Tuesday, January 27, 2015

563: Why do people believe?

During human evolution, the hominid brain tripled in size, peaking 500,000 years ago. Much of the brain's expansion took place in the neocortex.
This part of the brain is involved in processing higher order cognitive functions that are connected with human religiosity. 
The neocortex is associated with self-consciousness, language and emotion. The brain is therefor the starting point of our existence. The system that can say “I exist”.
There is inconclusive evidence that Homo Neanderthalensis may have buried their dead which is evidence of the use of ritual. 
The use of burial rituals is thought to be evidence of religious activity, and there is no other evidence that religion existed in human culture before some 50.000 years ago.
The religions which we know, are even much younger. Hinduism, Old testament monotheism. How old are they? Give or take a 4000 years or so.
And then there is this peculiar feature of monotheism. Why is it “better” than polytheism? 
Take for instance the Moon, where the Sun was another deity. Look at this list……
Almost the whole world regarded the Moon as a deity. Why did we stop doing so? We had to send out missionaries to convince others that you only have one god.
In other words, we are in the strange situation, that relatively religion as we know it is only a recent invention.
And that, although the monotheistic  religion claims that its god is from all eternity. 
Why then look so many cultures at the Moon as a Deity and didn’t they know that there was only one god?
The answer is in fact rather simple. It is because we are our brain. The mind is what the brain does. No brain means no mind, no human existence.
Now, what does that brain do  with respect to believing. We believe a lot of things. We believe that grass is green, that this stone will fall to the ground.
Ask anyone…everybody believes these daily ordinary things. But for some reason this does not apply to religious believes.
 For instance, the belief in a god, in creation, in an afterlife, in the devil, in miracles, in a heaven, in reincarnation.
Religion is just like anything else we do: a kind of human behavior. And in this new age of cognitive science and neurobiology this behavior has become a subject of scientific research.
To answer the question “WHY do we believe?” these sciences are closing in on the subject and produce explanations, based on evidence.
Jean Calvin (1509 -1564) believed that man had a special faculty, which revealed to him the existence of god.
Alvin Carl Plantinga (1932 - …), widely known for his work in philosophy of religion, epistemology, metaphysics and Christian apologetics still holds the same ideas.
However, our knowledge of the brain, cognitive behavior and social psychology have not found evidence for such a special faculty .
Some may object, that faith never can be a subject of scientific research. However, whatever you call it, “faith”, “belief”, it is just human behavior.
And as such it is observable and measurable and in the next lecture I’ll present you some results of these observations.
Thank you all again…. the floor is yours ^_^

The Discussion

Areyn Laurasia: What about intuition?
Daruma Hermine Boa claps
herman Bergson: I'll talk about that next time indeed Areyn :-))
Areyn Laurasia: okay :)
Max Chatnoir: Herman, I think you said something brilliant!  Everybody believes that grass is green and that the sun comes up and so forth because that is common human experience.  But religious experience is personal experience -- not shared.  So everybody is convinced that their god is THE God.
Gemma Allen GIGGLES!!
Gemma Allen: ...LOL...
Gemma Allen: we are always thinking ahead
herman Bergson: Yes Max, religious beliefs seem to come from another source...:-)
herman Bergson: But yet they come from the brain activity
Bejiita Imako: ah
Daruma Hermine Boa: I think belief is the motivation to find answers. and science is one step further
CB Axel: Isn't there a part of the brain that predisposes us to believe in a god?
Ciska Riverstone: it does not have much effect if i do experience my green in the grass a little lighter then someone else -but it makes a huge difference if i perceive something like love different then the one i am in love with ;)
Ciska Riverstone: same source
Max Chatnoir: I have had at least one experience that might be interpreted as religious.  It was profound.  And it was preceded by a TIA several weeks or maybe months earlier.
herman Bergson: Yes Ciska...
Ciska Riverstone: so people don't mind - as the belief in the grass is not that important ;)
Max Chatnoir: Everything got very clear and sharp and I felt deeply connected to the universe.  It lasted for several days.
Areyn Laurasia: http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/feeling-of-presence-induced-in-the-lab/
herman Bergson: YEs max, that is a normal experience I would say....
Max Chatnoir: I actually thought I might be having another stroke or something.
herman Bergson: That is worse....
Max Chatnoir: Except that it was a lot more fun.  :-)
herman Bergson: But to Ciska....
Gemma Allen: :-)
herman Bergson: the difference between the green grass and the feeling of love is that the green experience comes from the senses...
herman Bergson: the feeling of love is a direct product of the brain itself....
Bejiita Imako: true
CB Axel: I read a book a long time ago where a man tried a lot of different things that cause mystical experiences.
Bejiita Imako: however stimulated by the senses
herman Bergson: That is also true of religious beliefs
CB Axel: It was really interesting.
Max Chatnoir: Yes, I think that love might be similar.  It's a response to something individual.
Bejiita Imako: its complicated
Bejiita Imako: very individual
Bejiita Imako: for sure
Ciska Riverstone: and we still all claim we know what it is
herman Bergson: There are a lot of tricks to cause mystical experiences CB
Ciska Riverstone: and that its there
CB Axel: The book is called "Rational Mysticism."
Gemma Allen: or chemicals
Gemma Allen: natural or created
herman Bergson: LSD, Mescaline, the God Helmet, hypnosis, meditation....name it
Max Chatnoir: All I was doing was driving home from the Columbus Zoo.
CB Axel: Yes. He tried a lot of them.
CB Axel: The author
Gemma Allen: there are still those doing those experiments now
herman Bergson: But it all boils down to manipulating the bran chemistry
Areyn Laurasia: I don't know if there's a god or not but sometimes in December 2013, I sat under a tree in SL, under a rainbow. There was a strong sense of unease and a short moment later, I got a buzz from my sis that my mom was going to have a surgery. Months later, in RL, I missed a connecting flight on the way home and again I saw a rainbow.. and it ended at a tree.
herman Bergson: so, in fact, nothing special about that
Ciska Riverstone: as it does not have the same effect on everyone... there must be something else in that
Ciska Riverstone: whatever it is ;)
herman Bergson: Well some get drunk and nasty and others get drunk and funny....
Daruma Hermine Boa: true
Max Chatnoir: Well, in my grimmer moments, I just think that religion is a power grab.  If you think about the big evangelists, they are usually male.
herman Bergson: Different body chemistry...
Ciska Riverstone: different air around
Bejiita Imako: we react different to things
Ciska Riverstone: different experiences
herman Bergson: yes that puzzles me also Max, this male dominance in religions...
Gemma Allen: hah
Ciska Riverstone: does not puzzle me ;)- men seems to think more in hirarchies as women do
Max Chatnoir: I wonder what religion would look like if we were not primates.
Areyn Laurasia: aren't most who thought the moon is a goddess treating religion as a dual aspect?
herman Bergson: then we would live and look like bonobos, I guess :-))
Ciska Riverstone: cool question max - yes
Bejiita Imako:
herman Bergson: Ahhh Max..there si some flaw in your question.....
Max Chatnoir: I once saw a young chimp holding her hand out in a begging gesture, except she was looking up at the sky.
herman Bergson: it sounds dualistic....
Max Chatnoir: Dualistic how, Herman?
herman Bergson: there is me and my physical appearance.....
herman Bergson: which could look like a fish
Gemma Allen: the chimps also like babies as far as some moral ideas
Max Chatnoir: Your Inner Fish.  :-)
Gemma Allen: fairness
Areyn Laurasia: maybe the chimp was feeling the air
Max Chatnoir: Actually chimp brains mature faster than human brains.  WE are more like babies in that sense.
Max Chatnoir: So maybe the god impulse is a wish for a really powerful parent?
herman Bergson: The chimp brain has much less capacities as our brain.....
Gemma Allen: hmm
Max Chatnoir: Yes, a lot less.
herman Bergson: We need a longer learning process to master them all
Gemma Allen: i think a desire to know that one will have a second life with a deity after death
Gemma Allen: or as the buddhists future lives
Gemma Allen: never ending
herman Bergson: so a chimp has not even to graduate from Kindergaten to get menallly mature :-)
Areyn Laurasia: until you find the sunyata.. the nothingness
Max Chatnoir: Well, maybe the Neanderthal burials are telling us that religion is about wanting immortality.
Areyn Laurasia: what about sky burials?
Areyn Laurasia: or cannibalistic tribes?
Max Chatnoir: Communion.
CB Axel: Maybe the Neanderthal burials were about cutting down on the stench of decomposing bodies.
herman Bergson: At least it is a ritual Areyn....
Areyn Laurasia: or cremation and the scattering of ashes.. those wouldn't leave traces
Gemma Allen: true
herman Bergson: no other primate performs rituals
Gemma Allen: hmmm
Max Chatnoir: I'm not sure about that, Herman.  I don't know what a ritual would be to another primate, but some behaviors look ritualistic.
herman Bergson: the point here is that we have ideas about the dead body......
Max Chatnoir: Clapping in bonobos.
herman Bergson: yes I know....some animals really seem to grieve for instance
Max Chatnoir: Once a male chimp dipped his finger in his water dish and stroked it across the back of my hand.
Ciska Riverstone: or the point might be that we have psychological bonds to people who are no longer with us from one day to another and try to express our loss
herman Bergson: Yes Ciska.....
Max Chatnoir: That felt ritualistic to me.  I don't know what it meant to him.
herman Bergson: We do....
Max Chatnoir: Yes, it's so hard to lose people or even animals that we love, that the idea of immortality would be really attractive.
Max Chatnoir: And it goes back really far -- at least to Gilgamesh.
Ciska Riverstone: easier to do that when we know how to - as we are busy mourning
Ciska Riverstone: it helps the group
herman Bergson: I'll definitely talk about that next Tuesday...!
Ciska Riverstone:
herman Bergson: You already have pointed at a number of issues :-)
Areyn Laurasia: why would anyone want immortality?
herman Bergson: Yes Areyn....I dont like the idea myself...
Gemma Allen: i think we all would if it were a good one
Gemma Allen: no pain
Ciska Riverstone: not sure if people want that areyne but often they do not want to lose other people
.: Beertje :.: Gilgamesh was a king of Uruk, Mesopotamia, who lived sometime between 2800 and 2500 BC.
Gemma Allen: good food
Gemma Allen: no health issues
herman Bergson: Fascinating novel by Simone de Beauvoir....Nobody is Immortal...
Areyn Laurasia: it's a cycle..
Gemma Allen: no need for money
Gemma Allen: hey
herman Bergson: You should read it....
herman Bergson: I guess you are immediately freed from the loning for immortality :-)
Areyn Laurasia: why don't we just live the good life now instead of waiting or hoping for some other better life
herman Bergson: longing
herman Bergson: I am doing that every day Areyn ^_^
Bejiita Imako:
Ciska Riverstone:
.: Beertje :.:
Areyn Laurasia: That's very good :)
Gemma Allen: and if we had immortal life we could see what is the truth of alll the things that are argued about now globally
Max Chatnoir: I wouldn't mind living a little longer if I weren't falling apart, but we sure would have to stop reproducing, and that might get sort of static.
Gemma Allen: the things that bug us politically
Gemma Allen: etc
Gemma Allen GIGGLES!!
Gemma Allen: ...LOL...
Areyn Laurasia: power for the few
herman Bergson: We are in power here Gemma :-))
Gemma Allen: hah
Bejiita Imako: hehehe
Areyn Laurasia: if we are immortal, the world's problems would seem so trivial and irrelevant
Gemma Allen: many believe that
herman Bergson: I guess we have enough questions open for the next lecture ^_^
Gemma Allen: Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!!
Ciska Riverstone: thank you herman
herman Bergson: Being immortal would be a complete disaster for this world....
Daruma Hermine Boa: dank je wel herman!!
Gemma Allen: Bye, Bye   
Gemma Allen: for now
herman Bergson: Thank you all again....:-)
Areyn Laurasia: yeah.. imagine getting stuck with the same people and issues for all eternity.. XD
Bejiita Imako: cu next time
herman Bergson: Class dismissed ^_^
Areyn Laurasia: Thanks for the class
Max Chatnoir: If we were immortal, our problems would be crucial!
Ciska Riverstone: thanx all
Daruma Hermine Boa: see u next week
Ciska Riverstone: have a great day or night folks
Bejiita Imako: hugs
Max Chatnoir: Thanks, Herman.
herman Bergson: Indeed Areyn....:-))
CB Axel: Thank you, Herman.

herman Bergson: My pleasure CB :-))

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