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Why do people behave religiously? Steve Kercel, University of New England Endogenous Systems Research Group Don Mikulecky, Virginia Commonwealth University.

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Presentation on theme: "Why do people behave religiously? Steve Kercel, University of New England Endogenous Systems Research Group Don Mikulecky, Virginia Commonwealth University."— Presentation transcript:

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

2 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?

3 “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

4 Prayer is a process “wherein work is really done” (James) … as is believed in the American South and Midwest

5 More than just present payoffs, “there is something wrong about us as we naturally stand” “… we are saved from wrongness by making… “… proper connection with the higher powers” (James)

6 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

7 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?

8 If we know why we do what we do, can we choose to do something else?

9 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?

10 Efficient cause forces behavior through constraint Fundamental Relationship Characterized as “Law of Nature” Morphology of Natural System  E = -  B/  t  B =  (J +  E/  t) V1V1 V2V2 L C

11 A fundamental relationship constrained by a morphology => specific constraint The constraint is characterized as efficient cause,  “dynamical law,” or “law of behavior” Transfer function T(S) = (s 2 LC)/(S 2 LC + 1) constrains transformation of V 1 into V 2 V1V1 V2V2 L C

12 Three Aristotelian causes seem adequate to explain why machines do what they do Effect: V 2 Material cause: V 1 Efficient cause: –T(s) = (s 2 LC)/(S 2 LC + 1) Formal cause: –Specific instances: L and C Final cause: There isn’t any V1V1 V2V2 L C T(s)

13 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) and W(S) which are determined by … L, C and other such parts X(S) T(S)U(S) W(S)

14 V1V1 V2V2 L C But efficient cause also depends on the parts and the morphology of the process In a machine, efficient cause is externally entailed

15 But what entails the entailments of the thing that entailed efficient cause, T(s)?

16 Aristotle saw this process from large to small terminating in an uncaused First Cause T(s) The Hand of God, for some function, entails … also called downward causation the Hand of Man, for some function, entails … the big robot, for some function, entails … the small robot, for some function, entails …

17 The parts serve a function in the whole Since it ends with God, discussion of downward, or final, causation is dismissed as unscientific.

18 From the time of Lamarck, scientists and theologians have neatly split the turf … Superstrings Mechanisms Biological life Mind God / Immanent cause Biological life with each camp getting the “part that matters”

19 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

20 Larger possibility ignored by both: Let multiple processes entail efficient cause of another C entails … B entails … A entails … C entails …

21 Can we form these hierarchies of entailment into a loop? C entails A B entails C A entails B Does this entailment structure make sense?

22 Endogenous causal loop commutes with a hyperset C B A Coherent existence of hypererset => coherence of endogenous loop {}{} {{  }}  ={{{  }}}

23 Traversing the short path gives downward causation, C entails B via A B entails A via C A entails C via B Traversing the long path gives upward causation

24 Endogenous causal loops are observed in brain function “Intelligent behavior is characterized by flexible and creative pursuit of endogenously defined goals.” (Freeman)

25 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

26 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

27 James: does mysticism yield genuine insights? Absolutely authoritative to recipient No duty for others to accept uncritically Is it another kind of consciousness?

28 Do entailments revealed by insight commute with those of processes in reality? Natural System (N) Formal System (F) a b c d MR={ (a,b) | a = c + b + d} e.g., Reductionism, the Talmud, Shamanism?

29 It is unwise to dismiss sudden insights without asking if they commute with reality Happens in endogeny, the Talmud, Shamanism, and even Reductionism Perplexity suddenly resolved –Abduction or revelation? –Subjectively attributed We all believe something –Self-evident truths –Not provable/disprovable

30 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


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