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God Disapproves Of This Marriage!

October 27, 2011

Currently I am reading The Believing BrainHow We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths by Michael Shermer. It is a fascinating read–truth be told it is one of the more engaging books that I have read in the last few years–that synthesizes thirty years of his work on psychology and the numerous cognitive tools our brains engage to reinforce our beliefs as truths.

Two important concepts in the book are paternicity and agenticity. Patternicity is the process or the tendency to find meaningful patterns in both meaningful and meaningless noise. Agenticity is the tendency to infuse patterns with meaning, intention, and agency.

When I saw this video this morning, and with Dr. Shermer fresh on my mind, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the many persons who perceive some sort of pattern and agency in most any natural event.

The obvious conclusion for people operating with such cognitive biases? God disapproves of this marriage!

video via

True story: I actually know persons, in fact are related to them through marriage, who are superstitious, naive, credulous, and misinformed about patterns and meaning enough that before embarking on their summer trip this year, they went to a New Age center and engaged in a “Weather Treatment” so that they would have favorable sunshine for their trip. Talk about external locus of control… anyways, you can pick up a grade six textbook and quickly discover that global weather patterns are a little more ‘tricksy’ than controlling them with prayer or sugar-plum wishes to the Universe.

I am trying to be empathetic towards their ignorance, and the limited categories they are operating under–as their brains through a long process of evolution and natural selection are developed to look for patterns–but that kind of stupid can’t be easy to fix!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 28, 2011 6:25 pm

    how do you like the book? i’m a huge shermer fan, and i used that book in my class this semester.

    • October 31, 2011 10:53 am

      Bob, I’m really liking the book. As someone whose academic training has been in theology, philosophy, sociology, and history, the book is giving me a new perspective and language to understand and explain some aspects of belief. I have long felt that socialization was an extremely important influence that gave us the categories to interpret the phenomena around us, and like a fish swimming in water, a powerful force that many are unaware of. I am thoroughly enjoying learning about how the mind works as an internal mechanism and interpreter in addition to that powerful external force.

  2. October 28, 2011 6:27 pm

    1) that absolutely sucks. i feel awful for them.
    2) if god truly disapproved of gay marriage, he’d do that.

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