Sunday, December 17, 2006

Reason, Religion and the Man in the Moon

The man in the moon doesn’t really look like a man, but we see him anyway because human brains are pre-wired to see patterns and pictures that aren’t really there. Seeing things that aren’t there is a symptom of insanity, except for when it’s not. So when I say “I look up in the sky and see a face looking back at me” you have to wait for the context to determine whether I’m crazy, or merely prone to poetic clichés when describing the moon.

More ambiguously sane comments: that face in the sky watches everything I do. He can read my thoughts. He knows me better than I know myself, and can probably foretell my future as well.

Is this a lunatic describing his delusions, or a religious man talking about his faith in God? It could be either one. Believing in things that can’t be measured or seen is another sign of insanity, except for when it’s not. Is religion branded into our brains like pattern recognition? Maybe it’s just another bit of faulty wiring, an insane process that's perfectly normal in humanity, another reminder that our intellects evolved in an animal context.

If praying mantises ever get around to inventing religion, it will be a holy sacrament when the female eats her mate after sex.


Anonymous NoStar said...

I've always considered it a holy sacrament when my mate eats me and vice-versa.

9:47 PM  
Blogger rhhardin said...

Seeing patterns where there are none has survival value.

The cost of being wrong on that is much less than the cost of missing a pattern that is in fact there.

So if you're going to make mistakes, the seeing-patterns mistake keeps the species alive where the opposite one does not.

11:05 PM  
Blogger Windypundit said...

If praying mantises ever get around to inventing religion, it will be a holy sacrament when the female eats her mate after sex.

I think you need to take this and run with it. If it worked for L. Ron Hubbard...

1:25 AM  
Blogger Anne O'Neimaus said...

I'm not certain I completely agree with Marx' take: "Religion is the opiate of the masses." However, I do think that "Organized religion is the opiate of the masses" comes close to the truth.

Why is organized religion so effective? These guys could definitely teach Madison Avenue a thing or two - and probably have. I think you may be right, that it takes advantage of something that's hard-wired into our brains.

Recognizing, and defending against, such tactics should probably be a crucial part of any modern education. Of course, the Powers that Be don't really want peons - excuse me, people - who actively engage in critical thinking, so such education will probably never become commonplace.

7:45 AM  
Blogger Anne O'Neimaus said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:47 AM  
Anonymous Eric J said...

Nah. If praying mantises ever had religion, they would declare mate-eating sinful. Then when the female mantis did what came naturally, the church would claim that merely proves the sinful nature of mantis-kind and use it to inflict guilt on generations of female mantises, and force them to come to the Church as "clearly" the only source of absolving that sin....

5:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, that's exactly backwards. The Mantis Church would say that the male mantis is sinful because the first male mantis tempted the female to fuck/eat him, and then declare that being eaten was the duty of the male mantis as the working out of the just judgment of the Divine for his original sin. Female mantises would be encouraged to fuck/eat as many males as possible in order to be fruitful and multiply and incidentally carry out the natural headship of the family... such as it is...

7:39 PM  
Anonymous smartass sob said...

How do you KNOW the "patterns and pictures aren't really there"... unless, of course, you have some sort of superior brain that is not "pre-wired"? ;-)

Actually, if our brains are prewired to find patterns and pictures (percepts?) at all, it would seem more logical (and useful) that they find patterns that ARE there. Certainly that would have more survival value.

11:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

comment deleted. this post has been removed by the author???

which author...the author of the comment or the author of the blog? are you censoring us, jennifer?

11:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

eric j - that rocked.

rhhardin - I've thought that myself, although it's only a hunch.

It's like prejudice - it's good to be mindful of "those people", since that are plenty of places, even today, where if you're not among people who know and can trust, you shouldn't turn you back on anyone.

Unfortunately, like seeing patterns, it's when you aren't able to temper it with reason or logic that you run into trouble.

2:25 AM  
Blogger Anne O'Neimaus said...

@anonymous: which author...the author of the comment or the author of the blog? are you censoring us, jennifer?

The Blog system didn't show my post immediately, so I ended up reposting the same thing several times. I then erased the duplicates. Sorry about that. Jennifer is in no way responsible.

7:03 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

The only comments I ever delete are the ones from spambots. (Do those even work? How many people reading a thread like this wil then think "Hey, look! I can buy v1agra (sic) cheap over the Internet! What a great opportunity!"

Sorry, Anne. I was going to delete your extra comments yesterday, but deleting comments is a minor pain in the ass, because I have to log in a special way and deal with some hassles. I'd meant to clear them out this morning.

7:32 AM  
Anonymous NoStar said...

That picture of Jennifer with her head slightly forward and those blazing eyes makes her look suspiciously like a woman who might devour her mate after sex.


11:53 AM  

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