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Why do we believe what we believe?
Posted: 24 September 2012 05:19 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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Hi


Sam Harris and co’s 2007 journal article ‘Functional Neuroimaging of Belief, Disbelief and Uncertainty’ provides empirical support for Spinoza’s proposal that we believe a proposition upon it simply entering our mind, and that it’s actually only disbelief which requires mental effort.


There’s also other empirical support for this theory, as outlined in Dan Gilbert’s 1991 journal article ‘How Mental Systems Believe’ (PDF).


However, I’m interested in the question of why belief should work this way, rather than whether it does.


I’ve written an article which I believe presents a theoretical basis for concluding that we - and in fact any intelligent being - must form beliefs in the way that Spinoza suggested, and would be grateful for any feedback


The first part of the article has been accepted by the popular-philosophy journal Think as a standalone article, and I’m wanting to submit the remainder as a standalone article.


It’s available on my site here:


http://www.tryingtothink.org/wiki/How_Belief_Works


Thanks in advance


Derrick :-)

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Posted: 24 September 2012 08:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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Derrick Farnell - 24 September 2012 05:19 AM

Hi


Sam Harris and co’s 2007 journal article ‘Functional Neuroimaging of Belief, Disbelief and Uncertainty’ provides empirical support for Spinoza’s proposal that we believe a proposition upon it simply entering our mind, and that it’s actually only disbelief which requires mental effort.


There’s also other empirical support for this theory, as outlined in Dan Gilbert’s 1991 journal article ‘How Mental Systems Believe’ (PDF).


However, I’m interested in the question of why belief should work this way, rather than whether it does.


I’ve written an article which I believe presents a theoretical basis for concluding that we - and in fact any intelligent being - must form beliefs in the way that Spinoza suggested, and would be grateful for any feedback


The first part of the article has been accepted by the popular-philosophy journal Think as a standalone article, and I’m wanting to submit the remainder as a standalone article.


It’s available on my site here:


http://www.tryingtothink.org/wiki/How_Belief_Works


Thanks in advance


Derrick grin


If parents tell a child that a tiger can kill then, non-belief has a very high price.
It they tell a child that god will kill them if they lie, the child will most likely survive it they utter an untruth.
The price for non-belief is higher than it is for belief.
And the brain has been wired accordingly.

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Posted: 24 September 2012 09:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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Good answer.

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Posted: 24 September 2012 09:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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toombaru - 24 September 2012 08:46 AM

If parents tell a child that a tiger can kill then, non-belief has a very high price.
It they tell a child that god will kill them if they lie, the child will most likely survive it they utter an untruth.
The price for non-belief is higher than it is for belief.
And the brain has been wired accordingly.


I wish that the answer was that simple. :-)


First, whether belief, or non-belief, of a claim is in our interests depends on the accuracy of the claim in question.


For example, if a child automatically believes an older child’s mischievous assertion that tigers are harmless, then this belief could have a very high price, whereas their non-belief would have actually been in their interests.


Therefore, it can’t be said that either belief or non-belief are intrinsically more costly than the other.


Also, if a child doesn’t believe their parents’ claim that tigers can kill them, then they believe that tigers won’t kill them - again, a belief that could have a very high price.

 

 

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Posted: 24 September 2012 10:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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Derrick Farnell - 24 September 2012 09:34 AM
toombaru - 24 September 2012 08:46 AM

If parents tell a child that a tiger can kill then, non-belief has a very high price.
It they tell a child that god will kill them if they lie, the child will most likely survive it they utter an untruth.
The price for non-belief is higher than it is for belief.
And the brain has been wired accordingly.


I wish that the answer was that simple. grin


First, whether belief, or non-belief, of a claim is in our interests depends on the accuracy of the claim in question.


For example, if a child automatically believes an older child’s mischievous assertion that tigers are harmless, then this belief could have a very high price, whereas their non-belief would have actually been in their interests.


Therefore, it can’t be said that either belief or non-belief are intrinsically more costly than the other.


Also, if a child doesn’t believe their parents’ claim that tigers can kill them, then they believe that tigers won’t kill them - again, a belief that could have a very high price.

 

 

 

The simian brain evolved to seek out authority figures.
It adapted to believe that the alpha members of the group are more believable.
And as a general rule they are.
The brain of pack animals accepts hierarchical power distribution
The smartest and most dominant become the kings, presidents and prime ministers.
Parents are deferred to and what they say is accepted as the way things are.
If the information they offer is inaccurate, they will have holes in their genes.
Those who offer accurate wisdom to their offspring have a better chance passing their genes to the next generation.
Those who either don’t believe accurate information or are prone to disbelieve it are more likely to be eaten by the tiger along with their inclinations.
Evolution is a master surgeon.

 

 

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Posted: 24 September 2012 10:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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Not so sure smartest become presidents!

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Posted: 24 September 2012 11:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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GenerousGeorge - 24 September 2012 10:45 AM

Not so sure smartest become presidents!


LOL

Well…....it’s not a perfect system.

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Posted: 25 September 2012 07:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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toombaru - 24 September 2012 10:33 AM

The simian brain evolved to seek out authority figures.
It adapted to believe that the alpha members of the group are more believable.
And as a general rule they are.
The brain of pack animals accepts hierarchical power distribution
The smartest and most dominant become the kings, presidents and prime ministers.
Parents are deferred to and what they say is accepted as the way things are.
If the information they offer is inaccurate, they will have holes in their genes.
Those who offer accurate wisdom to their offspring have a better chance passing their genes to the next generation.
Those who either don’t believe accurate information or are prone to disbelieve it are more likely to be eaten by the tiger along with their inclinations.
Evolution is a master surgeon.


First, this is a different theory from the one in your first post. Here, you’re arguing that we automatically believe what a certain category of people say - on the premise that they’re usually right - whereas previously you were saying that we automatically believe what anyone says - on the premise that non-belief has an intrinsically higher price than belief.


Second, Spinoza’s proposal is that we believe a proposition upon it simply entering our mind, completely independently of the source of the proposition.


For the record, I don’t agree with your above premises, but it would academic to debate them here, given my previous point.

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Posted: 25 September 2012 07:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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Thanks Derrick ..... So, does Sam subscribe to Spinozas proposal that belief is automatic when the thought occurs in our brain? (I wonder?) That seems somewhat unlikely to me.

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Posted: 25 September 2012 08:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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GenerousGeorge - 25 September 2012 07:59 AM

Thanks Derrick ..... So, does Sam subscribe to Spinozas proposal that belief is automatic when the thought occurs in our brain? (I wonder?) That seems somewhat unlikely to me.

He seems to - he writes in the above-mentioned paper:

Several psychological studies appear to support Spinoza’s conjecture that the mere comprehension of a statement entails the tacit acceptance of its being true, whereas disbelief requires a subsequent process of rejection. Understanding a proposition may be analogous to perceiving an object in physical space: We seem to accept appearances as reality until they prove otherwise. Our behavioral data support this hypothesis, in so far as subjects judged statements to be “true” more quickly than they judged them to be “false” or “undecidable”.

Michael Shermer also expresses support for this theory in his book The Believing Brain.

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Posted: 25 September 2012 08:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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Thanks Derrick .......  That might partly (at least) explain why people are so willing to accept “Religion”. I don’t see though how that is a complete explanation for lack of free will, because of the subsequent thought process (by some anyway) to question the original assumed belief.

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Posted: 25 September 2012 12:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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Derrick Farnell - 25 September 2012 07:51 AM
toombaru - 24 September 2012 10:33 AM

The simian brain evolved to seek out authority figures.
It adapted to believe that the alpha members of the group are more believable.
And as a general rule they are.
The brain of pack animals accepts hierarchical power distribution
The smartest and most dominant become the kings, presidents and prime ministers.
Parents are deferred to and what they say is accepted as the way things are.
If the information they offer is inaccurate, they will have holes in their genes.
Those who offer accurate wisdom to their offspring have a better chance passing their genes to the next generation.
Those who either don’t believe accurate information or are prone to disbelieve it are more likely to be eaten by the tiger along with their inclinations.
Evolution is a master surgeon.


First, this is a different theory from the one in your first post. Here, you’re arguing that we automatically believe what a certain category of people say - on the premise that they’re usually right - whereas previously you were saying that we automatically believe what anyone says - on the premise that non-belief has an intrinsically higher price than belief.


Second, Spinoza’s proposal is that we believe a proposition upon it simply entering our mind, completely independently of the source of the proposition.


For the record, I don’t agree with your above premises, but it would academic to debate them here, given my previous point.


It is hard for a brain to ponder beliefs about beliefs.
It gets all convoluted.
How about trying to think about thinking about thinking?

 

 

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Posted: 25 September 2012 03:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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Gotta think about that! I’ll see if I can get an appointment with my brain.

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Posted: 25 September 2012 08:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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GenerousGeorge - 25 September 2012 03:19 PM

Gotta think about that! I’ll see if I can get an appointment with my brain.


The brain forgets that it is talking to its self.

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Posted: 25 September 2012 09:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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Guess thats where my ADD comes from.

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Posted: 26 September 2012 01:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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GenerousGeorge - 25 September 2012 08:58 AM

Thanks Derrick .......  That might partly (at least) explain why people are so willing to accept “Religion”. I don’t see though how that is a complete explanation for lack of free will, because of the subsequent thought process (by some anyway) to question the original assumed belief.

I haven’t thought about the implications for free will - it’s not a topic I know enough about.

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