The Biological Advantage of Being Awestruck [Vid]

[…] our ability to awe was biologically selected for by evolution because it imbues our lives with sense of cosmic significance that has resulted in a species that works harder not just to survive but to flourish and thrive…

[Jason Silva]


5 Responses to The Biological Advantage of Being Awestruck [Vid]

  1. Our awe about our own world has led us to arrogant and unrealistic perceptions about our place in the world (the earth is flat, the universe revolves around the earth, etc.). We had to (mostly) abandon our sense of awe to make room for intellectualizing, rationalizing, and making sense/coping with the indifferent world around us.

    • Well, evolutionary psychology falls into that category of scientific epistemology known as a "functional explanation" based on an Statistical-Relevance model of scientific explanation. That is to say, formally, the S-R model is logically inductive (not deductive) and amounts to an "inference to the best explanation" but is also vaguely teleological in being purely functional.

      In other words; we explain the variation in moth color by invoking a selection pressure. We are thus explaining a current phenomena by an appeal to a current environmental pressure and their functional interrelatedness. This is not a causal explanation and could not be invoked to explain completely the phenomena, what is needed is some mutation of a gene which explains the variation in moth color, the selection pressure is not a causal antecedent, but a functional constraint.

      But evolutionary psychology depends almost entirely on these kinds of explanations which are prone to all kinds of error because they are basically inductive inferences. Some scientific epistemologists argue that they are eerily similar to teleological explanations like "Earth was created for humans to live in".

  2. Basically all he is saying is that when you learn something and gain that top-down perspective you get a neurochemical reward for it. So if you remember back to school when you first learned the Pythagorean theorem you probably had to struggle a bit to understand it, but once you did you got this positive feeling (reward).

    So he seems to be implying that this is something you can do over and over while expanding your perspective. It doesn't mean making up any explanation, since making up any explanation does not give you the same kind of 'revelatory ecstasy'. If you just posit that the length of side C is 15m that does not give you the same reward you would get if you had actually figured out that C was 15m by the equation A^2 + B^2 = C^2

    So simply positing a man-God as an explanation does not have the same integrative value that other concepts might have and would not therefor have the same reward. I suspect that the reward is related to the integrative value.

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