06 September 2006

Evolution and Superstition

There is increasing evidence that we may be biologically predisposed to superstitious beliefs, or at least some of us according to a report in The Times:

“HUMANS have evolved over tens of thousands of years to be susceptible to supernatural beliefs, a psychologist has claimed.

Religion and other forms of magical thinking continue to thrive — despite the lack of evidence and advance of science — because people are naturally biased to accept a role for the irrational, said Bruce Hood, Professor of Experimental Psychology at the University of Bristol.

This evolved credulity suggests that it would be impossible to root out belief in ideas such as creationism and paranormal phenomena, even though they have been countered by evidence and are held as a matter of faith alone.

People ultimately believe in these ideas for the same reasons that they attach sentimental value to inanimate objects such as wedding rings or Teddy bears, and recoil from artefacts linked to evil as if they are pervaded by a physical “essence”.

Even the most rational people behave in irrational ways and supernatural beliefs are part of the same continuum, Professor Hood told the British Association Festival of Science in Norwich yesterday.

As an antidote to such beliefs, I present Crank Dot Net which “… is devoted to presenting Web sites by and about cranks, crankism, crankishness, and crankosity. All cranks, all the time.”

Their Crank of the Day is good fun.

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