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Worst Inventions

#21 User is offline   Gerben42 

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Posted 2006-March-21, 06:29

Do you really think a keyboard would be easier if they were ordered ABCDE ? Probably not.

I agree that QWERTZ kezboards are horrible! I hear that Dvorak's are good for coding.

The worst invention of all time is Religion.
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#22 User is offline   hrothgar 

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Posted 2006-March-21, 09:02

Gerben42, on Mar 21 2006, 03:29 PM, said:

The worst invention of all time is Religion.

I wouldn't go nearly that far... I've seen a couple very interesting papers that argue that susceptibility to believe in religion is evolutionary advantageous. (Take a look at the work of Edward O. Wilson at Harvard).

Here's a simplified version of Wilson's thesis: Many primitive societies require social structures that permit the rulers to mobilize the masses on large projects (building and irrigation system, collection the crops, waging war on the neighbors, etc.) Religion succeeds admirably. Personally, I think that this is a quite powerful observation

From my own perspective, I don't think that the traditional "Left / Right" divide provides a particularly useful way to study the political landscape. I prefer to apply an equally simplistic model that compares top down hierarchies with self organizing systems. Each structure has some very specific advantages.

Top-down hierarchies feature a small decision making caste and a large number of drones that implement the decision. These systems are operationally efficient. Its relatively inexpensive to reach a decision. Once the decision has been reached, its relatively easy to implement. The down side to a top down hierarchy is that their decision making process isn't particularly robust. There are relatively few checks on the system, so if the leader makes a mistake.... Self organizing systems are based on a very different philosophy. Information is widely distributed. Individuals reach their own decision. Society chooses a path based on some kind of polling mechanism. Once again, there are advantages and disadvantages to this type of system. The main advantage is that the decision making process is extremely robust. (The book “The Wisdom of Crowds” has some great information regarding the accuracy of distributed decision making). The down side is search cost. You need to spend resources to distribute information to all the members of society and lots more to conduct a poll.

Where life gets interesting is attempting to match decision making models to different societies over time. I'd argue that top down models are very well suited to primitive societies. These societies are relatively poor and don't have surplus resources to spend implement a distributed system. Equally significant, the problems that these societies face are relatively simple ones. Optimizing the search path isn't especially critical. Compare this to some more modern societies. The cost of search has fallen in absolute and relative terms. The economies are much more wealthy. The civilization can afford to spend a lot more money on search. Tools like the Internet are extremely efficient in distributing information. Finally, the stakes are a LOT higher: Issues like global warming, population, and nuclear weapons have the potential to extinguish human civilization. Making a mistake has become a lot more costly.

I'd argue that there is an inflection point at which the top-down hierarchy switches from being evolutionarily advantageous to being outright dangerous. Unfortunately, you can't just swap from one decision making model to another. Recall, there are large groups of people out there hardwired to believe in top down models and they're well organized. These individuals see distributed decision making models as a genuine threat to their “way of life”. I suspect that we aren't just dealing with a cultural virus/meme here, rather than there is genetic component as well.

People often throw around words like “Clash of Civilizations” and “Kuturekampf”. We're going through a very significant one right now, where some of the major “top-down” systems like fundamentalist Christianity and fundamentalist Islam are wagging war against the more “liberal” sections of society and turning any excess vitriol against one another.

In conclusion: I agree with you that “religion” is highly problematic at the moment, but we shouldn't ignore the organizational advantages that it once provided. I suspect that we'll need another thousand years of history to recognize whether the advantages that religion provided during Babylon and Egypt outweigh the costs that its imposing on society today.
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#23 User is offline   Gerben42 

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Posted 2006-March-21, 10:43

Thanks Richard for this very interesting post. It might well be that the success of the first major civilizations like the Egyptians with their Pharaoh-who-is-God, was related to religion. This is of course very different from modern religion, one sees how hard it is to see if something was a Good Idea ™ in the long term.
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#24 User is offline   the saint 

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Posted 2006-March-25, 05:18

Gerben42, on Mar 21 2006, 12:29 PM, said:


The worst invention of all time is Religion.

Definitely.
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#25 User is offline   AceOfHeart 

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Posted 2006-March-26, 08:15

Humans are God's worst invention
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#26 User is offline   Free 

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Posted 2006-March-26, 08:19

Worst invention EVER: monogamy... :D
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#27 User is offline   the saint 

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Posted 2006-March-26, 10:44

AceOfHeart, on Mar 26 2006, 02:15 PM, said:

Humans are God's worst invention

Not if you don't believe in God.
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#28 User is offline   sceptic 

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Posted 2006-March-26, 10:48

Religion was invented to supress human nature and control the masses
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#29 User is offline   david_c 

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Posted 2006-March-26, 11:22

sceptic, on Mar 26 2006, 05:48 PM, said:

Religion was invented to supress human nature and control the masses

On the contrary: religion is a part of human nature. And so it does not make sense IMO to say that religion is an invention. You could perhaps argue that any particular example of a religion is an invention.
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#30 User is offline   Gerben42 

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Posted 2006-March-26, 12:24

Quote

religion is a part of human nature


How do you mean that? I am not religious in any way. Does that mean I am not human?

There is not much known about the genes that cause religiousness but I once read that they found one. I wonder how that works, though...
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#31 User is offline   david_c 

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Posted 2006-March-26, 15:32

Gerben42, on Mar 26 2006, 07:24 PM, said:

Quote

religion is a part of human nature


How do you mean that? I am not religious in any way. Does that mean I am not human?

There is clearly something in human nature which causes some people to believe such things.
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#32 User is offline   Badmonster 

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Posted 2006-March-26, 15:47

david_c, on Mar 26 2006, 04:32 PM, said:

Gerben42, on Mar 26 2006, 07:24 PM, said:

Quote

religion is a part of human nature


How do you mean that? I am not religious in any way. Does that mean I am not human?

There is clearly something in human nature which causes some people to be taken in by religious teachings.

Sentience?
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#33 User is offline   luke warm 

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Posted 2006-March-26, 17:04

Badmonster, on Mar 26 2006, 04:47 PM, said:

Sentience?

excellent word... belief in God is not something that has to be taught, imo... religion is not what i mean, the tenets of any particular religion can be taught, and learned... but given a sound (ie, not damaged) mind, it's my belief that a person, if left to his own meditations, has to unlearn a belief in God...
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#34 User is offline   david_c 

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Posted 2006-March-26, 17:42

Badmonster, on Mar 26 2006, 10:47 PM, said:

Sentience?

Well, I'm ashamed to say I had to look that one up in the dictionary, but yes, that seems to be the right word for it.

[I've now edited my previous post: the original version should not have existed.]
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#35 User is offline   helene_t 

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Posted 2006-March-27, 02:24

david_c, on Mar 26 2006, 07:22 PM, said:

religion is a part of human nature. And so it does not make sense IMO to say that religion is an invention. You could perhaps argue that any particular example of a religion is an invention.

I tend to agree with that: the fact that all cultures have some kind of religion or at least cultural spirituality (or whatever one should call it) can't be a coincidense. But religion has many faces and not all may be part of human nature:
1 The belief is something stronger and/or moraly superior (relative to humans)
2 Institutionalized religion (that grants spiritual authority and thereby power to certain persons)
3 The belief in whatever one has to believe in order to belong to whatever group one wants to belong to

Pesonally, I think I am susceptible to both 1 and 3 and had to de-learn it. 2 is something I have always found revolting, even when I was young and strongly religious (I believed in Marxism, not a joke).
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#36 User is offline   sceptic 

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Posted 2006-March-27, 03:45

who believes in Greek gods any more or Norse Gods.. did they disappear. were they there in the first place??

They were made up of misguided beliefs, they were Invented by some one (or perhaps Invented was the incorrect word, maybe made up would be better from someones imagination) just in the same way people believed the world was flat.

when my time comes if I am wrong I am sure he or she will be all forgiving (as I lead a decent sort of life) and if I am right, it won't matter

Religion is not part of human nature, man may have a tendancy to go along with something that is sugested to him, that may be human nature (follow blindly like a sheep but I really don't think we are born with any religious beliefs.

We may have questions that religion seems to answer for lack of any substantial proof exsisting. i.e how did we get here or how did we come into exsistence.

IMHO someone made up Religion to control the masses, in a time when there were not substantilal explainations for things, i.e raingods, sungods al powerful deities

is there something out there unexpalined that controls destiny , is there something out there that is all powerful, did the earth take 6 days to make. I do not think so, I think a lot of very clever people have spent to much time drink strong spirits and taking some weird drugs to get themselves on a higher plane to explain something that just is

the answer to this "There is clearly something in human nature which causes some people to believe such things. " is mans curiosity and the need to have an answer
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#37 User is offline   david_c 

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Posted 2006-March-27, 05:49

sceptic, on Mar 27 2006, 10:45 AM, said:

Religion is not part of human nature, man may have a tendancy to go along with something that is sugested to him, that may be human nature (follow blindly like a sheep) but I really don't think we are born with any religious beliefs.

That's not quite the same thing. Note that language is a part of human nature despite the fact that babies are not born talking. I hope this is a helpful analogy.

Quote

the answer to this "There is clearly something in human nature which causes some people to believe such things. " is mans curiosity and the need to have an answer

There must be more to it than that. I think you are missing this thing called "sentience". Of all the aspects of human nature which go in to making religion possible, this is the most interesting and important: humans (some of them, at least) have this ability to be absolutely convinced that they know the truth, just by relying on some inner feeling. I have a theory that my own atheism is explainable in the same way - I am absolutely convinced that there is no such thing as a god; the fact that millions of people disagree doesn't worry me in the slightest, because I know I'm right, and I don't care that I will never be able to prove it to anyone. I suspect that these feelings are caused by the same aspect of my nature which allows devout believers to proclaim with abolute certainty that god does exist. Unlike Gerben, I would never say, "I am not religious in any way." I am religiously atheistic.

I used to think that this made my atheism somewhat less arrogant than other people's, as it means that my atheism is just as "irrational" as a belief in god. (I hate it when people like Richard Dawkins talk about other people's beliefs dismissively; this gives atheism a bad name.) But I then realised that in fact I was being supremely arrogant, as I'm saying that not only do I think I'm right, but that I can also explain why it is that everyone else goes wrong.
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#38 User is offline   luke warm 

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Posted 2006-March-27, 05:51

sceptic, on Mar 27 2006, 04:45 AM, said:

who believes in Greek gods any more or Norse Gods.. did they disappear. were they there in the first place??

from "greek and norse gods never existed in the first place" we can't get "therefore no God exists"

Quote

when my time comes if I am wrong I am sure he or she will be all forgiving (as I lead a decent sort of life) and if I am right, it won't matter

while forgivness is a major tenet in the, for example, christian religion, one needs to ask in order to receive.. there may come a time when the asking is no longer possible

Quote

Religion is not part of human nature, man may have a tendancy to go along with something that is sugested to him, that may be human nature (follow blindly like a sheep but I really don't think we are born with any religious beliefs.

my previous post touched on this.. without going into a lot of detail, i honestly believe that a person has to deny his senses (ie, unlearn) to believe there is no creator

Quote

We may have questions that religion seems to answer for lack of any substantial proof exsisting. i.e how did we get here or how did we come into exsistence.  IMHO someone made up Religion to control the masses, in a time when there were not substantilal explainations for things, i.e raingods, sungods al powerful deities

the big bang theory was a boon to religious philosophers because it gave them, finally, a chance to argue in a logical manner the existence of God... the old cause and effect thingy... btw, concerning your last sentence, are there now 'substantial explanations for things'?
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#39 User is offline   Sigi_BC84 

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Posted 2006-March-27, 06:02

I also disagree with those who say religion is an invention. I'd like to add that one should not confuse religion, theism and spirituality. Also, too often the term "religion" is used when actually some church or organization is meant.

As far as I can see, spirituality is deeply rooted within humans. You also do not have to believe in God (or in anything, for that matter) in order to be genuinely spiritual. Atheism and spirituality are not opposed to each other.

Furthermore, intelligence and reason does not collide with spirituality in any way (you can see them as orthogonal if you will).

Some of the posters here seem to have brushed religion/spirituality aside at some point because it might have interfered with their idea of rationality or being mature. I don't think this is necessary.

Somebody I know (who is a total nerd but quite smart) once said that "an intelligent person cannot be religious". This is, in fact, complete nonsense.

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(For what its worth, I don't believe in God but neither in Materialism.)
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#40 User is offline   Sigi_BC84 

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Posted 2006-March-27, 06:11

david_c, on Mar 27 2006, 12:49 PM, said:

Unlike Gerben, I would never say, "I am not religious in any way." I am religiously atheistic.

This is what I meant by "spiritual". Believing in god (or a plurality of gods, that does not matter here) means that you assume the existence of a supernatural being, a person, a separate entity. Being authentically religious does not require such a belief.

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