Re: origin of beliefs

From: Robin Hanson (
Date: Tue Aug 07 2001 - 08:19:11 MDT

Lee Corbin wrote:

> Josh Cahoon has brought up the deep subject of *why* we believe what
> we believe.
> > What would we do with if we found out that reason is a minor factor?
> Reason is* a minor factor! We obtain our initial beliefs in any given area
> by various processes ... an entire gestalt very quickly calculated by
> your brain. ... Reason will have nothing to do with it.

Of course if evolution had primarily wanted us to hold true beliefs, it might
have made those unconscious processes mirror reason in many ways,
including the use of criticism. So the question is to what extent brains
evolved to seek truth, vs. other goals for beliefs.

> The role of reason---for the very few who actually hold internal debates
> ----is to expose your new belief to a variety of well formulated logical
> attacks based on your other beliefs and upon a huge number of memes
> lodged in your mind. ...

> So, now that we were free to *conjecture* a new belief, guess what? We

> immediately seized upon the belief that was most emotionally compelling,
> to wit, the one that favored our own candidate in a highly charged election.

Once you realize that you are biased toward your candidate, you can correct
your beliefs without elaborate use of reason. Just move your beliefs
in the direction of beliefs favored by those who like the other candidate.
If you realize you have this option, and choose not to use it, I think you must
admit to yourself that you are not really truth-seeking in this area.

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