Thursday, January 05, 2006

InG we T - Feedback loop errors

In Gods We Trust
Commitments 2.1 - feedback loop erros

Atran has a very interesting critique of religious thought in the start of his section on counterintuitive worlds. He starts off by discussing a feedback loop of inference and interpretation.

If one understands what a speaker intends, there is a smooth flow of communication. Information is processed subconsciously (or at least non-overtly), because it does not need to be questioned. Meaning just seems natural, and obvious. According to Atran, "you stop cognitively processing information the moment communication makes sense. (If there were no such stopping rule, inference and interpretation would go on forever)". This is contrasted in a very interesting manner with another Atran quote on religion; "To be sure, people interpret God's message in particular ways for specific contexts, but they have no reason to ever stop interpreting."

This seems like a popular complaint against religion. It is a moving target stuck in a feed back loop where reinterpretation is mistaken for depth and a lack of definitiveness for the complexity of God. Traditional religion never gives people a reason to stop interpreting. Because of this, it seems infinitely complex and mysterious. Some people like this, others don't.

Perhaps this tendency occurs because we like to remove ideas of vagueness as we rationalize our paradigms. Problems occur when people assume entrance into Atran's feedback loop is real religion. It seems like the feedback loop falls apart once reinterpretation stops. Since traditional Christians assume, in a neoplatonic like way, that we can never fully comprehend God, the loop is fundamental and, perhaps, not problematic to their world view. Since I assume a real God is knowable, I think this loop can function as an irreligious opiate. While it may be a corollary associated with exploration, getting out of it seems to require putting down roots and working through problems. It does not seem to get solved by progressive idealism.

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