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Is the Human Brain a "Belief Engine"?

Religion_2 Lewis Wolpert believes that mankind's "incorrigible and wholly irrational" religiosity is as human, and as explicable, as the flint axe and the computer. It is a tool for the soul.

Religion and belief in a supernatural being is a natural consequence of how we are wired as human beings: our brains evolved to become "belief engines." And for that reason, we should not accept that our beliefs, particularly our religious beliefs, are correct.

Along with Richard Dawkins, the provocative Wolpert is one of Britain's best known atheists explainers of science. An eminent developmental biologist at University College London, he believes it is "ethically unacceptable and impractical to censor any aspect of trying to understand the nature of our world."

Wolpert penned a book-length meditation on "the evolutionary origins of belief," published as Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Having pondered the subject, Wolpert sees no reason to modify his reductionist, materialist, atheist view of the universe. Deconstructing the belief engine will usefully explain how humans are different from other animals. "I believe that religious beliefs are at least partly genetically determined. How else can you explain the fact that there's no society ever discovered that didn't have some sort of religious belief?"

"What makes us human," Wolpert explains, "is causal beliefs. What makes us different from other animals is that we have a concept of cause and effect in the physical world."

Wolpert believes that what made us human is technology: "It can be summed up in Kenneth Oakley's definition, 50 years ago, that 'man may be distinguished as the tool-making primate'." Once our ancient human ancestors figured out how to manipulate the natural world. Toolmaking made us human. Early hominids understood cause and effect and came to believe in unseen gods and spirits as causes for life's great mysteries, including illness and death.

But how does that get us to God? In an interview last year Wolpert said "It was the mental concept of cause and effect which was critical. Once you had that concept which enabled you to manufacture complex tools, you then wanted to understand other things as well - why we got ill, what happened when we died, why the sun shone or disappeared. Those, too, must have causes. And that's the origin of belief."

Posted by Casey Kazan.

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Personally, if I was a God...I'd make it so my people naturally believed it me. That would be pretty reasonable.

A lot of us are going to be surprised in the not too distant future at how our maker has wired us. See you there!

"How else can you explain the fact that there's no society ever discovered that didn't have some sort of religious belief?"

Deep down we all know 'God' is a FACT, that's why. Even Richard Dawkins knows, and is testing it. Otherwise he wouldn't keep going on (and on, and on...) about 'God' so much! We had the vision to create the flint axe and the computer. We can all sense that there is something else out there, in here, everywhere. We may not have a clue what 'God' is exactly (I doubt it's a he or a she) but we know it exists.

I'd argue that because of the well documented tendency of our brains to make sense of data, related or not, it isn't surprising that we are superstitious. What irritates me is the idea that a concept of cause and effect is purely human. If that were the case we could never "train" other animals. I understand the
caution against anthropomorphising behaviors in other animals but it makes me wonder how much we might be missing for taking that tenet too far.

Article Statement: "Religion and belief in a supernatural being is a natural consequence of how we are wired as human beings".

- By whom and by what are we wired?

Originally, the religious experience was a very intuitive and spiritual direct contact with the different cosmological conditions, but the "modern times" and its generally secularisation has superseded the genuine way of having this direct cosmological contact.

Humans have gone very much from the direct way of gathering knowledge to several indirect and mechanical ways of getting a secondary and therefore speculative amount of informations that tends to make "belief-systems" in stead of knowledge.

"Supernatural beings" are nothing else but specific cosmological creative forces, mythologically called "Archetypes", which the Native People have naturally experienced for some thousands of years, and gathered the essense of these experiences in their Mythological tellings and symbols.

"Our brains evolved to become "belief engines." And for that reason, we should not accept that our beliefs, particularly our religious beliefs, are correct".

- Our MODERN brains become belief-engines when humanity forgets the original intuitive and direct way of getting a genuine knowledge that removes all "beliefs and faiths",theological and cosmological discussions and thereby also re-connects the similar mythological and scientifical knowledge.

Natural Philosophy

UPS! Maybe I have to reconsider this:

"Supernatural beings are nothing else but specific cosmological creative forces, mythologically called "Archetypes", end of quote.

That is: With the reservation of any extraterrestial possible intelligent beings "out there" of course.

Atheists of UK origin ......It is NOT infrequent.

According to these two guys (or just one?) our brain is 'hardwired'....but then if it is so how we can have evolved our brain and quality of thoughts ?????

He seems to justify his assert of hard-wiring by saying that we want to get an explanation of the surrounding world 'cause and effect'situation.

This has led us to progress...does he NOT know that simple fact??? ..... SURPRISING......

I appreciate the fact that the guy is an atheist.

We do not know if our beliefs (NOT only religious) are correct...BUT he should refrain from telling us what we have to do to cure such a 'mental hillness'.

I can suppose that he is the mentally compromised (sick)guy...and he is trying to give to himself a justification of the uman beliefs sustaining that we are HARD WIRED.

Pooor statement ...average article....what else to say ???

It seems to me that our metaphysical beliefs were initially and are still attempts to find feelings of security in understanding ourselves and to make sense of our place within the universe.

This doesn't necessarily negate the existence of the spiritual or metaphysical. What we did and do however, to make it "real" for ourselves, is try to make the infinite finite, the metaphysical physical, the spiritual material, and the intangible tangible, thereby missing the whole point in an attempt to find comfort, security, and a "theory of everything".

Religion is false belief.. Jesus will not come back to save anyone. The only people that will save our lousy asses is friendly ET civilizations..

Quit believing in God and start believing in truth. The story of the Bible was written to do just that.. Tell a story, nothing more.

We never "graduated" from the story telling, our species never got the point!! Religion isn't for worship, it's to explain the way of the universe, and how love should be the only thing that matters.

I believe there is a higher power beyond the comprehension of the human mind, I do not believe this higher power is remotely concerned nor cares about human endeavors. To believe so, speaks more of man's own narcissism than anything else. If human life cease to be tomorrow it would be of no consequence to that higher power and the universe, in fact I don't think it would notice we were gone.

I doubt if religion has a genetic component. This is an assumption based on evidence that is only a few thousand years old. In order to know for sure we would probably have to go back about 250,000 to 500,000 years to find out, but the physical evidence from that period (lost in Noahs flood) ha ha is not available. Mr. Wolpert's hypothesis is without merit. All the evidence he has, comes from a time when modern humans culturally had developed belief systems and then began spreading across the globe. Humans took there belief systems with them when they scattered. Yes he could be right, but since he has no proof, it is merely pure conjecture, that anyone, could spew forth. "Show me the science, not the faith", if you want me to Believe".

Our Planet

Everytime there is an article linking brain and god, I am always 'more' interested by the comment posted rather that by the article itself. And this one did not disappoint !

As an atheist / anti-theist, I had innumerable discussions with believers, and even if 99% of their argumentation is always the same, they are always missing the real point, what I call the elephant in the room:

Assume god exist as they say: what are the implications then ?

Briefly, so that I won't monopolize the place for to long:

Assume he wired our brain to believe in it. I don't believe in it. Did it forgot to wire mine ?
+ There are more than one religion on the planet: It must have wire our brain to believe in other thing than it then... On top of that, historically, humans have spent a great deal of time believing false things (earth not round, center of the universe, origin of diseases ...)
there is no contradiction in god wiring our brain and us believe in false thing. => it does not matter if god wired it or not, we still believe in false things...

and so on...

It is genuinely impossible to reconcile such ideas:

god is good / love / hope / helping us AND natural disasters, diseases, tsunami, wars, cancer,...

Is he testing us ? Then he is a mean bastard... Any human being would reject such a psycho...

Try to create your own flow of implications and see where it lead. Write them down, and re-read then at a later time, you will always find that no matter how you can justify the existence of a god, it will always be a useless force at best or more generally a malevolent non-desirable force

There is nothing else to it.

Hope it helps...

"How else can you explain the fact that there's no society ever discovered that didn't have some sort of religious belief?"

This is a uninformed assumption.

There are a technologically primitive tribe that do not have any religious beliefs- They are called the Praha and live in the along the banks of the Amazon in Brazil. They do believe in spirits but are tangible things like animals, trees, but nothing supernatural. It's similar to how we anthropomorphize things.

This article makes some pretty big jumps of logic and seems silly to me.

Personally if i were god, i'd make sure that no one had to suffer. No One single person. And everybody would have a happy and satisfying consciousness.
For e.g i saw an accident on TV where a girl who was driving and the car broke down in the middle of the road, so she called her parents to ask for help. So, Mum and Dad decided to come and help her, they both drove to her location, as they stopped and was getting out of the car they both got killed on the spot by another driver. Now, what would happen to that girls consciousness after she recovered!!! If i were god i would never let this happen in reality.
Another accident in australia a few days before where a house burnt down, a husband losing his wife and 3 beautiful children but he survived. If i were god. This would never have existed in my dictionary. So, where is god??

From article: ...he believes it is "ethically unacceptable and impractical to censor any aspect of trying to understand the nature of our world."

Therefore God shouldn't be left out either.

My mind cannot comprehend people who honestly believe in "god" as we know 'him'. It's exactly like believing in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy- I mean at some point we (rational thinkers) realize that its all a bunch of hogwash made up to make us feel better and to be more easily controlled. WHY CAN'T PEOPLE SEE THAT!? Styoopeedo.

It is not necessary for a human being to believe in any religious ideas.

It's not "natural" to believe in God. We just can't live without an explanation. If we don't have one, we invoke God.

Then that explanation gets passed on to children. It's (unintentional) brainwashing. Our brains grow into this belief at an early age (neurologically), and we live in an environment where that belief is rarely challenged.

It's easy to see why religion exists, and you don't need to invoke God to explain it.

Humans have created beliefs for psychological security and to seek freedom from the fears of the uncertain realities of existence. Over millennia in evolution, these beliefs are hardwired in the brain. Hope humanity gets exorcised of this and faces the realities of the universe rationally.

Someone inquired from J. Krishnamurti, the great thinker, whether we were the creation of God. He replied: It’s the other way around. God is our creation and not that we are his creation. I wish we were, then we would have been different!

Really? I mean, really? Have any of you people ever thought that some people actually have had experiances with Christ(Im not talking about geting high on mary j). This is fn crazy!

I sympathize with the attitude of the author, but I don't think he has the right answer.

More likely, the widespread tendency to religion is a byproduct of our tendency to bond with our parents (and our children) in a more or less permanent way. The same tendency manifests itself in other ways, especially our proclivity for forming hierarchies of all kinds for all purposes, from governments to armies to corporations to professional societies to churches, all having much the same form, and the same form as a human family.

@mr Rogers. Have you ever had ann experience with Christ? Did you see him? Did you hear him? Or was the experience in your own mind?

If "God" had hardwired the belief in him into the human brain, we would all believe in the same god from birth. The god explanation is what the mind falls back upon when it cannot readily find physical evidence to explain an event (like death or creation) or a thing (like the universe). The other option would be to say that we don't know...but then we would all be agnostic :<)

With about 70 sextillion stars in the Universe and if life exists only once in every billion stars, a supreme god of the Universe would only have 2 trillionth of a second for each star system that has life. Divide that between 6 billion people and I am guessing he really is too busy in what you and I are doing. But sure go ahead, with that Santa Clause in the sky belief it's not hurting anything.


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