Re: Extropianism & Theology & dopamine

Anders Sandberg (
03 Mar 1999 22:53:41 +0100

Spike Jones <> writes:

> > What real evidence is there for an innate tendency for worship?
> Anders, those of us who have it need not even ask the question. {8-[
> Before, I used the analogy of worship instinct to homosexuality. That
> analogy breaks down if one pushes it too far, but it works in some
> ways. For instance, those of us who are straight just dont understand
> it, try as we might. But I suggest that sexual orientation is somehow
> hard wired, not learned behavior. Instinct. Like worship instinct,
> hard wired, not learned. The particular *brand* of religion is learned,
> the susceptibility to it is instinct. I think.

Interesting. I seem to lack that instinct, and have a hard time understanding it. Of course, I like being awed, but most of the time I set up things so that I'm the one responsible for the awe (like learning math to understand a great concept like the de Rahm Cohomology, my archetypal example of mathematical profoundity).

> I have seen it from the opposite point of view than most extropians:
> children of religious parents are born utterly lacking the religion
> gene. These parents are often emotionally crushed, self blaming,
> etc. Its very sad. No amount of brainwashing will reverse the
> condition, and instill the religion meme, if one is born without the
> religion gene.

Somehow I think it is not a specific religion gene, but some other personality or cognitive traits that provides a receptor for the meme.

> > As I see it, we need to find ways of making extropianism or
> > transhumanism as emotionally fulfilling as it is intellectually
> > fulfilling. I think it can be done, but it is an unusual (i.e. new)
> > use for psychology and critical thinking to come up with it.
> Dopamine. If we master ways to create the right dopamines, one
> should be able to control ones religious beliefs, and sexual orientation
> for that matter.

:-) It might be harder to change sexual orientation, since it likely is partially hardwired in non-plastic parts of the brain like the hypothalamus. But we'll find out in time. The interesting question is how many who would change their "core values" if they got the chance.

> Consider: there is a special kind of dopamine that
> is associated with religion. I once could literally make myself high
> without ingesting chemicals, but by... well never mind how. But if
> we could make a pill that releases those feel-good chemicals without
> resorting to religion, well, there you have it. Seems like we should
> be able to figure out which dopamines go with which activities, and
> arrange for them to be released whenever it is appropriate. Then
> perhaps Extropianism can be made as fulfilling as religiona and love.

Religious ecstasy can definitely be understood, even if studying it might be tricky. However, religions isn't just about making people feel wonderful, they have other properties too. And feeling wonderful also has many components (pure pleasure, meaningfulness, happiness, community etc.) that we might want to separate out. Many of these can be reached without changing brain chemistry from the outside.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y