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Why do people behave religiously?. Prepared for NEI Second International Conference August 13, 2003. Steve Kercel, University of New England Endogenous Systems Research Group Don Mikulecky, Virginia Commonwealth University Center for the Study of Biological Complexity.

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Why do people behave religiously?


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why do people behave religiously
Why do people behave religiously?

Prepared for NEI

Second International Conference August 13, 2003

Steve Kercel, University of New England

Endogenous Systems Research Group

Don Mikulecky, Virginia Commonwealth University

Center for the Study of Biological Complexity

common thread our goal or true end is harmony with an unseen and unseeable world
Common thread: our goal or true end is harmony with an unseen and unseeable world
  • Does it produce visible effects?
    • Kant: Moral sense => freewill
  • Can we produce effects in it?
  • Do effects there => effects here?
  • How can we know the unknowable?
personal religious experience has its root and centre in mystical states of consciousness w james
“Personal religious experience has its root and centre in mystical states of consciousness” (W. James)
  • Claims to reveal big ideas
    • God
    • The unseen world
  • Inaccessible by
    • Evidence of the senses
    • Rational reflection
prayer is a process wherein work is really done james
Prayer is a process “wherein work is really done” (James)

… as is believed in the American South and Midwest

more than just present payoffs there is something wrong about us as we naturally stand
More than just present payoffs,“there is something wrong about us as we naturally stand”

“… proper

connection

with the

higher powers”

“… we are saved from wrongness

by making…

(James)

these are the attributes that james found common to religious experience
These are the attributes that James found common to religious experience
  • There is something wrong with Man
  • Out of touch with the unseen world
  • Prayer and mysticism put us in touch
  • Goal: change human nature
    • Maybe on Earth
    • Maybe in Heaven
we do make choices and some are self destructive
We do make choices and some are self-destructive

but, does what is “wrong about us as we

naturally stand,” require “connection

with higher powers” to put right?

the rational consideration of why questions goes back at least as far as aristotle
The rational consideration of “why” questions goes back at least as far as Aristotle
  • Why this effect, or transformation?
    • Material cause: what was transformed?
    • Efficient cause: by what constraints?
    • Formal cause: why this form?
    • Final cause: what is the purpose?
efficient cause forces behavior through constraint

V2

V1

C

L

E =-B/t

B = (J +E/t)

Efficient cause forces behavior through constraint

Morphology of

Natural System

Fundamental Relationship

Characterized as “Law of Nature”

a fundamental relationship constrained by a morphology specific constraint

V2

V1

C

L

A fundamental relationship constrained by a morphology => specific constraint

Transfer function

T(S) = (s2LC)/(S2LC + 1)

constrains transformation

of V1 into V2

The constraint is characterized as efficientcause, “dynamical law,” or “law of behavior”

three aristotelian causes seem adequate to explain why machines do what they do

V2

V1

C

L

Three Aristotelian causes seem adequate to explain why machines do what they do
  • Effect: V2
  • Material cause: V1
  • Efficient cause:
    • T(s) = (s2LC)/(S2LC + 1)
  • Formal cause:
    • Specific instances: L and C
  • Final cause: There isn’t any

T(s)

the influence of the parts on the whole is also called upward causation

Subsystem to which X(S) belongs

is determined by…

X(S) (and similar) which

is determined by …

T(S)

U(S)

W(S)

X(S)

T(S), U(S) and W(S) which

are determined by …

L, C and other such parts

The influence of the parts on the whole is also called upward causation
but efficient cause also depends on the parts and the morphology of the process

V2

V1

C

L

But efficient cause also depends on the parts andthe morphology of the process

In a machine, efficient cause is externally entailed

aristotle saw this process from large to small terminating in an uncaused first cause
Aristotle saw this process from large to small terminating in an uncaused First Cause

The Hand of God, for some function, entails …

the Hand of Man, for some function, entails …

the big robot, for some function, entails …

the small robot, for some function, entails …

T(s)

also called downward causation

the parts serve a function in the whole
The parts serve a function in the whole

Since it ends with God, discussion of downward,

or final, causation is dismissed as unscientific.

from the time of lamarck scientists and theologians have neatly split the turf

God / Immanent cause

Mind

Mind

Biological life

Biological life

Mechanisms

Superstrings

From the time of Lamarck, scientists and theologians have neatly split the turf …

with each camp getting the “part that matters”

the traditions share some remarkable common ground
The traditions share some remarkable common ground
  • Relevant causation is a linear hierarchy
  • Organization is separable from substrate
    • Physical substrate matters little
  • Sufficiently large description
    • Indistinguishable from process
      • Will of God, or
      • Equations of particle dynamics
larger possibility ignored by both let multiple processes entail efficient cause of another

A entails …

C entails …

B entails …

A entails …

C entails …

Larger possibility ignored by both: Let multiple processes entail efficient cause of another
can we form these hierarchies of entailment into a loop

A entails B

C entails A

B entails C

Can we form these hierarchies of entailment into a loop?

Does this entailment structure make sense?

endogenous causal loop commutes with a hyperset

A

 ={{{}}}

C

{}

B

{{}}

Endogenous causal loop commutes with a hyperset

Coherent existence of hypererset =>

coherence of endogenous loop

traversing the short path gives downward causation
Traversing the short path gives downward causation,

A entails C via B

C entails B via A

B entails A via C

Traversing the long path gives upward causation

endogenous causal loops are observed in brain function
Endogenous causal loops are observed in brain function

“Intelligent behavior is characterized

by flexible and creative pursuit of

endogenously defined goals.”

(Freeman)

endogeny differs from both orthodox science and religion
Endogeny differs from both orthodox science and religion
  • Relevant causation forms a loop hierarchy
    • Simultaneously upward and downward
  • Organization is inseparable from substrate
    • Physical substrate matters crucially
  • No largest model of this larger world
    • Always distinct from process
    • Impredicatives => partial insight
endogeny does not disprove the existence of god
Endogeny does not disprove the existence of God
  • By rational inquiry, God is
    • Neither provable
    • Nor disprovable
  • Endogeny of life and mind
    • neither precludes nor necessitates God
  • Evidence of God depends on mystical revelation
james does mysticism yield genuine insights
James: does mysticism yield genuine insights?
  • Absolutely authoritative to recipient
  • No duty for others to accept uncritically
  • Is it another kind of consciousness?
do entailments revealed by insight commute with those of processes in reality

d

Formal

System (F)

Natural

System (N)

a

b

c

MR={ (a,b) | a = c + b + d}

Do entailments revealed by insight commute with those of processes in reality?

e.g., Reductionism, the Talmud, Shamanism?

it is unwise to dismiss sudden insights without asking if they commute with reality
It is unwise to dismiss sudden insights without asking if they commute with reality
  • Perplexity suddenly resolved
    • Abduction or revelation?
    • Subjectively attributed
  • We all believe something
    • Self-evident truths
    • Not provable/disprovable

Happens in endogeny, the Talmud,

Shamanism, and even Reductionism

this is the third of three answers to why do people behave religiously
This is the third of three answers to “Why do people behave religiously?”
  • Interpreting insight as inspiration
  • Metaphor for downward causation
  • Seeking alternatives to self-destructiveness