Re: virus: Why people cling to faith
Tue, 26 Jan 1999 18:12:02 EST

I still like my model: The human nervous system has evolved the capacity, centered in that computer-like outgrowth that we call the brain, to 'simulate' its future chains of experiences (i.e. nervous system activity) based on past sequences of experiences replayed from its 'memory'. We sometimes refer to this experiential 'scenerio' constructing ability as our 'imagination' when we use it for fanciful meanderings, or 'conceptualization' when we use it for more serious pursuits. Humans have also evolved the ability to encode their experiential data -- both memorized sensory data derived directly from environmental interaction, and 'conceptualized/imagined' data which may be primarily 'simulated' and not verified by sensory experience -- and transmit this code in the form of vocal and bodily gesticulation patterns as 'second hand' experiential data to other human nervous systems -- clearly a powerful survival-enhancing capability.

Humans have not known what to make of this 'experiential simulation' ability and in the past may well have mistaken their simulations for 'messages' from a
"God" which they have also simulated. However, this ability to process and
manipulate our stored experiential information in such a way as to simulate (or 'anticipate', or 'theorize', or whatever else you want to call it) future sequences of experience is clearly a survival-enhancing capability, and is easily rationalizable in Darwinian terms (which I will not do here). But, by using this same 'device', we humans have now developed a nice metaphor in terms of which we can understand it, and which is able to do similar things. We call it a 'computer'.

The fact that some of us cling to 'comforting' experiential-simulations -- especially when transmitted to us by persons we consider to be 'authorities' who 'know' -- is not so hard to understand, like the little girl back in the first grade whom I tried unsuccessfully to convince that her mommy was wrong and that there is no 'Santa Clause' . It's just that some others of us have come to understand and appreciate the still relatively new (compared to the established religious doctrines) principles of 'science', and are more concerned that our simulations correlate closely with our carefully obtained and evaluated sensory-experiential data.

To me, that makes sense. Why make it more complicated? Chris Turner 1-26-98