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Feedback requested on a new hypothesis on the origin of atheism
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07-09-2016, 10:12 PM
Feedback requested on a new hypothesis on the origin of atheism
Hello. This is my first time posting and even visiting here. I must say at the outset that I am not an atheist but a Christian theist. However, most of my friends are atheists and I enjoy discussing logic and reason with them and even engaging in some friendly debates from time to time with mutual respect.

I have a tremendous interest in science and am considering writing a book about a new hypothesis I have been working on for the origin of atheism.

Please allow me to explain.

First, this is a completely naturalistic and scientifically testable and falsifiable hypothesis. There is no appeal to a deity.

A common claim from atheists I encounter is that we are all born atheists, that atheism is the default position and that people typically come to their theistic beliefs through childhood indoctrination.

But new research in neuroscience, however, is showing that this appears not to be the case and that we are actually all born believers. For evidence, I point to the work of Dr. Justin Barrett (see link below) and also Dr Paul Bloom.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion...laims.html

You have no doubt heard the explanation of religion given by Michael Shermer and others that evolution has caused us to see teleology in nature because of its survival advantage. If a rabbit hears a rustle in the bushes, it is better off to assume the noise came from a dangerous predator and either run or hide. Those rabbits that assumed the noise was merely the wind got eaten and thus did not pass on their genes. In this way, we are inclined to experience many "false-positives" and this, so the theory goes, is the origin of religion.

But if we are truly born believers, I would like to propose a hypothesis for what I call "atheopathy" - being born without a belief in God. Please note, I use the term "atheopath," not in a derogatory manner, but simply for someone born without a belief in God - much the same way a sociopath is born without empathy.

Here is my hypothesis:

1. Our starting assumption is not that a god exists or doesn't exist but that its existence is outside of the purview of science. We will not consider supernatural or non-natural explanations.

2. Theism is the default position. We are all born believers. Evolution has caused us to be this way due to its survival advantage.

3. Atheopaths lack a belief in God. They are "born that way." Their "agency detector" is broken. Studies have, in fact, demonstrated that theists see patterns that don't exist and atheists miss patterns that do exist. Their "pattern recognition software," so to speak, has been corrupted.

4. One mechanism that we know of which tends to break things and corrupt information is genetic mutation.

5. So, my testable, falsifiable prediction is that one or more genetic mutations are responsible for atheopathy.

Incidentally, a connection has been made between atheism and autism in the peer-reviewed literature. Perhaps if we find the cause of autism, we will be closer to finding the cause of atheopathy. (Hint: I don't believe it is vaccines. Wink )

Any feedback from members is sincerely appreciated. This is a serious hypothesis that I believe deserves careful consideration and study with the intent to understand why some people are born without a belief in God.

Also, please do not take offense to anything I have said. You might choose to look at this hypothesis as humans evolving away from religion and, for atheopaths, any remnant of faith being vestigial.

Thank you for your time and attention.
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07-09-2016, 10:26 PM (This post was last modified: 07-09-2016 10:42 PM by DLJ.)
RE: Feedback requested on a new hypothesis on the origin of atheism
Welcome to TTA, Randy.

I like the way you put that together but my own pattern analysis software has detected a slight flaw with the 2nd point.

Try plugging in some other belief; something more mundane ... how about "ManCity-opaths lack a belief in the the superiority of Man Utd" or something like that.

So, with point 2. I would tweak that by saying that "We are all born with the capacity to accept authority i.e. believe what we are told by our guardians (and often our peers). Evolution has caused us to be this way due to its survival advantage."

But also we are born with an instinct to detect deceit. It's quite possible that as we have, over generations, shaped our environment to remove many existential threats, the people with the 'deceit-detector' genes have had the opportunity to thrive i.e. they haven't been eaten before they reproduced when someone shouted "Tiger!" and they replied "I don't believe you."

And regarding my own lack of belief... it's quite possible that my genetic autistic traits (father with hints of OCD; son with Asperger's syndrome) is at the root of my inability to accept myths as truths ... or it could have been a childhood indoctrination by / admiration of Mr Spock

... perhaps both.

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07-09-2016, 10:47 PM
RE: Feedback requested on a new hypothesis on the origin of atheism
Welcome.

https://richarddawkins.net/2014/08/are-k...ef-in-god/

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.11...8/abstract

“I am quite sure now that often, very often, in matters concerning religion and politics a man’s reasoning powers are not above the monkey’s.”~Mark Twain
“Ocean: A body of water occupying about two-thirds of a world made for man - who has no gills.”~ Ambrose Bierce
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07-09-2016, 10:58 PM
RE: Feedback requested on a new hypothesis on the origin of atheism
Thank you for your reply, DLJ.

If I understand you correctly, you are saying that the reason we believe in gods is because "we are born with the capacity to accept authority and believe what we are told by our guardians (and often our peers)."

I accept that but would it not still mean that the belief, in God, itself is not innate but learned? That is the very point I am contesting. Atheist Lewis Wolpert among others has argued that "atheism is unnatural while belief in gods is not." (See interview at link below.)

http://www.pointofinquiry.org/lewis_wolp...of_belief/

I admit that I do feel the first hurdle I must get over is to convince atheists with evidence from the peer-reviewed literature that belief in God is innate. And many Christians will reject my hypothesis as well because the Bible states that everyone knows God exists and there really are no atheists. So I fear that it will be an uphill battle to persuade either side of the value of my hypothesis if they don't accept the starting assumptions.
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07-09-2016, 11:02 PM
RE: Feedback requested on a new hypothesis on the origin of atheism
(07-09-2016 10:47 PM)Full Circle Wrote:  Welcome.

https://richarddawkins.net/2014/08/are-k...ef-in-god/

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.11...8/abstract

Thank you, Full Circle. I will read those links with great interest.
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07-09-2016, 11:26 PM
RE: Feedback requested on a new hypothesis on the origin of atheism
(07-09-2016 10:58 PM)Randy Ruggles Wrote:  Thank you for your reply, DLJ.

If I understand you correctly, you are saying that the reason we believe in gods is because "we are born with the capacity to accept authority and believe what we are told by our guardians (and often our peers)."

I accept that but would it not still mean that the belief, in God, itself is not innate but learned? That is the very point I am contesting. Atheist Lewis Wolpert among others has argued that "atheism is unnatural while belief in gods is not." (See interview at link below.)

http://www.pointofinquiry.org/lewis_wolp...of_belief/

I admit that I do feel the first hurdle I must get over is to convince atheists with evidence from the peer-reviewed literature that belief in God is innate. And many Christians will reject my hypothesis as well because the Bible states that everyone knows God exists and there really are no atheists. So I fear that it will be an uphill battle to persuade either side of the value of my hypothesis if they don't accept the starting assumptions.

Kinda. I'm saying that I accept that 'a capacity to believe' (the ability to 'represent' a concept) is innate i.e. built into the operating system (by evolution) but 'what gets believed' (the actual concept) is the software that's loaded in our informative years.

Or to continue the IT analogy, belief in a god or gods or goddesses is the customisation rather than the configuration.

And the bible? Well. that's just a poorly written Operating Manual / Policy Framework.

Wink

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08-09-2016, 12:17 AM
RE: Feedback requested on a new hypothesis on the origin of atheism
I have a problem with #2 as well.

In your indtroductory explanation you mentioned rabbits hearing rustles in the bushes being of an evolutionary advantage (the "false positives"). I agree that this would be an favourable trait.
However, while believing that an intelligent agent creating the universe being a similar trait to detect a "false positive" agency is of the same category, it is on a completely different level. How is one justified to jump from assuming primitive thinking like "i think something is near, based on some sensory input" to a much higher evolved (in terms of intellect) thinking (admittedly of a similar category) of "when i sit down and consider the origin of everything around me, i come to the conclusion that an intelligent agent created it"?
Pattern recognition on a "tactical" level in day to day survival is one thing, but why relate it to "strategic" (philosophical level) thinking about the origin of everything around me. Is this really justified?

What i am talking about is that comparing the two is possibly a fallacy of false analogy unless you have scientific data to support the link of the two?

Ceterum censeo, religionem delendam esse
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08-09-2016, 12:22 AM
RE: Feedback requested on a new hypothesis on the origin of atheism
Addendum: being a christian theist, i hope you dont think that, even given the fact that theism is probably an innate favourable evolutionary trait, this does not even in the slightest has anything to say about the truth value of the proposition "gods exist".
Thinking one thing may or may not exist is irrelevant for the fact if said thing really exists.

Ceterum censeo, religionem delendam esse
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08-09-2016, 04:01 AM
RE: Feedback requested on a new hypothesis on the origin of atheism
(07-09-2016 10:12 PM)Randy Ruggles Wrote:  Here is my hypothesis:

1. Our starting assumption is not that a god exists or doesn't exist but that its existence is outside of the purview of science. We will not consider supernatural or non-natural explanations.
You missed the bit where you define what a God is?

Quote:2. Theism is the default position. We are all born believers. Evolution has caused us to be this way due to its survival advantage.
It may be a default position in terms of what babies believe but it doesn't say anything about it being the default *logical* position.

Quote:3. Atheopaths lack a belief in God. They are "born that way." Their "agency detector" is broken. Studies have, in fact, demonstrated that theists see patterns that don't exist and atheists miss patterns that do exist. Their "pattern recognition software," so to speak, has been corrupted.
Please cite these studies.

Quote:4. One mechanism that we know of which tends to break things and corrupt information is genetic mutation.

5. So, my testable, falsifiable prediction is that one or more genetic mutations are responsible for atheopathy.
Please state *how* you would test your so-called testable, falsifiable prediction.

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If you're perfect -- Alanis Morissette
(06-02-2014 03:47 PM)Momsurroundedbyboys Wrote:  And I'm giving myself a conclusion again from all the facepalming.
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08-09-2016, 04:29 AM (This post was last modified: 08-09-2016 04:43 AM by Gloucester.)
RE: Feedback requested on a new hypothesis on the origin of atheism
Like many of my fellow members I also have particular problems with your second contention.

To me mind we are all born atheists, atheopaths. whatever word you want to use for ''those who believe only in observable, testable reality''. That is the default position.

You are a Christian and sem to be approaching it from the ''One God'' approach. what of shamanism, animism and all the other non-Abrahamic beliefs?

Humans are born with curiosity, a strong desire to learn, just like all the other higher animals. our evolution has, however, given us a much more powerful intelligence (though I wish more would use it) than the other animals. They do not worship some incorporate entity (so far as we know) But humans desperately NEED to know what, why, where . . . about the world they live in.

Before sufficient knowledge was developed they told each other stories that were designed to explain storms, fire, disease, etc etc. Some stories got a real grip on the imagination and, when writing was invented, were recorded and turned into something more formal.

Humans also, as has also been mentioned, seek leadership - or seek to be leaders. Combine those two and you have a hierachy, the led following the leaders. That tends to feed another trend amongst some humans - the lust for power, if not lucre.

Add all those trends together and religion was almost inevitable. Yes, it could be said to be a product of our evolution, but by the back door! Definitely in the sense that I take you meant. It is a "defence mechanism" against the unknown and the fearful in the way that some suffer delusions to protect them from reality.

Some have that curiosity, that desire for knowledge but also have their feet firmly planted on the conccrete, the abstract is for philosophers and psychologists to study and debate and for priests to practice.

Tomorrow is precious, don't ruin it by fouling up today.
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