The Belief Instinct

The Belief Instinct

The Psychology of Souls, Destiny, and the Meaning of Life

Book - 2011
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An evolutionary psychologist examines humans' belief in God and argues that it evolved in the species as an "adaptive illusion" that originally had an evolutionary purpose, now outdated, that ensured the survival of the human race.
Publisher: New York : W.W. Norton, 2011
Edition: 1st American ed
ISBN: 9780393072990
0393072991
Branch Call Number: 200.19 B4549B 2011
Characteristics: xiii, 252 p. ; 25 cm

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Chapel_Hill_KenMc Dec 22, 2014

Fascinating discussion of theories regarding the evolutionary foundation of thought that involves finding meaning and order in the universe, identifying a supernatural being as instigator of events and arbitrator of justice, and proposing a survival of mind or soul after death. The book suffers somewhat from Bering's absolute insistence that any such beliefs are pure fantasy, but the theories here can be appreciated by any open-minded person, whether theist, atheist, or agnostic.

roaddogg09 May 10, 2011

I wasn't sure what to think when I got it. It seemed like all of the other books out there that proclaim to explain why we believe in supernatural entities. "The Belief Instinct" has to be one of my favorite books on the topic. As becomes apparent, Bering's purpose isn't to prove or disprove certain religious beliefs or claims, but to explain why we have such beliefs in the first place. His whole argument rests on a 'theory of mind,' or being able to think about what others are thinking.

Starting with a nice story to do with Philosopher Daniel Dennett, Bering lays the ground work and expands his concept to other domains, including the belief in souls, destiny, and the overall meaning of life. Bering uses studies from many of the sciences to provide examples for his claims.

I gained a lot from "The Belief Instinct." As an atheist, I am interested in what makes people so inclined to accept supernatural claims. Our brains evolved to be susceptible to supernatural claims, and through culture, these manifest as the religions we see today.

I cannot recommend this enough!

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