as a substitute for intellect

t has always been my contention that religious beliefs depend on a certain level of moral cowardice in the mind of the believer. This is undoubtedly true in the long term case. However, there appears to be something else involved in the new convert which is unrelated to moral evaluations. It stems from the physical nature of the brain.

It is this.

The brain of man, as it has evolved in the past million years or so, is simply too large for the task of simple physical survival. Crude procreation and food-acquisition skills provide the brain with little to occupy its vast capabilities. It was made for "higher" things ... namely, conceptual thought ... which, in turn, means ... what I call ... "Forced Induction"

For those unfamiliar with my views on the nature of consciousness ...

Forced induction is the process of concentrating on a data set so as to supply it with a symbolic representation which might then be slung around in one's mind as other concepts are. That is, they are juggled in our mental mechanisms of syllogistic reasoning and comparative inequalities, i.e. the mental algebra we perform and refer to as "reasoning". [ex. - If A is bigger than B and B is bigger than C ... then A is bigger than C]

The algebra itself, may be acquired by "free induction", i.e. what an animal does. Data collects and a representative symbol is placed on that data set without mental effort on the part of the animal. It's sort of an "overflow" result. When the data set becomes sufficiently large, the brain automatically posts a symbol to that set and the entire set can be "reasoned upon" using the common mental algebra. Such symbols can denote objects or interactions. It's the interaction symbols that ultimately form the corpus of the algebra.

Now, a "man" is that animal that grasps what is occurring in free induction and attempts to "force" the result by concentrating on an incomplete set which is not ready for an "overflow symbol". An arbitrary symbol is placed prematurely on that data set so that it is most likely an inaccurate representation of the set, i.e. it's relationship to other sets is "misunderstood". The likelyhood of "reasoning error" is greatly increased.

However, reasoning incorrectly because of the misunderstanding results in problems when applied to the real world that in turn generates new information that would not have been collected if one had waited for the set to be named by the much more accurate free induction. When the thing doesn't work (as observed by our current reasoning capacity), we keep trying till it does work ... so the overall result is an acceleration of learning because the acquisition of a properly guessed (forced) inductive principle occurs far more quickly than by free induction. And when something is learned and passed on into the group, all individuals benefit from the new knowledge from the moment it is acquired by the group ... and ... all can make use of the new principle in their own reasoning.

Thus, by forced induction, we might acquire a refrigerator in a few thousands of years, it being the end product of many inductive observations. But the same refrigerator might be acquired by free induction as well ... but perhaps not for a million years. The general idea is to make lots of errors ... proceeding quickly ... rather than proceeding very slowly but without misstep.

Our inductive guesses are guided by previous successful guesses

And ... our most successful inductive guess is what people are referring to when they speak of a person's "soul". You soul is your standard of "right-wrong" and "good-evil" to which you refer all other inductive guesses. If they compare well to your soul, they are deemed to be most probable and if they compare unfavorably ... they are discarded.

Now it is easy to see what a horrible thing it is to blindly follow another's judgments. To do so requires that you give up... your autonomy ... your independent judgment ... your soul. This is the single most important tenet of all religions ... the renunciation of one's self (soul - for what is more essentially "you"?) in favor of and in subservience to ... whatever is placed before you. In the long term, this requires extreme cowardice ... for those who relinquish their souls do not do so blindly.

Except ... when they are newly converted.

At this time, the large brain factor is dominant.

Young people need something to believe in ...

... because their brains are filling up with un-integrated data. Not only do they not possess the necessary symbols to manipulate ... they are acquiring new data at an alarming rate and it's not being placed into a hierarchical structure so that it can be "understood". To understand is to place new concepts under other concepts of greater generalization. If we lack the necessary higher generalizations ... we strive to acquire them ... we concentrate ... we do forced induction ... because we have the extra brain capacity to do so ... and ... every animal whatsoever, proceeds in its development till it fulfills the purpose of its design. Our design is that of a thinking (inductive) being. So that's what we do.

Hence, the new convert to religion (or any philosophy), grasps at whatever is available to assist him in integrating his "mess" (his disorderly information). Religion is a huge grab bag that will, at first sight, easily contain all things whatsoever. It is only after reflection on the "inconsistencies" that religion is discarded for a more sensible system based on reason guided by experience.

Man is a being of body, emotion and intellect. If any one of these is missing ... it's all over. You might as well be dead even if you still have the body part. For permanent religionistas, the vagaries of religion become an arbitrary, apparent intellect that fills the vacuum. It fills the mind's need to sling variables in its mental algebra. You have fantasy objects and they are "reasoned" upon in various ways with some success so as to generate a semi-consistent plan of existence which appears (with only superficial inspection) to integrate the world into a sensible whole.

Those who can, remain true to their souls and eventually reject religion as a viable model of the world and drift into science ... which is a much better model.

(so long as you don't take string theory too seriously
which is another form of religion ;o)

Ebtx Home Page