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May 30, 2008

Neuroscience, Cognition and Extinction 3

The last two entries dealt with how an uplanned ad-hoc study of a drug using population relates to a fundamental, and still unresolved controversy dating back to the origins of empirical science. Stated succinctly, that controversy is whether the universe (cosmos) was created by a “supreme being” or its origins are still uncertain. The former idea, still an item of faith for the three major monotheistic religions, is that an anthropomorphic god not only created the universe, but maintains an interest in the behavior of individual humans.

The scientific alternative, as it has evolved from about the time of Copernicus, Galileo and Newton, now holds that such a belief has been rendered optional by the technology-enabled observations of Science. A critical political corollary, that systems of government should not force religious beliefs on their populations, was formally articulated in the then-revolutionary US Constitution 150 years later, but continues to be vigorously disputed by all three montheistic religions despite their own continued, and frequently murderous, sectarian conflicts.

Intrinsic to the extended controversy between Science and Religion, and relating directly to notions of our accountability to a creator, is whether or not human behavior is “naturally” (fundamentally) moral. That such concerns are of increasing importance to the welfare of our species should be obvious from a quick survey of curent domestic and international events, yet it’s also quite clear from the way certain intractable problems are not being dealt with that as our human population has been increasing, the various disputes dividing us have become ever more intractable, even as our scientific knowledge has been expanding at a staggering rate.

My purpose here is nothing less than proposing that America’s drug policy, a.k.a. the “war on drugs” could serve as an ideal model for identifying the important cognitive anomalies that now threaten the welfare of our species. Implicit in that concept is the notion that although Science has recently been able to identify several previously unsuspected threats to life on Earth, the most pressing may be one we have both the greatest responsibility for and the best opportunity to control: the fear-driven competitive behavior that so clearly threatens our survival.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at May 30, 2008 01:13 AM