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8/12/10

A Hiccup of Gross Irrationality?

According to Hindu advaita philosophy, or nondualism, your "I am" is a manifestation of the great "I AM," and for that reason you don't die because your apparent self is only an illusion, a manifestation, a projection on the screen of your mind. In Christian doctrine, our immortal souls are sent to either heaven or hell. (Fortunately, Pope Benedict not too long ago saved innocent babies from limbo by decreeing that it does not exist.) Descartes found he could not doubt that he was doubting, and for that reason he existed. Each of these perspectives provides a stratagem for positing some kind of eternal being against the fear of dying.

Of course we knew it would only be a matter of time before neuroscientists and neurophilosophers would take aim at such beliefs as so much nonsense. I am reminded of Tom Wolfe's famous essay about them, titled "Sorry, But Your Soul Just Died." (See the sidebar on this page.) An argument for the evolution of the brain and from evolutionary psychology provides them with their starting point. Read on.

Some researchers "are increasingly arguing that the evolution of self-consciousness has posed a different kind of problem altogether. This position holds that our ancestors suffered the unshakable illusion that their minds were immortal, and it’s this hiccup of gross irrationality that we have unmistakably inherited from them. Individual human beings, by virtue of their evolved cognitive architecture, had trouble conceptualizing their own psychological inexistence from the start." More

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