Truth and Evolution

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Emower
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Truth and Evolution

Post by Emower » Fri Aug 23, 2019 1:13 pm

I read this article the other day:
https://bigthink.com/surprising-science ... lity-exist
This delved into some really esoteric stuff, but I really love thinking out of my mormon box these days.

TL;DR
Your brain might be protecting you from reality by altering how you experience it. Which then begs the question, What is reality? Maybe there is not one objective reality.
What is reality and how do we know? For many the answer is simple: What you see — hear, feel, touch, and taste — is what you get.

Your skin feels warm on a summer day because the sun exists. That apple you just tasted sweet and that left juices on your fingers, it must have existed. Our senses tell us that reality is there, and we use reason to fill in the blanks — that is, we know the sun doesn't cease to exist at night even if we can't see it.

But cognitive psychologist Donald Hoffman says we're misunderstanding our relationship with objective reality. In fact, he argues that evolution has cloaked us in a perceptional virtual reality. For our own good.
I think anyone who has watched brain games on Netflix is familiar with how the brain processes things in shortcuts, and can sometimes misrepresent what is actually happening in order to enable efficient processing.
Using evolutionary game theory, Hoffman and his collaborators created computer simulations to observe how "truth strategies" (which see objective reality as is) compared with "pay-off strategies" (which focus on survival value). The simulations put organisms in an environment with a resource necessary to survival but only in Goldilocks proportions.
Evolutionary Game Theory is what caught my eye in this article and got me thinking about this in the context of faith crises.
Truth-strategy organisms who see the water level on a color scale — from red for low to green for high — see the reality of the water level. However, they don't know whether the water level is high enough to kill them. Pay-off-strategy organisms, conversely, simply see red when water levels would kill them and green for levels that won't. They are better equipped to survive.

"[E]volution ruthlessly selects against truth strategies and for pay-off strategies," writes Hoffman. "An organism that sees objective reality is always less fit than an organism of equal complexity that sees fitness pay-offs. Seeing objective reality will make you extinct."

Hoffman likens this approximation to a desktop interface. When a novelist boots up their computer, they see an icon on their desktop that represents their novel. It's green, rectangular, and sits on the screen, but the document has none of those qualities intrinsically. It's a complex string of 1s and 0s that manifests as software running as an electric current through a circuit board.

If writers had to manipulate binary to write a novel, or hunter-gatherers had to perceive physics to throw a spear, chances are both would have gone extinct a long time ago.

"In like manner, we create an apple when we look, and destroy it when we look away. Something exists when we don't look, but it isn't an apple, and is probably nothing like an apple," Hoffman writes. "The human perception of an apple is a data structure that indicates something edible (a fitness pay-off) and how to eat it. We create these data structures with a glance, and erase them with a blink. Physical objects, and indeed the space and time they exist in, are evolution's way of presenting fitness pay-offs in a compact and usable form."
The article then proceeds to get into just what reality is, which is pretty esoteric and less interesting to me then thinking about payoff strategies vs. truth strategy organisms from a church perspective.

The church (most religions in general) has forced us all from birth into this pay-off strategy. If you see the church as a self-contained ecosystem, which is preferably how they would like you to see it, then you are making a choice about which strategy you are going to employ, and frankly neither one might be better than the other. Depending on who you are and what your situation is, one strategy might reduce your fitness over the other. I dont think we can say "truth strategy is better."

I think this is a fascinating concept, in a church context. We (I) often berate ourselves for being dumb enough to be duped, and often berate others (or at least silently judge them) for continuing to be dumb enough to be duped in the face of evidence. This really illustrates to me how there is way more at play here than just rationality, evidence, and truth. There is evolution which has happened over millions of years as well. It is unfortunate that there are people (who shall remain nameless) who have figured out how to short circuit those protection and efficiency mechanisms.

Gatorbait
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Re: Truth and Evolution

Post by Gatorbait » Fri Aug 23, 2019 2:08 pm

Thought provoking article, but I enjoyed your comments more. Thanks.

Not to "one up" you, because you did an excellent job with this, but I'm not sure "duped" is the correct word for how a lot of us set as our standard belief system that of Mormonism or Christianity in general. For a lot of us, we heard about the church when we were young and we heard it from those who we trusted most, our parents or close friends. They were spreading the word, not knowing that some of the stories they taught were not true, and they taught it unknowingly.

When you are told from primary on that you hit the lottery and lucked into being a part of the "only true church", and since you were, there was no need to look further for anything else. This is it, you lucky dog. Thank goodness that you were so valiant in the pre-mortal existence. Even after the truth is discovered, people willingly ignore the facts because it is so much easier to just go along with things.

A well know quote of Mark Twain's is one that fits quite well. "It ain't what you don't know that gets you in trouble, it's what you know for certain that just ain't so".

Anyways, good stuff Emower. Good for the mental digestion.
"You're not supposed to be blind with patriotism that you can't face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or who says it" Malcolm X

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Emower
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Re: Truth and Evolution

Post by Emower » Fri Aug 23, 2019 3:20 pm

Gatorbait wrote:
Fri Aug 23, 2019 2:08 pm
Not to "one up" you, because you did an excellent job with this, but I'm not sure "duped" is the correct word for how a lot of us set as our standard belief system that of Mormonism or Christianity in general. For a lot of us, we heard about the church when we were young and we heard it from those who we trusted most, our parents or close friends. They were spreading the word, not knowing that some of the stories they taught were not true, and they taught it unknowingly.
Yes, maybe "berate" is too strong a word. But I see as I am sure most do, the common theme among us disaffected, "How can they believe it in the face of all this other information?" People often understand why people may choose to attend, or stay mildly active, or send their kids, or whatever. However frustrating those reasons may be, they are numerous and understandable for the most part. I think it is so much more confusing though when people actually believe this stuff when its obvious (to us) that someone made a lot of it up. For me anyway, this article touched on a more compelling and palatable argument for why someone might see things differently versus some of the others I have read about (biases, retrenchment syndrome, backfire effect, etc). Not to mention, things like the backfire effect assume that you hold the correct or "real" view. But if there is no "real" or objective truth, who is to say which one is right or even why it matters?
Gatorbait wrote:
Fri Aug 23, 2019 2:08 pm
people willingly ignore the facts because it is so much easier to just go along with things.
Yup. The whole article in a nutshell.

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Linked
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Re: Truth and Evolution

Post by Linked » Fri Aug 23, 2019 3:27 pm

I'm sorry, I have to make some cases for truth over payoff.

We can get a larger payoff if we understand the truth more fully. Humanity has been so successful as a species (success being measured in number of organisms, access to food and shelter, safety from predators, etc) by better understanding the truth. Monsanto understood genetics that require a deep dive away from payoff into the truth and were able to develop plants which produce way more food - then they were dirtbags with the way they used it. Many who wouldn't otherwise be able to have kids have been able to due to better understanding the truth of how babies are made (sorry if this is a trigger). Our homes are safer because of modern materials, engineering, and design.

I think this can extend into our beliefs and relationships. But based on my posts about my relationships with DW and my family maybe my proof is a little lacking...

So, the payoff strategy at church is:
- Primary - say you love Jesus and get praised
- Seminary - Read BoM every day and give the right answers and get an A
- Mission - Go on one and when you get home you have better access to marriage within the group
- Temple - Go and you get continued acceptance by your family (and access to heaven)
- Cry during testimony - Get recognized as spiritual, maybe looked up to
- Pay lots o' tithing - Temple recommend (acceptance), and maybe a leadership calling (is this a thing? I've read people claim it's a thing, but I'm not sure)

The payback seems to be completely social, but humans are social beings, so that can be the most important thing.

The truth strategy at church is:
- Know the hard stuff and publicly conclude it is probably not true - Ostracized from the community, feel smart now but dumb for not seeing it sooner, lose your closest relationships, regret much of your life, follow what you now believe
- Know the hard stuff and publicly conclude it is probably true - Praised by community, feel smart
- Know the hard stuff and privately conclude it is probably not true - Feel like an imposter in the community, feel smart now but dumb for not seeing it sooner, regret much of your life, constantly think about how you were/are harmed and how great it would be to break free

I seem to be doing this wrong.
"I would write about life. Every person would be exactly as important as any other. All facts would also be given equal weightiness. Nothing would be left out. Let others bring order to chaos. I would bring chaos to order" - Kurt Vonnegut

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Red Ryder
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Re: Truth and Evolution

Post by Red Ryder » Fri Aug 23, 2019 4:07 pm

Is there a reasonable case to be made that we are just living in one giant chemical induced simulation?
“Emower” wrote:But if there is no "real" or objective truth, who is to say which one is right or even why it matters?
I’ve taken this exit ramp. If all religions are man made then what does it really matter if there’s a perceived or even intangible reward for participation that benefits the member?
Those who do not move do not notice their chains. —Rosa Luxemburg

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alas
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Re: Truth and Evolution

Post by alas » Fri Aug 23, 2019 4:57 pm

Linked wrote:
Fri Aug 23, 2019 3:27 pm
I'm sorry, I have to make some cases for truth over payoff.

We can get a larger payoff if we understand the truth more fully. Humanity has been so successful as a species (success being measured in number of organisms, access to food and shelter, safety from predators, etc) by better understanding the truth. Monsanto understood genetics that require a deep dive away from payoff into the truth and were able to develop plants which produce way more food - then they were dirtbags with the way they used it. Many who wouldn't otherwise be able to have kids have been able to due to better understanding the truth of how babies are made (sorry if this is a trigger). Our homes are safer because of modern materials, engineering, and design.

I think this can extend into our beliefs and relationships. But based on my posts about my relationships with DW and my family maybe my proof is a little lacking...

So, the payoff strategy at church is:
- Primary - say you love Jesus and get praised
- Seminary - Read BoM every day and give the right answers and get an A
- Mission - Go on one and when you get home you have better access to marriage within the group
- Temple - Go and you get continued acceptance by your family (and access to heaven)
- Cry during testimony - Get recognized as spiritual, maybe looked up to
- Pay lots o' tithing - Temple recommend (acceptance), and maybe a leadership calling (is this a thing? I've read people claim it's a thing, but I'm not sure)

The payback seems to be completely social, but humans are social beings, so that can be the most important thing.

The truth strategy at church is:
- Know the hard stuff and publicly conclude it is probably not true - Ostracized from the community, feel smart now but dumb for not seeing it sooner, lose your closest relationships, regret much of your life, follow what you now believe
- Know the hard stuff and publicly conclude it is probably true - Praised by community, feel smart
- Know the hard stuff and privately conclude it is probably not true - Feel like an imposter in the community, feel smart now but dumb for not seeing it sooner, regret much of your life, constantly think about how you were/are harmed and how great it would be to break free

I seem to be doing this wrong.
I think Linked has a good point that the closer our perception comes to reality the better our long term chances of survival. Which is why some of us see “reality” about church history, and reject the church’s truth claims. There is a huge social cost, yet our survival (and children’s survival) chances go up because we are not sacrificing huge amounts of time and money into a false world view. Yes, we pay a social cost that others would not feel is worth it.

See, our world is more complex than a one dimensional “truth” There is social truth, scientific truth, historical truth. We have strong instincts to maintain tribal connections, and maintaining these connections can conflict with improving the way we make pottery, the way we hunt, and who has power in the tribe. This is why psychologists recognize more than one kind of intelligence. There is the “book learning” or verbal intelligence as in the tribal story teller. There is spacial intelligence, or the tribes lead hunter. There is social intelligence, which would help a person rise to tribal chief. If everyone in the tribe sticks to what is agreed upon “truth” then new herbs would not be found to heal the sick. Yet with too much rejection of know “truth” new herbs could be tried and end up poisoning the sick.

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Emower
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Re: Truth and Evolution

Post by Emower » Fri Aug 23, 2019 5:29 pm

alas wrote:
Fri Aug 23, 2019 4:57 pm
Linked wrote:
Fri Aug 23, 2019 3:27 pm
I'm sorry, I have to make some cases for truth over payoff.

We can get a larger payoff if we understand the truth more fully. Humanity has been so successful as a species (success being measured in number of organisms, access to food and shelter, safety from predators, etc) by better understanding the truth. Monsanto understood genetics that require a deep dive away from payoff into the truth and were able to develop plants which produce way more food - then they were dirtbags with the way they used it. Many who wouldn't otherwise be able to have kids have been able to due to better understanding the truth of how babies are made (sorry if this is a trigger). Our homes are safer because of modern materials, engineering, and design.

I think this can extend into our beliefs and relationships. But based on my posts about my relationships with DW and my family maybe my proof is a little lacking...

So, the payoff strategy at church is:
- Primary - say you love Jesus and get praised
- Seminary - Read BoM every day and give the right answers and get an A
- Mission - Go on one and when you get home you have better access to marriage within the group
- Temple - Go and you get continued acceptance by your family (and access to heaven)
- Cry during testimony - Get recognized as spiritual, maybe looked up to
- Pay lots o' tithing - Temple recommend (acceptance), and maybe a leadership calling (is this a thing? I've read people claim it's a thing, but I'm not sure)

The payback seems to be completely social, but humans are social beings, so that can be the most important thing.

The truth strategy at church is:
- Know the hard stuff and publicly conclude it is probably not true - Ostracized from the community, feel smart now but dumb for not seeing it sooner, lose your closest relationships, regret much of your life, follow what you now believe
- Know the hard stuff and publicly conclude it is probably true - Praised by community, feel smart
- Know the hard stuff and privately conclude it is probably not true - Feel like an imposter in the community, feel smart now but dumb for not seeing it sooner, regret much of your life, constantly think about how you were/are harmed and how great it would be to break free

I seem to be doing this wrong.
I think Linked has a good point that the closer our perception comes to reality the better our long term chances of survival. Which is why some of us see “reality” about church history, and reject the church’s truth claims. There is a huge social cost, yet our survival (and children’s survival) chances go up because we are not sacrificing huge amounts of time and money into a false world view. Yes, we pay a social cost that others would not feel is worth it.

See, our world is more complex than a one dimensional “truth” There is social truth, scientific truth, historical truth. We have strong instincts to maintain tribal connections, and maintaining these connections can conflict with improving the way we make pottery, the way we hunt, and who has power in the tribe. This is why psychologists recognize more than one kind of intelligence. There is the “book learning” or verbal intelligence as in the tribal story teller. There is spacial intelligence, or the tribes lead hunter. There is social intelligence, which would help a person rise to tribal chief. If everyone in the tribe sticks to what is agreed upon “truth” then new herbs would not be found to heal the sick. Yet with too much rejection of know “truth” new herbs could be tried and end up poisoning the sick.
I think this is coming round to exactly what the article intends to put across. "Truth" is how the brain interprets the data around itself. And the researcher the article referenced did some analysis that indicates that the brain manipulates the data around itself, unconsciously, to provide us with the best fitness. I interpret that to mean that just because we think that we see the "truth" of what the church is, the reality is that truth is different for everyone depending on the fitness the truth gives them. Which, will be different for everyone. Often we jump from one assumption of truth to another, when it is possible that neither option a, b, or ----infinity is the "right" one. This alludes to quantum mechanics, which the article references, but I honestly did not read that part very carefully.
Red Ryder wrote:
Fri Aug 23, 2019 4:07 pm
I’ve taken this exit ramp. If all religions are man made then what does it really matter if there’s a perceived or even intangible reward for participation that benefits the member?
Its the ramp I am on as well, finally. It feels good, and peaceful. That must mean its true right? :lol:

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moksha
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Re: Truth and Evolution

Post by moksha » Fri Aug 23, 2019 5:43 pm

Why can't there be two different sources for human existence? Mormon's have already postulated the existence of "Pre-Adamites" who are the product of evolution, and the Children of Adam and Eve who became the first Mormons. Both groups can interbreed and the progeny have positive traits from both groups: honesty from the Pre-Adamites and entrepreneurship from the Garden Mormons.
Good faith does not require evidence, but it also does not turn a blind eye to that evidence. Otherwise, it becomes misplaced faith.
-- Moksha

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wtfluff
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Re: Truth and Evolution

Post by wtfluff » Fri Aug 23, 2019 6:34 pm

Red Ryder wrote:
Fri Aug 23, 2019 4:07 pm
Is there a reasonable case to be made that we are just living in one giant chemical induced simulation?
Ask Elon Musk. :D


Relevant Video: You Are Not So Smart: Post-Truth
Faith does not give you the answers, it just stops you asking the questions. -Frater Ravus

Keep the company of those who seek the truth - run from those who have found it -Václav Havel

Brilliant.

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