How do we believe? London Thinks @ConwayHall

Missed this London Thinks event at Conway Hall Ethical Society earlier this week, in fact I’ll not be attending many in the coming year thanks to a changed working pattern, but this one’s a keeper on YouTube. The title and the content right on my “What, why and how do we (believe what we) know?” agenda here on Psybertron.

Samira Ahmed excellent in the chair as usual, Richard Wiseman entertaining, and Francesca Stavrakopoulou talking so much sense:

  • The “Western” prejudiced view of top-down organised & proselytising religions rather than their folkloric bottom-up origins. (As per the origins of stories … )
  • The Book of Numbers story (she’s used often before) illustrating the benign common-sense in early – patriarchal of its time – ritual in testing the accused adulteress. (True of most religious rituals and taboos … )
  • And more …

The rest … the natural evolution of necessary psychology, good and bad. Especially the memetic aspects where stories are reinforced by media transmission, individual or institutional, innocent or manipulative.

  • Bruce Hood and Deborah Hyde on sacrement of essence – even in inanimate objects – even in otherwise rational atheist people. Richard Wiseman on practical psychology (stage magic) examples. Real power, real value even if not “true”.
  • Co-existence of inconsistent texts and beliefs, without literalism being an issue.

Lots of good stuff in there. We all have “belief systems” that are fundamentally psychological – even hardened objective rational scientists. It’s the wrong battleground for “new-atheists” beating-up on the religious, rather than focussing on the repressive abuses of religion. There are enough of those to worry about.

  • Dawkins hasn’t done us (atheist / humanist / rationalist / naturalists) any favours. (Sure he’s “staked out” some of the extreme territory we’re dealing with – not sure he has much grip on what solutions might look like.)


Post Note:

Got a tweeted comment from @WanderingJedEye that reminded us this “western” top-down hierarchical objective perspective is not only contrasted with the Abrahamic / middle-eastern experience, but with “eastern” world-views generally. There was in fact a Hindhu cultish contribution in the above debate from Alice Heron, but the focus was mainly the lessons of the cultish experience, rather than anything in the particular world-view. I posted a piece to address this additional thought.

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