Wednesday, December 14, 2005

InG we T - Attachment Theory

In God We Trust
Introduction 1.6- Attachment Theory

In Page 72 of the book attachment theory is presented as a possible explanation for religious tendencies. Basically people who tend to care about others, view God as caring for themselves. In psychology language, they tend to project their views onto God. People that have a strong need for personal relationships tend to view God on a very personal level. Unfortunately Jungian or Freudian styled analysis is used a bit too much in the discussion and proof texting of these ideas.

I have no doubt that people strongly anthropomorphize God. We tend to make God into whatever we want. These views don't change who he is, although they certainly change what we are willing to accept or see. In effect nebulous ideas of God morph into the ultimate brand. God becomes anything we want, turning as it were into an abstract form to which we can aspire. To me these tendencies smack of irreligion. They set people up in direct conflict with reality or future reality. Religion becomes an escape route to hold onto a hoped for reality. Of course this idea is rather ironic in light of my posts on creating heaven. Nonetheless the distinction lies in the level of congruence with one's environment. To my mind irreligion promotes discongruence, supported by faith tests. Useful religion promotes congruence where environmental factors must be fully accommodated.

So it was unfortunate that more time wasn't spent on explaining how personal bonding to God can be seen as an anthropomorphizing of abstract thought. At least he did give several counter examples to the Freudian mother replacement theory that unfortunately belittles a rather interesting idea.


jeff g said...

I don't understand how you are labeling these posts. If you are commenting on page 72 and/or chapter 2 in what sense is this an intro or 1.6 as opposed to 2.0 or 3.0 ?

chris g said...

Yeah, I didn't write down page numbers for the quotes until I started the second section.

There are 4 sections to the book, Introduction (section 1), Commitment (section 2), Rituals (section 3), and section 4 (can't remember the name).

For each section I have a number of posts. For the intro I have 1.0 to 1.7. For the second section 2.0 to 2.6, etc.

I suppose I could go back and fill them in, and probably should, but it seems rather tedious., even if it would be beneficial.

jeff g said...

I thought that his treatment of attachment theory was a little too drawn out and somewhat distracting from an otherwise powerful chapter. While a breif mention was appropriate, I think that he said too much and therefore didn't say enough.

I view this cognitive account of religion to be filling in a lot of the details and answering a lot of questions which Freudian and Jungian psychology lacked and begged. While a lot of evolutionary psychology may be somewhat ad hoc just so stories, Freudian analysis, in my opinion, is hardly anything but such. While Freud's use of Darwinian ideas and subconscious hypnosis was breathtakingly brilliant, as to psychoanalysis I think he went WAY beyond the warranting evidence.

To further develop the thesis that the CS version of religion expands and replaces the F&J models, which I think is what Atran wanted to briefly touch on, would probably need an entire book in itself.

Nevertheless, the idea that religious idea are good because they fruitfully produce inferences (Boyer goes into more detail here than Atran does) does seem to apply itself quite easily to our anthropomorphizing God in our minds. After all, according to Sperber, our cognitive categories are designed for the purpose of inferring details about entities which fall into each category such as animal or agent.

jeff g said...

I finished the book last night. The last chapter is a great summary of all the chapters and is a big help in understanding what the overall point of the book was. In that chapter is when he really starts to use the "landscape" metaphor to establish his main these. Had he used it throughout the book a little more I think that the overall flow would have made a little more sense.

The chapters on Sociobiology and Memes were quite informative as to cognitive science, but they didn't really seem to forward his thesis in any significant way. The basic point, and it was a good one, is that both of those theories of cultural evolution are "mind blind" and simply don't take anything which happens in the mind into account. Good point.

I thought chapter 7 was probably his weakest one. The entire time I was reading it I was thinking "So what? Who cares?" While it was nice to see somebody challenge some of that "neurotheology" garbage, the chapter seemed like an attempt to really show the naturalistic origins and nature of religion. Unfortunately, he doesn't make his case very persuasively, and even if he had, he has really only shown that psychology CAN account for visions and the like, not that it DOES acount for it or that it SHOULD account for it.

Overall the book was quite good though. It covered much ground which Boyer did not, while he covered a lot of material which Atran left out. If I were to recommend one of the two to a person, if they were a beginner, I would probably recommend Boyer, but if they were fairly well read and interested in cognitive science I would go with Atran.

chris g said...

Thanks for the summary. It will be a while till I get through the book though. Hopefully now that vacation is about to start I may have a little bit more time.