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Unread January 30th, 2006, 12:00 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 483
Default Re: Intelligent Design and Why Not

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Margaret: I keep hoping to see some meaningful discussions here that would illuminate some of the ways that Evolutionary Psychologists would look at human nature that would be different from other psychologists and scientists.
Hi Margaret: Perhaps not really what you’re looking for, and I don’t know that JimB necessarily sees things this way, but I like neuroscientist Joe LeDoux’s “mental trilogy” model of the human brain/mind (and its shaping by evolution and resulting weakness of cognitive influence over the emotional and motivational systems). I see it as the only reasonable way to begin to view and explain the brain/mind (and human nature and all the “unnecessary” human suffering that I myself have been wont to obsess over on occasion).

As I’ve already posted to Alexandra in another thread, the neuroscientist Ledoux notes how cognition, emotion, and motivation – the mental trilogy – actually work and what they are. In the last pages of his excellent book, Synaptic Self (2001), LeDoux writes the following:
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... there is an imperfect set of connections between cognitive and emotional systems in the current stage of evolution of the human brain. This state of affairs is part of the price we pay for having newly evolved cognitive capacities that are not yet fully integrated into our brains. Although this is also a problem for other primates, it is particularly acute for humans, since the brain of our species, especially our cortex, was extensively rewired in the process of acquiring natural language functions.

Language both required additional cognitive capacities and made new ones possible, and these changes took space and connections to achieve. The space problem was solved…, by moving some things around in existing cortical space, and also by adding more space. But the connection problem was only partially solved. The part that was solved, connectivity within the cortical processing networks, made enhanced cognitive capacities of the hominid brain possible. But the part that hasn’t been fully solved is connectivity between cognitive systems and other parts of the mental trilogy – emotional and motivational systems. This is why a brilliant mathematician or artists, or a successful entrepreneur, can like anyone else fall victim to sexual seduction, road rage, or jealousy, or… depression or anxiety. Our brain has not evolved to the point where the new systems that make complex thinking possible can easily control the old systems that give rise to our base needs and motives, and emotional reactions. This doesn’t mean that we’re simply victims of our brains and should just give in to our urges. It means that downward causation is sometimes hard work. ‘Doing’ the right thing doesn’t always flow naturally form ‘knowing’ what the right thing to do is. [From LeDoux’s Synaptic Self, (2001), pgs. 322-323]
Several years ago a Todd Stark—who I’ve not seen posting here for some time—and I discussed/argued this area at some length, and JimB sort of refereed. I’m not sure where we ended up, but I remain convinced that LeDoux’s mental trilogy model is currently the best and most realistic way of thinking about human nature.
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