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I thought "ritual" was used in a rather dismissive way, like "superstition". In defence of rituals: Cultural evolution is a process that comes up with rituals (like food preparation steps) that actually work. Sometimes for the wrong reason, or they have an important but unacknowledged side-effect.

I highly recommend "The Secret of Our Success" by Joseph Henrich on this topic. It has a story how a complex process of detoxifying manioc was passed down over generations. Apparently if you only cook it you still get chronic poisoning over decades. Ideally you know and understand this. But if not, you better just copy the exact preparation steps from the most healthy and successful community member.

Rituals can be useful even when nobody understands why. For example a community of hunters reading bones like a map to predict their next hunting success. It randomizes the place they are hunting, and prevents them form re-visiting the same spot where they were successful.


Those "very short programs" are useful even if the universe has no bias towards them. It's just Occam's razor. I think it has more to do with the process of knowledge gathering than with the universe itself.