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'For what a man had rather be true he more readily believes' Bacon 16th Century. Causal beliefs can determine how we behave. We cannot tolerate not knowing the cause of important events like illness and death.

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'For what a man had rather be true he more readily believes' Bacon 16th Century

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'For what a man had rather be true he more readily believes'

Bacon 16th Century

Causal beliefs can determine how we behave.

We cannot tolerate not knowing the cause of important events like illness and death.

The original and only true function of the brain, from and evolutionary viewpoint, is to control movement and interaction with the environment.

That is why plants have no brains.

Causal beliefs make us human and different

from all other animals.

It evolved in relation to use of tools. It led to

religious beliefs.

All cultures have beliefs about causes, but more

than 90% of events have causes not easily

accessible to an individual.

Supernatural explanations are common:


communication with spirits


ghosts and angels

Causal understanding in children is a

developmental primitive.

From 3 months infants can reason about physical causality ; by 7 months objects remain whole, and require contact to move.

By 18 months they can rake a toy to themselves.

By 3 years they understand that people

have different beliefs.

Many questions about causes.

Light on box -touch hand/head

..humans, but no other primates, understand

the causal and intentional relations that hold

among external entities.

Michael Tomasello

Seeing the wind shake a branch so that

the fruit falls, off would lead no animal

other than a human to shake the branch to

get the fruit.

Crows use sticks as tools

Lack of causal understanding

Chimps are at the edge of causal

understanding, but do not ever modify

a stone.

Kanzi was taught to make tools

The first human tools may have been

the result of a stone breaking when

used on nuts - but causal thinking was


A million or so years in stasis in tool use,

and then some 100,000 years ago new

tools appeared.

Technology requires a concept of

physical cause, and drove human


Language may have come from

gesture and throwing. It helped with

causal beliefs.

Technology drove human evolution.

Humans could manipulate their


Dunbar argues that it was social

understanding that drove human

evolution. But what was the big


Religion provided causal understanding.

Religion offered the possibility of asking

for help by praying. All societies have

had religious beliefs.

Humans were the most obvious causal

agents and gods are human-like.

“men create the gods after their own image”


Religion is the commitment to the existence

of culturally postulated superhuman beings.

It was a selective advantage to have religious

belief, as it removed uncertainty. Such beliefs

may have become genetically programmed.

There is evidence that those with religious

beliefs have better health.

In almost all religions there is an afterlife.

This can reduce the fear of death and so is an

advantage. This involves mystical thinking.

Religion is not based on evidence.

Mostmental illnesses involve false beliefs; common are delusions/hallucinations







I discovered that beauty, revelation,

sensuality, the cellular history of the

past, God, the Devil - all lie inside my

body, outside my mind

Timothy Leary on LSD

We have a mystical mind probably from


There is evidence that the drug from magic

mushrooms can trigger a religious experience.

Also electrical stimulation of the brain can also.

Being a member of a religious community an be

an advantage. Sloan Wilson

Religion and the belief in God is most common

in societies that have the most intensive

struggle for existence. Is the USA a counter


Science is special, not

technology -and it all comes from the Greeks.

Thales Aristotle Euclid


Egyptians no explanation

Greeks explain heavens


Science is the best way to understand the

world, but it is unnatural - it goes against

common sense. Archimedes.

Moon; force and motion; quantum mechanics

Galileo and falling body.

No miracle should be believed unless the

evidence was such that it would be miraculous

not to believe in it. David Hume

There is no evidence that the fertilised human

egg is a human being. Implications for stem

cells and abortion.

Intelligent design is based on faith not science.

There will always be some unanswered


Science is the best way to understand the world.

If the history science were rerun the results

would be the same, but DNA might be googy.

Paranormal beliefs invoke forces and causes

both outside ordinary experience and science.

They offer believers new powers.

possible to contact the dead

to access past lives

horoscopes can predict the future

spiritual healing can cure


angels and ghosts and aliens

read someone else's mind

spirits can move objects

levitation is possible

‘If a person is poorly, receives treatment to make

him better, and then gets better, then no power of

reasoning known to medical science can convince

him that it may not have been the treatment that

restored his health’.

Peter Medawar

Placebo effect determined by beliefs

Three general purpose heuristics - availability,

representativeness, and anchoring.

Why did science persist in the West?

Christianity was involved in argument and

rationality. They were concerned about the

nature of the physical world

Aquinas held that theology was science from God

Many religions believed in rebirth.

No good evidence for Gods

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