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rela comments on Fake Justification - Less Wrong

40 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 01 November 2007 03:57AM

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Comment author: rela 12 September 2010 03:53:02PM *  4 points [-]

It stands to argue however that the belief in an undetectable monster or a celestial teapot on the one hand does not add to an individual's fitness while the belief in Christianity, Islam or the Jewish faith on the other hand does. Religions increase an individual's fitness by allowing for the development of groups larger then what can be evolutionary stable by sheer face to face monitoring by creating internalized restraints in their followers and thereby increasing the likelihood of sticking to a shared moral code.


It seems to me that you are saying:

P1) large, stable groups are good (presumably because they minimize total violence?)

P2) a large stable group can be formed if the members share internalized restraints

P3) one method of creating internalize restraints is religion

C) therefore, religion must be good.

So, consider that this chain also allows for substitutions, which would not have the same conclusion:

P1) small, stable groups are good (maybe because they tend to be formed along familiar structures, and thus maximize commitment between group members?)

P2) a large stable group can be formed if the members share explicit restraints, and P3) government based on a social contract enables the members to share explicit restraints

P3) one method of creating internalized restraints is a shared belief in the value of the scientific method

All of the conclusions have many effects, and not all of these effects are positive. Religion can easily devolve into fundamentalism; small groups tend to fight between themselves; governments can oppress people; a belief in the scientific method can prevent the imagination of non-physical concepts; etc. It could be argued that these negative side-effects are not all equally negative, and that the argument which leads to the least-negative side-effect should be the one that is accepted.

But to summarize, whenever we argue for some condition on the basis of evolutionary fitness, we need to consider two things:

1) Most evolutionary fitness arguments do not exclusively mandate the condition which is being argued.

2) A condition is not necessarily desirable simply because it increases evolutionary fitness. The contexts in which that condition tends to occur must also be considered.

Best, rela