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Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast: The Evolutionary Origins of Belief Hardcover – January 17, 2007
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Top Customer Reviews
The understanding of causality was a crucial breakthrough for mankind in the struggle for survival. It made complex tool manufacturing, conceptual thinking and language possible.
Technology drives human evolution: there are only 20.000 years between the first bow and arrow and the International Space Station. Language requires causal thinking, because verbs like `go, hit, throw' don't have any meaning without belief in cause and effect.
Experiencing the efficiency of causality in tool making, people sought to apply this principle for the understanding of the causes of all events, and certainly of life, death and disease. Through experience (tool making), cognition, intuition and also emotion (which helped already animals to make appropriate motor movements for survival), together with cultural transmission, people arrived at certain `beliefs', which became part of our genes.
The belief engine in our brain created religious, moral, ethical and scientific beliefs.
Religion is a belief in spiritual things. Its importance for survival could lay in its promotion of hope and optimism. Until recently, the whole world population was constantly confronted with war, death, disease, hunger, bad hygiene. The average lifespan was not more than 30 years.
Moral and ethical beliefs can have devastating effects because they are often imposed by those in power on its population (religious and ideological oppression).
Scientific beliefs have no moral or ethical content and are in conflict with religion, because there is no scientific evidence of God.Read more ›
As a biologist, Wolpert naturally turns to our evolutionary roots for clues to the origins of belief. That which sets us apart from the other animals - our oversized brain, our use of tools, and our ability to use language - as the indicators. The brain's capacity to store, retrieve and assemble information is tied to our abilities in technology and language. For Wolpert, the prime element is the making of tools. Making tools means envisioning the final product, and devising how to bring it about. Put more simply, understanding cause and effect - something even other primates have trouble with. From this beginning, he argues, come social relationships and a sense of values. Along the way, we also developed the idea of agency which we assigned to events or circumstances that were out of ordinary, everyday experience. If the process of flaking stone went wrong, why did that happen. The best-laid plans, etc.
From this beginning, Wolpert shows how the panoply of modern beliefs has come into our lives.Read more ›
However, unlike the controllable world of technology, the wider world of daily living does not conform to easily perceived regularities. So the belief engine works in a fast and frugal way, shunning reliable beliefs for quickly developed and applicable, albeit error prone, ones. As a consequence, we are genetically predisposed to be suggestible (e.g. hypnosis) and susceptible (e.g. jumping to conclusions) to factually unsupported beliefs, such as belief in the paranormal. Wolport concludes that children today are genetically programmed to accept religious beliefs from authority figures and this programming may be an evolutionary adaptive mechanism.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
More books to read I guess. This peaked my interest in some areas and left me unfulfilled in others. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Paul Canty
A demonstration of sound sceptical thinking. Very revealing quotes and a number of comparisons teken from everyday life makes it pleasant to read.
This book was a real disappointment.
It seems a potentially fascinating subject, and I generally have a high tolerance for technically complex ideas. Read more
You should read this book if you are interested in the origin of beliefs, i.e., why do humans hold beliefs and systems of beliefs that emerge from the fundamental recognition of... Read morePublished on July 11, 2010 by F Sabella
In the first chapter, Wolpert gives an invalid syllogism and says that most people are mistaken about it. Draw the Venn Diagram. He is the one in error. Unforgivable. Read morePublished on October 31, 2009 by A. Allinger
This book is rather a chore to read. Part of the problem is that Wolpert is just not a very good writer. He has an unfortunate habit of stating the blindingly obvious (for ex. Read morePublished on June 5, 2009 by Cebes
It's a shame, too, because Wolpert has a really interesting idea -- that the fact that humans are driven to explain the causes of the things they see around them, even when they... Read morePublished on November 18, 2008 by Larry L. Orr
Maybe I've read to many books of this type, but I just couldn't find anything major novel and interesting in this book. Read morePublished on September 26, 2008 by ah