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screwtape

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Interesting theory, Screwtape. As far as I understand, you believe that we, humans, are genetically predisposed to making decisions based on blind faith (that is faith in spite of the evidence) . How would you explain this predisposition from an evolutionary point of view?

To get a little more nuanced, I think we are genetically predisposed to make decisions quickly with scant evidence and heavily influenced by emotion.  We are also genetically predisposed to not change our minds or to do so with great difficulty.  I think the first part is fairly easily explained by evolution. 

Thinking about primitive or proto-human environments, there were plenty of natural dangers - bears, sabretooth tigers, other primitive men, orcs, etc.  So it behooved them to make decisions quickly.  The guy who wanted to reserve judgment as to whether that 600 lb cat was friendly didn't survive long enough to have many kids.  So making fast decisions and skipping empirical experimenting was a survival mechanism. 

We make decisions using emotions, built in (and over-active) pattern detection, and hunches. Early man had to use intuition, because using reason and rationality was a detriment. 

In addition, the brain makes shortcuts all the time because it uses less energy.  That is important because it uses as much as 20% of the total enegery produced by the body.[1]  Some of the short cuts are born of repetition, others are built in.  I talked about it a little bit here in the section on consistency.   For example, if you call yourself a "conservative", because you agree with a couple of conservative ideas, then you might end up buying the whole magilla because applying the "conservative" label saves you from having to thinkg through each and every topic and determining a position.  You believe what conservatives believe because you are a conservative. I'm not picking on conservatives.  It can apply to any label, be it political, philosophical, religious, whatever. 

The second, not changing our minds, I'm not sure how that is explained.  But it seems obviously true to me.  Studies have been done showing how difficult it is and I have spent[2] 7 years on this forum changing no one's mind about anything.  Anyway, following are some links about it that might be interesting.

http://www.minnpost.com/second-opinion/2010/10/why-people-dont-change-their-minds-even-when-faced-facts
http://www.peerreviewedbymyneurons.com/2011/09/23/why-changing-your-mind-is-hard/
http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2010/07/11/how_facts_backfire/   <-- really good
http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/03/denial-science-chris-mooney?page=1


edit - the last link I gave talks about a alien cult.  It was mentioned in the cialdini book I discuss in the How to Hax xians thread under the idea of social proof.
 1. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=why-does-the-brain-need-s
 2. wasted?
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Pounamu Thanks for the thorough explanation! October 23, 2012, 09:20:40 AM