Cognitive Thrift 5 — Cognitive Economics | Rick Rosner on WordPress.com
Cognitive Thrift 5 — Cognitive Economics
Scott Douglas Jacobsen & Rick Rosner
May 10, 2017
[Beginning of recorded material]
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Rick, you have mentioned some parts, in other discussions, about low-cost, beneficial, non-empirical belief systems. For instance, about things that are non-provable, some might deem them non-meaningful by that definition, or matters of faith or superstition. What would a cognitive economics state about this?
Rick Rosner: Faith-based beliefs do not have a huge influence on moment-to-moment evaluation of sensory input. A faithful person is going to jump out of that way of a recklessly driven car the same way an atheist is.
You can say that in many, if not most, instances people who have various faiths are going to react in the same way as people who are non-believers, and cost of — say you’re a non-believer that faiths are superstitious and just don’t reflect the scientific reality of the world.
You can say that, but the cost of having faith or having superstitions — believing in ghosts or other things that are hard to prove through evidence or are hard infer through any kind of scientific process. People with those beliefs don’t pay much of a price in day-to-day activity for having beliefs that some people might consider irrational, and they get a lot of benefits.
Faith gives people systems that provide eventual justice when the everyday world doesn’t. God makes things right, eventually or in the afterlife. God rewards the virtuous and punishes the evil, eventually. And there’s a thing called Pascal’s Wager, where Pascal said at least on your deathbed you might as well go ahead and become faithful to God because even though it is a low probability thing that God exists. The benefits are great, and not becoming faithful offers zero reward in any possible afterlife.
Faith can also help bring people together in shared altruistic effort. Faith is kind of a spiritual patriotism that lets you, or might make it easier to be brave or be self-sacrificing, for the benefit of others under your belief system. The same way a soldier in a war may sacrifice him or her self for people who share his nationality.
Faith can help people do or make smaller sacrifices in their own lives and just engage in people understand shared humanity and be altruistic in smaller ways — be charitable, be tolerant. Unfortunately, in America right now, under political polarization, we see religion being used for somewhat non-Christian purposes in a lot of instances.
Or in a more general sense, we see faith being resistant to societal change, even when the society is coming down on the side increased tolerance. But — anyway, that’s what I got.
[Break in recording]
In a general sense, non-evidence-based beliefs offer benefits — emotional, sometimes societal benefits without people paying immediate and obvious costs for beliefs that are not substantiated. Few people are compelled to stand in front of a moving car by their spiritual beliefs, or if they are it’s in an altruistic way. That by letting a car crashing into them they are saving other people.
So, in a general sense, matters of faith and superstition and faith have greater benefits than costs.
[End of recorded material]
American Television Writer
Scott Douglas Jacobsen
Editor-in-Chief, In-Sight Publishing
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Originally published at rickrosner.org on May 10, 2017.