Human beings are programed by evolution to believe in some super being, because it gives them a better chance at survival, researchers have claimed. This conclusion was arrived at by Bruce Hood, professor of developmental psychology at Bristol University after an extensive study as quoted by the Times.
An unusual experiment, conducted by Bruce Hood, Professor of Developmental Psychology at the University of Bristol, demonstrating that even the most rational people behave in irrational ways, became one of the star features at this year’s British Association Festival of Science. Professor Hood conducted the experiment to argue that scientists’ efforts to combat ‘irrational’ beliefs are ultimately futile.
To demonstrate his theory, Professor Hood asked members of the festival audience, if they were prepared to try on an old fashioned blue cardigan in return for a £10 reward. After receiving no shortage of volunteers, he then told the volunteers that the cardigan used to belong to Fred West, the mass murderer. On hearing this most of the volunteers put their hands down. Though a few did try it on, others moved away from them. In fact, the cardigan had not belonged to Fred West. The experiment demonstrated that the belief that it had, made even the most rational of people feel uncomfortable.Professor Hood said: “It is as if evil, a moral stance defined by culture, has become physically manifest inside the clothing.”
“Similar beliefs, which are held even among the most sceptical scientists, explain why few people would agree to swap their wedding rings for identical replicas. The difference between attaching significance to sentimental objects and believing in religion, magic or the paranormal is only one of degree. These tendencies are almost certainly a product of evolution. The human mind is adapted to reason intuitively, so that it can generate theories about how the world works even when mechanisms cannot be seen or easily deduced….Because we operate intuitively, it is pointless to get people to abandon their belief systems because they operate at such a fundamental level that no amount of rational evidence or counter-evidence is going to be taken on board to get people to abandon these ideas.”
“When you look at things like childhood beliefs, many are universal – they’re there in every culture across the world – so you have to conclude there is something fundamental about them that suggests these are ways our brains naturally work. When we’re young our brain makes lots of assumptions, as it constantly battles to get to grips with understanding the world around us. For example, the notion that we cease to exist after we die is too difficult to comprehend for a child, so they assume that there is an afterlife. Therefore it is easy to assume that ghosts exist. We may be able to tell ourselves intellectually that this isn’t the case as we grow older, but it’s very difficult to change our intuitive brain.”
He further states “Our research shows children have a natural, intuitive way of reasoning that leads them to all kinds of supernatural beliefs about how the world works”. His work is also supported by other researchers who have found evidence linking religious feelings and experience to particular regions of the brain. They suggest people are programed to get a feeling of spirituality from electrical activity in these regions.
There is a new book by Bruce M.Hood “SuperSense Why We Believe in the Unbelievable.” In an account chock full of real-world examples reinforced by experimental research, Hood (a cognitive psychologist at the University of Bristol) builds a theoretical model to explain how the mind comes to sense that there is something beyond the natural world, something supernatural.…..Hood knows that the supersense is all pervasive. For that reason, his book is an important contribution to the psychological literature that is revealing the actuality of our very irrational human nature. – SCIENCE June 2009.