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Superstitions, ideologies, and religions, too

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Superstitions as a natural, cognitive phenomenon. Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution ... Traditional metaphysics! Dependent upon function. Group adaptation ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Superstitions, ideologies, and religions, too


1
Superstitions, ideologies, and religions, too
  • Konrad Talmont-Kaminski
  • Marie Curie-Sklodowska University

2
Main Project
  • Superstitions as a natural, cognitive phenomenon
  • Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and
    Cognition Research
  • Couldnt avoid religion

3
Plan
  • Boyer vs. Wilson
  • Supernatural by-products
  • Ideologies as adaptations
  • Religion as supernatural ideology
  • Utility of untestability
  • The perfect religion

4
Contradictory, conflicting or complimentary
  • Pascal Boyer et all
  • David Sloan Wilson
  • Cognitive by-product
  • HADD
  • Genetic evolution
  • Tribal religions
  • Causes of beliefs
  • Problem
  • Distinguishing religion from other supernatural
    beliefs
  • Group adaptation
  • Jain mystics
  • Cultural evolution
  • The great religions
  • Functions of practices
  • Problem
  • Distinguishing religion from other ideologies

5
Supernatural as by-product
  • Cognitive science of the supernatural
  • Religions
  • Superstitions
  • Etc.
  • Genetic evolution of cognitive factors
    determining supernatural beliefs
  • But, there is a problem...

6
Superstitions unstable
  • Content of supernatural beliefs underdetermined
    by cognitive factors
  • Many possible beliefs are minimally
    counterintuitive!
  • Superstitions unstable
  • Most widespread superstitions no older than 150
    years
  • Most superstitions probably individual
  • Stable supernatural beliefs will dominate

7
Ideologies as adaptations
  • Group adaptation account of ideology
  • Religions
  • Political ideologies
  • Etc.
  • Cultural evolution of belief systems
  • But, there is a problem...

8
Ideologies unstable
  • Difficult to maintain peoples adherence to an
    ideology over time
  • Probably because of failure to deliver on
    promises
  • Ideologies highly unstable
  • Stable ideologies will dominate

9
Combining the accounts
Untestability
Ideology
Supernatural
Group selection
Cognitive by-product
10
Supernatural ideology
  • Cultural phenomena exapt/recruit cognitive
    mechanisms
  • Mutual support
  • Supernatural beliefs plausible
  • Help to motivate ideology
  • Help to motivate practices
  • Ideology functional
  • Makes beliefs functional and thereby less likely
    to undergo cultural drift

11
Practical untestability
  • The boy who cried wolf problem (McKay
    Dennett 2009 forthcoming)
  • Beliefs that run counter to evidence are unstable
  • Protecting beliefs from counterevidence
    (Talmont-Kaminski 2009 forthcoming)
  • Content
  • Invisible ghosts
  • Social context
  • Items/beliefs too sacred to investigate
  • Methodological context
  • Lack of scientific means to investigate

12
Utility of untestability
  • Popularity of practically untestable claims
  • Not dependent upon their truth
  • Dependent upon a priori plausibility
  • Cognitive by-products
  • Traditional metaphysics!
  • Dependent upon function
  • Group adaptation
  • Superempirical beliefs best suited to have
    functions independent of their truth

13
Intelligently designed religion
  • Supernatural beliefs plausible thanks to
    cognitive by-products
  • Motivated practices support in-group cooperation
  • Content of claims/promises hard to investigate
  • Religion deemed sacred to protect against
    investigation
  • Scientific development opposed to protect against
    investigation

14
Thank you
  • konrad_at_talmont.com
  • http/deisidaimon.wordpress.com
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