Of course I'm liberal, I believe in liberty.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Faith Versus Reason, Part II

I've been meaning to write a follow-up to the Faith Versus Reason entry I wrote last week. When we last left our intrepid hero (that would be me) he had determined that reason clearly supported the power of faith (think placebo), but one did did not need faith in reason to believe in reason. Reason stands on its own because we see the results of reason, we know the scientific method works, we have evidence.

While this is true, it also feels incomplete. Just because we don't need faith in reason doesn't mean we don't have faith in reason. Partially, we can choose to have this faith; but to some degree we get it whether we want it or not. We humans are faithful creatures, it is hardwired into our brains.

This psycho-babble by your resident arm-chair philosopher is partially motivated my an interesting discussion of Robert Trivers over at The Edge, which may sound strange given the fact that the word "faith" never appears in the article, nor does the word "reason" in the context I'm using it. However, there is much talk about the power and usefulness of self-deception:
The particular sub-area that I'm interested in developing myself has to do with the structure of the mind in terms of biased information flow between the conscious and the unconscious, and the very peculiar and counter-intuitive fact that humans in a variety of situations misrepresent reality to the conscious mind while keeping in the unconscious either a fully accurate, or in any case more accurate, view of that which they misrepresent to the conscious mind. That seems so counter-intuitive that it begs explanation. You would have thought that after natural selection ground away for four billion years and produced these eyeballs capable of such subtlety—color, motion-detection, the details of granularity that we see—you would have perfected the organs for interpretation of reality such that they wouldn't systematically distort the information once it reaches you. That seems like a strange way to design a railroad.

The function of this area of self-deception is intimately connected to deception of others. If you are trying to see through me right now, and if I'm lying about something you actually care about, what you see first, to speak loosely, is my conscious mind and its behavioral effects. You can get some sense of my mood or my affect. The quality of voice might give you stress while trying to deceive you. It is much harder for you to figure out what my unconscious is up to. You have to make a study of my behavior, such as a spouse will do, much to your dismay at times.
Is faith a useful form of self-deception? If I'm right that humans are innately faithful creatures, why did faith evolve? Does this prove there is a God in a purely theistic sense or explain away (yet again) the need for a theistic God?

Any real philosophers and/or evolutionary psychologists out there with any insight?