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Thursday, 19 January 2017

Why do we believe?

A recent Guardian article (Why do people persist in beliefs that are wrong – and even harmful?) triggered a question in me: Why do humans believe? Essentially, believing is perceiving things different than they appear to be following our senses (eg, hearing, sight, smell, taste). Or in the words of the Guardian: "Apparent irrationality, argue the Gormans, can be a survival mechanism."

While making a mindmap, previous blog topics appeared: knowledge, assumptions, expectations, beliefs, and goals. While writing down my concept of Needs-Wants-Beliefs, I suddenly stopped at Wants. What if beliefs provide the necessary (evolutionary) link between Needs and Wants??

As noted in my 23 November 2016 blog, all Life on this planet is in the Needs stage (eg, food, shelter). Only Life using tools is in the Wants stage (eg, birds, humans, monkeys). Using tools is a fundamental step in the history of Life. Wiki: "Originally thought to be a skill only possessed by humans, some tool use requires a sophisticated level of cognition". Developing and using tools is a consequence of consciousness (eg, assumptions, expectations).

Consciousness and self-awareness are prerequisites for two other concepts: Temptation and Goals. As stated in my 3 December 2016 blog Faith, Beliefs & Willpower, Temptation and Goals are connected through Willpower. In my 13 December 2016 blog Faith, Beliefs & Willpower (2), I explained that Willpower requires faith/beliefs in order to continue after initial failure. In other words, faith/beliefs connects Needs (aka Goals) and Wants (aka Temptation).

As mentioned in my 30 April 2016 blog, the 2 fundamental human emotions are Love and Fear. These emotions translate into the most fundamental type of beliefs: good versus bad/evil. Latter is not universal as different cultures have different values (eg, NYT, Science Direct). This confirms that "good vs bad" is a belief rather than a (universal) principle.

This most fundamental type of beliefs (good versus bad/evil) appears to have been subsequently translated into religious beliefs: Go(o)d versus (d)evil. It's rather easy to see how Love and Fear have been incorporated in Faith and Religion: from loving gods versus fearful gods (polytheism) towards a loving God versus a fearful devil (monotheism).

The evolutionary success of these early beliefs has brought only one species (humans) to go to the final stage of Needs-Wants-Beliefs. The 7 (extreme) Belief systems consist of Love, Money, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Science and the Truth. It seems likely that Faith / Religion was the very 1st Belief system. Until today, scientists have not found any culture on this planet without evidence of a religious belief system.

The power and weakness of beliefs - and Belief systems - is that they unite (Love) and divide (Fear). This essence can also be seen in a famous quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: "Divide and rule, the politician cries; unite and lead, is watchword of the wise." 

The Power of Love (1984) by Frankie Goes To Hollywood


The power of love
A force from above
Cleaning my soul
Flame on burn desire
Love with tongues of fire
Purge the soul
Make love your goal