During a baseball game my senior year in high school, I made peanut butter on the bench by crushing up a bunch of peanuts under the head of my bat. Later in the game I hit a home run off a particularly renowned pitcher. Every game for the rest of the season I made bat head peanut butter during the first inning — convinced that the activity was somehow the cause of my success.
Turns out I was just good at baseball. [*flexes remnants of once-proud bicep]
At least according to an article in Scientific American, which says that basically all religious or supernatural beliefs are the product of two things working in concert:
1. Our brains evolved to spot patterns. This helped early man both catch food and avoid becoming food, but now confuses us because we’re more likely to spot patterns that aren’t there than the reverse.
2. We have a special gift for assigning agency to these patterns. Because we are uniquely aware of our own feelings and doings — and the feelings and doings of others — we assume that all patterns are caused by an agent of sorts that is enacting the patterns on purpose.
So we make bat head peanut butter to satisfy the gods. Or Obama, depending on what you’re hoping for:
Agenticity carries us far beyond the spirit world. The Intelligent Designer is said to be an invisible agent who created life from the top down. Aliens are often portrayed as powerful beings coming down from on high to warn us of our impending self-destruction. Conspiracy theories predictably include hidden agents at work behind the scenes, puppet masters pulling political and economic strings as we dance to the tune of the Bilderbergers, the Rothschilds, the Rockefellers or the Illuminati. Even the belief that government can impose top-down measures to rescue the economy is a form of agenticity, with President Barack Obama being touted as “the one” with almost messianic powers who will save us.
Does this mean praying to Oprah won’t make my — I mean this friend of mine’s — back less hairy?
Finally Found a Home — Oh No! Oh My!
Blossom — Ryan Adams and the Cardinals
Maybe Not — Cat Power
Girl You Have No Faith in Medicine — The White Stripes
Answering Bell — Ryan Adams
Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours — Stevie Wonder
I Could Have Lied — The Red Hot Chilipeppers
The Ghost of You Lingers — Spoon
Sugar on my Tongue — Talking Heads
Single File — Elliott Smith
Scenario — Tribe Called Quest (Live on Arsenio, 1992)
The Rules: The Friday Random 10 is exactly that — random. We open up our iTunes, set the thing on shuffle, and listen to 10 songs. We are not permitted to skip any out of embarrassment or fear of redundancy. Commenters are encouraged to post their own.