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#405098 - 08/19/08 01:16 AM the belief mechanism
Ed_Morris Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 11/04/05
Posts: 6772
anyone have any of your own thoughts on how the belief mechanism works? I think it can be a civil conversation as long as no specific beliefs are focused upon.

we know somewhat the physiology and likely behavior patterns of something like how fear works - and people are comfortable with analyzing it's mechanism with concepts such as adreneline, 'flight or fight', 'survival instinct', 'fear of the unknown', 'mass panics' etc.

just speaking in general concepts, the same way fear is addressed, I thought it may be interesting to open a conversation about how the belief mechanism works.

I'll throw some questions out to get the gears turning:

Is belief a survival trait? Is it a manifestation of fear? Is it a psychology? does a philosophy use the same mechanism as a belief? is belief gifted to humans and only humans? is it a socially learned behavior? is it a sortof social acceptance survival mechanism? are beliefs pre-determined or learned?

if it's pertinent to your study of MA to know how fear works to raise awareness of it - then it would seem investigating a bit about how our belief mechanism works might lead to discovery of something also pertinent.

can you analyze your belief mechanism with the same objectivity and clarity that you can analyize fear? if you can't, or aren't willing to - then what does that say about the power a belief can have?

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#405099 - 08/19/08 06:56 AM Re: the belief mechanism [Re: Ed_Morris]
puffadder Offline
Member

Registered: 04/29/07
Posts: 250
Loc: UK
Belief is an interesting concept. It's like an on/off switch - either you believe something or you don't. It seems to be like having a theory that you have mentally tagged with a yes or no in the brain. Once tagged with a yes then you also tag yes all supporting theories and tag no all theories that go against it.

Beliefs can and do change but it's almost impossible to change another's belief (hence all the arguments in these forums). Often only personal experience will change a yes tag into a no tag or vice versa.

Maybe it originally came from a survival instinct but, of course, millions have since died for their 'beliefs' and so hardly ranks as being needed for survival in modern times.

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#405100 - 08/19/08 10:39 AM Re: the belief mechanism [Re: Ed_Morris]
harlan Offline
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Registered: 07/31/04
Posts: 6664
Loc: Amherst, MA
How much analyzing needs to be done when a fist hits your face? The 'desire' to intellectualize belief systems is untenable because one only has the imperfect tool of rationalization. The ridiculous desire to split hairs, thinking at one point halving and splicing notions can somehow arrive at 'truth' instead of devolving into reductionist nihilism.

The 'problem', if there is one, and as I see it...is 'attachment'. Attachment to beliefs in the face of unresolvability. Our beliefs define us, and we invest in them. Look inside...where are 'you'? Put your finger on 'you'. Can you find your 'self'? No...it's a conglomeration of junk...of beliefs glued together and representing a self that doesn't exist.

Beliefs have no inherent power. However, attachment does. Cut the attachment...and it can be like seperating atoms.

Quote:

can you analyze your belief mechanism with the same objectivity and clarity that you can analyize fear? if you can't, or aren't willing to - then what does that say about the power a belief can have?



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#405101 - 08/19/08 12:42 PM Re: the belief mechanism [Re: Ed_Morris]
butterfly Offline
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Registered: 08/25/04
Posts: 3012
Loc: Torrance, CA
Interesting comments so far and a neat thread. One of the few that more than vaguely interersts me lately.

"Attachment to beliefs"..... Hmmm? And severing them, if one can? Interesting. After you have deconstructed belief, what's left? You'll still have believers and non-believers, despite evidence and reasons for and against that belief. Impartiality and disinterest are hard to come by if you are already tied to a belief system and have invested in it.

However, I do think there is something to be said by using an imperfect tool to try to see what's going on. Curiosity and an attempt to get at one aspect of empirical truth seems as good a reason as any.

Belief by itself perhaps has less weight than more concrete and better understood reasons for explaining actions, but it gives insight into the reasons people do what they do without evidence to buoy those actions. Belief in No Touch Ki effects. Terrorist killings motivated by a belief in the supreme rigteousness of these actions. Hatred motivated by religious dogma outside of any connection to the group targeted by that anger. Or on a simpler note, the placebo effect...no doubt about it's utilitarian benefits... but the reasons for its positive effects should not be dismissed or not looked into simply because the tools for eeking out reasons are not as well formed as others when looking at less abstract concepts.

So yes, there are reasons to look at belief and to not dismiss its effects. However, it might be prudent to evaluate why something works....and when that fist hits that face....why it doesn't.

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#405102 - 08/19/08 09:26 PM Re: the belief mechanism [Re: butterfly]
Ed_Morris Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 11/04/05
Posts: 6772
one of the things that interest me is the observation that while mahy can sit down and have an in-depth conversation about the mechanisms of fear - they can also watch and accept documentaries about how fear works within us. the physiological effects, emotion responses, trama recall, how flashbacks work, adreneline systems, etc ...but use the same language and objectivity to talk about the belief mechanism and how it works - and for many, they knee-jerk into defensive mode. objectivity shuts down, walls go up and the subject of belief attempts to get altered to promote an emotional response, in the hopes the person presenting the conversation will also surround their wagons. it's uncanny.

We don't accuse people of missing the point if they decide to analyize and understand the mechanisms of fear in order to raise awareness of it - yet propose the same line of thought with how belief works, and suddenly the person misses the forest for the trees. when in actuality, what we are witnessing is the defense of that belief system. people don't want belief mechanisms to be understood, since belief itself might be found to be a form of self-deception or something less than etherial and mysterious. - many are abjectly afraid to look behind the curtain, so the questioner gets the rack.

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#405103 - 08/19/08 11:48 PM Re: the belief mechanism [Re: Ed_Morris]
harlan Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 07/31/04
Posts: 6664
Loc: Amherst, MA
Actually...are you sure? People seem to be able to view the most atrocious and disturbing things...on tv. A documentary about fear, basically is 'out there' and safe. Quite a different thing when someone is in therapy dealing their traumas/fears/issues. My understanding that the deeper the fear (dare I say...one's attachment to it?)...the more emotional a response when it is broached.

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#405104 - 08/20/08 01:56 AM Re: the belief mechanism [Re: harlan]
Ed_Morris Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 11/04/05
Posts: 6772
no, not sure...hence the discussion. my thought was, if someone can watch 'the most atrocious and disturbing things' as you say, and contemplate the mechanisms of something like fear with the objectivity of being removed at a distance - why can't the same thought process and objectivity be applied to contemplating belief mechanisms?
Can something like the topic of fear be separated/isolated and examined, but the topic of belief cannot?
One observation is in the perception of terms. it's ok to talk about and examine 'irrational fears'...but yet a term like 'irrational belief' gets construed as a pejorative. many seem to put the walls up or shut down.

My understanding that the deeper the belief (dare I say...one's attachment to it?)...the more emotional a response when it is broached.

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#405105 - 08/20/08 01:12 PM Re: the belief mechanism [Re: Ed_Morris]
puffadder Offline
Member

Registered: 04/29/07
Posts: 250
Loc: UK
Emotions are different from beliefs although beliefs obviously can be a trigger for deep emotions.

Emotions are states of mind and the mind can seem to split in two with the result that it's possible to remain unattached with part of the mind and ferociously angry with another. It's also possible to have emotions about your emotions eg feeling guilty about feeling angry or feeling scared about being in love. Emotions are complicated things and can trigger a rush of energy or freeze you solid.

As you say a belief is an attachment to an idea and the stronger that attachment then the more likely it would be to trigger fear or anger when seriously challenged. As I said earlier it's almost impossihle to change another person's beliefs and usually only direct personal experience will change your beliefs. You will have attached yourself to different ideas than I and so we could end up arguing, fighting or going to war about our respective beliefs.

One of the goals of many of the world's great philosophies and religions is to let go of attachments, particularly the strong attachments that we call beliefs. Although that's a paradox in itself as you have to believe in that philosophical pathway in order to want to get rid of belief!!

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#405106 - 08/23/08 03:20 PM Re: the belief mechanism [Re: Ed_Morris]
fileboy2002 Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 11/13/05
Posts: 999
Loc: Chicago, IL
A lot has been writtien about this question from a variety of perspectives. You should look up an essay by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins called "Viruses of the Mind." Dawkins' question is how false beliefs--in this case,religion--manage to spread, and compares their dissemination to the spread of computer viruses.

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#405107 - 08/23/08 08:55 PM Re: the belief mechanism [Re: fileboy2002]
Ed_Morris Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 11/04/05
Posts: 6772
agreed, that's an interesting read, as are others by Dawkins. A little less formal but just as interesting is some of Michael Shermer's works on the subject as well.

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