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Thread: (ir)rationality

  1. #1 (ir)rationality 
    Forum Professor marcusclayman's Avatar
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    "There is a point when rationality is non-adaptive, so to say someone doesn't have a reason for being irrational is short sighted and taking the very complex human being for face value."

    I said this in another thread and it wasn't understood. Since it's an evolutionary psychology topic, it will be more productive to discuss it here than the religion section.

    Let me first clarify that the above statement does not imply "rationality is non-adaptive"

    Rationality is guided by reason and is thus predictable by those who know reason.

    So it can be useful to seem insane to people who may try to manipulate you.

    This attitude, to hide one's true intentions is very selective. For example, in general if you want a mate you don't walk up to a prospective gene pool and demand their participation in your gene's evolution. Much about social interaction is deceptive in nature, although not in the sense that we are consciously aware of it.

    Religion and more precisely, the idea of God, may be an expression of insanity, hiding one's rationality from the world.

    Just because someone gives a few "bad" reasons for believing in God, doesn't mean that those are their reasons. Maybe they are just "bad" at justifying their actions. Maybe they are hiding their real reasons as an adaption to remaining unpredictable.


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  3. #2 Re: (ir)rationality 
    Reptile Dysfunction drowsy turtle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    So it can be useful to seem insane to people who may try to manipulate you.
    Oh, I can back up this claim. It works very well.

    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    This attitude, to hide one's true intentions is very selective. For example, in general if you want a mate you don't walk up to a prospective gene pool and demand their participation in your gene's evolution. Much about social interaction is deceptive in nature, although not in the sense that we are consciously aware of it.

    Yes, this is what leads me to believe that our evolution is now more focused on the ability to interact socially than the ability to find food, escape predators, etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    Religion and more precisely, the idea of God, may be an expression of insanity, hiding one's rationality from the world.
    Ironically, I usually find that it is considered a sign of insanity that I am not religious.


    "The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong it usually turns out to be impossible to get at or repair." ~ Douglas Adams
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  4. #3  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard paralith's Avatar
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    marcus, what you are really talking about is unpredictability. Religious belief is not necessarily unpredictable. I think a lot of us know that from personal experience, having encountered a lot of the same arguments from religious types again and again.
    Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.
    ~Jean-Paul Sartre
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  5. #4  
    Forum Professor marcusclayman's Avatar
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    As far as religion goes, this argument might be more useful when considering the origins.

    I'm assuming a lot here, so feel free to slap my argument around.

    How many religious leaders have you talked to?

    Everyone I talk to is a politician more or less. Not upfront about anything, and not as limited in their arguments as most. They are trying to recruit people, not just represent their own views. They understand that to recruit people they need to speak to the person as they are.

    As far as religious arguments go, the irrationality of their arguments can be a distraction from the rationality of their social network.

    Being predictably irrational fits my claim.

    and being irrational but failing to deceive, IE, not being skilled at deception but trying anyway
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  6. #5  
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    From an evolutionary psychology perspective, you seem to be suggesting that keeping the "true" reasons for one's belief hidden would provide some sort of evolutionary advantage.

    Considering all that we know about in-group/out-group biases and what we believe might be true about the evolutionary advantages of highly social animals, this seems difficult to reconcile.

    Furthermore, even if it were true that True Believers kept their actual reasons for belief hidden, those reasons should be able to be reasoned out nonetheless. Not to mention, this completely ignores the fact that many, MANY people deconvert from religion. If there were some shared "ultra secret good reason" for believing, surely one of them (us) would have spilled the beans.

    I realize the my incredulity of the argument is hardly a sound refutation, however I do hope that it will at least point out that the hypothesis presented doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense.

    EDIT: one last thing.

    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    and being irrational but failing to deceive, IE, not being skilled at deception but trying anyway
    This would seem to suggest that when a religious person is attempting to convert someone to their religion, they are being deceptive. At best this would seem to be a clear acknowledgment that people who initially accept religion do so for bad reasons.
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  7. #6  
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    What I am getting at is a combination of self deception and eugenics.

    Mixed in with most religious stories are teachings of moral, social and political bearing. Clearly a type of archaic eugenics. "favor he who doth A, punish he who doth B"

    if you favor those who show characteristic A and punish those who show characteristic B it is clear that those with characteristic A will flourish while those with B will be hindered from flourishing.

    The Jews for a very long time favored male scholars. Women were subjected to homemaking and serving the man. Men were generally craftsmen tied together by their religious service, which could be summed up as studying and discussing scripture. Those who had the best memories, abstract imaginations and critical thought(assuming it was guided in the proper direction) where favored. Those who with less mental faculties where not necessarily punished, but they were hindered from flourishing. They did not marry into as wealthy of families and did not live as high a quality of life. If you lacked faith, discipline, and religiosity(in the form of following rules), then you were indeed punished and more or less exiled from the community.

    If this is not eugenics at work I don't know what is.

    But when thinking about eugenics secularists generally only focus on the behavior, and not the thought. Religion, unlike laws, attempts to control thought and not just action, favoring those who think a curtain way, and not just those who act a curtain way.

    You can test the way someone thinks through intelligence tests. Asking them to remember a series of mathematical patterns, for example, will measure one way of thinking. Asking them to remember a series of rhymes will measure another way of thinking. Asking them to remember people's faces, historical dates, names, places and events, etc... Education is teaching us to think certain ways, those who do not, do not succeed, and those who do excel.

    If a religion popped up where the leaders where poets who rhymed about the sanctity of trees. They A: don't want to hurt trees and B: want audio learners and strong speakers in power. So they punish those who hurt trees and they exalt those who show promise in reciting poetry, which includes but is not limited to audio learning, memory, linguistics and musical aptitude.

    They are still deceiving you though. They don't go around saying "Are you good at speaking? Do you like trees? Why don't you join us?"

    They instead convince you that the trees, and especially poems dedicated to trees, are in some way divine. They may in fact believe this lie, even though they made it up. They deceive themselves by rejecting your rational argument

    "Although your poetry is indefinably inspiring, and trees are undoubtedly important, they are not divine. They are both the product of evolution."

    They reject what you say, and probably don't even consider it.

    They may say "Inspiration and importance come from the divine. Evolution is an illusion to distract you from the divine."

    They've memorized all the arguments they could ever need. The fact that they are so repetitive in their arguments is a sign that they are indeed deceiving someone, if not just themselves.

    BUT even if they are deceiving themselves, it doesn't mean that there is not a real purpose to it all.

    The original creator of their religion may or may not have dreamed that such an organization would develop from her teachings, which were purely intended to spread ecological thought via easy to remember rhymes.

    This purpose may still exist in the group, but is merely clouded by the idea of the divine. This doesn't mean that her teachings are lost, it just means they were changed to suit the people that carry them, most naturally.

    The primal inspiration that some religions offer may be just that, inspiration.

    Lets get off the subject of religion, lets consider education.

    I am currently taking this adult education course. Every class the teacher says something that is complete bullshit. But it's inspirational. It's meant to "prove" to us, as unmotivated recovering failures, that we can do anything we set our sights to.

    He might believe what he is saying, I don't know, and I can't know. But he is nonetheless practicing deception.

    So deception can be useful. Hearing about what other people are doing(whether or not it's true) is more motivation than hearing all the reasons why you should do something. They've done studies on this. I'll find some if needed.

    One study was simply this.

    Hotel workers put up notes above towel racks saying "70% of visitors reused their towels"

    I don't remember how much it changed, but this percentage instantly went up. I don't know if they tried putting up notes saying "Please reuse your towels" or "Reusing your towels will make employees lives easier, help the environment, and save the hotel money, keeping costs low."

    but nonetheless, the vast majority of people I know(including myself), do not care about the facts, except the facts that support who they are and what they have already decided to do. What they want to do is determined by the social implications of their actions, and whether or not those social implications will hinder or help their current sense of self, which is determined by past experiences.

    I include myself in that generalization because I can't possibly know if I deceive myself or not. That's what 3rd party perspective is for. I'm always seeking to learn more and more, and I think that's all we can do.

    But in learning, one learns, that there are those who are very smart that don't know shit about survival and so called "common sense" which seems to be lacking in the "educated" community.

    But for the most part, I think religions are an effort to maintain group solidarity over long periods of time in a constantly changing and reforming world. Think about how many socio-political changes scattered groups of Jews have survived, and tell me that religion is useless.
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  8. #7  
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    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    Think about how many socio-political changes scattered groups of Jews have survived, and tell me that religion is useless.
    Oh, so the topic is utility now?

    I thought it was (ir)rationality. Utility is completely different.

    Yes, religious belief has utility. But the benefits of religion are available outside of religion and don't contain any of the baggage. Lastly, even useful deceptions are still deceptions.
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  9. #8  
    Forum Professor marcusclayman's Avatar
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    it's always been about utility

    a reason for doing something, usually implies utility

    "the benefits of religion are available outside of religion and don't contain any of the baggage"

    Please provide some examples of A: benefits and B: baggage
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  10. #9  
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    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    Please provide some examples of A: benefits and B: baggage
    A: Community B: Religion
    A: Charity B: Religion
    A: Morality B: Religion


    Etc, etc.

    Take any perceived benefit of religion (except salvation, something for which we have no evidence for legitimacy) and you can have it without having to sit in church, read a holy text, accept fantastical claims based in superstition, devote your life to an imaginary friend, live in fear that you're not good enough and that an invisible man in the sky is going to send you to burn for eternity in a lake of fire, and so on.
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  11. #10  
    Forum Professor marcusclayman's Avatar
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    LOL

    circular logic is fun

    religion is bad because of baggage
    what baggage
    religion


    I get your point, but there are more precise ways of explaining it without resorting to mindless propaganda.

    "having to sit in church, read a holy text, accept fantastical claims based in superstition, devote your life to an imaginary friend, live in fear that you're not good enough and that an invisible man in the sky is going to send you to burn for eternity in a lake of fire, and so on."

    If this is your understanding of religion, no wonder your against it. Well, needless to say most believers don't share in your opinion of what religion is. That's a blind assumption so go ahead and refute it, I only have "bad" reasons for thinking this way. Nothing that would hold up in court nevermind the community of self titled honest intellectuals. I'm pretty sure most people decide for themselves what is right for themselves. Telling religious people they are wrong is no different then religious people telling secularists they are wrong. Why anyone cares who is wrong is beyond me, I'm more interested in learning whats right, if anything.
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  12. #11  
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    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    LOL

    circular logic is fun

    religion is bad because of baggage
    what baggage
    religion
    Sorry, sir, your inability to follow the argument does not equal circular logic on mine.

    The argument was you can get the same benefits of religion without religion itself. At no point did I argue here that "religion is bad because of baggage"

    Here is what I did say again, for your benefit:

    "the benefits of religion are available outside of religion and don't contain any of the baggage"

    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    I get your point, but there are more precise ways of explaining it without resorting to mindless propaganda.
    I'll be sure to keep that in mind.

    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    If this is your understanding of religion, no wonder your against it.
    Which part of my description was erroneous?

    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    Well, needless to say most believers don't share in your opinion of what religion is.
    Quite observant! I wonder if that's because they are right or because they don't see it that way

    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    honest intellectuals
    Intellectual honesty
    Honest intellectuals

    Not the same thing.

    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    I'm pretty sure most people decide for themselves what is right for themselves.
    Some people do. I think "most people" is a very generous claim. I would counter-argue that most people are acculturated into ideas of right and wrong. Think I'm wrong? Head over to the appropriate sub-forum and start a thread on homosexuality, abortion, or whatever. Take note of how many people can actually support their positions vs how many will spout rhetoric and then disappear if pressed? Being a science forum, I would hope that we would find more of the former than the latter, however I'm not willing to bet on it.

    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    Telling religious people they are wrong is no different then religious people telling secularists they are wrong.
    It's absolutely different and I've spent the last several days trying to explain to you why:

    Good reasons vs bad reasons.

    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    Why anyone cares who is wrong is beyond me, I'm more interested in learning whats right, if anything.
    You do know that people vote right? Policy makers are elected based on those votes. When policy is based on superstitious wishful thinking rather than fact and reason, I would say that's very much worth caring about. When the leader of my country tells me that he spoke to god and god told him to go to war and that same man is responsible for deciding when we do or do not shoot nuclear weapons at other parts of the world, I worry.

    You're welcome to barricade yourself in whatever little world you'd like, but in the mean time, beliefs have consequences out here where reality happens.
    "PhoenixG makes me puke that why I quoted him." - esbo
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  13. #12  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard paralith's Avatar
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    marcus,

    I'm sorry if I'm misunderstanding you, but I had a little trouble following you exactly in your long post above. But based on what I got from that post, it seems to me like you're talking about proximate vs ultimate explanations for a behavior.

    The ultimate explanation for a behavior is why it is adaptive, why it is maintained in the population by natural selection. The proximate explanation for a behavior is why the behavior occurs at a certain time and/or manner.

    For example: Why does a male deer attack other male deer during the breeding season?

    Ultimate answer: by attacking other males, he can potentially monopolize the females for himself and maximize his reproduction.

    Proximate answer: the presence of estrus females increases the baseline testosterone of the male. this increased testosterone makes him more likely to become "angry" and attack other males when he sees them.

    It is not necessary that the male deer understand the ultimate reason for his behavior in order for that behavior to be maintained in the population; he just has to do the reproductively advantageous behaviors and do them well. Understanding why is not always necessary.

    Based on what you wrote, you're trying to say that religion can and has served a variety of reproductively useful purposes for humans. However, it is not necessary that humans understand why they have evolved to do what they do, only that they want to do it, and do it well. And in order to accomplish that, we've evolved proximate mechanisms that appeal to a sense of awe, or fear, or security, etc, that encourage us to carry out these advantageous behaviors. (At this point I'm not even considering how likely this is to be true.)

    This is not the same thing as active deception. At a stretch you could say our genes "deceive" us into wanting to believe in supernatural forces. Nor would I call this particularly irrational.
    Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.
    ~Jean-Paul Sartre
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  14. #13  
    Administrator KALSTER's Avatar
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    Good post paralith, as always.

    Basically, we don't always know why we do things. None of us always do.

    Another thing is that there are levels of understanding. One might be talking about and understanding a topic on an intellectual level, but have failed to consider it from an emotional one or from both perspectives complimentarily and in that way have failed to fully evaluate it in terms of one's own convictions or viewpoint. Indicators of this often include statements like "I know, but.." or "Yes, but...". This is of course especially difficult when the individual have never actually evaluated the "why" behind his/her convictions to any meaningful depth.

    While I might be inclined to believe that atheists and agnostics have evaluated themselves to greater depths than the average theist, this most certainly is not always the case.
    Disclaimer: I do not declare myself to be an expert on ANY subject. If I state something as fact that is obviously wrong, please don't hesitate to correct me. I welcome such corrections in an attempt to be as truthful and accurate as possible.

    "Gullibility kills" - Carl Sagan
    "All people know the same truth. Our lives consist of how we chose to distort it." - Harry Block
    "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." - Aristotle
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  15. #14  
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    Quote Originally Posted by KALSTER
    Basically, we don't always know why we do things. None of us always do.
    The Johari Window applies to us all.

    Quote Originally Posted by KALSTER
    While I might be inclined to believe that atheists and agnostics have evaluated themselves to greater depths than the average theist, this most certainly is not always the case.
    You're more generous than I am. Even the atheists that are good skeptics aren't always terribly introspective.
    "PhoenixG makes me puke that why I quoted him." - esbo
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  16. #15  
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    Johari Window
    Interesting. I am consulting the bastion of knowledge (Wiki) on it now.

    You're more generous than I am. Even the atheists that are good skeptics aren't always terribly introspective.
    My experience with atheists and agnostics is limited to the world of the interwebs and mostly this forum. You are probably right.
    Disclaimer: I do not declare myself to be an expert on ANY subject. If I state something as fact that is obviously wrong, please don't hesitate to correct me. I welcome such corrections in an attempt to be as truthful and accurate as possible.

    "Gullibility kills" - Carl Sagan
    "All people know the same truth. Our lives consist of how we chose to distort it." - Harry Block
    "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." - Aristotle
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