Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Devil Made Me Do It

Excerpts from comments recently made by Jesse Bering, 
Director of the Institute of Cognition and Culture, Queens University, Belfast, in an Edge symposium:

"Psychologists now know that human beings intuitively reason as though natural categories exist for an intelligently designed purpose. Clouds don't just exist, say kindergartners, they're there for raining." Also, "a mind designed by nature cannot be changed fundamentally."

Because a purposeful nature suggests a planned nature, and that suggests a controlled nature, such an instinctive surmise seems relevant to the ever stewing debate concerning determinism versus free will - with perhaps a dash of compatibilism thrown in and stirred by agents of the supernatural.

But eschewing the supernatural, we may still believe that the laws of cause and effect make events inevitable even if not predestined by intent or purpose. Yet in reality, we must act as if consequences are not inevitable and choices are necessary - even if made for us long ago by circumstance.

And we must act as if we can somehow determine or postpone our fate, while at the same time instinctively turning to "fate" as an explanation for any failure of those actions.

And some of us with religious beliefs must nevertheless act as if our gods have no real control over our actions - even if we believe that one or more of those gods are the cause of an inevitable or predestined fate.

And (obviously) this is because our innate calculating mechanisms force us to make choices, regardless of any philosophical or other belief that such choices were not ours to make. So it would seem my missionary father was right - that our gods do help those who help themselves.

And it occurs to me there was no real point to this post, but I was forced to write it anyway.

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