The Lower Quote, As If You Didn't Know, Is By Richard Dawkins, Son.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Ya Button-Hooked Me...I Didn't Think You Were Gonna Button-Hook Me

Our ability to reason may be our greatest advantage for survival, but it may also be our biggest vulnerability. People need answers, and when none are available, we use our heads to try to figure out why what happened happened. Our answer need not be correct, it just has to make sense to us.

Imagine you are a villager who grows corn. You depend on your crop for both food and money so your family can live. This year the rains haven't come yet and all the farmers are worried. There is no Weather Network to check the "extended five-day forecast", there's just looking blankly at the sky and hoping.

One particularily worrisome year, you and your farmer friends start asking why there is no rain. You think and think but can fathom no reason for the lack of water. You all decide to ask the "old wise man" of the village and he (it is undoubtedly a "he") gives you an answer: "God is not happy - kill a goat."

So you find and kill a goat with great ceremony in the village square. You carve it up and have a feast, making sure to leave a special plate and glass of wine out for the Rain God.

Surprise! Three days later, it rains.

Now, the rain came after the goat murder, so obviously it was caused by the goat murder (post hoc, ergo propter hoc). Your crops are saved and the wise man-s position is secure.

After the whole episode is over, you probably don't stop to think about whether the rain would have come anyway. You probably don't think that it was animals that ate the special plate of food during the night and evaporation that took some of the wine. You have your answer: God did it. This is the answer that makes sense.

The longevity of magic and wise men (and, indeed, religions themselves) is likely due to writers who didn't know about deception and trickery attempting to describe, retell, and glorify the "amazing feats" of past magicians/wise men. As any amature or professional magician will know, a spectator's account of what happened during a trick is almost always horribly inaccurate - now imagine the retelling of that story a hundred years from now.

That is the place we are working from when attemtping to loosen the grip of superstition and religion; we must pry the minds away from the "easiest" explanation and get people to look at actual evidence. We now have the 5-Day extended forecast, but most are still relying in killing goats.

2 Barbaric Yawps:

At 12/9/06 3:14 pm, Blogger Paul said...

The hardest part of all that is the fact that the old Shaman believes the sacrifice caused the rain as well. I'd have a much easier time with religion if I could believe that the prisethood was all in on the joke. But there isn't anyone in on the joke. Even the Pope is a part of the punchline.

At 12/9/06 4:50 pm, Blogger BigHeathenMike said...

Sad but true, my friend.


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