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belief in god and creation vs. evolution
Posted: 02 April 2005 01:49 PM   [ Ignore ]  
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Paradoxically the belief in god might be a failure of imagination!  The belief in a god with a human-like personality and the capacity to 'design' a material object is easier to picture in the mind, than is a process that involves the intricacies of evolution.  A god and religious beliefs might at first seem fanciful to a practical, rational mind.  But, I think, it might be just the opposite.  The religious believer is what he is because of a failure of an ability to manipulate what, for the mind of a human, is a set of very abstract constructs, namely genes, mutation, process of selection, etc.  It takes imagination to visualize such a process.  Whereas, a person-like god who manipulates things is very easy to imagine.

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Posted: 03 April 2005 01:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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[quote author=“Hypothesizer”]Paradoxically the belief in god might be a failure of imagination! 

Robert Sternberg and others have argued that creativity and “imagination” are necessary for actualization of intelligence.  That is, one can be intelligent in the sense of analyzing, memory and recall capacities, etc., but not be able to realize the full ability of human mental potential without creativity.  The latter, in fact, is necessary for problem solving in order to generate novel solutions.  Creativity, in this sense, is not just the ability to paint a picture or wrtie a poem, but rather the capacity to generate new ideas.  Or to combine old concepts in new ways.  Darwin fits in that category.

So, do I interpret your statement as saying that those who subscribe to a theistic view of god (a human-like character with a mind) do so because they cannot imagine what any other explanation would look like? Even when presented with the explanation and evidence for its truth?  I certainly think there is something to that.

g

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Posted: 03 April 2005 04:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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I think you might be putting the cart before the horse. . .

I think that belief (any belief) tends to stunt imagination, because people are disinclined to think overly much on problems that they consider solved.

Because fundamentalist religion asserts solutions to so many things, people who truly believe don’t feel the need to investigate further, because they think they know the answer.

-Matt

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Posted: 03 April 2005 05:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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Many possibilities can be imagined about the cognitive roots of deistic faith. I like to ponder about the ways that creative instruction can go wrong. For instance, ancient teachers of ethics and morality spoke and eventually wrote metaphorically at times. Unfortunately, some of their followers mistook (and continue to mistake) figurative explanations to be literal ones.

Dave

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Posted: 04 April 2005 08:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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[quote author=“gman”][quote author=“Hypothesizer”]Paradoxically the belief in god might be a failure of imagination! 

Robert Sternberg and others have argued that creativity and “imagination” are necessary for actualization of intelligence.  That is, one can be intelligent in the sense of analyzing, memory and recall capacities, etc., but not be able to realize the full ability of human mental potential without creativity.  The latter, in fact, is necessary for problem solving in order to generate novel solutions.  Creativity, in this sense, is not just the ability to paint a picture or wrtie a poem, but rather the capacity to generate new ideas.  Or to combine old concepts in new ways.  Darwin fits in that category.

Hello gman.  Are you a psychologist?  It turns out, Sternberg’s work was exactly what I was thinking about when I posted this.  Didn’t know there would be anyone else around who’d looked at this stuff.  What do you do? At risk of giving my identity away, I will simply say that I am an academic psychologist with a bit of clinical background.  I’ve been following Sternberg’s model of intelligence, creativity and wisdom for a few years and find it truly groundbreaking.  Just read Harris’ book and thought that a weak level of creativity and, as you may know, the ability to deal with novelty and uncertainty, could explain some measure of a person’s propensity to accept fancifull, unbelievable stories, without evidence.  It is a paradox.  But, perhaps, some of the stories aren’t so unbelievable after all.  In many children’s common everyday experience we see patronly persons who seem to know everything, and we see people create artifacts.  That experience plus an acceptance of the notion of magic is all that is needed.  If one cannot imagine a deeper mechanical cause - that is generate a hypothesis for a phenomenon - then it is easier to accept the god explanation.  This is an ironic, degenerate Occam’s razor approach. You see it all the time in kids up till the age of 10 (about).  But my guess is it is still operating in many adults.

The belief in magic is actually easier to explain.  I can’t remember who did this work but I read, years ago, about how people are willing to accept things like ESP and such because they “need” to have - and this is ironic too - a “rational” explanation for coincidences.  That is, they need to understand causes of phenomena and when they don’t find a visible cause, they resort to mysterious, invisible causes.  I think this is at the root of animism too.  So, amazingly, the belief in magic and invisible causes is actually a form of rationalization.  But it comes from a weakness in the mental capacities as I discussed above.

 

[quote author=“gman”]
So, do I interpret your statement as saying that those who subscribe to a theistic view of god (a human-like character with a mind) do so because they cannot imagine what any other explanation would look like? Even when presented with the explanation and evidence for its truth?  I certainly think there is something to that.

g

Yes that is basically what I was speculating about.  It would be interesting to see if we can generate any testable hypothesis about this.  I’m going to give it more thought.  Who knows, might be worth a grant somewhere.  Oh, wait a minute, I forgot who was running the country now.  OK forget the grant!

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Posted: 04 April 2005 08:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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[quote author=“psiconoclast”]I think you might be putting the cart before the horse. . .

I think that belief (any belief) tends to stunt imagination, because people are disinclined to think overly much on problems that they consider solved.

Because fundamentalist religion asserts solutions to so many things, people who truly believe don’t feel the need to investigate further, because they think they know the answer.

-Matt

Hi Matt.  I suspect you are right for many people, especially in today’s world.  Actually I think of this not as a cart/horse or which came first way, but more in the genetic/environment developmental loop (as opposed to the old nature-nurture false dichotomy) embedded in the evolutionary spiral.  Its an endless cycle, recursive mutual cause and all of that.

The stuff I was musing about has to do with a measurable heritability factor in creativity and the ability to process novelty.  People with low measures of creativity tend to be more accepting of dogma and authoritarian directives.  This can occur even when a person measures high in IQ!  Anyway it was just a perspective.

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Posted: 04 April 2005 11:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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Certainly. . .

Basically there are probably two very distinct principles at work.  In one of them people who are otherwise creative have that capacity for creativity stunted (at least in some areas) by their what they believe.  In the other, people who are indoctrinated are so predisposed to thinking in novel ways that they are compelled to ask questions about things that they were taught to believe.

Another way to investigate this would be to compare and contrast secular vs. religious art (of all flavors).  One of the things that overwhelmed me as I took my first tentative secular steps was the vastness of scope of secular art forms.  The creativity that was manifest in people that were free to think along lines that were strictly off limits to me when I was a fundamentalist was impressive.  I found the difference to be most profound in literature, although I see the difference in every art form where I have made the comparison.

I suspect that the extreme nature of my upbringing makes the difference more glaring.  For all intents and purposes, I had the most minimal exposure to secular literature until late in high school.  For many people raised in more liberal Christian homes, I suspect that the distinction might not be as obvious.

-Matt

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Posted: 04 April 2005 02:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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Here is my (simple minded) hypothesis…....

The human brain has evolved as a powerful and compulsive “pattern seeking” neural network computational engine that is constantly trying to sort through the huge deluge of information with which it is bombarded every second of every day and to identify repeatable patterns, cause and effect, stimulus and response,  etc.  This is the only way that the brain can handle the overwhelming volume of sensory data and attempt to make sense and derive meaningful/actionable information from it.

It is this pattern matching capability that enables us to recognized familiar faces, drive a car without fully concentrating on the task at hand, play basketball, react to danger, etc., etc.

Now, what happens when the brain encounters information for which no pattern or cause and effect exists (e.g. random or very rare events)?  Of course, the brain has no way of knowing that there is no pattern and proceeds to diligently try to find one anyway…….and, if no pattern or cause and effect is found, the brain will attempt create one in order to categorize and cope with the input.

So, how many random or very rare events occur on a regular basis?.........LOTS!

Suppose that you have a very rare and random event for which there is only 1 in a million chance of it occurring to an individual in a given day.  Well, there are about 290 million people in the US and therefore, such an event will occur on the average about 290 times per day or about 6 times per day in every state of the union.  If there are 6 billion people in the world, it will occur about 6000 times per day somewhere in the world.  So, if such random or rare event “miracles” (e.g. spontaneous cancer remission, near-death experiences, etc.) occur every day and there is no clear pattern, what is the brain to think?

God must be making them happen!

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Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful…..Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Roman (3 BC - 65 AD)

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Posted: 04 April 2005 10:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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It seems fairly obvious to me, even though I am not a psychologist, that true intelligence is about being able to combine imagination/creativity and rationality/logic in the solution of complex problems, to enable the problem-solver to see the problem in a new way and find a more meaningful solution.

To much rationality makes one an automaton, able to follow instruction, but unable to use one’s full physical and mental capabilities to deal with uncertainty or unforeseen circumstances. Computers and robots can therefore play chess well, but cannot do basic everyday tasks that require fuzzy logic.

Too much creativity makes one a flaky dreamer, able to conceive all manner of wonderful ideas, but unable to use an ATM or, indeed, turn any of the ideas into practical applications.

The best solutions in my work have always come when hard reasoning hits a brick wall, requiring me to step back an circle around the problem, looking for new entry points. Sometimes, a seemingly random spark of creativity hits, usually when you’re not thinking about the problem, enabling a breakthrough, whereafter solid reasoning and logic are needed to push to a final and compelling solution.

I must say that I find it amusing that people can make careers in psychology by ‘discovering’ this self-evident phenomenon, and then have intelligent observers say that their work is a ‘breakthrough”. I have not read Robert Sternberg, but he seems to be stating the blindingly obvious.

Finally, I am convinced that religiousity is an unfortunate unbalance in the creativity/rationality equation, whereby believers, seeking rationality, are persuaded to believe a lot of nonsense and do not have the critical and creative intelligence to see that the answers dictated to them are not rational in the overall scheme of things.

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Posted: 05 April 2005 06:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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[quote author=“Nietzsche - not the original however”]
I must say that I find it amusing that people can make careers in psychology by ‘discovering’ this self-evident phenomenon, and then have intelligent observers say that their work is a ‘breakthrough”. I have not read Robert Sternberg, but he seems to be stating the blindingly obvious.

Again with the casual observation, common sense, why do we need scientists to figure this stuff out crap? Oh I already know all of that.  Oh, I don’t have to read anything to figure it out.  Hey, TheChamp, I got somebody over here who wants to talk to you.  You guys use the same rationale for KNOWING.

Crap.

g

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Posted: 05 April 2005 06:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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[quote author=“Hypothesizer”]
Hello gman. Are you a psychologist? It turns out, Sternberg’s work was exactly what I was thinking about when I posted this. Didn’t know there would be anyone else around who’d looked at this stuff. What do you do?

Hi.  No, but I work in a very closely related field.  I got the Sternberg reference from someone in a different thread under the science topic.  Picked it up and Wow (in spite of the lame comments above!).  So now I’m pursuing wisdom/intelligence/creativity research in relation to the frontal lobes!  Won’t say more than that in this open forum.

Anyway I’m still pissed that some haughty, hollier-than-thou know-nothings insulted the guy and so he’s gone.  Fortunately I got his email before he quit so I’ve been in contact.  Sorry, I can’t reveal anymore.  Its a shame because I’m betting you two (in fact us three) might have some common interests.  Maybe we’ll meet in a closed forum someday.  I’ll be the one with the red carnation pinned to my nose.

g
PS. Do you know any other wisdom research references?

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Posted: 05 April 2005 09:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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Hey gman,

Jeez, man, calm down. What are you getting so worked up about?

My point was simply that the insight attributed to Sternberg is fairly obvious to anyone who has ever thought about how problems get solved. Maybe Sternberg goes into great scientific detail about which areas of the brain are involved and exactly how the mechanism works - if so, I apologise for minimising his contribution.

But if he spends 200 pages psychobabbling about how you need a balance between a little creativity and a little rationality, then I’m sorry - that’s psuedoscience. That’s common sense dressed up in over-complex language to explain an obvious point, and one that has been adequately documented before. You see a lot of this - there is a book out at the moment purporting to ‘discover’ the idea the we should go with our gut instinct, how our first thougths are often right. Seriously. These books appeal to the slef-help junkies who need a quick fix for their miserable lives - watch Oprah, go with the gut, use a little creativity and a little reasoning and your life will be wonderful.

I’m a scientist, and I know the importance of proper scientific method, so please don’t lecture me on the need for scientific proof. What we don’t need is psuedos undermining the credibility of science. I’m happy that you find Sternberg’s point useful to you - I find it trivial and obvious. Maybe I should read the whole book, but I don’t have time for that and the blurb you have given doesn’t really it entice me.

Maybe you can try again to explain why this stuff is such a breakthrough?

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Posted: 06 April 2005 05:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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[quote author=“Nietzsche”]Hey gman,
Maybe you can try again to explain why this stuff is such a breakthrough?

Yes, gman, I for one am interested in hearing your take on this.  I have not read Sternberg, but your posts whetted my interest.  I checked Amazon for a little information on his books, but was not overly impressed with the general info they gave, nor the first several pages of his book about intelligence. 

Now, I’m curious.  I’d greatly appreciate your thoughts concerning the significance of his ideas.

Thanks,  Maggie

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Posted: 06 April 2005 07:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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[quote author=“Peregrine”][quote author=“Nietzsche”]Hey gman,
Maybe you can try again to explain why this stuff is such a breakthrough?

Yes, gman, I for one am interested in hearing your take on this.  I have not read Sternberg, but your posts whetted my interest.  I checked Amazon for a little information on his books, but was not overly impressed with the general info they gave, nor the first several pages of his book about intelligence. 

Now, I’m curious.  I’d greatly appreciate your thoughts concerning the significance of his ideas.

Thanks,  Maggie

Hi Maggie.

I’m not sure I’m the one who should try to do this since I’m pretty new to the psychology of intelligence/wisdom/creativity.  I just read one book by Sternberg (who was past president of the American Psychological Association and is IBM Prof. of Psychology and Education at Yale) and am working my way through another one that he edited (strictly on wisdom).  If Hypothesizer is still around, he might be able to shed more light on the science.

My thoughts have more to do with areas of the brain that mediate so-called executive functions, the frontal lobes, and in particular a little understood region called Brodmann’s area 10 which may have some role in wisdom attributes.  It is one of the last areas of the brain to mature (or at least there is evidence that this is the case) and that might help explain why some of the attributes we associate with wisdom emerge later in life.  Right now this is all just speculation, but as we learn more from imaging/function studies who knows.  Here is the curious thing.  There is also evidence that this region, in the prefrontal cortex, is highly variable across the population, but, on average rather underdeveloped relative to the few cases where cytological studies indicate a higher level of cell density than the rest of the frontal lobes. That is, the distribution of various paramteres are highly skewed toward the low end, but a few extreme cases are known.

Now, of course I’m rambling because this stuff excites me.

Don’t know that I can add anything just yet.  There was another person earlier in the history of this board who had been working with Sternberg’s stuff, computer modeling, but he is gone.  So Hypothesizer, if your out there, can you help????

g

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Posted: 06 April 2005 03:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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Hi gman, thanks for the reply.

I see that I’m going to have to do my own homework here. Your response didn’t offer any real insight into Sternberg’s work, but I do appreciate your comments on your own thoughts.  At least, I can understand your excitement in the pursuit of understanding. 

It does get more complicated when I read a little about Brodmann’s area 10 and the references I’m getting are so varied.  References such as: “In the modern human brain, area 10 is associated with higher cognitive processes such as planning ahead and taking initiative.”  Then, “....a part of the cortex called Brodmann’s area 10, a region associated with a sense of identity and social image.”  Your own interests were in “wisdom attributes”.  Interesting to try to connect the dots.

Just trying to exercise those frontal lobes a little…

Maggie

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Posted: 07 April 2005 07:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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[quote author=“Peregrine”]Hi gman, thanks for the reply.

I see that I’m going to have to do my own homework here. Your response didn’t offer any real insight into Sternberg’s work, but I do appreciate your comments on your own thoughts.  At least, I can understand your excitement in the pursuit of understanding. 

It does get more complicated when I read a little about Brodmann’s area 10 and the references I’m getting are so varied.  References such as: “In the modern human brain, area 10 is associated with higher cognitive processes such as planning ahead and taking initiative.”  Then, “....a part of the cortex called Brodmann’s area 10, a region associated with a sense of identity and social image.”  Your own interests were in “wisdom attributes”.  Interesting to try to connect the dots.

Just trying to exercise those frontal lobes a little…

Maggie

Maggie,

Fantastic.  I truly appreciate you taking the time to look at the neuro-stuff.  As you can see there are some possibilities there.

As I said I am just starting to TRY and connect some dots and so, don’t feel prepared to speculate too much.  I will try to dig up some more references on frontal lobe stuff.  Right now I would recommend the writings of the Russian neurobilogist Alexandr Luria and his student Elhonon Goldberg.  Sorry don’t have titles right here.  The latter wrote a book called “The Executive Brain” which is pretty general.  And he doesn’t go into detail in the specific areas of the frontal lobes, but it is a good general read.

Thanks

g

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