The Anatomy of Internalized Beliefs Like a Rock Quote from Darwin: “Nor should we overlook the probability of the constant inculcation of a belief in God on the minds of children producing so strong and perhaps inherited effect on their brains not fully developed, that it would be as difficult for them to throw off their belief in God, as for a monkey to throw off its instinctive fear of snakes.” Is Darwin suggesting we have a “God gene”? Probably not. For openers, genes had not yet been discovered. Is he suggesting that we have inherited an inclination to believe in God? In modern terms, that would mean that ancient men and women who believed in God were more “fit” than disbelievers. They survived and thereby passed on predispositions to believe. But he also spoke of “brains not fully developed” and part of the mission of this course is to delve into the issue of how brains not fully developed become fully developed. Instinctive vs. Learned Behaviors Hard-wired, Instinctive Behaviors • eyeblink • startle reaction • sucking reflex Learned Behaviors • electrical outlet • sunscreen • language • belief in Santa Claus • belief in God Other than being born with some instincts, babies are born….. Similarities between Santa Claus and God Both: • are adult males • are bearded • know everything about you • are omnipresent But they differ in terms of omnipotence (power) A new iPod from Santa for being good vs. life ever after in a very nice place courtesy of God for being good. Based on God’s observations, knowledge, and wisdom, He or one of His emissaries will determine the eternal, everlasting fate of your soul. We’re talking survival. Stories like this, if taught and reinforced early enough, become internalized, notto-be-questioned, conscious and unconscious, fixed beliefs. But there is another story in town •Theory of Evolution or Descent by Modification •Natural variation of traits •Natural selection based on adaptability to environmental pressures Why is so difficult to replace one story, supernatural creation story, with another story, the one that features descent by modification? Efforts to debunk religions Sam Harris • “Children are instructed to disregard the facts of this world out of deference to the God who lurks in his mother’s and father’s imaginations.” Richard Dawkins • “There will be a selective advantage to child brains that possess the rule of thumb: believe, without question, whatever grown-ups tell you. Obey your parents; obey the tribal elders, especially when they adopt a solemn, minatory tone. Trust your elders without question.” Efforts to debunk religions (continued) Daniel Dennett • “But how, in the face of so much striking confirmation and massive scientific evidence, could so many Americans disbelieve in evolution? It is simple: they have been solemnly told that the theory of evolution is false by people they trust more than they trust scientists.” Christopher Hitchens • “The person who is certain and who claims divine warrant for his certainty belongs now to the infancy of our species.” • “Religion comes from the period of human history where nobody had the smallest idea what was going on.” The brain constitutes a very important part of the central nervous system (CNS), but it’s not the only part. Let’s not forget the peripheral nervous system that connects the brain to the rest of the body. Nerves ferry impulses from the brain to the body and from the body to the brain. Brain and body are also interconnected chemically by substances such as hormones and peptides which are carried back and forth by the bloodstream or by molecules that can penetrate the brain/body barrier. And lest we forget, there is an internal milieu and psychological survival to talk about • Damasio – “We are feeling machines that think.” • Happenings in the external world can disturb the internal milieu of the body. AND thinking can disturb the internal milieu of the body. Recall “I don’t want to be a thing that dies” example. • But note that ideas can also calm the internal milieu. “Don’t worry, God will take care of you if you take good care of your soul.” • Something associated with calming the internal milieu (with easing our anxiety) is a strong candidate for becoming an internalized belief. • Challenging an internalized belief is tantamount to challenging psychological survival Internalized Soul Belief Protected by feelings Internalized beliefs are protected by feelings. Attacking a person’s beliefs is tantamount to attacking their feelings and disturbing the internal milieu of the body. Like a large boulder lying just beneath the surface of a stream that directs the flow of water around it, a solidly grounded internalized belief automatically and effortlessly determines the acceptability and unacceptability of ideas coming its way in terms of whether or not that information represents a threat to continued existence of the self The new atheists are not only attacking religion, they are attacking the rock and the feelings that protect it. By promoting the Darwin’s ideas about evolution, new atheists are promoting the idea that there is death after life. That draws a strong dividing line between proponents of scientific atheism and religions that promise life after death.