Irony of the Neurochemical Bigots

by Melissa Travis

Neurochemical BigotsMaterialist reductionism (MR), sometimes referred to as “ontological reductionism”, is the philosophy of science that says everything in nature can be broken down into elementary particles governed by the laws of physics and chemistry. According to MR, Every molecular event that occurs in our brain is involuntary and is predetermined by a web of events that came before, backwards to the cosmic singularity (or beyond). We, along with everything else that has physical being, are only the sum of our parts, a conglomeration of atoms.

For atheists, MR is the only game in town when it comes to explaining human psychology. Essentially, every thought that crosses our mind, every value we harbor, every emotion we experience, and every belief we hold is nothing more than the dynamics of our brain chemicals. Furthermore, we have no choices about any of it; we are organic robots controlled by the firing of our neurons. Free will is a wholesale illusion. There is no such thing as a “person” in the sense that we think of one; no entities that have command of the bodies roaming around on the planet. “People” are nothing more than bodies, and consciousness is only a grand illusion, a nifty bit of neurological trickery being played upon humanity by a brain cell conspiracy.

Neuroscientist Sam Harris puts it this way in his latest book: ”Our wills are simply not of our own making. Thoughts an intentions emerge from background causes of which we are unaware and over which we exert no conscious control.”

Jerry Coyne, militant atheist Professor of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago says, “Free will is an illusion so convincing that people simply refuse to believe that we don’t have it.”

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Obviously, MR has metaphysical implications. If there is no such thing as a soul, much less a disembodied soul, then God is nothing more than an abstract concept conjured by the highly evolved yet involuntary brain activity of some Homo sapiens, and whenever human bodies die, there is nothing that lives on into an afterlife.

For many of my readers, this view will sound laughably radical, like some sort of kooky fringe science. But just take a few minutes to browse the latest popular-level neuroscience books on Amazon. Note the names of the authors. Google them. These are the people who are lecturing in university halls around the country.

What’s curious (and incredibly entertaining) about the situation with MR is that many who espouse that view…for some mysterious reason…viciously ridicule those who believe that MR is wrong…


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