Neural networks and what you can’t let go of

I had a interesting thought the other day about natural neural networks and people who hold beliefs that are not reality-verifiable or are even likely to be false. This thought started in looking at climate change deniers and people who believe religions that don’t appear to match the reality I’m experiencing, but it’s gone a bit further than that.

This is more of my hand-wavy guesswork.

It has occurred to me that one of the major problems a NNN faces is that subnets will tend to build major nexus points. These nexus points would appear to us to be core beliefs – or even just important beliefs. Once one of these beliefs is built, and a whole lot of connections to a whole lot of other subnets route through it, we would naturally be extremely resistant to removing it because we literally would be less able to function without it. In the case of religious (or religiously political) people – and I probably fit into this somewhat – letting go of their religion would make it far more difficult for their mind to work for a while – it would be somewhat similar to having a stroke. Major confluences of subnets which represented key ideas would no longer be valid – and it would likely be difficult to remove all of the traces of subnets like these, especially since there is a lot of redundancy in the way NNNs tend to wire. We may be extremely resistant to throw out cherished ideas – even when they’re proven wrong – because throwing them out makes it difficult for us to function at all, because all sorts of traffic is routed through them. They end up forming the underpinning for our personalities and decision trees.

I think if this is true, this is something we all need to understand and figure out the implications of. Christians brag of their faith being unshakable – but it might well be if Jesus showed up in person and told them they were wrong they would not be able to accept or integrate it because their faith is often loaded virally on them when they’re very young and ends up forming the physical underpinning for large portions of their mental structure.

2 Responses to “Neural networks and what you can’t let go of”

  1. bunne Says:

    There are over 500 iterations of various subsets of Christian faith. That is “Jesus came and said do this, so we’re doing what he said.” An almost none of them agree with each other. >500 examples of the One True Way┬« That’s a problem. I think if Jesus came back, he would first, face palm, second look to the sky and say “I dunno, I left pretty simple instructions, dad” and then start dismantling churches with his bare hands.

  2. Alderin Says:

    From my experience losing my religious faith, I think the stroke analogy isn’t far off. I was in a fairly broken state for over a year, re-learning and re-discovering and re-building daily concepts and thoughts and values outside of a religious context. It hurt, there is a scar, and some things are still no longer quite as functional, even with exercise and 11 years.

    I have been able to pull out the weeds, so to speak, but sometimes they still pop up. I’ve never been particularly prejudiced, but sometimes old “rules” pop up and need to be rationalized into oblivion before I re-consider the situation objectively. It isn’t a constant effort anymore, but it was for a couple of years.

    It hurt. I stopped talking with my best friend because I couldn’t stomach the religion anymore, but I didn’t want to put him through the same pain. Most people can live productive and happy lives wrapped in their religion, without causing others harm, and some people need such a structure to moderate portions of their personalities that would otherwise be offensive or destructive. I think he benefits more than suffers from his religion, but I can’t stand it, and I can’t go fully into the details of my loss with him or I risk breaking his faith as well.

    So, that hurts, too.

    Yeah, stroke. Good analogy.

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