Monday, November 23, 2009

Agency Detection and The Foundation of All Foundations
I would like to offer that more than a Biblical God (or Deities in general), more than ultimate states of being (Satori, etc), souls, etc, are challenged by cognitive sciences suggestions about the role of "Hyper Active Agency Detection" in religious belief. To my mind (and I don't think I'm alone), any belief in there being That Upon Which All Else Depends for existence, but which "Itself" is radically independent (X for short) - is also challenged if not undermined.

This belief is - according to a great number of the greatest minds throughout human history - the fundamental binding feature of all historical religious belief. The most recent and prolific commentors on this concept, Reformed Christian philosophers Hermann Dooyeweerd (New Critique of Theoretical Thought), and Roy Clouser (Myth of Religious Neutrality), explain that what historically applied to explicit religious belief, can now be seen to apply as thoroughly to the present reigning paradigms - philosophies, materialisms, naturalisms, etc.

Central to every religion is a teaching about what is divine—about what is regarded as utterly independent and on which all else depends. No matter what or whom any religion considers to be divine, that is what it recognizes or defines as the unconditional reality. The divine, in other words, is whatever people consider to be uncaused and unpreventable—as "just there".
The crucial point for our discussion is that this definition of religion makes clear that ideas of divinity are not confined to traditions most people recognize as "religious." Some people trust various parts of this world as divine. For example, some ascribe unconditional or uncaused status to matter, or to mathematical, logical or biological laws, or to the universe as a whole...this is certainly religious, even though, from a biblical point of view, it is false religion.

Whatever is regarded as ultimate, independent reality thereby has the status of divinity, no matter how it is conceived and regardless of whether it is worshipped. Worship is not essential to religion; there have been beliefs in gods that did not include worship and there still are versions of Hinduism and Buddhism that include no worship.

Understanding religion in this way also allows us to see that there are many more religious beliefs involved in scientific theorizing than are generally recognized. No matter how thoroughly some people avoid all organized religious traditions, worship, doctrines, and practices, and no matter how sincere they are about being atheists, they still have a religious belief insofar as they regard anything as being utterly independent or uncaused while all else depends on it.

It is also important to notice that while anyone who believes in God, in Brahman-Atman, or in the Tao is almost certainly aware of doing so, many other beliefs often take the form of unconscious assumptions. A belief that certain aspects of the universe are divine, or that the universe as a whole is divine, often has this character. A person may be unaware that he or she is presupposing that matter is the ultimate, independent reality. But that does not make such a belief any less a religious one, and it still renders any theory based on that assumption a religiously guided theory. Any theory, therefore, whether scientific or otherwise, can be understood only when its basic presuppositions are examined, and there are as many possible versions of a theory as there are religious beliefs that it can presuppose. So the idea that a theory can be religiously neutral is an illusion brought about only by calling an entire range of religious beliefs "secular."

The corrosive effect of such criticisms from cognitive science would then impact all such theorizing - about all origins. X is the Throne, as it were, the foundation belief in that which is the basis for belief in God or anything as Uber Alles. If the throne (throne-ness), is denied, if it is not there to be sat upon, if the category is systematically denied, no Agency can be said or believed or 'detected' to sit in it or presumed for ensuing logics to emerge founded on its presumed status.

Contrary to Dawkins, this divine category belief is not exclusively a pernicious, fruitless "religion problem" or spandrel. This - which until this point has been rendered as a "God" Gene - would be the basis for the logics of solving anything and everything - including every error fruitless or fruitful (the majority of insights, I would argue), therupon based. It is the very ground of all foundations, the very explanation for the capacity for people to convert between divergent uber-foundations (however erroneously) - be they Mormonism to Atheism - the common Rule by which one converts from believing God to be X to believing Matter to be X (i.e., materialism).

If a "God gene" or material 'spot' in the brain can be found, and it be forthwith removed or genetically-engineered out of man, I suggest he'd be less than a beast - due to the heights from which he would be 'falling' - from much higher than we'd thought, if "god" gene is not simply deity belief, but X. On such terms, what would successful Artifical Intelligence really be, or what would it's existence "prove?"

With permission, hopefully granted this week, I will present some material from Kelly James Clark along with Rambam, lhvd'l Hermann Dooyeweerd et al, that will help makes sense of the above ramble.


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