Monday, April 03, 2006


Belief Engine

Writing in Time's European edition, Michael Brunton, takes a look at British scientist Lewis Wolpert's Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast. "By linking our belief engine to the use of tools," writes Brunton, "Wolpert suggests a more fruitful engagement between science and faith than the either/or conflict we're normally asked to take sides in."
But rather than just arm wrestling with God's faithful, his book attempts to survey the science underpinning all intuitive beliefs, including religion, that humans stubbornly cling to, in spite of the best efforts of rational enquiry to displace them: credence in the paranormal, magic and superstition; faith in alternative-health therapies; the conviction that sooner or later we're bound to win a lottery jackpot. Our belief engine, Wolpert concludes, works on wholly unscientific principles: "It prefers quick decisions, it is bad with numbers, loves representativeness and sees patterns where there is only randomness. It is too often influenced by authority and it has a liking for mysticism."


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