X-Message-Number: 19850
Date: Tue, 20 Aug 2002 07:50:36 -0700

Subject: Explain the rule change to people (was why do we hold certain beliefs?)
References:  <>
From:  (Tim Freeman)

From: "davepizer" <>

>In the past, holding beliefs that feel good had to have a survival
>benefit.  If it felt good to play where the tigers live, you probably
>did not pass on that tendency to your offspring.  If it felt good to
>play where it was safer, you probably lived longer.
>There probably also was a survival benefit in being religious in the
>past.  If others in your tribe felt you were religions (as they were),
>they probably would trust you more and help you in times of need as
>you would do the same for them, and they knew it.

First response: that's Hanson's "beliefs as clothes" idea, which is
worth a read.  The URL is
http://hanson.gmu.edu/belieflikeclothes.html.  One can identify one's
in-group and out-group by their beliefs, so if the belief makes no
practical difference, there's a benefit to professing the same beliefs
as one's in-group and not thinking for oneself.  The easiest way to
profess a belief is to actually believe it.

Second response: There's another survival benefit to being religious
in the past, specifically that it stops people from wasting resources
frantically trying to do useless things to avoid death from aging at a
time when there wasn't anything useful to do.  There are arguably
things to do now, so the situation is different.  This is the "terror
management" idea; I just found a URL with plausible content at

Third response: We (as a species) used to live in a world where the
driving force was biological evolution, and starting now (plus or
minus a few decades) we're living in a world where the driving force
is technology.  When the old rules applied, beliefs about an afterlife
had no practical consequences, because everybody died anyway on about
the same schedule.  Now that the new rules apply, beliefs about an
afterlife now make a practical difference, since belief in an
afterlife undermines the motivation to use technology available now to
extend your life.

It is interesting to make a list of important differences between
consequences of the old rules and consequences of the new rules.

>OK, even if this is true, so what?  How might we use this insight to
>help the cryonics movement?

Explain to people that the rules are changing.  Tell them what the old
rules are, what the new rules are, and why the change is happening.
The old rules determine their present beliefs, but they're moving into
a regime where the new rules apply.  If they hear a good story about
how the old rules cause a belief and how the belief is dysfunctional
now that the new rules are coming into effect, that might help them
change the belief.

I have had fantasies about setting up public speaking sessions
explaining the old and new rules to random strangers to see how they
respond, but I haven't got to it yet.  If anyone is enthusiastic about
this and actually willing to give a talk, let me know and I'll give
you what I have so far.

Tim Freeman       

GPG public key fingerprint ECDF 46F8 3B80 BB9E 575D  7180 76DF FE00 34B1 5C78 

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