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Do Humans Need Woo?


Orbit
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I think as humans we might need a certain amount of woo, psychologically speaking. Or is it a learned need? I get my woo from Pantheism, which isn't really heavy on woo, but gets the job done (feelings of awe and reverence). Do you need woo? What form does it take?

 

Woo can be supernatural or just spiritual/non-rational in the way I am thinking about it.

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No, we don't need woo. But, we invent it to give us a peace of mind over those things in life that have no concrete answers as of yet. Humankind has long been uncomfortable with saying 'I don't know,' so it invents gods of the gaps, and here we are.

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I'm not sure that I really understand the idea of "woo".

 

If you mean do humans necessarily need to have non-empirically tested assumptions, well, there are plenty of avowed empiricists.

 

If you mean do humans necessarily need to believe in a benevolent power in the universe - no.  Many see the universe as impersonal, and have no problem with that.

 

If you mean do humans necessarily have a spiritual side to their natures - no.  There are plenty of arch materialists who decry such ideas.

 

On the other hand - are all humans who do maintain a belief in deity or the spiritual necessarily illogical?  I would say no.  We (and I'm one of them) simply interpret reality on the basis of assumptions that make sense to us.  In fact - isn't that what we all do?  The fact that my interpretation is different to the self-proclaimed materialist/rationalist is not necessarily an issue of our relative capacity for logical thought.  It just means we see the world differently - would that more people would accept that no one outlook is necessarily right or better, as opposed to "right for the given individual".

 

Do I need "woo"?  I have no idea.  Depends on whether, from your standpoint, my concepts count as such.

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There is an evolutionary psychology basis for woo, called the "theory of mind", where we attribute agency where there is none because it had survival value. For example, we look when we hear a rustling in the grass, assuming something caused it besides the wind. It's the mental equivalent of seeing shapes in clouds. Dawkins talks about it at length in The God Delusion. My mind seems to be very comfortable with the idea of a positive force in the universe (which qualifies as woo) and I was wondering to what extent this was hardwired. Some people seem to have it stronger than others.

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If by that you mean "do people need illusions?" I would say yes.  Then again, we don't really know what absolute reality is, either.

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Might I suggest that "hardwiring" is overrated as an explanation for human behaviour?  I have no professional knowledge of the subject - but I have always had a sneaking suspicion that people are far too varied for the sort of generalization that the term implies.  The comment that some people seem to have a stronger "woo requirement" than others would indicate that the level at which different individuals are comfortable with the concept of something "beyond" the normal is very variable.

 

I do agree that humans generally need illusions - but the nature of those illusions again need not come into this category.  Self delusion as to one's own character, merits and importance might well be the main need in many cases - but I doubt if that is what Orbit is thinking about.

 

I'm afraid I would have to come down on the side of saying some people are more comfortable assuming a spiritual reality, others are the opposite, both are perfectly valid variables within the range of human behaviour and both are perfectly acceptable - provided neither is sought to be imposed upon those in the other category.

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