Apophenia is a common phenomena, though the word is rare. Apophenia is seeing sense in nonsense, seeing patterns in random noise. Seeing faces in clouds; many superstitions; “Coincidence?! I think not!”…
I believe apophenia occurs when we fail to acknowledge the possibility of random, causeless influences.
I think we’re biased towards cause and effect. Though this is usually a useful bias, sometimes things do just happen. Not all events have clear, transparent causes.
Believe in randomness.
Apophenia is also part of my theory for how religion culturally-evolved. It’s a very human thing to freely confabulate explanations, nevermind that many of these explanations will be incorrect. I believe religion came about—independently, several times—partly as a way to explain randomness.
This isn’t to say, however, that religion can’t be useful for some people. Apophenia is an example of one such useful-but-not-necessarily-true belief.
Posted 2020 September 9, last updated 2021 January 5.
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