Re: Belief Engines and Multiple Intelligences
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
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