Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The latest on God neurons: There ARE no God neurons

I am sure glad Mario Lopez posted this "Wired" item under "eyes rolling" at Uncommon Descent.

Whatever those people are Wiring themselves with, they should stop.

Here's the deal: Let us compare humans to weasels (a pine marten weasel is pictured at right).

Humans think about God because we have human mental faculties, period.

Weasels do not think about God because they do not have human mental faculties.

Humans realize that we will die one day, and wonder what happens after that. (Weasels do not.)

Humans think that some of our behaviour is good and some is bad, and we wonder whether the universe is organized in such a way as to promote the good and penalize the bad. (Weasels never think of these things.)

It is not correct to say that humans only think of these things because we are socialized to do so. Moral revolutions are often started by people who go against the leaders of their society. These revolutions can be good or bad, of course, depending on their outcome. It could be Gandhi - or Hitler - for example.

Human societies have changed a lot in the last couple of thousand years. (Weasel dens have not changed at all. They may not have changed in a million years, and will probably never change.)

There is a lot to know about being a human that we don't yet know. (There is nothing to know about being a weasel that weasels don't know.)

I think "neuroscience" studies about religion are often a waste of time because, as I said when I first climbed back onto my coffee perch in 2006, they are starting from a fundamentally flawed premise: That the explanation should be some God gene or circuit, rather than awareness of mortality and moral responsibility.

What they don't want to confront is the reality of the mind. And they will never get anywhere until they do.

Denyse O'Leary is co-author of The Spiritual Brain.

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