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Minds and GodsThe Cognitive Foundations of Religion$
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Todd Tremlin

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780195305340

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2006

DOI: 10.1093/0195305345.001.0001

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Minds, Other Minds, and the Minds of Gods

Minds, Other Minds, and the Minds of Gods

(p.73) 3 Minds, Other Minds, and the Minds of Gods
Minds and Gods

Todd Tremlin (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines some evolved mental mechanisms that play key roles in the representation of god concepts. The incorrigible operation of an Agency Detection Device (ADD) and a Theory of Mind Mechanism (ToMM) helps explain why people naturally entertain religious ideas. God concepts are parasitic on mental mechanisms designed for different though functionally related purposes. The study of these and other predispositions of thought also reveal what, from a cognitive perspective, “gods” really are — easily anthropomorphized thinking intentional agents. The real attributes of gods align with the mind’s intuitive knowledge bases and the natural inferences they produce rather than with the abstract, theological attributes taught in religious doctrine. At the same time, the counterintuitive properties of god concepts account for their widespread transmission.

Keywords:   mental representation, god concepts, Agency Detection Device, intentional agents, Theory of Mind Mechanism, anthropomorphism, counterintuitive concepts, cultural transmission

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