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Harvey

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If atheism came down to one neuron...
« on: July 31, 2020, 10:27:19 am »
Imagine a scenario where neuroscience discovers that certain beliefs were a result of certain key neurons in the frontal lobe. Let's say it was discovered that atheism itself was a result of one neuron in particular and through surgery atheists were disabling that neuron and reporting a strong belief in God. Suddenly theistic arguments made a great deal of sense. A company called Theism4u began shipping a pill that at least temporarily made you a theist. After 48 hours the pill's effects wore off and then suddenly the arguments that 24 hours ago seemed so convincing lost their appeal. So here's my question, do you take the temporary pill and, if so, do you have the surgery to permanently disable the atheist neuron knowing full well that life feels much more meaningful as a result? If cost is a factor you find that theists are paying for the pills and the surgery so you can enjoy the comforts of being a theist.
« Last Edit: July 31, 2020, 10:57:39 am by Harvey »

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noncontingent

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Re: If atheism came down to one neuron...
« Reply #1 on: July 31, 2020, 10:42:47 am »
If there was no God and I  knew that was a fact, and I knew believing that fact would make me miserable, I'd still prefer being miserable.

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Harvey

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Re: If atheism came down to one neuron...
« Reply #2 on: July 31, 2020, 10:45:21 am »
If there was no God and I  knew that was a fact, and I knew believing that fact would make me miserable, I'd still prefer being miserable.

No, you're not given any additional information about reality. All we know is that atheists start seeing theistic reasons to be far superior once the atheist neuron (which has a cascading effect) becomes deactivated by the pill and permanently by having the surgery.

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Gordon Tubbs

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Re: If atheism came down to one neuron...
« Reply #3 on: July 31, 2020, 10:53:13 am »
I posed this problem in similar terms to shoyt in a recent thread. If materialism is true, and our consciousness is material, then our beliefs are ultimately the products of material processes occurring within our brain. On materialism then, it would be theoretically possible to take an "atheism pill" that chemically manipulates your brain functions in such a way that turns off the neurons that fire when you think about God. The presumptuousness and dubiousness of such a thought experiment on my view implies that materialism is probably false. There is a ghost in the machine that drugs cannot vanquish.
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noncontingent

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Re: If atheism came down to one neuron...
« Reply #4 on: July 31, 2020, 11:13:12 am »
If there was no God and I  knew that was a fact, and I knew believing that fact would make me miserable, I'd still prefer being miserable.

No, you're not given any additional information about reality. All we know is that atheists start seeing theistic reasons to be far superior once the atheist neuron (which has a cascading effect) becomes deactivated by the pill and permanently by having the surgery.

To me, this seems more like jacking with emotions. All the atheists I've had discussions with have emotional reactions when it comes to God.

I have reactions, but they're more like "Is my concept of justice and good anything like God's?...Man! I hope so otherwise I'm screwed."

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Harvey

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Re: If atheism came down to one neuron...
« Reply #5 on: July 31, 2020, 11:26:10 am »
To me, this seems more like jacking with emotions. All the atheists I've had discussions with have emotional reactions when it comes to God.

As Gordon alluded this really is not too far from reality. We aren't necessarily talking one neuron per se, but theoretically if physicalism is correct it is within the realm of possibility to tamper with one's beliefs by tampering with their brain. I think all atheists might concede  that neuroscientists in a thousand years might be able to give them a red pill that makes theism seem extremely convincing.

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GRWelsh

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Re: If atheism came down to one neuron...
« Reply #6 on: July 31, 2020, 11:58:49 am »
In general I am against any sort of surgery that is non-essential and I'd consider this non-essential.  If I'm not actually having a tumor removed, but just a normally functioning neuron, then I don't see why I'd go along with this lobotomy conversion.  Also, I'd want to see a lot more testing scenarios before making any decision to permanently alter my brain.  Does removing this neuron affect reasoning in other areas?  Am I now more likely to believe in ghosts and other supernatural entities?  What about polytheism, or pagan beliefs?  What does this do to my reasoning about Judaism versus Christianity versus Islam versus Hinduism?  What does it do to my reasoning about the various denominations or sects?  Would I become more gullible towards miracle claims and hoaxes?

At the end of the day, I only want to believe theism if it is true, not because it is comforting.
« Last Edit: July 31, 2020, 12:10:24 pm by GRWelsh »
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Harvey

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Re: If atheism came down to one neuron...
« Reply #7 on: July 31, 2020, 12:18:21 pm »
At the end of the day, I only want to believe theism if it is true, not because it is comforting.

But you would see it as true... and comforting.

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Mammal

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Re: If atheism came down to one neuron...
« Reply #8 on: July 31, 2020, 12:57:23 pm »
Blue pill..red pill..the idea works both ways.
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Harvey

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Re: If atheism came down to one neuron...
« Reply #9 on: July 31, 2020, 01:11:51 pm »
Blue pill..red pill..the idea works both ways.

Either way I'm sneaking it in your shake, or is it unethical to make an atheist into a theist if they didn't choose to be one?

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Jabberwock

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Re: If atheism came down to one neuron...
« Reply #10 on: July 31, 2020, 01:13:58 pm »
Imagine a scenario where neuroscience discovers that certain beliefs were a result of certain key neurons in the frontal lobe. Let's say it was discovered that atheism itself was a result of one neuron in particular and through surgery atheists were disabling that neuron and reporting a strong belief in God. Suddenly theistic arguments made a great deal of sense. A company called Theism4u began shipping a pill that at least temporarily made you a theist. After 48 hours the pill's effects wore off and then suddenly the arguments that 24 hours ago seemed so convincing lost their appeal. So here's my question, do you take the temporary pill and, if so, do you have the surgery to permanently disable the atheist neuron knowing full well that life feels much more meaningful as a result? If cost is a factor you find that theists are paying for the pills and the surgery so you can enjoy the comforts of being a theist.

But there are already pills and drugs that make you feel great and comfortable. How would it be different from taking, say, heroin?
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Harvey

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Re: If atheism came down to one neuron...
« Reply #11 on: July 31, 2020, 01:17:16 pm »
But there are already pills and drugs that make you feel great and comfortable. How would it be different from taking, say, heroin?

Heroin would make an atheist think more poorly (from the perspective of a theist), but a pill by Theism4u would improve a persons reasoning (also from the perspective of a theist).

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Jabberwock

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Re: If atheism came down to one neuron...
« Reply #12 on: July 31, 2020, 03:06:59 pm »
Heroin would make an atheist think more poorly (from the perspective of a theist), but a pill by Theism4u would improve a persons reasoning (also from the perspective of a theist).

Heroinists might also approve of the way of thinking of other heroinists. So?
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Harvey

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Re: If atheism came down to one neuron...
« Reply #13 on: July 31, 2020, 03:11:03 pm »
Heroinists might also approve of the way of thinking of other heroinists. So?

Sure, but I think most rational people would agree that heroin is harmful and say not to do drugs (at least don't do heroin).

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palewine

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Re: If atheism came down to one neuron...
« Reply #14 on: July 31, 2020, 03:25:51 pm »
I know this isn't the point of your question but.... wouldn't the existence of such a pill work against the case for theism in general though? Like, what's causing theism to make sense in this scenario and seem true isn't a metaphysically true witness of the Holy Spirit, or a real Divine Sense, or anything like that... it's mucking about with physical mechanisms in the brain. This would seem to support the hypothesis that humans' belief in God is due to brain chemistry rather than to an actual supernatural existence.

In any case, as long as the effect was temporary, and we are assured of returning to normal in this hypothetical scenario, I would definitely take the pill. It's incredibly valuable to be able to see things from other perspectives. Heck, I'd take similar pills for pretty much any other view as long as I knew 1) I wouldn't be able to do anything terrible that I'd regret later (maybe lock me in a room for the "radical Jihadist" pill or something?), and 2) I'd return to my previous state after a day or so.

Doing so would enable me to empathize more fully with people of those beliefs, which I view as a positive thing.