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← Belief in God Boils Down to a Gut Feeling

Belief in God Boils Down to a Gut Feeling - Comments

Granton's Avatar Comment 1 by Granton

Or, to put it another way, religious people tend to get things wrong.

Mon, 26 Sep 2011 08:40:49 UTC | #875209

Cook@Tahiti's Avatar Comment 2 by Cook@Tahiti

Reminds me of all those Hollywood movies that continually reinforce "search your feelings" or "what does your heart tell you?"

Mon, 26 Sep 2011 08:43:05 UTC | #875211

erindorothy's Avatar Comment 3 by erindorothy

My dodgy knee's playing up. I feel it in my water... must be a god.

Mon, 26 Sep 2011 08:44:52 UTC | #875212

Quantum Zombie's Avatar Comment 4 by Quantum Zombie

So getting scared during a horror movie is obviously confirmation that Freddy Kruger is coming to get you.

Mon, 26 Sep 2011 09:07:13 UTC | #875217

Letsbereasonable's Avatar Comment 5 by Letsbereasonable

Probably true. The primitives who spent too long ruminating over the rumbling beyond the hill probably all died in the pyroclastic flow. Those whose intuition told them that this can't be right and rapid flight is probably a sound idea all survived.

God was the primitives' predator-in-chief, responsible for volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, violent storms, droughts, mudslides and the rest. For all they knew he was responsible for the wild and predatory animals always trying to kill him. Being smart, primitive man figured that placating the predator-in-chief was the only way to halt, however temporarily, the relentless progress of death and disaster, and sometimes it seemed to work. The volcano just smoked a bit, storms went away, the mudslide missed the village, the rains came before everyone had died, the lion lost track and gave up. Thus religion was born.

I don't think one has to be too philosophically searching about this. Primitive humans were conscious; they tried to work things out. Those who 'read the signs' correctly all survived. No evidence was required, only correct interpretations vis-a-vis survivability. There may have been among them those 'too clever by half' who wanted to see the evidence, and presumably they did - coming at them at 30mph with bared teeth. We'll never know because they all were naturally unselected. We are the genetic heirs to those who correctly read the signs and properly interpreted the mind of the predator-in-chief.

Mon, 26 Sep 2011 09:19:12 UTC | #875220

justinesaracen's Avatar Comment 6 by justinesaracen

I am very suspicious of the word "intuition" and suspect it is simply a pseudo intellectual word for 'guessing'. People who are good at guessing ,have no super power and no specially developed part of the brain other than that they are simply good at reading subtle signs that they are not consciously aware of perceiving.

Otherwise, I can't come up with a useful definition of "intuition." At least not a scientific one. It seems like one of those 'voodoo' words, like 'soul' or 'spirituality'.

So when I read that 'intuitive' people tend to believe more in god, I interpret it as "people who think less, tend to believe more.

But we know that already.

Mon, 26 Sep 2011 09:20:07 UTC | #875221

TrickyDicky's Avatar Comment 7 by TrickyDicky

If only religious extremists could be "cured" with a good strong laxative.

Mon, 26 Sep 2011 09:22:13 UTC | #875223

Michael Fisher's Avatar Comment 8 by Michael Fisher

So the more rational are less likely to believe in the existence of god. I go to the foot of our stairs!

Mon, 26 Sep 2011 09:25:41 UTC | #875224

justinesaracen's Avatar Comment 9 by justinesaracen

@Letsbereasonable

I don't think one has to be too philosophically searching about this. Primitive humans were conscious, they tried to work things out. Those who 'read the signs' correctly all survived. No evidence was required, only correct interpretations vis-a-vis survivability. There may have been among them those 'too clever by half' <

Of course, you could also make precisely the opposite argument. That the primitives with the 'gut feeling' might have interpreted the rumbling as the anger of the earth spirit, and slaughtered a goat, while the more analytical primitives might have been the ones to interpret the signs correctly and gotten the hell out. "Intuition" - whatever that is -- does not pre-suppose correctness, only the inclination to guess rather than calculate.

Mon, 26 Sep 2011 09:28:21 UTC | #875226

Letsbereasonable's Avatar Comment 10 by Letsbereasonable

Comment 9 by esuther

My point is that since religion has its origins in primitive times, hence its widespread appearance among all humans, those primitives with a religious interpretation of danger survived at the expense of those who wanted to see the evidence first. Pyroclastic flows can reach 200mph, way too quick for the rational to escape intelligently.

My other point was that, true, as you say, they may have slaugthered goats, and that may seem to have worked occasionaly. The 'occasionally' was enough and the practice continued and developed.

If religion is rooted in 'feeling', an emergent property of our conscious minds we are told and a function of our molecular biology, then it has a Darwinian purpose. Those whose 'feelings' did not properly interpret the mind of what I call the predator-in-chief all died out in the course of natural selection. While our modern rationality has to a considerable extent overhauled those primitive 'feelings' we are nevertheless genetic heirs to a 'feeling' tradition that only a further step in evolution will eradicate.

Mon, 26 Sep 2011 09:57:07 UTC | #875234

Jumped Up Chimpanzee's Avatar Comment 11 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee

In this context I would substitute the word "intuition" for "laziness to think things through properly", or even "fearful of thinking things through".

It's amazing how many people just don't want to think things through. Try explaining even quite simple concepts to them and their eyes glaze over or they look away, hoping that you'll stop annoying them with your terrifying combination of facts and reasoning.

It's more likely that such people will fall prey to religious belief, but it's also true that religious dogma is aimed at STOPPING or SCARING people from thinking. If you are brought up in certain societies, you are more likely to be religious than not. The fact that you think "intuitively" has got less to do with your genetic makeup, and more to do with the nature of religion.

Mon, 26 Sep 2011 09:58:22 UTC | #875235

Letsbereasonable's Avatar Comment 12 by Letsbereasonable

Comment 9 by esuther

"Intuition" - whatever that is -- does not pre-suppose correctness, only the inclination to guess rather than calculate.

Quite correct. One can guess that the torrential rain will eventually burst the river banks and "get the hell out", or one can hang around calculating the weight and rate of the downfall, the fluid dynamics of the river, the height of the banks - and drown. In primitive times the 'calculators' must have always been too calculating for their own good and they all died out. The 'guessers' all survived.

Mon, 26 Sep 2011 10:13:07 UTC | #875240

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 13 by Jos Gibbons

These researchers "noted" intuition is as good as reasoning. Doesn't something have to he TRUE for you to note it? OK, then; give an example of a question we can answer, but no better with rationality (with proof that is so). The post above mine notwithstanding, I'm not convinced by the faster-calculations example. The truth is this claim is a lie; it has the same source in cowardice as NOMA.

Mon, 26 Sep 2011 10:22:12 UTC | #875246

Hellboy2's Avatar Comment 14 by Hellboy2

Wasn't it Carl Sagan, that when pressed for his 'gut thoughts' regarding ufo's, replied - 'But I tend not to think with my guts' ?

Mon, 26 Sep 2011 10:24:45 UTC | #875247

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 15 by Alan4discussion

Comment 12 by Letsbereasonable

In primitive times the 'calculators' must have always been too calculating for their own good and they all died out. The 'guessers' all survived.

It may however be equally likely that guesser will run in the wrong direction - straight into an ambush (like an antelope spoofed by lions) - or "freeze" on the spot (like a rabbit in car headlights) when this instinctive response is no longer appropriate for survival.

Mon, 26 Sep 2011 10:30:38 UTC | #875253

Stephen of Wimbledon's Avatar Comment 16 by Stephen of Wimbledon

In response to Comment 6 by esuther.

Hi esuther,

People who are good at guessing ,have no super power and no specially developed part of the brain other than that they are simply good at reading subtle signs that they are not consciously aware of perceiving.

I agree, intuition is about making guesses - nothing more. Whether those guesses are good, or not, will depend on whether any outcome which springs from a particular guess is verifiable. If I use my intuition to judge that a truck driver has seen my car approaching and will not change lanes, and I end up under the truck, my intuition can only be judged if I survive and admit that I made a rash decision - verifying that I acted on the basis of intuition and that (in this case) it was a poor guide.

Intuition: 1. knowledge or belief obtained neither by reason nor by perception 2. instinctive knowledge or belief 3. a hunch or unjustified belief 4. the supposed faculty or process by which we obtain any of these

We, via our ancestors, have evolved an instinct to refer to experience and use that to make important (sometimes life or death) instantaneous decisions. The fact that it is so strong suggests that intuition has played a vital role in survival on Earth.

It seems to me that the extent to which different people rely on their intuitions must be linked to early lessons in thinking.

Those children who are taught to trust their feelings - their instincts - are obviously more likely to then develop the mental habit of using the same processes to make more complex decisions. It has to be said, also, that real thinking requires effort and that, therefore, a child's early successes using intuition will tend to make them resist using deduction, induction, fact gathering and comparison, logic, etc.. It may seem lazy to some but we shouldn't judge too quickly. It seems likely to me that relying on intuition can be a form of conditioned reflex - something which many people are unaware that they do.

Intuition is clearly inappropriate in many real-life situations, and especially when considering the major challenges that our species currently face - such as climate change.

How, then, to judge the right educational balance between instinctive thought and considered logical thought?

I am no expert, but sport is surely the traditional way people learn the limits of instinctive reaction? We learn we cannot adequately predict the actions of other players - nor the tactics of the opposing team or player - merely from intuition. We do learn to trust our instincts in terms of quick reactions to changing conditions in the field of play.

All other subjects seem ideal for ensuring that we teach thinking processes - though science is the best subject for teaching critical thinking.

Those of us who are concerned that religion is a major social problem, and that it therefore requires a fundamental and comprehensive social plan, should be getting involved in the political debate on education.

The next generation must stop using their guts for thinking. They need to learn that they have an organ specifically evolved for thinking and making decisions - brains.

Mon, 26 Sep 2011 10:34:46 UTC | #875255

aquilacane's Avatar Comment 17 by aquilacane

So people who don't think but just do or more likely to be wrong as well as religious.

Mon, 26 Sep 2011 10:42:13 UTC | #875257

justinesaracen's Avatar Comment 18 by justinesaracen

It seems to me that 'gut thinking' was irrevocably discredited by George Bush's 'gut feeling' that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

Mon, 26 Sep 2011 10:43:56 UTC | #875260

ZAKI AMINU's Avatar Comment 19 by ZAKI AMINU

Reflection has to be grounded upon something. You have to have some clear and fixed basis for judging the value of things you're reflecting upon - just as in science standard measures are indispensable. And this basis can only be intuitive and not something that can be subjected to reflection - just as the original metre is not reducible to anything else but has to be accepted for what it is and kept as it is. For instance, one can reflect upon what is the best way to enjoy life - but not on whether life should be enjoyed. The latter goes without saying and reflecting upon it would be absurd.

What I find woefully lacking in the debates between theists and atheists is that they never first agree on a clear definition for the Word "God" and so their discussions are often entirely at cross-purposes. The atheists disprove the existence of their definition of "God" and the theists proves the existence of their definition of "God" - and absolutely nothing is gained whatever from the whole exercise. The issue remains controverted and unresolved. This is hardly rational.

Mon, 26 Sep 2011 10:51:40 UTC | #875264

Letsbereasonable's Avatar Comment 20 by Letsbereasonable

Comment 15 by Alan4discussion

It may however be equally likely that guesser will run in the wrong direction - straight into an ambush (like an antelope spoofed by lions) - or "freeze" on the spot (like a rabbit in car headlights) when this instinctive response is no longer appropriate for survival.

But on the whole the guessers ran in the right direction. The guessers survived at the expense of the calculators. Hence religion rather than rationality became the more powerful survival tool in primitive times. In modern times rationality is gaining the upper hand, but millions of years of religion is a tough nut to crack.

Mon, 26 Sep 2011 10:54:42 UTC | #875265

Letsbereasonable's Avatar Comment 21 by Letsbereasonable

Comment 18 by esuther

It seems to me that 'gut thinking' was irrevocably discredited by George Bush's 'gut feeling' that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

Brilliant!

Could be a seminal moment in the historiography of anthropology. As was opined by Brian Cox recently, "If true we might have to rewrite the history books".

Mon, 26 Sep 2011 10:58:43 UTC | #875266

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 22 by AtheistEgbert

I would say that most people are intuitive, or their thinking is subconscious. No one really thinks about how they talk or write, it just comes out automatically most of the time.

But I do think this is a good explanation for our assumptions about things, they're subconscious, and we delude ourselves in thinking that they're well reasoned out.

Mon, 26 Sep 2011 10:59:50 UTC | #875267

Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 23 by Peter Grant

Odd how those who's intuitions are often wrong tend to trust them more. My intuitions are usually right, but I seldom trust them until I've reasoned them through and understand why.

Mon, 26 Sep 2011 11:00:13 UTC | #875268

Letsbereasonable's Avatar Comment 24 by Letsbereasonable

Comment 19 by ZAKI AMINU

What I find woefully lacking in the debates between theists and atheists is that they never first agree on a clear definition for the Word "God" and so their discussions are often entirely at cross-purposes. The atheists disprove the existence of their definition of "God" and the theists proves the existence of their definition of "God" - and absolutely nothing is gained whatever from the whole exercise. The issue remains controverted and unresolved. This is hardly rational.

I think this is true. They never ask one another the right questions. Sometimes I think these debates just a roadshow entertainment. It's the same package every time.

Mon, 26 Sep 2011 11:08:47 UTC | #875272

Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 25 by Peter Grant

@ZAKI AMINU

An atheist with a definition of God is not an atheist, by definition.

Mon, 26 Sep 2011 11:13:04 UTC | #875274

SaganTheCat's Avatar Comment 26 by SaganTheCat

gut feelings have been glamorised for years in popular culture. the heros in movies follow their gut feelings and everything turns out for the best therefore gut feelings must be right.

gut feelings can be of use such as helping us to recognise when we are hungry or indeed overdid it the previous night. beyond that i'd not trust my get to give me any important information.

our gut often reacts to stress and fear so if someone claims to have a strong gut feeling about something I think it's safe to say they either want to eat or or they are driven by fear.

how very civilised :o/

don't argue with me I trust my gut, my gut just casued me to fart the first bar of "onward christian soldiers"

Mon, 26 Sep 2011 11:17:56 UTC | #875276

Roedy's Avatar Comment 27 by Roedy

Given that Christians never present evidence for the existence of God, and instead present arguments for why they are HAPPY there in a god, I think it is matter of wishful thinking. They could imagine the odds were same as winning the national lottery that god existed, but they would still hold on, because they believe divine intervention is the ONLY mechanism by which their dreary lives could be improved.

If you take away God, you take away all hope. Damned if they will let you take that away, no matter how much evidence you present god is a phony.

Mon, 26 Sep 2011 11:34:32 UTC | #875282

QuestioningKat's Avatar Comment 28 by QuestioningKat

Comment 6 by esuther :

I am very suspicious of the word "intuition" and suspect it is simply a pseudo intellectual word for 'guessing'. People who are good at guessing ,have no super power and no specially developed part of the brain other than that they are simply good at reading subtle signs that they are not consciously aware of perceiving.

Otherwise, I can't come up with a useful definition of "intuition." At least not a scientific one. It seems like one of those 'voodoo' words, like 'soul' or 'spirituality'.

So when I read that 'intuitive' people tend to believe more in god, I interpret it as "people who think less, tend to believe more.

But we know that already.

Actually I consider myself to be an intuitive person. (Picking up subtle clues that are subconscious.) I also think rationally and question everything. It's important for me to have a balance between different types of thought. It would also explain why I went in the woo direction for over a decade.

Yes intuitive is a strange word. People who base decisions on their personal values or feelings may tend to be drawn to theism more.

Mon, 26 Sep 2011 11:36:12 UTC | #875283

Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 29 by Ignorant Amos

Comment 19 by ZAKI AMINU

What I find woefully lacking in the debates between theists and atheists is that they never first agree on a clear definition for the Word "God" and so their discussions are often entirely at cross-purposes. The atheists disprove the existence of their definition of "God" and the theists proves the existence of their definition of "God" - and absolutely nothing is gained whatever from the whole exercise. The issue remains controverted and unresolved. This is hardly rational.

In all my time on these boards I have yet to witness anyone define "god", perhaps you will be the first? There is a sub-category of Atheist that some here adhere to that covers the lack of rationality you espouse. Igtheism.....here's the link to well presented argument for such a position...

"I like the term “igtheism”. It means an atheist position not so much based on the rejection of the idea of gods, or an absence of belief in gods, but atheism because theism is not a clear enough position for anyone to reasonably discuss: theism is a mish-mash of incoherent and incompatible beliefs and wishes."

Mon, 26 Sep 2011 11:40:31 UTC | #875284

DavidMcC's Avatar Comment 30 by DavidMcC

Comment 23 by Peter Grant :

Odd how those who's intuitions are often wrong tend to trust them more. My intuitions are usually right, but I seldom trust them until I've reasoned them through and understand why.

That could be a case of a madman telling himself he's sane, Peter, or at least "thinking subconsciously"!

Mon, 26 Sep 2011 11:40:39 UTC | #875285