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Belief Engine unnecessary for argument

#13: Mar. - April 2004 (Non-Fiction)
Tiarella

Belief Engine unnecessary for argument

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Shermer's postulation of a 'belief engine' in the human brain is not at all necessary for his argument; I wonder why he inserts it? All his points hold true if he simply argues, as he does, that humans are pattern-seeking animals, that pattern-seeking is a useful mechanism for survival, and that we are prone to magical-thinking because "We make Type 1 and 2 Errors because we need to make Type 1 and 2 Hits. We have magical thinking and superstitions because we need critical thinking and pattern-seeking."Why add the superfluous argument that there may be some nebulous "Belief Engine" housed in our brains? If he wants to use the term as shorthand for 'magical-thinking-as-a-by-product-of-pattern-seeking," I can tolerate it, but I'm afraid such shortcuts lead to sloppy thinking. In case you haven't noticed, I have an aversion to the contemporary fashion that requires non-fiction authors to present a brand-new theory, when really they are re-explaining what's been said before in a slightly different way. No insult to Shermer intended; his book is interesting and well-written. It's not new, but ideas don't have to be new to be worth expressing. (Obviously, or no one except advanced theorists & researchers would ever be able to say anything!)
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Re: Belief Engines and Multiple Intelligences

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Shermer's hypothesis of a "Belief Engine" within the brain may not require such a leap into nebulous wishful thinking, or bad science. Especially if we consider this within the framework of Howard Gardner's theory of Multiple Intelligences.Gardner's theory argues for at least eight seperate modalities of human intelliegnce; each working according to its own rules and mechanisms as ways we work to solve problems, communicate effectively, and fashion products deemed useful and meaningful within various cultural contexts.His list of eight include: Verbal Linguistic; Math Logical; Body Kinesthetic; Visual Spatial; Music Rhythmic; Inter Personal; Intra Personal; and Naturalist. He also offers the possibility of a ninth intelligence he calls the Existential Intelligence where humans grapple with ultimate issues and concerns regarding the meaning, purpose and value of existence. He allows the potential of a variety of Existential Intelligence to be named "Spiritual Intelligence", but finds it very problematic Quote:I think it best to put aside the term spiritual, with its manifest and problematic connotations, and to speak instead of an intelligence that explores the nature of existence in its multifarious guises. Thus, an explicit concern with spiritual or religious matters would be one variety - often the most important variety - of an existential intelligence.Gardner, Howard (1999) Intelligence Reframed. Multiple intelligences for the 21st century, New York: Basic Books. Thus, Shermer's postulation isn't entirely unfounded, even if not completely spelled out.For an excellent introduction to Professor Howard Gardner's work and biography try www.infed.org/thinkers/gardner.htm
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