Book Chapter

Why Do Believers Believe Silly Things? Costly Signaling and the Function of Denialism

JS Wilkins

New Approaches to the Scientific Study of Religion | Springer International Publishing | Published : 2018


People (and not merely religious people) often have beliefs that are widely regarded as silly by the experts or by the general population. This leads us to ask why believers believe silly things if they are widely thought to be silly, and then why believers believe the specific things they do. I propose that silly beliefs function as in-group and out-group tribal markers. Such markers act as an honest costly signal; honest and costly because such beliefs are hard to fake. Then I offer a developmentalist account of belief formation, in which beliefs are seen to be the result of a process of acquiring beliefs as cheaply and effectively as possible, leading to a reluctance to abandon early core..

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