Sketches on Atheism / This God Fellow

The god machine

brain-in-hands1Theists truly hate reductionism like this, it dents their fragile sensibilities, but this is the god machine: the human frontal lobe. It took about 1,333 generations to grow, and it is no coincidence that the first of tens of thousands of gods (the proto-gods of the cardinal ancestor cults) leapt into an existence of sorts shortly after it stopped swelling around 6,600 generations ago. That is when their lineage began. That is when the product line started and the first Model T’s rolled out of the newly minted factory sitting in that cerebral bulge above our eyes. It was and remains the last great addition to the human form; a synaptic universe where the vast majority of dopamine-sensitive neurons directly associated with reward, attention, short-term memory tasks, prediction, planning, incentive, and motivation are housed. It’s the region of the brain where children dream up imaginary friends and adults map out wars. It is the region where we cast our thoughts off into the future and play the prediction game. It is the region where we join the dots and make sometimes outlandish mistakes in causal associations. It is the region where expectation and its ugly cousin, apprehension, reside. It is the region where our superstitions are birthed and our fears find lodging. It’s where our gods take form and bed down, micromanaging this fantastic circus while dispensing tiny doses of dopamine to the hypothalamus like some self-medicating chemist in his own little shop of horrors.

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34 thoughts on “The god machine

    • Undergraduate in business/economics (i really should have done biology or astronomy, they were my first loves), post grad in communication theory, and half a masters in political science… i gave it up. Everything else is just my own interest.

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    • Exactly, that’s why i thought using the term “product line” was good. I mean, compare the gods in the UFO religions today to those of the ancients. One truly is a Model T Ford of old compared to a Maserati today.

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  1. Pingback: Congruency: Of Delight in It « manoftheword

  2. Frontal lobe? According to wikipedia.org/wiki/Brain_human we humans have the largest brain of all on Earth. “Much of the expansion comes from the part of the brain called the cerebral cortex, especially the frontal lobes, which are associated with executive functions such as self-control, planning, reasoning, and abstract thought”.

    Please, what happens when self-control, reason, and planning have no limits, no moral absolute, nor constraints? And is there an example in history exampling this?

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    • Well, Roy, here you are talking about developmental sociology. The ballooning of the frontal lobe (completed 6,600 generations ago) enabled complex human societies to emerge. A library could of course be written on all of this, but to your point it enabled humans to explore empathy to a deeper level. All other complex socially organised organism know empathy, it’s what makes group living possible. It’s what establishes the parameters of, and adherence to authority. With the frontal lobe (especially its facility for long term planning) we were able to elaborate on empathy and construct a deeper moral code above and beyond the purely biological. This opened the door for the realisation of larger-than-clan sized groups. Morality was around long, long, long, long before the first gods were ever dreamed up.
      As to your query, I won’t touch on a “moral absolute” because there you are clearly assuming this comes from a god, which is just childish. However, the Swedish neurophysiologist, D. H. Ingvar, noted that people suffering strokes in the frontal cortex lose all interest in strategizing. “Lesions or dysfunctions of the frontal or prefrontal cortex,” he wrote in 1985, “give rise to states characterized by a loss of the future;” a cognitive state where indifference overrides motivation and the individual loses not only their ambition but also the ability to foresee the consequences of future behaviour. It’s safe to say a society composed of such individuals would go nowhere. It would achieve nothing outside a limited envelope of simple survival where language would never have found cause to rise. With this in mind we may argue that all of that which makes us what we are – a speaking, thoughtful, artful, calculating naked ape – is contained in that 150 cubic centimetre cluster of synaptic nerve endings which around 6,600 generations ago finished growing out over our eyes

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    • You mention “empathy”. We all know that a guiding principle of positive psychology is that “Other people matter”.

      What is it that makes other people matter to us?

      Where does empathy come from? How does it develop within us as children, so that we become empathic adults? Child psychologists Anna Freud and Jean Piaget believed that empathy was part of our moral development. Martin Hoffman, in his studies of empathy in children attributed it to intrinsic growth; morality that developed from a pro-social, perspective-taking stance. What is important about children learning empathy is that it signifies that they have learned that the world is not “all about me.”

      In their book, Why Good Things Happen to Good People, Dr. Stephen Post and Jill Neimark discuss the many benefits of giving. They define giving broadly, not just in the material sense, but also other ways of giving one’s self, including celebration, loyalty, humor, and respect. What strikes me about this kind of giving is that it is only possible with empathy. Giving benefits us because it allows us to make others feel good. We understand that we have done this through our own empathy. It is, in fact, the golden rule we learn at age 7 or 8, “do unto others.” What is unexpected is that doing unto others is the positive intervention. Using our empathy to give provides us with psychological and physical rewards.

      Morals?

      My dad and one brother are alcoholics. Alcohol and substance abuse is a real and growing problem and it can devastate the lives of family members and non-family members who are victims of the actions of those under the influence.

      The statistics and facts about the cost in dollars, and lives, are easily found on the web so I won’t list them all here. What interests me is the AA 12 Step Program as it relates to Morals.

      In studying the AA 12 Step Program I notice they first, admit they are powerless over alcohol, and second, they reach to a “higher power” for help. Embedded in their “Steps” to recovery are “Four Absolute Standards”. They are Absolute Honesty, Absolute Purity, Absolute Unselfishness, and Absolute Love. Just like the positive psychology of empathy and the Golden Rule, they have to be learned and practiced to work.

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      • Roy, i do hope you’re aware that Confucius nailed down the golden rule about 500 years before Christianity plagiarized the idea and tried to pass it off as its own (without credit to the original author): “Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself”

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  3. Confucius (551–479 BCE)
    Moses (1391–1271 BCE)

    Moses wrote: “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18).

    Alternatively…

    The Golden rule is “He with the gold makes the rules”.
    The Copper rule is “Shit Happens”.

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      • It was technology that gave rise to the greatest hope for the Restoration of Man to his rightful place at the center of creation. The Internet is a manifestation of this rebellious reformation: it empowers its users and allows them to fully express their individuality, in full sight of the entire world; it removes layers of agents, intermediaries, and gatekeepers; and it encourages the Little Man to dream and to act on his or her dreams. The decentralized technology of the Network and the invention of the hyperlink allow users to wield the kind of power hitherto reserved only to those who sought to disenfranchise, neutralize, manipulate, interpellate, and subjugate them.

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  4. interest in the subject – I mean, the reason for putting institutional religiosity below zero is visceral. It’s sovereignty was disastrous for my family. not me, OK?
    PS reading your text with help from Google. I know this is not enough, but…

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  5. It’s probably the truth. But consider this speculation that satisfies both atheists and those who believe in a creator (well it actually doesn’t satisfy the latter, but it should). A far-advanced intelligence, perhaps living in a separate universe, perhaps in a soon-to-die universe, decided to design a universe with life that would give rise to intelligence. This bears a lot of similarity to our current crude attempts to copy life and intelligence. Let’s say they implanted a seed that would grow, once there was consciousness, into a belief in a creator, believing (correctly) that eventually this intelligence would recognize who their creators were. By this time the creators are long gone, but they leave something very profound behind, something they hope might last forever. Maybe this is why we have a Mulitiverse right now. I think I’ll blog about this.

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    • The proof of “a far-advanced intelligence” is already here. It’s in the form of the Great Pyramid and ancient monolithic sites all around the world. Things they did in stone we can not replicate, on the same scale, today. There is overwhelming evidence that we are not the only ones in this extremely vast universe. Roswell, alien craft and alien bodies, dead and alive. Human nature is such, when there is something of life changing importance, that we can not keep secrets and men have come forth exposing these secrets. Paranoid and power-hungry men try to keep these secrets but it is impossible.

      There are good arguments the God of the Bible where aliens. Alien, non-earth humans came to teach us the way to be like human. Love your neighbor as you love yourself. Every ancient civilization had a belief in God (s) that seem to be actual advanced human aliens. You can not absolutely get something from nothing. Our intelligence is not come about by evolutionary accident for it is way too complex And another unanswered question is, where is the advanced civilizations that built the great ancient monolithic sites from thousands of years ago? The evidence suggests these sites where built to last forever so that when we became smart enough we would figure it out. This is not to say there is no creator, or soul, for there is evidence to that, but that our big brothers came to start human life here, and then teach us how to be right, to be human. To be human is to create, advance, love, forgive and have empathy.

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      • I agree with how you believe humans are made to be – creative, empathetic, etc. But I have never been willing to take credit for the great works of past civilizations away from them and place it with “space aliens”. When you imply that we can’t replicate what they did, you’re just plain wrong. In their way, the world’s tallest buildings, biggest dams and longest bridges are quite analogous. The pyramids show no evidence of being built by anybody but Egyptians. Same with the Mayan sites, Stonehenge, Nazca, etc. I’ve been to all of those places. They show the marks of humans, plain and simple.

        If the idea of a “creator intelligence is right, I think they are completely separated from us by universal barriers of time and space. Evolution, both biological and cultural, (along with very hard work) has produced all of the so-called evidence of visitation. Direct involvement of any creator, whether spiritual or technological, in the human species has always struck me as both a silly speculation, and an insult to the great works of humans who happened to live at an earlier time, but who were no less intelligent than we (and probably much harder-working).

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      • For 3000 years the temples of Abu Simbel sat on its ancient site, but when the building of a dam that would flood the site was proposed, archaeologists rushed to save them. They moved 2,200 stones and it took 5 years with modern machinery. Consider the Great Pyramid contains at least 2 million stones and they say it took them 20 years to build, with rock hammers, copper chisel, and transported the stones via rope and wooden rollers or sleds.

        In Cuzco, Peru there is the famous “stone with 12 angles”.

        At Puma Punku, Peru, there are stones with clean cuts, precise inside right angles, drill holes, and precise groves.

        An the Temple at Tiahuanaco, within the walls of the square sunken courtyard are hundreds of stone heads with a diverse range of features. It’s said that there are all the races of mankind represented here, even elongated skulls, people wearing turbans, people with broad noses, people with thin noses, people with thick lips, people with thin lips, and some of the statues are particularly unusual They don’t seem to represent the local people. They seem to represent every type and shape of human head existing on the planet. Two of them, which are very intriguing, are white in color, and they look very much like grey alien heads.

        Here’s some interesting facts about the Great Pyramid:

        1. Like 20th century bridge designs, the Pyramid’s cornerstones have balls and sockets built into them. Several football fields long, the Pyramid is subject to expansion and contraction movements from heat and cold, as well as earthquakes, settling, and other such phenomena. After 4,600 years it’s structure would have been significantly damaged without such construction.

        2. While the bulk of the Pyramid’s core was constructed of 4,000- to 40,000-pound blocks of soft limestone, the outer layer of the Pyramid was made of a beautifully bright, protective layer of polished stone. These outer “casing stones” are missing today because about 600 years ago they were stolen by Arabs, (This accounts for the very worn appearance of the Pyramid today, since the inner limestone blocks are not immune to attack by the elements-wind, rain, and sandstone.) This protective covering was made up of 100-inch-thick, 20-ton block of hard, white limestone, similar to marble but superior in hardness and in durability against the elements.

        3. The casing stones, 144,000 in all, were so brilliant that they could literally be seen from the mountains of Israel hundreds of miles away. On bright mornings and late afternoons, sunlight was reflected by this vast mirrored surface of 5-1/4 acres.

        4. The people of the area had viewed the Pyramid and its polished stones with awe for centuries. But when a 13th century earthquake loosened some of these casing stones, the Arabs recognized a great quarry of pre-cut stones that could be used to finish off palaces and mosques. For instance, the casing stones were used to rebuild the new city of El Kaherah plus Cairo mosques and palaces, including the Mosque of Sultan Hasan.

        5. Amazingly, the outside surface stones are cut within 0.01 (1/100th) inch of perfectly straight and at nearly perfect right angles for all six sides. And they were placed together with an intentional gap between them of 0.02 inch. Modern technology cannot place such 20-ton stones with greater accuracy than those in the Pyramid.

        6. Even more amazing is that the 0.02-inch gap was designed to allow space for glue to seal and hold the stones together. A white cement that connected the casing stones and made them watertight is still intact and stronger than the blocks that it joins.

        I wonder how the ancients build all these sites, and there are many more than I listed, stones weighing 100 tons and bigger, with laser precision seams and inside right angels. The technology needed would require more than primitive tools and ropes.

        If I implied they were built by aliens I’m sorry, I never said that. I said all ancient cultures have records of visits by “the gods” and perhaps these were human aliens.

        Many say the God of the Bible is a myth and the Book is just a story. But then how do we explain the given foundation of good mental and physical health and adequate sanitary codes which deals with public hygiene, water supply, sewage disposal, inspection and selection of food, and control of infectious disease from living and dead people and animals. Moses filled many pages of these health and sanitation laws and they were all totally new at time time.

        Sorry about the long post, I just find all this stuff fascinating. I found a YouTube video that ties a lot of the ancient sites together with the Great Pyramid and towards the end documents the mathematical details of the pyramid, like Pi, Golden Rule, and light-year. youtube.com/watch?v=1dhPCjAplTM

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      • Roy, sorry to jump in, but I feel compelled to. You, once again, make mention to sanitary directives in the OT. Given the frequency in which you raise this issue you seem to be implying ALL civilisations before had no idea whatsoever about proper waste management? Are you saying the Sumerians, Assyrians and Babylonians lived in their own filth? Are you trying to say the Chinese dumped their sewage willy-nilly? I do hope not, but I fear you are.

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      • Not at all. If you take all the mental and physical good health and sanitary codes (OT laws) as a whole, all of which are right, then that is the wonder. It leaves nothing out and the medical type instructions totally contradict the Egyptian use of human and animal dung in medicine. That’s why some propose the Egyptians inherited the Great Pyramid, the advanced mathematics contained in it’s proportions and the technology required to build it, doesn’t match the medical beliefs and Deity types, we know they practiced. It doesn’t prove anything to me, just seems strange.

        If I were to instruct a somewhat ignorant group of people I would want to touch upon every aspect of rules to live by, even if one aspect of “right” might already be known by another people in another location. I would also take care to not be too scientifically technical since the capacity to comprehend such science is just not there, at that time, and they would eventually discover the scientific reasons on their own.

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