Author Topic: "Evolution keeps us superstitious"  (Read 1758 times)

Offline Jez

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"Evolution keeps us superstitious"
« on: September 05, 2006, 07:02:00 PM »
I came across the article ‘Evolution keeps us superstitious. Now that’s lucky’ in The Times Tues Sept 5 06 by Mark Henderson - Science Editor

To paraphrase;

““Religion and other forms of magical thinking continue to thrive – despite the lack of evidence and advance of science – because people are naturally biased to accept a role for the irrational,” said Bruce Hood, Professor of Experimental Psychology at the University of Bristol”

Suggesting you can’t get rid of belief by science alone, your attachment to your wedding ring or teddy bear might be evidence of this.

““Even the most rational people behave in irrational ways and supernatural beliefs are part of the same continuum,” Professor Hood told the British Association Festival of Science in Norwich yesterday”

People are unwilling to wear clothing they believe to be from people they feel are evil or swap their wedding ring for an exact replica for instance.

““The difference between attaching significance to sentimental objects and believing in religion, magic or the paranormal is only one of degree,” Professor Hood said.”
““These tendencies,” he said,” were almost certainly a product of evolution. The human mind is adapted to reason intuitively, so that it can generate theories about how the world works even when mechanisms cannot be seen or easily deduced.”

While this has lead to scientific breakthroughs it also works the other way.

“”In most cases, intuitive theories capture everyday knowledge, such as the nature and properties of objects, what makes something alive, or the understanding that people’s minds motivate their actions,” Professor Hood said”
“But because intuitive theories are based on unobservable properties, such theories leave open the possibility of misconceptions. I believe these misconceptions of naïve intuitive theories provide the basis of many later adult magical beliefs about the paranormal.”

Because of this, he said, that it was probably pointless trying to get people to get rid of their belief systems.

“No amount of evidence is going to get people to take it on board and abandon these ideas.”

This may have evolved for several reasons;

““I don’t think we’re going to evolve a rational mind because there are benefits to being irrational, said Professor Hood.”
“Superstitious behaviour – the idea that certain rituals and practices protect you – is adaptive.”
If you remove the appearance that they are in control, both humans and animals become stressed. During the Gulf War in 1991, in areas attacked by Scud missiles there was a rise in superstitious belief”
I want to challenge recent claims by Richard Dawkins, amongst others, that supernaturalism is primarily attributable to religions spreading beliefs among the gullible minds of the young, Rather, religions may simply capitalise on a natural bias to assume the existence of supernatural forces.”

(I compare this to the ‘God’ part of the brain that I have heard about before. It was right next to a “Ten-year deadline on global warning” article btw.)
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Offline Numsgil

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"Evolution keeps us superstitious"
« Reply #1 on: September 06, 2006, 04:46:59 PM »
As a huminist, I've believe in a fundamental need for religious and supernatural beliefs.  It would make sense that this universal trait would be an inheritable characteristic.