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Monday, April 02, 2007

Brain Damage Rationalizes Morals?

A short excerpt:

"Philosophers have a name for this calculating logic: utilitarianism. They've been debating it for 200 years. Some says it's sensible; others say it's ruthless. Lately, however, the debate has been overrun by neuroscience. According to the neuroscientists, philosophers on both sides are wrong, because morality doesn't come from God or transcendent reason. It comes from the brain.

Three years ago in the journal Neuron, the neuroscientists illustrated their point. Using brain scans, they showed that utilitarian decisions involved "increased activity in brain regions associated with cognitive control." From this and other data, they surmised that the moral debate "reflects an underlying tension between competing subsystems in the brain." On one side are "the social-emotional responses that we've inherited from our primate ancestors." On the other side is a utilitarian calculus "made possible by the more recently evolved structures in the frontal lobes." The war of ideas is a war of neurons."

Whirlwind synopsis:

A social-emotional being has everything needed, then chooses rationality as a substitute for providence, leading to the evolution of a utilitarian part of our brain that removes moral considerations from decisions. Normal people have both... people like Paul, who struggled. Why would something evolve unless it was need for survival; if we weren't created with a rational organ, we didn't need it; something in our environment changed. A Fallen World creates a socio-economic system whereby those that are dumb (lack common sense) but emotionally and morally sound die. Natural selection a la brain. Those that can think rationally flourish. Rationality is the byproduct of a Fallen World where pure morality is a liability (see post on science). Rationality is the Knowledge of Good and Evil, as opposed to experiencing the former by default.

A long-winded, arrogant and smarter-than-thou rant:
So morality doesn't come from God? And we inherited social-emotional responses from distant ancestors, compared with more recently-evolved utilitarian frontal lobes? So taking that to be true, as I've never been one to dispute good science I know nothing about...

As my faith leads me to believe, our distant ancestors lived in harmony with God. They needed nothing more than their providence, and sought nothing more than God... eeeeeexcept for that whole fall thing.

Jive-check to this point: Social-emotional beings? Check. Reasoning? Not yet.

So the creation is fallen... its made imperfect by the presence of a being antithetical to the perfect nature of God. Our earliest ancestors buy into this... they decide God's providence isn't enough, so they seek knowledge (read: rationality). God? He's pissed. Revokes providence. Now humans form societies because they can't do as well on their own. They rebuild wealth, enjoying the fruits of their own success (read: they become secular humanists).

Jive-check: Social-emotional? Check. Reasoning? It appears so.

Flash forward thousands of years into the future. Now they don't know if God exists. But where does moral behavior come from? The brain! Aha, so moral behavior is a vestige of ancient ancestors more closely connected with God. Uh-oh... that means we must have been that way by default.

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