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Olduvai III: Catacylsm
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Our Curious Propensity to Ignore New Evidence

Our Curious Propensity to Ignore New Evidence

What is a “belief” anyway, and how does it get “there”?

The word belief comes from the old Germanic root that also gives us love and it originally meant something (impersonal) we care about and trust strongly. 

I would argue that beliefs are unique to the human brain, and that they are the building blocks of our worldview — the coherent sense-making lens through which we judge, filter and assess events and information to assign them meaning.

Wild creatures have no need for beliefs, judgements and abstract sense-making. Their brains were designed for feature-detection, in order to inform their instincts. If they’re conditioned by humans, they will (provided there isn’t too long a gap between the prompt and the reward or punishment) behave in a way that anticipates a reward or punishment (dopamine again), and do what has been rewarded (ie maximize pleasure) and avoid what has been punished (ie minimize pain). There is no need for a worldview or a set of beliefs. As Melissa Holbrook Pierson explained in The Secret History of Kindness :

This is the basis of my dogs’ storied love for me, their one and only. Only I know the real truth. It is not this Melissa they love. If they bark menacingly at someone who approaches, they are not doing it to ensure my safety. There is but one thought in their minds: do not harm this person, for she is my most valuable possession. My large Swiss army knife, the one with all the extra attachments…

The same law of behavior affects all creatures’ actions: we do something, it produces pleasure or it produces pain or it produces nothing, and the result determines whether we continue doing it, stop doing it, or do it differently, and these are the only options.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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