Last login: Monday, May 16, 2011
As an atheist, I find it immensely insulting that this discussion has been framed in a way that suggests it's new knowledge that religion and spirituality are not necessary. I think it is more dangerous to expect religion to tell us how to act and not rely on evidence of what makes a society actually work best. With the knowledge of how brain chemistry affects our behavior we can have a more realistic expectation of what we as a species are capable of in terms of social structure.
With regard to free will, it's obvious that we do not give it up just because we have a better understanding of neuroscience. What research in the field gives us is a new way to examine human behavior and how it affects our concepts of morality. If someone commits a horrible crime, we as humans decide what appropriate action to take, we have a choice to ignore it, punish the person severely, forgive them and put them into rehabilitation or any other option one can think of. But making that decision should be based on what is empirically best for society, not on religion.
Perhaps we are more guided by instinct than our egos will allow us to accept. I don't feel my life is any less meaningful than any other non-human creature in the universe and I don't believe an insects morality is any better or worse than ours. When we have the knowledge about why we do what we do maybe it will make it easier to make any particular changes in our own behaviors that we deem to better ourselves.
Philosophy has been the traditional means of finding what the highest moral good is with plenty of non-religious examples like Golden Mean. Let's just keep in mind that these are all human conventions and there is no one right way to be moral. I love my family and friends and don't take advantage of people because it makes me feel good. Knowing that a brain chemical is the cause of that feeling doesn't make me want to stop those behaviors, it just makes me understand myself more.
May 16, 2011 at 11:10 a.m.
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