial question “what will happen to ‘me’ when I die”?  And therefore ‘religions’.  But if there is no separation in actual fact,  and this is beginning to emerge as a serious question in the West among some scientists, that ‘separation’ only exists in the mind, then there is the matter of ‘change’.  Am I trying to change something that has come into being from the idea that there is a separate self, from an illusion? Yes, a new era!  :o

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Posted: 06 February 2006 04:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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Jonnydor:

Homunculus. I think you are focused on a central point. We have had leaders, and therefore followers, for the last 2000 years and we are where we are today. Is that the path to continue taking - follow the leader - or, strike out on ones own?

Our species, as it continues to mature—assuming we manage to survive—will accomplish astounding things. But it probably won’t happen suddenly, just as an adolescent boy doesn’t grow into middle-age maturity and shop for an Elantra suddenly.

I don’t mean to imply that most human adults are incapable of making important decisions. But our organism, in a macro sense, is still fairly immature. Individual people—most of us anyway—respond productively to strong leadership. My hope is that more individuals begin making informed decisions rather than allowing themselves to be, in a sense, hypnotized or at least manipulated by TV commercials, pastors, and politicians who are ill-informed and lacking in insight. (Hmm. . . any politician in particular come to mind these days?)

After all if you don’t ‘know’ what leads you to think anybody knows?

In a somewhat literal sense, no one knows a thing. We all follow the leader in one form or another. True originality in the world is almost nonexistent in my opinion, and that’s why artists are so important. They’re the closest thing to originating true insight, again—in my opinion. Unfortunately, truly original artists are rare, and at any given moment on the entire planet, are more often than not nonexistent.

We have been educated at all levels to think and ‘believe’ we are separate ‘selves’, separate individuals with ‘free will’. Hence the perennial question “what will happen to ‘me’ when I die”? And therefore ‘religions’. But if there is no separation in actual fact, and this is beginning to emerge as a serious question in the West among some scientists, that ‘separation’ only exists in the mind, then there is the matter of ‘change’. Am I trying to change something that has come into being from the idea that there is a separate self, from an illusion? Yes, a new era!


If individual people allow themselves to peer deeply into their nature (and right now it is taboo to do so with any kind of meaningful thoroughness), maybe the physical boundaries between them will start to erode and unravel. What you say sounds interesting. Where did the concept originate from? Is it a concept you came up with or did someone else lead you to it? (Just curious.)

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Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
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Posted: 06 February 2006 11:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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Homunculus   “Be still from seeking for what you are seeking is seeking after thee”  This was the first hint for me of something out of the ordinary.  It was a ‘quote for the day’ on my desk calender.  Over time you come across other things.  For instance there are biblical passages along the lines of, “the Kingdom of Heaven is within you”.  “Go within”. “Be still and know I am God”.
From the East, “I am That by which I know I am”. Also this,  “...ask yourself the qestion what is God?  Is the whole answer in the question, not separate from the question”?
Knowledge clearly divides people so whatever is discovered ‘within’ cannot be at the level of knowledge, can it?  So if someone says they know…..............!  What is new in that? 
You can explain,describe, very carefully how to ride a bicycle, but I actually have to get on it to find out. Then it is my experience and no one can persuade me otherwise, right?
To me now, the question is more important than any answer.  That is why I wonder if there is anyone willing to ‘look’ with me at the whole picture, the biggest possible picture, rather than discuss, or trade opinions?  smile

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Posted: 06 February 2006 02:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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Jonnydor, I find your posts too compelling to leave alone, and I wish others would enter our dialog. Especially because I don’t know anything about your background, I suspect that I’m misinterpreting you and most likely mangling your thoughts. (My apologies.)

Earlier, you said:

If we start with the biggest picture - the Cosmos - order and harmony are natural elements. This would also include human beings. But human beings are not orderly and harmonious? So is there a reason? The body is an organism subject to natural laws. Now what about the ‘mind’. Are there natural laws governing the mind? Perhaps there are. The proposal is that human behaviour is exhibiting the consequences of being out of natural order. There is an order operating but it is like the order of a cancer, an order not in relationship with the health of the body.

To me (sorry—back to opinions here), a word-concept such as “order” is artificial in the Cosmos sense you allude to above. I am very much against the concept of Plato’s forms, and have little cosmic regard for tables, chairs, even dogs, and yes, Homo sapiens.

The human mind is highly skilled at inventing forms by way of coining words and passing down those words to successive generations. If dolphins had fluidity with words, I suspect they’d do much the same thing. How would we view dolphin words, if they existed? Or word-concepts from beings on some distant planet? I’d say they probably would not apply directly to the human condition.

Would you agree with me that every human meaning that exists was invented-discovered by humans? Or are you driving at something more? Something mystical or Deistic?

Thanks much.

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Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

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