Die Erfindung Gottes: Wie die Evolution den Glauben schuf

Die Erfindung Gottes: Wie die Evolution den Glauben schuf

Die Erfindung Gottes: Wie die Evolution den Glauben schuf ❮Epub❯ ➠ Die Erfindung Gottes: Wie die Evolution den Glauben schuf ➟ Author Jesse Bering – Capitalsoftworks.co.uk A surprising new take on why we believe in God and how this belief ensured the survival of the human species God is not merely an idea to be entertained or discarded based on the evidence Nor is God a A surprising new take on why we Gottes: Wie eBook ✓ believe in God and how this belief ensured the survival of the human species God is not merely an idea to be entertained or discarded based on the evidence Nor is God a cultural invention, an existential Band Aid, or an opiate of the masses Instead, Jesse Bering argues, belief in God evolved in the human species as an adaptive illusion Drawing on groundbreaking research in cognitive science, The Belief Instinct unravels the evolutionary mystery of why we Die Erfindung Epub / grapple for meaning, purpose, and destiny in our everyday lives Bering argues that the strangely deep rooted sense that some intentional agent created us as individuals, wants us to behave in particular ways, observes our otherwise private actions, and intends to meet us after we die would also have been felt by our ancestors, leading them to behave in ways that favored their reputations and thus saved their genes But in today s world, these psychological illusions have outlasted their evolutionary purpose, and Bering draws our Erfindung Gottes: Wie PDF Ç attention to a whole new challenge escaping them.


10 thoughts on “Die Erfindung Gottes: Wie die Evolution den Glauben schuf

  1. Canadian Canadian says:

    Jesse Bering begins his fascinating exploration of the psychological underpinnings of the human tendency to believe in God with a couple of anecdotes As a little kid, he accidentally broke a neighbour s ersatz Faberg egg He did not confess rather, he placed the shattered ornament back on the shelf, hoping its condition would go unnoticed It did not When the neighbour deduced that Bering was the culprit, he the child of a secular Jew and a shoulder shrugging Lutheran, a boy who had received Jesse Bering begins his fascinating exploration of the psychological underpinnings of the human tendency to believe in God with a couple of anecdotes As a little kid, he accidentally broke a neighbour s ersatz Faberg egg He did not confess rather, he placed the shattered ornament back on the shelf, hoping its condition would go unnoticed It did not When the neighbour deduced that Bering was the culprit, he the child of a secular Jew and a shoulder shrugging Lutheran, a boy who had received no religious education whatsoever and whose home didn t even contain a Bible swore to God that he didn t do it A little later, a nasty sliver in Bering s finger would be interpreted by him as evidence of God s wrath over the lie Years later, when Bering was a teenage nonbeliever, he framed his mother s cancer diagnosis in like terms it was a judgement from above, a punishment from God In my own life, I ve seen similar responses, especially to terminal illness People I ve known who showed essentially no religious inclination throughout their lives have feared that their disease was some sort of divine judgement on their moral lapses or bad behaviour Sin suddenly became relevant The human tendency to attribute power to a divine being appears to be our psychological default Bering calls it the belief instinct and goes on to theorize about why we have it He examines it through the lenses of evolutionary, developmental, and social psychology, and many of his conclusions are based on recent findings from cognitive science.First off, my review is not so much an evaluation of the book as a summary of points I found compelling I really don t know enough about the subject to assess how comprehensive or accurate Bering s discussion is, as it s the first work of its kind that I ve read What you read below is only a smattering of the book s contents Having been filtered through my mind, they may not be strictly accurate Really, this is a text that a person should readthan once something I did not do What I can say is that the work is a psychological inquiry, written with the assumption that God is a human construct, not an actual being Believers probably won t like that Having said that, I will add that this is not a strident book The tone is one of curiosity not disrespectful dismissal.Bering, like other scholars on the subject, sees religion as an accidental by product of our mental evolution Although it may have no particular adaptive biological function in itself, it appears to have served an important social function Our ancestors belief that they were known by an omniscient, omnipotent being who could punish or reward them brought order to social groups, stomp ing out the frequency and intensity ofimmorality that could fracture communities.Evolution has endowed humans with theory of mind, a system of inferences by which we make predictions about the behaviour of others This system allows us to understand, interact with, and protect ourselves from other people The system goes into overdrive when others behave in ways that we perceive to be abnormal or unexpected It s a kind of accident of evolution that humans also apply theory of mind to things that lack brains We see intentions, desires, and psychological states in willfully malfunctioning computers and cars that stubbornly won t start or even in forlorn looking teddy bears Our belief in God is a similarly grounded psychological illusion, says Bering It may feel as if there is something out therewatching, knowing, caring Perhaps even judging, he writes But, in fact, that s just your overactive theory of mind Bering proposes that belief in God and the sense that everything exists for a purpose isn t due to a cultural virus that children catch from their parents as atheistic existential philosophers might have us believe but something we are born with, a default setting if you will He explains that our minds are heavily biased towards reasoning that things exist because a designer intended them to for pre conceived purposes This is known as teleo functional reasoning, and psychologist Deborah Kelemen has seen it in action in study after study of young children When she s asked seven and eight year olds why mountains or trees exist, kids will say to give animals places to climb, thereby endowing plants and landforms with purpose, rather than providing a mechanistic explanation for their existence Only when children reach fourth or fifth grade do they abandon their teleo functional answers for accurate scientific explanations Interestingly, teleo functional reasoning has also been found in uneducated Romany adults, as well as in Alzheimer s patients whose brains have been damaged by disease.Given our predisposition to teleo functional reasoning our tendency to view things as existing for a purpose and the distorting lens of our species theory of mind, it is hard for us humans to get our heads around the mindless principles of evolution, including natural selection and random mutations In fact, University of Michigan psychologist Margaret Evans says that creationist thinking comes mucheasily to the human mind than evolutionary theory In her research with young children, Evans has discovered that, regardless of parents beliefs and kids attending secular or religious schools, five to seven year olds who are asked about where a species comes from will provide either a generalist response it got born there or a creationist one God made it By age eight, children from both secular and religious backgrounds reply that God or Nature personified made it Only in the oldest children of evolutionary minded parents does the full blown design stance in which a being intentionally creates an entity give way to their developmental experience Our psychological development particularly, our theory of mind favours a purposeful design creationist framework over an evolutionary one.Because our brains are equipped to look for underlying psychological causes, we see messages inthan each other s behaviour Unexpected natural events such as earthquakes or violent storms hold messages for us Once again, our theory of mind goes into overdrive when things unfold in ways that are inconsistent with our expectations We believe God or Nature is trying to communicate with us Indeed, notes Bering, without our general cognitive bias towards finding messages in natural events, most religions would never have got off the ground.As for the human belief in life after death Bering asks why we should wonder at all where our minds go when our bodies are dead shouldn t it be obvious that our minds are dead, too Well, it s not Since none of us have had the experience of being dead, we are incapable of imagining what it s like not to exist Some scholars have postulated that beliefs about the afterlife are due to our profound anxiety about not existing, but these theorists have failed to find a correlation between fear of death and belief in an afterlife In other words just because you re terrified of dying, it doesn t mean you are anylikely to believe in life after death The research of Bering and others suggests that because humans are incapable of projecting themselves into an afterlife in which they neither think nor experience sensation, they consequently believe that our minds must be immortal.Bering s is a fascinating book, which I really do hope to reread one day I know there s lots I ve missed, but hopefully not too much that I ve misinterpreted.I m grateful to my Goodreads friend Caroline for recommending this book to me


  2. Caroline Caroline says:

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers To view it, click here Bering is an evolutionary psychologist, and this book is the sum of his investigations into the psychological traits which encourage us to believe in God He believes that we are naturally inclined to do this It is our default position I think he writes marvellously He could write about the life cycle of the horsefly and still have us entranced.His basic premise is a Theory of Mind Unlike animals, we have the ability to be aware of consiousness in other people We understand that other peo Bering is an evolutionary psychologist, and this book is the sum of his investigations into the psychological traits which encourage us to believe in God He believes that we are naturally inclined to do this It is our default position I think he writes marvellously He could write about the life cycle of the horsefly and still have us entranced.His basic premise is a Theory of Mind Unlike animals, we have the ability to be aware of consiousness in other people We understand that other people are watching us and judging us That is why, unlike animals, we are inhibited in our behaviours Countless experiments have shown that theanonymous we feel, theuninhibited our behaviour becomes, but that most of the time, we are very aware of what other people think, and we behave accordingly This understanding spills over to being a sort of fantastic consciousness about the world, and we can all too easily anthropomorphise the behaviour of animals, or even of inanimate objects The author, a committed atheist, talks about when his mother died One night, soon afterwards, he heard wind chimes tinkling outside her bedroom window His first thought was that she was communicating with him that all was well Life is full of signs for people who are religious,Without the belief that God cares enough about us as individuals to bother sending us a veiled, personalized just thinking of you message every once in a while, there s really not much reason to pay attention to Him.But even if you aren t religious, we are so designed that is easy for us to perceive signs That is why so many people believe in destiny or fate Fate is really God stripped of his identity.Our tendency to analyse other people s thinking goes into overdrive when something is wrong, unexpected or erratic When people behave normally, we don t usually think about their motives When they behave strangely, we immediately try and work out what they might be thinking and doing.In the same way when life is stressful, the religious person can become ultra sensitive to signs from God.Our capacity for understanding people s motives and thought processes is the same capacity that allows us to visualise and communicate with God.The author also mentions our tendency to turn to God when life is difficult He cites a state by state suffering index created by the American psychologists Gray and Wegner They found a positive correlation between a state s relative misery compared to the rest of the country and its population s belief in God The investigators used data from the 2008 United Health Foundation s comprehensive State Health Index What they discovered was that suffering and belief in God were highly correlated, even after controlling for income and education Further on though, Bering dismisses this phenomenonIn moments of despair, even the staunchest of atheists can find themselves appealing to God But this just shows that atheists are human, with human brains, that work in predictable ways I for one don t handle suffering well having a low grade fever and a sore throat is enough to have me privately asking God why He is being so unspeakably cruel to me But I m also sure my wobbly epistemological stance during these difficult times doesn t have much bearing elsewhere in the meta physical cosmosWhist his argument is flippant, I think it is a point worth discussing.Finally, I read the longer notes at the end of the book with interest particularly this excerptEvidence suggests that the personality variable of religiosity basically, how much passion someone tends to feel about religious topics, wherever she falls on the belief scale is largely determined by genes Your identical twin brother may be an evangelical preacher while you re a screaming atheist, but these genetics data help explain why you re both so hot and bothered about GodAs someone with a very religious sister and a deeply committed and vocal atheist brother, I found this interesting.This is a short book 252 pages ,that is nevertheless too long Having said that, I loved Bering s writing, plus I like arguments and examples that are well fleshed out so it didn t really bother me.Later add I have added another star to my rating Since reading it I find that I have discussed it endlessly with friends I realise it has made a big impact on my understanding religion and spiritual beliefs It has changed the way I think, and any book that does that deserves five stars


  3. Armin Books Armin Books says:

    This book is not about the existence nonexistence of god Bering believes this is a trivial question His main interest is why most societies throughout history have believed in some sort of god or supernatural being He scrutinises beliefs through an evolutionary psychological lens.I think this a good no nonsense intro to evolutionary psychology of religion I learned about some compelling ideas in this book, such as the absolute importance of a theory of mind when it comes to belief in god.It This book is not about the existence nonexistence of god Bering believes this is a trivial question His main interest is why most societies throughout history have believed in some sort of god or supernatural being He scrutinises beliefs through an evolutionary psychological lens.I think this a good no nonsense intro to evolutionary psychology of religion I learned about some compelling ideas in this book, such as the absolute importance of a theory of mind when it comes to belief in god.It is a rather short book, but if you ask me it could have been made evenconcise There are a lot of personal anecdotes and case studies which definitely make the bookenjoyable to read, but are not essential in understanding the subject.While reading, I highlighted some key quotes on my kindle I would like to reproduce a few of thethoughtful ones here Perceiving the supernatural isn t magic, but something patently organic a function of the brain The quote below pretty much sums up the theory of mind Success for our human ancestors must have depended on being able to get inside the minds of those they lived with, second guess them, anticipate where they were going, help them if they needed it, challenge them, or manipulate them To do this they had to develop brains that would deliver a story about what it s like to be another person from the inside An this one, explains why a hyperactive theory of mind is the real reason behind the belief in god So it would appear that having a theory of mind was so useful for our ancestors in explaining and predicting other people s behaviours that it has completely flooded our evolved social brains As a result, today we overshoot our mental state attributions to things that are, in reality, completely mindless And all of this leads us, rather inevitably, to a very important question What if I were to tell you that God s mental states, too, were all in your mind That God, like a tiny speck floating at the edge of your cornea producing the image of a hazy, out of reach orb accompanying your every turn, was in fact a psychological illusion, a sort of evolved blemish etched onto the core cognitive substrate of your brain It may feel as if there is something grander out therewatching, knowing, caring Perhaps even judging But, in fact, that s just your overactive theory of mind In reality, there is only the air you breathe I particularly loved the following statement on the question of fairness of ones life It s astonishing that even some supposedly scientifically minded people don t realise this Life isn t fair But it isn t unfair either It just is The very asking of the question, why do bad things happen to good people presupposes an intelligent, morally concerned agent, or at least a mindful instigator, behind the scenes This one is actually from Paul Bloom, as quoted by Jesse Bering in the book The driving force behind natural selection is survival and reproduction, not truth All in all, Bering thinks belief in god has been an adaptive illusion in the evolution of our species an illusion which is no longer relevant but is hard to get rid of


  4. Adam Lewis Adam Lewis says:

    A superb and accessible account of religious cognition.I do not read many non fiction books in one sitting no matter how interesting I find their subject material as it is nearly impossible not to become bored at some point and put them down Yet in the past year, Bering s book is one of only two that have kept my attention so captured to be finished within 24 hours.As one of the leading scholars in the field of religious cognition Bering weaves a persuasive thesis that builds on the strengths o A superb and accessible account of religious cognition.I do not read many non fiction books in one sitting no matter how interesting I find their subject material as it is nearly impossible not to become bored at some point and put them down Yet in the past year, Bering s book is one of only two that have kept my attention so captured to be finished within 24 hours.As one of the leading scholars in the field of religious cognition Bering weaves a persuasive thesis that builds on the strengths of his research and others Herein you will not find someone wrestling with theological minutia as cognitive accounts of religion go right for the root of what really matters for a rigorous account of the supernatural the structure of the conceptualization rather than the propositional content As Bering amply demonstrates, the foundations of religious thought are based on cognition that is muchgeneral and deep than any specialized religious expression may superficially hint at.The first chapter opens with an exposition on theory of mind that ever present and nearly ubiquitous feature of our minds that fills it with recognition and understanding of other minds only those with Autism and Asperger s syndrome typically have an impaired theory of mind As the level of social sophistication was ratcheted up by evolution in our species, we broke into new niches that had previously been denied other Hominidae by their biological equipment namely laryngeal and cerebral A theory of mind allows for us to represent what other minds may be thinking or intending and language allows these things to be communicated.How does theory of mind relate to God in a foundational manner, Bering argues What is God but theory of mind applied to the mindless domain of nature where it does not belong We see this illustrated by the numerous and interesting historical examples that Bering gives us such as the disaster with a bridge and a clown and some geese where many people died You ll have to read it to get the details In the aftermath, natural causes were ascertained a faulty weld but God was nevertheless invoked by many in the town as the meta agent overseeing the event note this was not to the exclusion of the actual cause Indeed, a preacher even penned some sermons that laid blame to the sins of the town God was therefore sending a symbolic message with the disaster to the townsfolk to get back on the straight and narrow Such instances are not the sole property of the past as the rhetoric of many Christian evangelicals surrounding hurricane Katrina and the Haitian earthquake demonstrate When looking at such examples it becomes clear that intentionality is also tied up in this process and is a clue as to why one of the most fundamental aspects of religion is the interpretation of natural events within a social teleological frame.In another central chapter to the argument, Bering takes on the afterlife and why these beliefs are often central in the constellation of important religious subjects Included here is the claim that the precursors to reasoning about the afterlife emerge as a developmental regularity Bering and psychologist David Bjorkland conducted an experiment where a puppet show about a mouse getting killed by an alligator was shown to a large sample of children The surprising results demonstrated that even young children not yet enculturated into a particular religious tradition had a clear concept of biological death, yet still attributed thoughts and emotions to the mouse as if its mind were still functioning More research covered here discusses how even many atheists that did not believe in life after death still reasoned about it as if consciousness were still active such as saying that a dead man realizes he s dead now Bering calls this the simulation constraint hypothesis and argues that it is a foundational aspect of afterlife beliefs since it is impossible to imagine what it is like to be dead and this imparts the illusion that people can go somewhere after they die.At the end of the book Bering makes a claim that I feel has been sorely lacking in this subject s literature the explicit argument that this science is the way to pull back the curtain on the Wizard of Oz of God and all his mental minions As Bering notes, this is not a slam dunk argument for one could believe that this was the way in which the Almighty Creator of the Universe tinkered with human cognitive evolution to give us these, ahem, imperfections so we can recognize Him Indeed, a leading scholar in the field, Justin Barrett, believes just such a thing Yet, as one concerned with parsimony as Bering is, I find this to be very weak sauce.Of course, this review merely constitutes a very poor, incomplete summary of an excellently explicated and important book that cannot even begin to give the full text its due I hope that it may spark the interest of readers enough to pick Bering s book up and be introduced to the fascinating topic of religious cognition


  5. Abraham Abraham says:

    An old guy at a party once jokingly asked me, Does God exist Yes, I said, with an absolute certainty that surprised even me I felt a little stupid It was completely the wrong tone to strike My dad a big reason I ve beenor less an atheist my whole life was standing right there The old guy was totally thrown It was like doing improv with Michael Scott, only I was Michael Scott Even now, I m like 98% certain that God does NOT exist None of this stops me from believing in Him An old guy at a party once jokingly asked me, Does God exist Yes, I said, with an absolute certainty that surprised even me I felt a little stupid It was completely the wrong tone to strike My dad a big reason I ve beenor less an atheist my whole life was standing right there The old guy was totally thrown It was like doing improv with Michael Scott, only I was Michael Scott Even now, I m like 98% certain that God does NOT exist None of this stops me from believing in Him.In this book, Bering shares similar personal stories about faith like feelings popping up out of nowhere He, like me and so many other no doubt about it atheists, KNOWS that God doesn t exist But that doesn t stop him from sometimes FEELING like there sto life, or that there s life after death, or that God, the Universe, or SOMETHING has a plan for us It s one thing to SAY you don t believe in any of that hocus pocus, but mark my words It s up there somewhere in your brain, I mean Just as the celibate priest still has the innate urge to fuck, the consummate sinner still has the innate urge to believe Bering is something of a Richard Dawkins type They reor less in the same boat, intellectually But thankfully Bering comes off as much less of an ass hat He s not nearly as condescending toward believers, even though the main thesis of the book is that belief faith is really just a scratch on our cognitive lens, a peculiar byproduct of evolution Kinda ironic, isn t it, how evolution gave rise to the very minds that distrust it or say it s patently untrue If you don t want your faith to be tested, don t read this book Otherwise, it s a fun, surprisingly readable destruction of your most cherished beliefs


  6. Thomas Lanz Thomas Lanz says:

    I was blown away by this book The title makes it sound like another dud but do not be put off by that this is an engaging addictive read that will completely flip your worldview and have you questioning things that you did not even know needed questioning I have been around a long time and have seen it all This book is special beautifully written and as much a work of literature as it is pop science I do not define myself either as religious or atheist and care little for such discuss I was blown away by this book The title makes it sound like another dud but do not be put off by that this is an engaging addictive read that will completely flip your worldview and have you questioning things that you did not even know needed questioning I have been around a long time and have seen it all This book is special beautifully written and as much a work of literature as it is pop science I do not define myself either as religious or atheist and care little for such discussions Theology bores me to tears You won t find any of that in The God Instinct However, if you are a fan of existential philosophy as I am in the spirit of Camus, Sartre, Dostoyevsky and their ilk, you will love, love, love Bering It is not an uplifting book by any stretch of the imagination but if you want reality informed by science this is a MUST READ And as others have said it is also very funny and not in a corny way like other science writers


  7. Arjun Ravichandran Arjun Ravichandran says:

    The basic gist we are deeply social creatures, and our much prized cognitive faculties are due to our highly complex primate sociability and the associated need to decipher what the other is thinking about us This basic thrust behind our cognitive character accounts for us positing teleo rational projection which simply means positing intentionality and personality to aspects of reality that simply do not entail such a projection e.g the natural world The author shows that this compulsi The basic gist we are deeply social creatures, and our much prized cognitive faculties are due to our highly complex primate sociability and the associated need to decipher what the other is thinking about us This basic thrust behind our cognitive character accounts for us positing teleo rational projection which simply means positing intentionality and personality to aspects of reality that simply do not entail such a projection e.g the natural world The author shows that this compulsive need to posit another mind that is essentially OUR mind is the root cause for the delusions that the human animal has struggled with since the emergence of his complex social network these latter include the belief in a life after death, the belief in a uncreated creator, the belief in souls, destiny, fate, etc These are all simply evolutionary adaptations that do not function as well when they are elevated above and beyond their adaptive usefulness as trannquilizing delusions I enjoyed the writing style which makes for quick, easy, effortless reading but I did feel that the content was a little simplified I suppose this is because for someone who has read the great existentialist philosophers, starting with Nietzsche, the insights contained in this book seem a watered down version of the profound insights contained in these writers The constant quoting of studies was also a bit distracting Finally, the author s smug humor, which is sprinkled throughout the text, was a distraction I don t understand why psychologists feel the need to be funny Would you ask a dentist to show you a card trick


  8. Zaher Alhaj Zaher Alhaj says:

    Very interesting, amusing, informative, and accessible intro into the evolutionary psychology and the cognitive processes that enable humans to believe in metaphysical things Nature does not care about being moral or not, as its main concern is the survival and reproduction i.e genes passing Everything that ensues is the cultural product of each community or society However, it is a very illuminating notion to make distinction between what is scientific i.e real or true and what is prac Very interesting, amusing, informative, and accessible intro into the evolutionary psychology and the cognitive processes that enable humans to believe in metaphysical things Nature does not care about being moral or not, as its main concern is the survival and reproduction i.e genes passing Everything that ensues is the cultural product of each community or society However, it is a very illuminating notion to make distinction between what is scientific i.e real or true and what is practical i.e pragmatic or applicable , between what is rational and what is human I do believe that the dilemma of the New Atheism is considering religion as a virus e.g Dawkins or a parasite e.g Dennett , thus they completely ignore the important role of religion in building cohesive societies and low cost regulations Of course, I am no trying here to evangelize any dogmatic ideology, but trying to adopt abalanced view about the role of religion, considering the pros and cons One caveat here the whole gist of the book is based on the so called Theory of Mind Although there is a countless of evidences that back the theory, one always must be open to new discoveries and breakthroughs in this arena The pleasure of the science is in finding things out, in its fluidity and dynamism, especially for neuroscience and cognitive psychology that are still in infancy


  9. Julia Julia says:

    Quick run down Cognitive psychology has made a breakthrough discovery in theory of mind, where humans have the capacity to analyze the minds of others and therefore anticipate their behavior and our own Because of this, we ve invented God as someone who can keep us all in line, as a sense of a mind who is watching helps us modify our behavior First of all, reducing human belief in God to a natural explanation does not make a case against God s existence The strength of any argument should be Quick run down Cognitive psychology has made a breakthrough discovery in theory of mind, where humans have the capacity to analyze the minds of others and therefore anticipate their behavior and our own Because of this, we ve invented God as someone who can keep us all in line, as a sense of a mind who is watching helps us modify our behavior First of all, reducing human belief in God to a natural explanation does not make a case against God s existence The strength of any argument should be based on its own merits Let s see how well Bering measures up with his own The mind is what the brain does the brain stops working at death therefore, the subjective feeling that the mind survives death is a psychological illusion operating in the brains of the living Bering, 130Most scientists I ve read who address this issue of consciousness would not venture to claim Bering s first premise, at least not so dogmatically Brains compute, just like a computer, but a computer doesn t require consciousness to compute and neither do we, so there s no reason why consciousness should have evolved along with the brain s computing ability C.S Lewis put it well I see no reason for believing that one accident should be able to give me a correct account of all other accidents It s like expecting that the accidental shape taken by the splash when you upset a milk jug should give you a correct account of how the jug was made and why it was upset Greg Koukl explains the absurdity of reducing consciousness to the brain s physical workings That s like saying that a movie is nothingthan light shining through a piece of celluloid A movie requires light shining through a piece of celluloid and then you can see it projected on the screen But to say that it is nothingthan that misses something very obvious Did you ever go upstairs in a movie theater and look through the window of the projection room There is a big giant disc spinning, the celluloid goes through an apparatus, and there is hot light.Now, what if I were to tell you that that is the movie right there The movie is the physical action that I can see happening You d think that was ridiculous A movie is muchthan the physical mechanism, the machinery with the celluloid passing through it with a sharp, bright light behind it Rather, the movie is the image that is being projected on the screen, and it s eventhan just an image There is a story, dialogue, characterization There are all these other things that go beyond just the physical representation Bering brings up problem of evil as a case against God, I suppose, and then doesn t even engage with it at a serious level It s like bringing up a joke and then neglecting to say the punch line Don t bother I understand, he has an axe to grind as a homosexual and moral relativist, but then write a book about those issues, not one that claims to be cold hard science Don t get me wrong, it was interesting to read his studies about how children made mistakes in perception But ultimately, they proves nothing Enter the discipline of philosophy, in which humans learn discernment The unexamined life is not worth living Socrates.Bering acknowledges that his argument doesn t disprove the existence of God, but I m not sure if he understands what he means by that, or he s just taking another jab Does all this disprove the the existence of God Of course not Science speaks only to the improbable, not the impossible The burden of proof lies on atheists like Bering that theory of mind doesn t have a corresponding metaphysical reality because they can t even account for the emergence of the existence of consciousness Bering attempts to, but he runs into the chicken or egg dilemma though he doesn t bring that up Did our sense of shame develop our pre frontal cortex or did our pre frontal cortex develop our sense of shame Of course he admits we are at the beginning stages of study in cognitive psychology, but that doesn t give him the excuse to expect his readers to accept his thesis based on his sloppy work.I am sure there are other books that better engage in the topic of mind and belief than this one which is riddled with quick jabs to God and Christians and thoroughly seeped with the unscientific philosophy of scientism


  10. Book Book says:

    The Belief Instinct by Jesse Bering The Belief Instinct is an enjoyable book whose response to our basic belief system can be attributed to an understanding of the theory of mind Mr Bering weaves an interesting narrative on how psychological illusions caused by the theory of mind gave our ancestors an evolutionary advantage This 272 page book is composed of the following seven chapters 1 The History of an Illusion, 2 A Life without Purpose, 3 Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs, 4 Curious The Belief Instinct by Jesse Bering The Belief Instinct is an enjoyable book whose response to our basic belief system can be attributed to an understanding of the theory of mind Mr Bering weaves an interesting narrative on how psychological illusions caused by the theory of mind gave our ancestors an evolutionary advantage This 272 page book is composed of the following seven chapters 1 The History of an Illusion, 2 A Life without Purpose, 3 Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs, 4 Curiously Immortal, 5 When God Throws People Off Bridges, 6 God as Adaptive, and 7 And Then You Die Positives 1 An enjoyable, well written, well researched book that builds up an interesting theory to a satisfactory end 2 Elegant prose, very conversational tone throughout 3 Mr Bering is a well read author who doesn t hesitate to immerse quotes, anecdotes, studies smoothly into his narrative 4 At times, though provoking but never unintelligible 5 Teleo functioning reasoning explained 6 Evolution of our cognitive systems 7 Interesting look at autism 8 The human penchant to see meaningful signs 9 Many references to scientific studies sprinkled throughout book 10 The idea of an afterlife guided by our intuitions 11 The illusion of purpose 12 A thorough and satisfactory explanation of the theory of mind 13 Human evolution lead by the coevolution of the theory of mind and language 14 The impact of human gossip 15 The cognitive illusion of God 16 Good use of links and an excellent comprehensive bibliography Negatives 1 I really wanted to give this book 5 stars but I was a little disappointed in what was not included in the book versus what was in it Namely, athorough debunking of souls I would have liked to have seen the term defined anddepth 2 A littlescience would have helped Very basic, I understand the book is intended for the masses butscience was merited In summary, I enjoyed this book It didn t take long to read and Mr Bering does a wonderful job of tying everything together at the end It satisfactorily addresses why we have supernatural beliefs and why it was advantageous to our ancestors A littlesoul searching would have been icing on the cake but a sweet treat nonetheless Recommendations Religion Explained by Pascal Boyer, Human by Michael S Gazzaniga Supersense by Bruce M Hood, The Third Basic Instinct by Alex S Key and The Ego Tunnel by Thomas Metzinger


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10 thoughts on “Die Erfindung Gottes: Wie die Evolution den Glauben schuf

  1. Canadian Canadian says:

    Jesse Bering begins his fascinating exploration of the psychological underpinnings of the human tendency to believe in God with a couple of anecdotes As a little kid, he accidentally broke a neighbour s ersatz Faberg egg He did not confess rather, he placed the shattered ornament back on the shelf, hoping its condition would go unnoticed It did not When the neighbour deduced that Bering was the culprit, he the child of a secular Jew and a shoulder shrugging Lutheran, a boy who had received Jesse Bering begins his fascinating exploration of the psychological underpinnings of the human tendency to believe in God with a couple of anecdotes As a little kid, he accidentally broke a neighbour s ersatz Faberg egg He did not confess rather, he placed the shattered ornament back on the shelf, hoping its condition would go unnoticed It did not When the neighbour deduced that Bering was the culprit, he the child of a secular Jew and a shoulder shrugging Lutheran, a boy who had received no religious education whatsoever and whose home didn t even contain a Bible swore to God that he didn t do it A little later, a nasty sliver in Bering s finger would be interpreted by him as evidence of God s wrath over the lie Years later, when Bering was a teenage nonbeliever, he framed his mother s cancer diagnosis in like terms it was a judgement from above, a punishment from God In my own life, I ve seen similar responses, especially to terminal illness People I ve known who showed essentially no religious inclination throughout their lives have feared that their disease was some sort of divine judgement on their moral lapses or bad behaviour Sin suddenly became relevant The human tendency to attribute power to a divine being appears to be our psychological default Bering calls it the belief instinct and goes on to theorize about why we have it He examines it through the lenses of evolutionary, developmental, and social psychology, and many of his conclusions are based on recent findings from cognitive science.First off, my review is not so much an evaluation of the book as a summary of points I found compelling I really don t know enough about the subject to assess how comprehensive or accurate Bering s discussion is, as it s the first work of its kind that I ve read What you read below is only a smattering of the book s contents Having been filtered through my mind, they may not be strictly accurate Really, this is a text that a person should readthan once something I did not do What I can say is that the work is a psychological inquiry, written with the assumption that God is a human construct, not an actual being Believers probably won t like that Having said that, I will add that this is not a strident book The tone is one of curiosity not disrespectful dismissal.Bering, like other scholars on the subject, sees religion as an accidental by product of our mental evolution Although it may have no particular adaptive biological function in itself, it appears to have served an important social function Our ancestors belief that they were known by an omniscient, omnipotent being who could punish or reward them brought order to social groups, stomp ing out the frequency and intensity ofimmorality that could fracture communities.Evolution has endowed humans with theory of mind, a system of inferences by which we make predictions about the behaviour of others This system allows us to understand, interact with, and protect ourselves from other people The system goes into overdrive when others behave in ways that we perceive to be abnormal or unexpected It s a kind of accident of evolution that humans also apply theory of mind to things that lack brains We see intentions, desires, and psychological states in willfully malfunctioning computers and cars that stubbornly won t start or even in forlorn looking teddy bears Our belief in God is a similarly grounded psychological illusion, says Bering It may feel as if there is something out therewatching, knowing, caring Perhaps even judging, he writes But, in fact, that s just your overactive theory of mind Bering proposes that belief in God and the sense that everything exists for a purpose isn t due to a cultural virus that children catch from their parents as atheistic existential philosophers might have us believe but something we are born with, a default setting if you will He explains that our minds are heavily biased towards reasoning that things exist because a designer intended them to for pre conceived purposes This is known as teleo functional reasoning, and psychologist Deborah Kelemen has seen it in action in study after study of young children When she s asked seven and eight year olds why mountains or trees exist, kids will say to give animals places to climb, thereby endowing plants and landforms with purpose, rather than providing a mechanistic explanation for their existence Only when children reach fourth or fifth grade do they abandon their teleo functional answers for accurate scientific explanations Interestingly, teleo functional reasoning has also been found in uneducated Romany adults, as well as in Alzheimer s patients whose brains have been damaged by disease.Given our predisposition to teleo functional reasoning our tendency to view things as existing for a purpose and the distorting lens of our species theory of mind, it is hard for us humans to get our heads around the mindless principles of evolution, including natural selection and random mutations In fact, University of Michigan psychologist Margaret Evans says that creationist thinking comes mucheasily to the human mind than evolutionary theory In her research with young children, Evans has discovered that, regardless of parents beliefs and kids attending secular or religious schools, five to seven year olds who are asked about where a species comes from will provide either a generalist response it got born there or a creationist one God made it By age eight, children from both secular and religious backgrounds reply that God or Nature personified made it Only in the oldest children of evolutionary minded parents does the full blown design stance in which a being intentionally creates an entity give way to their developmental experience Our psychological development particularly, our theory of mind favours a purposeful design creationist framework over an evolutionary one.Because our brains are equipped to look for underlying psychological causes, we see messages inthan each other s behaviour Unexpected natural events such as earthquakes or violent storms hold messages for us Once again, our theory of mind goes into overdrive when things unfold in ways that are inconsistent with our expectations We believe God or Nature is trying to communicate with us Indeed, notes Bering, without our general cognitive bias towards finding messages in natural events, most religions would never have got off the ground.As for the human belief in life after death Bering asks why we should wonder at all where our minds go when our bodies are dead shouldn t it be obvious that our minds are dead, too Well, it s not Since none of us have had the experience of being dead, we are incapable of imagining what it s like not to exist Some scholars have postulated that beliefs about the afterlife are due to our profound anxiety about not existing, but these theorists have failed to find a correlation between fear of death and belief in an afterlife In other words just because you re terrified of dying, it doesn t mean you are anylikely to believe in life after death The research of Bering and others suggests that because humans are incapable of projecting themselves into an afterlife in which they neither think nor experience sensation, they consequently believe that our minds must be immortal.Bering s is a fascinating book, which I really do hope to reread one day I know there s lots I ve missed, but hopefully not too much that I ve misinterpreted.I m grateful to my Goodreads friend Caroline for recommending this book to me

  2. Caroline Caroline says:

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers To view it, click here Bering is an evolutionary psychologist, and this book is the sum of his investigations into the psychological traits which encourage us to believe in God He believes that we are naturally inclined to do this It is our default position I think he writes marvellously He could write about the life cycle of the horsefly and still have us entranced.His basic premise is a Theory of Mind Unlike animals, we have the ability to be aware of consiousness in other people We understand that other peo Bering is an evolutionary psychologist, and this book is the sum of his investigations into the psychological traits which encourage us to believe in God He believes that we are naturally inclined to do this It is our default position I think he writes marvellously He could write about the life cycle of the horsefly and still have us entranced.His basic premise is a Theory of Mind Unlike animals, we have the ability to be aware of consiousness in other people We understand that other people are watching us and judging us That is why, unlike animals, we are inhibited in our behaviours Countless experiments have shown that theanonymous we feel, theuninhibited our behaviour becomes, but that most of the time, we are very aware of what other people think, and we behave accordingly This understanding spills over to being a sort of fantastic consciousness about the world, and we can all too easily anthropomorphise the behaviour of animals, or even of inanimate objects The author, a committed atheist, talks about when his mother died One night, soon afterwards, he heard wind chimes tinkling outside her bedroom window His first thought was that she was communicating with him that all was well Life is full of signs for people who are religious,Without the belief that God cares enough about us as individuals to bother sending us a veiled, personalized just thinking of you message every once in a while, there s really not much reason to pay attention to Him.But even if you aren t religious, we are so designed that is easy for us to perceive signs That is why so many people believe in destiny or fate Fate is really God stripped of his identity.Our tendency to analyse other people s thinking goes into overdrive when something is wrong, unexpected or erratic When people behave normally, we don t usually think about their motives When they behave strangely, we immediately try and work out what they might be thinking and doing.In the same way when life is stressful, the religious person can become ultra sensitive to signs from God.Our capacity for understanding people s motives and thought processes is the same capacity that allows us to visualise and communicate with God.The author also mentions our tendency to turn to God when life is difficult He cites a state by state suffering index created by the American psychologists Gray and Wegner They found a positive correlation between a state s relative misery compared to the rest of the country and its population s belief in God The investigators used data from the 2008 United Health Foundation s comprehensive State Health Index What they discovered was that suffering and belief in God were highly correlated, even after controlling for income and education Further on though, Bering dismisses this phenomenonIn moments of despair, even the staunchest of atheists can find themselves appealing to God But this just shows that atheists are human, with human brains, that work in predictable ways I for one don t handle suffering well having a low grade fever and a sore throat is enough to have me privately asking God why He is being so unspeakably cruel to me But I m also sure my wobbly epistemological stance during these difficult times doesn t have much bearing elsewhere in the meta physical cosmosWhist his argument is flippant, I think it is a point worth discussing.Finally, I read the longer notes at the end of the book with interest particularly this excerptEvidence suggests that the personality variable of religiosity basically, how much passion someone tends to feel about religious topics, wherever she falls on the belief scale is largely determined by genes Your identical twin brother may be an evangelical preacher while you re a screaming atheist, but these genetics data help explain why you re both so hot and bothered about GodAs someone with a very religious sister and a deeply committed and vocal atheist brother, I found this interesting.This is a short book 252 pages ,that is nevertheless too long Having said that, I loved Bering s writing, plus I like arguments and examples that are well fleshed out so it didn t really bother me.Later add I have added another star to my rating Since reading it I find that I have discussed it endlessly with friends I realise it has made a big impact on my understanding religion and spiritual beliefs It has changed the way I think, and any book that does that deserves five stars

  3. Armin Books Armin Books says:

    This book is not about the existence nonexistence of god Bering believes this is a trivial question His main interest is why most societies throughout history have believed in some sort of god or supernatural being He scrutinises beliefs through an evolutionary psychological lens.I think this a good no nonsense intro to evolutionary psychology of religion I learned about some compelling ideas in this book, such as the absolute importance of a theory of mind when it comes to belief in god.It This book is not about the existence nonexistence of god Bering believes this is a trivial question His main interest is why most societies throughout history have believed in some sort of god or supernatural being He scrutinises beliefs through an evolutionary psychological lens.I think this a good no nonsense intro to evolutionary psychology of religion I learned about some compelling ideas in this book, such as the absolute importance of a theory of mind when it comes to belief in god.It is a rather short book, but if you ask me it could have been made evenconcise There are a lot of personal anecdotes and case studies which definitely make the bookenjoyable to read, but are not essential in understanding the subject.While reading, I highlighted some key quotes on my kindle I would like to reproduce a few of thethoughtful ones here Perceiving the supernatural isn t magic, but something patently organic a function of the brain The quote below pretty much sums up the theory of mind Success for our human ancestors must have depended on being able to get inside the minds of those they lived with, second guess them, anticipate where they were going, help them if they needed it, challenge them, or manipulate them To do this they had to develop brains that would deliver a story about what it s like to be another person from the inside An this one, explains why a hyperactive theory of mind is the real reason behind the belief in god So it would appear that having a theory of mind was so useful for our ancestors in explaining and predicting other people s behaviours that it has completely flooded our evolved social brains As a result, today we overshoot our mental state attributions to things that are, in reality, completely mindless And all of this leads us, rather inevitably, to a very important question What if I were to tell you that God s mental states, too, were all in your mind That God, like a tiny speck floating at the edge of your cornea producing the image of a hazy, out of reach orb accompanying your every turn, was in fact a psychological illusion, a sort of evolved blemish etched onto the core cognitive substrate of your brain It may feel as if there is something grander out therewatching, knowing, caring Perhaps even judging But, in fact, that s just your overactive theory of mind In reality, there is only the air you breathe I particularly loved the following statement on the question of fairness of ones life It s astonishing that even some supposedly scientifically minded people don t realise this Life isn t fair But it isn t unfair either It just is The very asking of the question, why do bad things happen to good people presupposes an intelligent, morally concerned agent, or at least a mindful instigator, behind the scenes This one is actually from Paul Bloom, as quoted by Jesse Bering in the book The driving force behind natural selection is survival and reproduction, not truth All in all, Bering thinks belief in god has been an adaptive illusion in the evolution of our species an illusion which is no longer relevant but is hard to get rid of

  4. Adam Lewis Adam Lewis says:

    A superb and accessible account of religious cognition.I do not read many non fiction books in one sitting no matter how interesting I find their subject material as it is nearly impossible not to become bored at some point and put them down Yet in the past year, Bering s book is one of only two that have kept my attention so captured to be finished within 24 hours.As one of the leading scholars in the field of religious cognition Bering weaves a persuasive thesis that builds on the strengths o A superb and accessible account of religious cognition.I do not read many non fiction books in one sitting no matter how interesting I find their subject material as it is nearly impossible not to become bored at some point and put them down Yet in the past year, Bering s book is one of only two that have kept my attention so captured to be finished within 24 hours.As one of the leading scholars in the field of religious cognition Bering weaves a persuasive thesis that builds on the strengths of his research and others Herein you will not find someone wrestling with theological minutia as cognitive accounts of religion go right for the root of what really matters for a rigorous account of the supernatural the structure of the conceptualization rather than the propositional content As Bering amply demonstrates, the foundations of religious thought are based on cognition that is muchgeneral and deep than any specialized religious expression may superficially hint at.The first chapter opens with an exposition on theory of mind that ever present and nearly ubiquitous feature of our minds that fills it with recognition and understanding of other minds only those with Autism and Asperger s syndrome typically have an impaired theory of mind As the level of social sophistication was ratcheted up by evolution in our species, we broke into new niches that had previously been denied other Hominidae by their biological equipment namely laryngeal and cerebral A theory of mind allows for us to represent what other minds may be thinking or intending and language allows these things to be communicated.How does theory of mind relate to God in a foundational manner, Bering argues What is God but theory of mind applied to the mindless domain of nature where it does not belong We see this illustrated by the numerous and interesting historical examples that Bering gives us such as the disaster with a bridge and a clown and some geese where many people died You ll have to read it to get the details In the aftermath, natural causes were ascertained a faulty weld but God was nevertheless invoked by many in the town as the meta agent overseeing the event note this was not to the exclusion of the actual cause Indeed, a preacher even penned some sermons that laid blame to the sins of the town God was therefore sending a symbolic message with the disaster to the townsfolk to get back on the straight and narrow Such instances are not the sole property of the past as the rhetoric of many Christian evangelicals surrounding hurricane Katrina and the Haitian earthquake demonstrate When looking at such examples it becomes clear that intentionality is also tied up in this process and is a clue as to why one of the most fundamental aspects of religion is the interpretation of natural events within a social teleological frame.In another central chapter to the argument, Bering takes on the afterlife and why these beliefs are often central in the constellation of important religious subjects Included here is the claim that the precursors to reasoning about the afterlife emerge as a developmental regularity Bering and psychologist David Bjorkland conducted an experiment where a puppet show about a mouse getting killed by an alligator was shown to a large sample of children The surprising results demonstrated that even young children not yet enculturated into a particular religious tradition had a clear concept of biological death, yet still attributed thoughts and emotions to the mouse as if its mind were still functioning More research covered here discusses how even many atheists that did not believe in life after death still reasoned about it as if consciousness were still active such as saying that a dead man realizes he s dead now Bering calls this the simulation constraint hypothesis and argues that it is a foundational aspect of afterlife beliefs since it is impossible to imagine what it is like to be dead and this imparts the illusion that people can go somewhere after they die.At the end of the book Bering makes a claim that I feel has been sorely lacking in this subject s literature the explicit argument that this science is the way to pull back the curtain on the Wizard of Oz of God and all his mental minions As Bering notes, this is not a slam dunk argument for one could believe that this was the way in which the Almighty Creator of the Universe tinkered with human cognitive evolution to give us these, ahem, imperfections so we can recognize Him Indeed, a leading scholar in the field, Justin Barrett, believes just such a thing Yet, as one concerned with parsimony as Bering is, I find this to be very weak sauce.Of course, this review merely constitutes a very poor, incomplete summary of an excellently explicated and important book that cannot even begin to give the full text its due I hope that it may spark the interest of readers enough to pick Bering s book up and be introduced to the fascinating topic of religious cognition

  5. Abraham Abraham says:

    An old guy at a party once jokingly asked me, Does God exist Yes, I said, with an absolute certainty that surprised even me I felt a little stupid It was completely the wrong tone to strike My dad a big reason I ve beenor less an atheist my whole life was standing right there The old guy was totally thrown It was like doing improv with Michael Scott, only I was Michael Scott Even now, I m like 98% certain that God does NOT exist None of this stops me from believing in Him An old guy at a party once jokingly asked me, Does God exist Yes, I said, with an absolute certainty that surprised even me I felt a little stupid It was completely the wrong tone to strike My dad a big reason I ve beenor less an atheist my whole life was standing right there The old guy was totally thrown It was like doing improv with Michael Scott, only I was Michael Scott Even now, I m like 98% certain that God does NOT exist None of this stops me from believing in Him.In this book, Bering shares similar personal stories about faith like feelings popping up out of nowhere He, like me and so many other no doubt about it atheists, KNOWS that God doesn t exist But that doesn t stop him from sometimes FEELING like there sto life, or that there s life after death, or that God, the Universe, or SOMETHING has a plan for us It s one thing to SAY you don t believe in any of that hocus pocus, but mark my words It s up there somewhere in your brain, I mean Just as the celibate priest still has the innate urge to fuck, the consummate sinner still has the innate urge to believe Bering is something of a Richard Dawkins type They reor less in the same boat, intellectually But thankfully Bering comes off as much less of an ass hat He s not nearly as condescending toward believers, even though the main thesis of the book is that belief faith is really just a scratch on our cognitive lens, a peculiar byproduct of evolution Kinda ironic, isn t it, how evolution gave rise to the very minds that distrust it or say it s patently untrue If you don t want your faith to be tested, don t read this book Otherwise, it s a fun, surprisingly readable destruction of your most cherished beliefs

  6. Thomas Lanz Thomas Lanz says:

    I was blown away by this book The title makes it sound like another dud but do not be put off by that this is an engaging addictive read that will completely flip your worldview and have you questioning things that you did not even know needed questioning I have been around a long time and have seen it all This book is special beautifully written and as much a work of literature as it is pop science I do not define myself either as religious or atheist and care little for such discuss I was blown away by this book The title makes it sound like another dud but do not be put off by that this is an engaging addictive read that will completely flip your worldview and have you questioning things that you did not even know needed questioning I have been around a long time and have seen it all This book is special beautifully written and as much a work of literature as it is pop science I do not define myself either as religious or atheist and care little for such discussions Theology bores me to tears You won t find any of that in The God Instinct However, if you are a fan of existential philosophy as I am in the spirit of Camus, Sartre, Dostoyevsky and their ilk, you will love, love, love Bering It is not an uplifting book by any stretch of the imagination but if you want reality informed by science this is a MUST READ And as others have said it is also very funny and not in a corny way like other science writers

  7. Arjun Ravichandran Arjun Ravichandran says:

    The basic gist we are deeply social creatures, and our much prized cognitive faculties are due to our highly complex primate sociability and the associated need to decipher what the other is thinking about us This basic thrust behind our cognitive character accounts for us positing teleo rational projection which simply means positing intentionality and personality to aspects of reality that simply do not entail such a projection e.g the natural world The author shows that this compulsi The basic gist we are deeply social creatures, and our much prized cognitive faculties are due to our highly complex primate sociability and the associated need to decipher what the other is thinking about us This basic thrust behind our cognitive character accounts for us positing teleo rational projection which simply means positing intentionality and personality to aspects of reality that simply do not entail such a projection e.g the natural world The author shows that this compulsive need to posit another mind that is essentially OUR mind is the root cause for the delusions that the human animal has struggled with since the emergence of his complex social network these latter include the belief in a life after death, the belief in a uncreated creator, the belief in souls, destiny, fate, etc These are all simply evolutionary adaptations that do not function as well when they are elevated above and beyond their adaptive usefulness as trannquilizing delusions I enjoyed the writing style which makes for quick, easy, effortless reading but I did feel that the content was a little simplified I suppose this is because for someone who has read the great existentialist philosophers, starting with Nietzsche, the insights contained in this book seem a watered down version of the profound insights contained in these writers The constant quoting of studies was also a bit distracting Finally, the author s smug humor, which is sprinkled throughout the text, was a distraction I don t understand why psychologists feel the need to be funny Would you ask a dentist to show you a card trick

  8. Zaher Alhaj Zaher Alhaj says:

    Very interesting, amusing, informative, and accessible intro into the evolutionary psychology and the cognitive processes that enable humans to believe in metaphysical things Nature does not care about being moral or not, as its main concern is the survival and reproduction i.e genes passing Everything that ensues is the cultural product of each community or society However, it is a very illuminating notion to make distinction between what is scientific i.e real or true and what is prac Very interesting, amusing, informative, and accessible intro into the evolutionary psychology and the cognitive processes that enable humans to believe in metaphysical things Nature does not care about being moral or not, as its main concern is the survival and reproduction i.e genes passing Everything that ensues is the cultural product of each community or society However, it is a very illuminating notion to make distinction between what is scientific i.e real or true and what is practical i.e pragmatic or applicable , between what is rational and what is human I do believe that the dilemma of the New Atheism is considering religion as a virus e.g Dawkins or a parasite e.g Dennett , thus they completely ignore the important role of religion in building cohesive societies and low cost regulations Of course, I am no trying here to evangelize any dogmatic ideology, but trying to adopt abalanced view about the role of religion, considering the pros and cons One caveat here the whole gist of the book is based on the so called Theory of Mind Although there is a countless of evidences that back the theory, one always must be open to new discoveries and breakthroughs in this arena The pleasure of the science is in finding things out, in its fluidity and dynamism, especially for neuroscience and cognitive psychology that are still in infancy

  9. Julia Julia says:

    Quick run down Cognitive psychology has made a breakthrough discovery in theory of mind, where humans have the capacity to analyze the minds of others and therefore anticipate their behavior and our own Because of this, we ve invented God as someone who can keep us all in line, as a sense of a mind who is watching helps us modify our behavior First of all, reducing human belief in God to a natural explanation does not make a case against God s existence The strength of any argument should be Quick run down Cognitive psychology has made a breakthrough discovery in theory of mind, where humans have the capacity to analyze the minds of others and therefore anticipate their behavior and our own Because of this, we ve invented God as someone who can keep us all in line, as a sense of a mind who is watching helps us modify our behavior First of all, reducing human belief in God to a natural explanation does not make a case against God s existence The strength of any argument should be based on its own merits Let s see how well Bering measures up with his own The mind is what the brain does the brain stops working at death therefore, the subjective feeling that the mind survives death is a psychological illusion operating in the brains of the living Bering, 130Most scientists I ve read who address this issue of consciousness would not venture to claim Bering s first premise, at least not so dogmatically Brains compute, just like a computer, but a computer doesn t require consciousness to compute and neither do we, so there s no reason why consciousness should have evolved along with the brain s computing ability C.S Lewis put it well I see no reason for believing that one accident should be able to give me a correct account of all other accidents It s like expecting that the accidental shape taken by the splash when you upset a milk jug should give you a correct account of how the jug was made and why it was upset Greg Koukl explains the absurdity of reducing consciousness to the brain s physical workings That s like saying that a movie is nothingthan light shining through a piece of celluloid A movie requires light shining through a piece of celluloid and then you can see it projected on the screen But to say that it is nothingthan that misses something very obvious Did you ever go upstairs in a movie theater and look through the window of the projection room There is a big giant disc spinning, the celluloid goes through an apparatus, and there is hot light.Now, what if I were to tell you that that is the movie right there The movie is the physical action that I can see happening You d think that was ridiculous A movie is muchthan the physical mechanism, the machinery with the celluloid passing through it with a sharp, bright light behind it Rather, the movie is the image that is being projected on the screen, and it s eventhan just an image There is a story, dialogue, characterization There are all these other things that go beyond just the physical representation Bering brings up problem of evil as a case against God, I suppose, and then doesn t even engage with it at a serious level It s like bringing up a joke and then neglecting to say the punch line Don t bother I understand, he has an axe to grind as a homosexual and moral relativist, but then write a book about those issues, not one that claims to be cold hard science Don t get me wrong, it was interesting to read his studies about how children made mistakes in perception But ultimately, they proves nothing Enter the discipline of philosophy, in which humans learn discernment The unexamined life is not worth living Socrates.Bering acknowledges that his argument doesn t disprove the existence of God, but I m not sure if he understands what he means by that, or he s just taking another jab Does all this disprove the the existence of God Of course not Science speaks only to the improbable, not the impossible The burden of proof lies on atheists like Bering that theory of mind doesn t have a corresponding metaphysical reality because they can t even account for the emergence of the existence of consciousness Bering attempts to, but he runs into the chicken or egg dilemma though he doesn t bring that up Did our sense of shame develop our pre frontal cortex or did our pre frontal cortex develop our sense of shame Of course he admits we are at the beginning stages of study in cognitive psychology, but that doesn t give him the excuse to expect his readers to accept his thesis based on his sloppy work.I am sure there are other books that better engage in the topic of mind and belief than this one which is riddled with quick jabs to God and Christians and thoroughly seeped with the unscientific philosophy of scientism

  10. Book Book says:

    The Belief Instinct by Jesse Bering The Belief Instinct is an enjoyable book whose response to our basic belief system can be attributed to an understanding of the theory of mind Mr Bering weaves an interesting narrative on how psychological illusions caused by the theory of mind gave our ancestors an evolutionary advantage This 272 page book is composed of the following seven chapters 1 The History of an Illusion, 2 A Life without Purpose, 3 Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs, 4 Curious The Belief Instinct by Jesse Bering The Belief Instinct is an enjoyable book whose response to our basic belief system can be attributed to an understanding of the theory of mind Mr Bering weaves an interesting narrative on how psychological illusions caused by the theory of mind gave our ancestors an evolutionary advantage This 272 page book is composed of the following seven chapters 1 The History of an Illusion, 2 A Life without Purpose, 3 Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs, 4 Curiously Immortal, 5 When God Throws People Off Bridges, 6 God as Adaptive, and 7 And Then You Die Positives 1 An enjoyable, well written, well researched book that builds up an interesting theory to a satisfactory end 2 Elegant prose, very conversational tone throughout 3 Mr Bering is a well read author who doesn t hesitate to immerse quotes, anecdotes, studies smoothly into his narrative 4 At times, though provoking but never unintelligible 5 Teleo functioning reasoning explained 6 Evolution of our cognitive systems 7 Interesting look at autism 8 The human penchant to see meaningful signs 9 Many references to scientific studies sprinkled throughout book 10 The idea of an afterlife guided by our intuitions 11 The illusion of purpose 12 A thorough and satisfactory explanation of the theory of mind 13 Human evolution lead by the coevolution of the theory of mind and language 14 The impact of human gossip 15 The cognitive illusion of God 16 Good use of links and an excellent comprehensive bibliography Negatives 1 I really wanted to give this book 5 stars but I was a little disappointed in what was not included in the book versus what was in it Namely, athorough debunking of souls I would have liked to have seen the term defined anddepth 2 A littlescience would have helped Very basic, I understand the book is intended for the masses butscience was merited In summary, I enjoyed this book It didn t take long to read and Mr Bering does a wonderful job of tying everything together at the end It satisfactorily addresses why we have supernatural beliefs and why it was advantageous to our ancestors A littlesoul searching would have been icing on the cake but a sweet treat nonetheless Recommendations Religion Explained by Pascal Boyer, Human by Michael S Gazzaniga Supersense by Bruce M Hood, The Third Basic Instinct by Alex S Key and The Ego Tunnel by Thomas Metzinger

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