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Unread September 13th, 2006, 12:31 AM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 271
Default Re: Ann Coulter & Wm. Provine: Evolution's Odd Couple

Todd: Perhaps, but it seems to me that "parochial" here is nothing more than a statement of politics. It is almost trivially true that we aren't talking about some sort of closed perfect system for explaining all of nature. At least from my perspective. So one can take the political stance that science (considered as some sort of political group) needs to be taken down a notch in their influence, or the political stance that it needs to be elevated. Myself, I wasn't making either argument.
Neither was I. I might have misunderstood you. When you said, " . . our widespread convention linking meaningfulness and good human judgment to ethereal abstracts outside of nature are probably harmful in the long run . . ", I thought you meant all of nature - not human nature as in EP. In any case I didn't mean parochial in any demeaning or political sense - just in the sense that science establishes its own highly rational standards for belief (in scientific terms) and enforces them pretty well - which I see as a really good thing - and much better than the other way of establishing beliefs which is pretty much acccording to what feels best at the time. And now my brain hurts from thinking about that. :eyes:

Todd: I'm not going along with the relativist argument that refuses to acknowledge the objective component of basic human needs and pretends that facts and solid causal models should have no bearing on our moral and ethical decisions. I wouldn't go to the opposite extreme either, and claim that there is some sort of direct deductive path from causal models and facts of nature to ethical decisions.
Are you saying that Ayn Rand is pretty cool - until you try to apply her philosophy?

And now to the really interesting part of your post.
I don't see any reason why we can't continue to better understand the foundation of the mind and brain and biological needs and apply that knowledge to better decision making in all areas. What is the point of your own theory, if not to accomplish something like that? Is your whole point in proposing the theory to try to prove that we shouldn't try to understand the brain better because there is a hard line of mystery somewhere?
My main reason for proposing my theory is: I don't see any reason why we can't continue to better understand the foundation of the mind and brain and biological needs and apply that knowledge to better decision making in all areas. Absolutely, that's what really excites me - aside from the thrill of looking through a new window.

And the really interesting part of this view is to understand when and how intellect affects our decisions - which I see as much more limited than most see it. I think there's vast progress to be made in that area. But even with that statement I'm buying into the notion that decisions highly weighted with emotions from rational decisions are always better than decisions governed almost entirely by limbic emotions. I don't believe that's the case.

For example, the millions of Americans who volunteered to put their lives on the line and fight in WWII- like my Dad - did not sign up as the result of a rational weighing of risks and advantages. They were pissed off that our nation and way of life was threatened and were willing to die before they saw Tojo and Hitler realize their goals. And many of them did die before it was over. They were motivated by hate, fear, love, patriotism and a few others. Suitably motivated, they then used their brains to outproduce and outfight the bastards and kicked ass - or maybe I should say kicked DNA.

Reason, while highly useful for survival, is cold and passionless. It motivates nothing alone. Only emotion motivates us to do anything. Our intellect must first be called up by emotional need. The result must then be attached to an appropriate emotional tag - which is the marker that gets weighed in our decisions - not the result itself - along with our other emotional inputs. See Damasio.

That's the part of the puzzle that I'm still working on. How much rational restraint should we (can we) willfully inject into our emotional decision process - and when should we do it? Is it good to develop that ability to a high skill and use it continuously - or will that take all sponteneity from our life - or possibly even produce worse decision in some contexts?

What I see now is the critical importance of holding rational beliefs in our minds. I believe that our beliefs are our most significant source for behavior decision emotions. If we populate our minds with rational, moral beliefs - then I expect that the emotions that proceed from those beliefs when we are faced with an important decision - will lead us to rational, moral decisions that will benefit our survival and our society's survival.

I see reasoning ability as secondary. Useful in editing our beliefs when we have that opportunity, like right now - but relatively useless when making important (emotion laden) real-time decisions.

I am certain that few soldiers who have their finger on the trigger and an enemy in their sights are calculating risks and benefits at that moment of terrible decision - at least not the ones who survived to tell us about it.

Best regards, Margaret

Last edited by Margaret McGhee; September 13th, 2006 at 12:53 PM.
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