Patricia Churchland: Touching a Nerve: The Self as Brain
The human experience, and the ‘self’, is so rich it must be produced by some transcendent being, some ultimate self that goes beyond the physical body, or so it is claimed. How else can spiritual experience and deep emotion be explained? Can they all be products of the brain?
It turns out that by studying the brain, scientists have gained profound understandings of much of human nature. The brain really is capable of generating the rich, varied human experiences we call ‘spirituality’. But that fact challenges our ideas about who and what we are. If our ‘selves’ are “just” the product of some physical mechanism, even one as complex as the brain, are we really robust human beings?
Patricia Churchland, professor emerita at the University of California, San Diego, teaches neurophilosophy. She’s accustomed to tackling the big philosophical questions with respect to the brain, and has become comfortable with the idea that our ‘selves’ really are our brains. She’ll discuss these questions and more on this brain-twisting episode of ETFF!
Joel Marks on A-moralism and the Philosophy of Desire
Because of the Darwinian revolution, and the Galilean revolution before it, we have been able to – intellectually at least – get past our early notions of gods and supernatural beliefs in general… And now we are tackling what seems to be more and more scientifically evidenced… the death of free will and the notion along with it of the self-made man. On ETFF we’ve discussed what ‘free will’ is, what determinism is, and how we might consider conducting ourselves in society when we know that no person is the ultimate author of their behaviors. But, while some have argued that while we can’t hold people morally responsible for their actions, others still believe that we can entertain the notions of morality itself. But is that the most logical way to look at the human condition? We’ll find out, on today’s edition of Equal Time for Freethought with Dr. Joel Marks!
Against Moral Responsibility w/Dr Bruce Waller
Humanity has had to adapt to deep philosophical and indeed psychological changes over the last 500 years. With the knowledge that came from geology and astronomy, we’ve learned we are not at the center of the universe, nor even a significant part of the “all that is.” From biology and genetics we have learned that we are a part of the animal kingdom, apes with big brains.. brains which, themselves have been programmed by nature much as a computer is programmed.
And we have also learned that there is no reason, nor any evidence, for us to believe in supernatural realms or beings for the universe to have come into existence, or for humanity to have thrived. Nature is our mother, and only nature (and perhaps our own ignorance) can put us under.
And, in the last twenty years, we have explored perhaps the most complex, most delicate feature of the universe, the human brain…and consciousness itself. What we are learning now can arguably be thought of as the most significant of our many scientific achievements and perhaps the most dangerous idea.. that Free-Will is an illusion and all our thoughts and behaviors are caused by an intricate combination of our genetic heritage, our environment, and our social experiences. Whatever choices or decisions we make, or actions we take, there are reasons for which there is little we can do outside of allowing ourselves the experiences, and to learn from our wrong-steps.
But what does this do to our sense of morality – gleamed from either our religions or our secular philosophies? That will be the subject of today’s conversation with Dr Bruce Waller: Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Youngstown State University in Ohio. Dr. Waller received his Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and his books include Consider Ethics: Theory, Readings, and Contemporary Issues; Critical Thinking: Consider the Verdict; You Decide!: Current Debates in Criminal Justice; And his latest, Against Moral Responsibility published by MIT Press.
Atheism Vs. Humanism?
With the advent of the ‘New Atheists’ and their amazing popularity, and the watering down of humanism by many organizations in the US, we wonder what is the difference between humanism and atheism? Is atheism the foundational core of humanism as many “secular” humanists argue? Can anyone self-identified as an atheist be called a humanist? If humanism is, as some state, an ethical worldview, why do many argue that people can hold any political position and still be a humanist? Matthew LaClair will host a special call-in show to have YOU address these questions…
‘Good without God’ w/ Greg Epstein
This Sunday, Matthew will interview Greg Epstein, author of the new book ‘Good Without God; What a Billion Non-Religious People Do Believe.’ The book has influenced many campaigns, such as the ‘Good Without God’ posters in the New York City subway system.
Epstein is the Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University. He blogs for Newsweek magazine and The Washington Post, and has been featured by National Public radio, BBC radio, Newsweek, US News and World Report and more.
Morality Without Gods II: A Preview
This program, co-hosted by Sunsara Taylor and Paul Eckstein, was a preview of the following event:
Morality Without Gods: Part 2
Across the planet with unjust wars, uncertainty & convulsions in people’s lives, belief in gods and religion is rising. Broad controversy and debate rages over god, atheism, faith, and science. Last November, an overflow crowd came out at NYU for Morality Without Gods: Part 1. Part 2 will focus on these three questions:
- If you don’t believe in god, where do you get your morality from?
- Why is science not just “another belief system”?
- Could we/should we do away with belief in gods?
A review of the actual event can be found here. A DVD-video of the event will become available shortly, and we will provide information on it via this website.
One-Hour Fund Drive Special!
Morality without Gods: An Exchange!
Has religion gotten out of hand; have we become truly Religulous?
Is religion itself really as dangerous as some now claim?
Can science and religion coexist in a healthy society?
And, what is the best way to defend science and democracy from fundamentalist religion? Via a “militant atheist” critique of religion and religious believers (as with the “new atheists” both on the left and right), or via a sociopolitical and psychological analysis of religion in society and a holistic approach to making lives better?
Continue reading “Show 266: Morality without Gods: An Exchange!”
One-Hour Easter Special: “Questioning Judeo-Christian Morality”
Are Easter and Passover the basis for morality or for violence?
This week most people commemorate the foundational narratives of the Jewish and Christian religions, both widely regarded as the main source of ethical inspiration and social stability for the Western world, yet there are sound reasons to believe that it’s our Judeo-Christian tradition that might actually be responsible for a great deal of violence.
At this moment in our nation’s history when we continue to have the largest prison population in the Western world – when we’re being told that the only solution to a disastrous unwinnable military adventure is to send more troops – and when our leaders have seen fit to pass the Military Commissions Act of 2006 which denies detainees the right of Habeas Corpus and the protections against torture afforded by the Geneva Convention – Equal Time for Freethought will take a critical look at how our Judeo-Christian traditions not only fail to curb such institutionalized brutality, but actually make such policies appear as if they are morally acceptable.
Continue reading “Show 201: Easter Special: “Questioning Judeo-Christian Morality””
For information and audio for Pt. 1, see listing for September 24, 2006
Sense and goodness without God: A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism w/ Richard Carrier
“If God does not exist, then what does? Is there good and evil, and should we care? How do we know what’s true anyway? And can we make any sense of this universe, or our own lives?
“Sense and Goodness without God: A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism answers all these questions in lavish detail, without complex jargon. A complete worldview is presented and defended, covering every subject from knowledge to art, from metaphysics to morality, from theology to politics.
Continue reading “Show 155: Richard Carrier”