‘We are pattern-seeking primates. Our brains are designed by evolution to constantly be forming connections, patterns, learning things about the environment. We connect A to B to C, and often A really is connected to B, and B really is connected to C. This is called association learning. But we do not have a false-pattern-detection device in our brains to help us distinguish between true and false patterns, and so we make errors in our thinking. A type 1 error is believing a pattern is real when it is not(a false positive) and a type 2 error is not believing a pattern is real when it is(a false negative)
Go back in time, a few million years:
You hear a rustle in the grass. Is it a dangerous predator or just the wind?
If you think that the rustle in the grass is a dangerous predator, and it turns out it’s just the wind, you have made a type one error in cognition, a false positive. You thought the wind was connected to something and it wasn’t; You thought A was connected to B, but it wasn’t. So that’s a false positive but that’s relatively harmless. But if you think that the rustle in the grass is just the wind, but it’s really a dangerous predator, you’re lunch. You’ve just been given a Darwin award for taking yourself out of the gene pool early before reproducing. We are the descendants of those who are most likely to make type one errors, a false positive, versus type two errors, a false negative.
Why can’t you just stay in the grass and collect enough data to get the answer right? Well predators don’t wait around for prey animals to collect more data; that’s why they stalk and sneak up on their prey animals, so they can’t get enough data. So we evolved the propensity to make snap decisions and make one kind of error more likely than another kind of error, that kind of error, a false positive, is superstition. That’s magical thinking; that’s assuming A is connected to B and is a true pattern. It isn’t. You are wrong. That’s the basis of finding false patterns like gods.
What’s the difference between the wind and a dangerous predator? The wind is an inanimate force – a dangerous predator is an intentional agent. And his intention is to eat me and that can’t be good. So what we also do in addition to finding these meaningful patterns is infuse into them agency. That is “it’s alive”, “it’s real” and has intention. And the intention is not good, so I better assume it’s real. This is the basis of animism, spiritism, polytheism, monotheism and the belief of angels and aliens and demons and spirits and poltergeists and gods. Gods are invisible agents who run the world to control things who create these patterns (who are these patterns that we used to explain things). All cultures everywhere in the world have created god beliefs, gods that are intentional agents