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God’s Software June 3, 2008

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Culture, Dwight Furrow's Posts, Science.

There is a good deal of interest in evolutionary explanations of religious belief.  This research project is using computer simulations to mimic an evolutionary process.

The computer model begins with assumption that some people have a genetic disposition to communicate unverifiable information to others and then compares the reproductive success of people who communicate real information with those who pass on unreal information.

“Under most scenarios, “believers in the unreal” went extinct. But when Dow [the writer of the program] included the assumption that non-believers would be attracted to religious people because of some clear, but arbitrary, signal, religion flourished. ”

‘” Somehow the communicators of unreal information are attracting others to communicate real information to them,’ Dow says, speculating that perhaps the non-believers are touched by the faith of the religious”.

So what is this clear signal? Why would non-believers have been touched by the faith of the religious? Could it perhaps be the sense of psychological certainty possessed by believers, facing conditions of real uncertainty, that made non-believers willing to communicate with believers.




1. philagon - June 3, 2008

Why are there no evolutionary explanations for the emergence of irreligious belief?

I believe this question drills down into the core motivation of the academic effort to explain away the religious impulse.

2. Nina Rosenstand - June 4, 2008

The cynic in me suspects that the clear and arbitrary signal might sometimes be something like, “If you don’t join us, we’ll make your life miserable in this village, we won’t help you with your harvest, you can’t marry your daughters off, and if you persist in being a heretic, we’ll nail you for witchcraft.” But a firm hand reaching out to hold you in faith when uncertainty threatens to sweep you away, that would work, too…

3. Paul Moloney - June 4, 2008

People can be certain about the belief they do not practice, which makes others not certain about that belief. Religious hypocrites confirm what Sartre said about God. According to Sartre, it did not matter whether there was a God or not, because if there were, it would make no difference anyway. Religious hypocrites do not actually care if God exists. If they did care they would not be hypocrites.

There definitely is some kind of certainty. If there were no certainty, we would have to be certain about it, which would be a contradiction and, therefore, leave us with no argument against certainty.

4. Huan - June 4, 2008

I don’t think it’s weird that academic efforts are spent on drilling away the religious impluse, since many argue that theres little to nothing academic about faith itself. Aside from a study of the phenomenon like this project that is.

Stated in an article previously posted by Professor Furrow, strict adherence to dogma can be explained by an “ancient” portion of our frontal lobe, this could definitely be that pulsating signal. This I would say is that feeling you get when you’re tired and want to fall asleep, not just the tired part but that implusive seek for security, certainty and comfort.

5. philagon - June 4, 2008

I have a hypothesis as to why irreligious belief has been naturally selected for in the United States and Europe.

Due to the broadening of basic human rights and freedoms, people are much better off in these society if they can take advantage of this freedom in the cultural marketplace. The best way to maximize such opportunities is to become someone who makes their own rules as they see fit- enter the atheistic credo. Voila!

6. Huan - June 5, 2008

Humanistic ethics still stand these days, regardless of whether they’re religion oriented or not. I see way more preaching of human rights/animal rights/fetus rights regardless of religion comparing to preaching of academic atheism.

I mean I personally think it’s hard to defend dogmatic faith as something that isn’t in the way of progression. I mean the very essence of dogmatism is the opposite of creative progression, why would it be such a surprise that irreligious belief are prefered by academic efforts?

Take science for example, if creationism was actually considered a scientific theory, it’d have absolutely no predictive power what so ever, period. There would be no development on the theory, and science would take a gigantic halt, if creationism was mainstream that is. Isn’t the destruction of science a good reason to avoid scientific creationism? Isn’t the destruction of progression a good reason to avoid religion? (For academic purposes that is.)

7. Paul Moloney - June 5, 2008

Because creationism is not a scientific theory, it does not mean there is no God. Controversy is on the side of the ignorant. Granting, for the sake of argument, that there is a God, even God could not convince some people that creationism is not a scientific theory. Science studies physical causes. If God is not a physical cause then God will never be the object of science, even if there is a God that is the cause of all physical causes.

Some so-called religious people contradict themselves by wanting to base their faith on science. Creationism is a theory, that is not what is at dispute. It could be philosophical, but those that hold it do not consider philosophical but scientific.

In philosophy it does not matter what one believes or disbelieves because the object of philosophy is not belief. The object of philosophy is what can be known through reason and speculations based on knowledge. This is the nature of the game of philosophy.

8. Huan - June 5, 2008

I wouldn’t think dogmatism is very good for philosophical theories either. It just leaves little room for developement, making the whole field obsolete. I honestly think it severely limits the mind.

9. philagon - June 5, 2008

Sociological Group A: people that do not believe in god(s)
Sociological Group B: people that do believe in god(s)

Natural Selection Assumption: Human behaviors are selected for on the basis on conferred advantage

Curious fact: The above “research project” and other studies only apply the N.S. assumption to members of sociological group B.

The oversight of ignoring group A is completely unsuspicious- because we just know god(s) don’t exist. Furthermore irreligiousness can never be explained by naturally selective sociological conditions, because irreligiousness is and can only be adhered to because it is true.

Next commenter [Insert Red Herring dealing with Creationism here}

10. Huan - June 6, 2008

It’s not that I know God does not exist, it’s that I simply don’t see him anywhere. The existence of God could only provide a source of certainty and comfort for me, and those are enemies of progression. It was never about knowing that God does not exist.

11. forrest noble - June 10, 2008

As for myself, I’ve been an atheist since I was perhaps 15 years old, 50 years ago, yet I am attracted to people of all beliefs that are trying to do “good in their lives” by using their religious beliefs just as I try to do in my own non-religious way. For this reason I have often gone to church, even though I am an absolute atheist who thinks of religious beliefs in general as 2000 year old+ ideas, all of which I believe are only quaint religions that will be completely replaced in lets say 500 years but still ultimately will demand respect that will be granted historically, similar to the Greek and Roman Gods.

I view myself as a future man (possibly 1000 years in the future) looking back on our times with a respect for the history and religion somewhat like people of our time look back on ancient Greece and Rome, the religions and ideas of those times having been interesting but somewhat laughable.

I am an observer of my own time, feeling almost completely that our era is an anachronism of future ideas of perceived reality; understanding that every time is completely out of touch with the future, where I think all of today’s religions will be considered to be interesting “jokes”.

your friend forrest

12. forrest noble - June 10, 2008

Bottom line: is there an ultimate truth concerning reality? the truth I assert is that philosophy, not religion, of one kind or another will, for all times, be the only way to ultimately perceive reality.

13. Paul Moloney - June 11, 2008

I am impressed with the civility of the comments, especially considering the topic. It shows that people are thinking about their arguments. This is in contrast to an article in the latest The Philosophers’ Magazine. Someone actually has an article dedicated to bashing, of all people, Socrates. It made me love Socrates all the more.

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