Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Unconscious decision-making

Evidence continues to mount that human decision-making occurs in the brain prior to conscious awareness of the decision, which is evidence against the common religious view of a soul, separate from the brain, which is the seat of all of our mental capacities. It's also at odds with an overly intellectualized view of human beings held by some atheists (as well as all Scientologists, who consider unconscious decision-making by the "reactive mind" or festering "body thetans" to be the cause of human unhappiness), on which we must strive to make all of our decisions based on conscious, deliberative reason. I don't think this is a very common view among atheists today, who tend to have some familiarity with evolution and cognitive science, but there are still some out there who have an overly idealized view of what a rational human being should be.

A view of human beings that focuses solely on the intellectual and reason is not only at odds with the facts about how our cognition works, it gives short shrift to the importance of social bonds and emotion, which are areas that some religions focus on to the exclusion of the intellectual--with great success in expanding their memberships, at least over the short term.

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