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The Science of Superstition 
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Post The Science of Superstition
The above is the title of a short article in March's Atlantic magazine. It's about the persistent of magical thinking, and belief in a higher power and the soul, even in those who say they don't believe in the supernatural. I thought back to it because of something geo posted on the "Jesus not a Myth" thread.The part that interested me the most is this:
Quote:
Magical thinking is not just a result of ignorance or indoctrination—it appears to be a side effect of normal, socially adaptive thinking: we attribute intentions to the natural world in much the same way that we attribute intentions to other people. Indeed, a recent paper from a lab at the University of British Columbia reported that the better study participants were at reading others, the more strongly they believed in God, the paranormal, and the notion that life has a purpose [6]. Meanwhile, one of the few true avenues to atheism may be autism. The same lab found that the more autistic traits a person had, the less likely he or she was to believe in God [7].

I like things that seem to upset some of my notions. The passage opens up the possibility that our religious brethren and sisteren (?) might have the edge on the rest of us when it comes to the personal side of things. I mean, in the aggregate, perhaps. Emotional intelligence--could it be enhanced by religious belief and practice? This has been a feeling I've had occasionally when exposed to religious or spiritual people. Our own Penelope, very 'spiritual', could be an example of such an emotionally capable person.

Think of the difference in feeling between two sentences of condolence: "My thoughts are with you"/"My prayers are with you."

Looking at autism, we think naturally (and in a timely way) of Mr. Spock as the super-rational autist, and, I suppose, atheist.

My point I guess would be, why shouldn't we expect that different ways of perceiving the world would confer unique benefits to individuals? It isn't a zero-sum game, where one view is good and the other not.

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/arc ... on/384962/



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Sat Feb 28, 2015 9:26 am
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Post Re: The Science of Superstition
Haven't read the article yet, but I really liked this post. It seems apparent to me that people are oriented one way or another and neither way is right or wrong per se. You can think of it in terms of game theory. Humans and all animals will predictably encompass a broad range of behaviors (and modes of thought). It's a spectrum. Because if everyone was the same, we probably wouldn't have made it this far as a species.

Edit: Okay, I've read the article and I don't really have much to add. Interesting comment that autism may be a path to atheism. I recognize some autistic spectrum traits in myself. But though autism is considered a neurological disorder, that doesn't mean that some autistic traits can't manifest themselves in positive ways. Some business CEOs are notorious assholes, but they are really good at navigating the social environment of the business world. Maybe someday we will identify our best leaders as having certain autistic spectrum traits.

Same with ADHD. We've learned to identify some fringe characteristics (along that spectrum) so that we can come up with diagnostic criteria. But there are some very positive aspects to ADHD. Being creative for one.


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Sat Feb 28, 2015 12:18 pm
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Post Re: The Science of Superstition
So if atheism stems from a neurological disorder, nature kind of knew that evolution, to come this far, would be better off without such cognitive dysfunction.

Evidence?
We are here.
Atheism was not selected.



Last edited by ant on Sat Feb 28, 2015 4:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Sat Feb 28, 2015 4:09 pm
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Post Re: The Science of Superstition
ant wrote:
So if atheism stems from a neurological disorder, nature kind of knew that evolution, to come this far, would be better off without such cognitive dysfunction.

Evidence?
We are here.

You're overapplying or misapplying the findings of the study, ant. People with traits of autism don't have a neurological disorder if their occupational and social functioning are in the normal range, which in most cases they would be. There may be no cognitive dysfunction at all, in fact superior performance. Disorder is a medical term we've decided to use when the traits do become either very limiting or distressful for the individual. Atheism does not stem from a neurological disorder.

It's only one study that may suggest something, anyway. I obviously didn't dig up the results to look at statistical significance, design, and so forth.



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Post Re: The Science of Superstition
Quote:
Emotional intelligence--could it be enhanced by religious belief and practice?


what is emotional intelligence?

Quote:
Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to monitor one's own and other people's emotions, to discriminate between different emotions and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.


have you a different definition for EI DWill?

let's look at one belief and one practice.

one belief

people who haven't accepted Jesus as their personal saviour are going to hell.

result: everytime you talk to an unsaved person you care about in the back of your head is a voice saying "you better witness christ to them or their blood will be on your hands"

bad belief = bad result

one practice

giving money to church or "tithing"

result: minister takes whole family on extended holiday at church's expense :lol:

so.....

i need better examples, can you give examples of "Emotional intelligence--could it be enhanced by religious belief and practice?"

can you steer me in a better example.

i can give an example... one sec

when i joined the church my music making was no longer for money in a secular environment, it was for the "glory of god and to uplift the human spirit"

so i suddenly started studying music for music's sake and lost the utilitarian bondage of the secular commercial music trade.

result: i got a hell of a lot better a hell of a lot quicker.

but the same thing would have happened if i was financially independant.



Sun Mar 01, 2015 1:07 am
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Post Re: The Science of Superstition
Quote:
The passage opens up the possibility that our religious brethren and sisteren (?) might have the edge on the rest of us when it comes to the personal side of things.


nah... no edge

just watch jesus camp :lol:

anything good in religion would be just as good if not better outside religion.

depending on the specific example of religion cited.



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Post Re: The Science of Superstition
religions like to talk like they own things

things like charity, emotional intelligence, morality etc etc

the truth as i see it is they own nothing

everything would exist with or without them.

can anyone give me an example of something the religions of the world can claim exclusive credit for?

i mean something like morality or emotional intelligence or charity or whatever, something along those lines.

they can't even take credit for their specialty, ignorance. They can only take credit for exacerbating it to terrible effect :-D



Sun Mar 01, 2015 1:31 am
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Post Re: The Science of Superstition
The definition of emotional intelligence you give is fine with me. Your examples I don't quite get, but my problem is probably caused by different possible readings of "religious." That word threw you off the track. If you substitute "spiritual" for it, your objections might go away (as you see yourself that way, correct?). Be that as it may, there are different ways that people have of being religious. In your mind, it means that they're judging, forcing their beliefs on others, being rather mean, in fact. But you've encountered other types of religious or spiritual people, I'm sure.

I'm not saying, and neither is the study, that spiritual/religious people have the market cornered on empathy or people skills. That's what my words "in the aggregate" are supposed to convey.



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Post Re: The Science of Superstition
youkrst, I believe you were exposed to a much more literal religious experience than me and I can't imagine what that was like. Jesus Camp depicts the lunatic fringe of religion and thankfully this is far from the norm. Most of the Catholics I have known have been the live-and-let-live type. Anyway, I would suggest that most regular folks are inclined to have a looser definition of God and likely not to spend a lot of time obsessing over it. Me, I've always been kind of stuck on what's really true thing, but I'm starting to recognize that almost all of human experience is emotion-based. And it could very well be that those who see the world through a more mystical lens—but not fanatically so—may be more inclined generally speaking to be have a greater breadth of emotional intelligence than someone like myself who tends to subscribe to the Mr. Gradgrind school of hard facts.

Thomas Gradgrind, sir. A man of realities. A man of fact and calculations. A man who proceeds upon the principle that two and two are four, and nothing over, and who is not to be talked into allowing for anything over. Thomas Gradgrind, sir -- peremptorily Thomas -- Thomas Gradgrind. With a rule and a pair of scales, and the multiplication table always in his pocket, sir, ready to weigh and measure any parcel of human nature, and tell you exactly what it comes to. It is a mere question of figures, a case simple arithmetic. You might hope to get some other nonsensical belief into the head of George Gradgrind, or Augustus Gradgrind or John Gradgrind, or Joseph Gradgrind (all suppositions, no existent persons), but into the head of Thomas Gradgrind -- no sir!
–Charles Dickens, Hard Times

I think if we struggle too hard to dissect a poem in order to work out its meaning, we miss out on the experience of reading it. This is John Ciardi's point in this great essay.

http://www.csun.edu/~krowlands/Content/ ... ciardi.pdf

In the "If You Were God" thread, the point of God not being logical is certainly driven home with great technical proficiency, but those who actually believe in this God, don't care one whit for logical precision. Certainly that fact must be weighed in at some point.

Perhaps the first step in bridging the science-religion gap is to recognize that people approach the world in different ways. There is no one-size fits all. As Walt Whitman says in leaves of Grass, "Logic and sermons never convince, The damp of the night drives deeper into my soul."


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Post Re: The Science of Superstition
Ah.... I see, good stuff gentlemen... Carry on :-D

So instead of seeing literalists if I think more of the other end of the spectrum I shall understand better.... Yes, that is better, thanks gents, I'll put the inner attack dog back on the chain :lol:



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Post Re: The Science of Superstition
youkrst wrote:
Ah.... I see, good stuff gentlemen... Carry on :-D

So instead of seeing literalists if I think more of the other end of the spectrum I shall understand better.... Yes, that is better, thanks gents, I'll put the inner attack dog back on the chain :lol:


I wouldn't say call off the dogs, just know that you're dealing with a fringe population. Or I hope at least.


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Sun Mar 01, 2015 10:42 am
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Post Re: The Science of Superstition
geo, I'd like to thank your post twice.

Humanism must mean that we've found ways to surmount the prison of our egos, if I can use some exaggeration.



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Post Re: The Science of Superstition
from the article

Quote:
Even atheists seem to fear a higher power. A study published last year found that self-identified nonbelievers began to sweat when reading aloud sentences asking God to do terrible things (“I dare God to make my parents drown”). Not only that, they stressed out just as much as believers did


i suspect this sort of thing could be a result of not having "found their centre"

there is still that residue of "child dependence"

they haven't met the buddha on the road and killed him yet (not sure if you know that principle)

they dont yet "know themselves"

so they have a residual child like fear

Quote:
as they say, there are no atheists in foxholes.


Interbane and Chris are atheists and if i was in a foxhole i wouldn't mind having those two for company at all :-D

Bane wouldn't budge a nanometer and Chris would probably just start mixing cocktails or find the scotch or make a nice bacon and egg sandwich :-D

i'm more a transcendentalist agnostic but i'm regularly in foxholes

my belief system doesn't waver one whit, foxhole or ballroom the centre holds firm. It's not really a belief system, it's more an inner realm, an awareness a still point in the centre so to speak. It has many names, the axis, xanadu, shangri-la and so on, but they are just metaphors.

Quote:
we attribute intentions to the natural world in much the same way that we attribute intentions to other people. Indeed, a recent paper from a lab at the University of British Columbia reported that the better study participants were at reading others, the more strongly they believed in God, the paranormal, and the notion that life has a purpose


hmmmm i'm dubious about that

i mean no doubt most of us do but is that a good thing, no i dont think so.

and remember

Derren Brown is an atheist and no one, NOBODY, can read you better than the mighty DB.

He knows you better than you know yourself :-D

Quote:
Fear is another driver of irrationality. In a British study, students imagined an encounter with a self-professed witch who offered to cast an evil spell on them. About half said a scientist should accept the hex without concern. Yet each of them said that, personally, they’d decline the offer


bring it on witchy poos, hah! you call that a curse :-D

now this is a curse :lol:



Sun Mar 01, 2015 11:02 am
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