Brain Atrophy In Elderly Leads To Unintended Racism, Depression And Problem Gambling


This is an article providing information about Biological Bases for Behavior.
It is intended as evidence to weaken the doctrine of sin as a result of freewill and the concept of an absolute freewill.

ScienceDaily.com

excerpt
"Science Daily — As we age, our brains slowly shrink in volume and weight. This includes significant atrophy within the frontal lobes, the seat of executive functioning. Executive functions include planning, controlling, and inhibiting thought and behavior. In the aging population, an inability to inhibit unwanted thoughts and behavior causes several social behaviors and cognitions to go awry.

In a study appearing in the October issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science, University of Queensland psychologist, Bill von Hippel, reports that decreased inhibitory ability in late adulthood can lead to unintended prejudice, social inappropriateness, depression, and gambling problems."

Peoples behavior, decisions, choices, attitude, temperament, etc are shaped by many factors. Some of the more important ones are Genetics, Environment and Physiology.

If we cannot do what we prefer because the brains cognitive mechanism can be influenced externally, then freewill is impeded. If we do things that we would prefer not to, or would not normally do if the cognitive mechanism supported it, then we should not be held culpable by a God on the basis of freewill. I think this can be extrapolated proportionally from the extreme to the average person.

At what point would be "convicted of sin"? Would it be better to kill ourselves when we think we are at our most "righteous" and hope for the best?

I am going to continue to post these types of news articles as I find them.

37 comments:

Brother Crow said...

Excellent post. My post-ministry career has been in supporting research in elder issues, and the research your posted is absolutely right on. Did you know that the population experiencing most rapid incident growth of HIV is elder populations, in nursing homes? I know of a man - 80+ - who was a deacon in his baptist church, who had a homosexual relationship in a nursing home, and contracted HIV. Evangelicals like to claim that HIV is God's judgement; and he "sinned"! What a good and consistent god!

Lee Randolph said...

Thanks brother crow,
Homosexual men have been found to have the same physiological response in their brains as women to male pheromones. I don't think they choose to have that happen. Its suspect it is probably beyond their control as much as their heartbeat is.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

same article from pubmed

and here is a medical journal article that found that homosexual womens grey matter was more similar to hetero-sexual men than women.

Jamie G. said...

I am frantically searching for a piece of news that talked about that with elderly brains it is hard to learn new things, and change one's worldview. I thought it was also on Science Daily, but I can't seem to find it. It was fairly recent. When I find it I will repost here.

Jason said...

Only when a person understands the difference between right and wrong and can consciously make a decison between the two would he/she be held accountable for their actions. This is precisely why a baby isn't held accountable for hitting their parents.

Unless of course there's a verse that says something along the lines of "cursed are the old, mentally diminished people, for they shall surely perish". :)

Lee Randolph said...

Hi all,
if you want to keep up with brain news here are some of my resources that are easy to get into a comment.

first thing is, use a 'news reader' aka an rss aggregator. Its good to use on this site and for the ones listed below.

some news readers that i use are "rss bandit" for windows and "Vienna" for Mac, and google reader which does the same thing only you can get to them from anywhere independent of your computer.

google reader

rss feed links. copy the link an paste into your rss reader. these resources give you hints about where you find more information. Google is your friend.
sciencedaily mind and brain:
Science blogs.com brain and behavior

DANA Institute has some rss feeds and podcasts. For now, I get the podcasts. Here is the link specifically for brains, but if you use it some brain news like the debate on freewill is hard to find.

Currently I am listening to a DANA institue podcast on "the aging brain" from their "grey matter" show.

Also the berkely psychology course series is good too. I finished two general psychology courses in the past couple of months and am now moving onto clinical psychology.
Tons of brain information in there. This link is to all thier courses. You can find it in itunes in the education section pretty easily.

I think God lives in peoples heads and is a result of stinking thinking due to biological evolutionarily developed algorithms and heuristics that we need to grow out of. Our society and culture has developed faster than our bodies can keep up with.

One thing I'm looking for is some good information about consciousness and anesthesia. An anesthesiologist recommended a site to me that talks about his Quantum theory of consciousness, but when I see non-physicists talking about Quantum mechanics, by shields go up. I think it is more like everything else, simple rules that combine to make something more complex.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Jason,
it seems that in this thread you've teetered over to your other view that infants and the incapable are saved. bravo.

since, for the moment, your view is that infants and the incapable are saved by god, or are at least not held accountable, therefore are not subject to punishment, and it depends on some scriptural gymnastics to support, you must concede that using the same principle, if you can say that a good god would save them, you must say that a good god wouldn't let evil/extreme suffering exist and have killed god.

Hi all, Jasons got the solution to the Problem of Evil. My work is done. ;-)

Lee Randolph said...

my rss links were bad,
hopefully these are good ones
science blogs brain and behavior
sciencedaily.com mind and brain

in any case, if these are bad, now you know where to go to get them.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Jason,
Using your criteria, then we may not be able to hold anyone accountable for thier actions.
this is a famous experiment using electroencephalography that has been reproduced that suggests that there is no such thing as freewill. Obviously there is debate about it. But it casts doubt on the whole punitive policy for sin.

zilch said...

Jason- you say
Only when a person understands the difference between right and wrong and can consciously make a decison between the two would he/she be held accountable for their actions.
That must mean that, for you, there is a hard and fast line between being capable of deciding between right and wrong, and not being capable. The former go to Hell (if they're not Christians) and the latter don't. Does this represent your viewpoint accurately?

If so, I've got news for you: there's no such line that you can meaningfully draw. The process of losing your mind is most often gradual, and any place you point to is arbitrary. My grandmother started becoming senile when she was about ninety- it started with forgetfulness and occasional inappropriate remarks, and progressed by the time she died at 95 to thinking I was her husband, and thinking her stuffed bear was a living dog. Luckily, she maintained her sense of humor and love of the world the whole time, so I don't think she died unhappy. Not everyone is so lucky, however.

Like many other catagorizations, drawing lines between either being capable of making responsible decisions, or not, is always more or less arbitrary, because the difference lies along a continuum, not in two separate boxes. Even God can't change that, any more that He can say where to draw the line between a hill and a mountain.

Of course, we must often draw such lines in order to get things done. But we should always bear in mind that just because we put things into separate categories, doesn't necessarily reflect the way the world works. This is a misconception we are all prone to, but religion has raised it to a principle of belief: either/or.

Jason said...

Lee, Lee, Lee... :)

I didn't say, and haven't said, that babies and psychopaths and old people with brain issues will automatically be saved. Please read my posts more carefully. What I'm saying is that these people don't fall under the same criteria of judgment versus those who know the law, believe in God, and know the difference between right and wrong. Because of this rather important difference, discussions about their ultimate fate, while interesting, can't ever lead to an absolute answer since we're not given the criteria the mentally incapacitated will be judged by.

I'm really not sure why so many atheists seem to have a problem with this. :) It's not as if this view is offensive. Quite the opposite in fact.

Zilch: No, that doesn't accurately refect my viewpoint.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Jason, Jason, Jason,
I'll take the 'straw man' hit.
so you are pleading ignorance are you? ;-)
You say we don't know enough about this issue to say one way or the other, is that it?

richdurrant said...

Could we say that understanding right from wrong is a progression of knowledge. So that the more you understand about things that are right and things that are wrong, the more you are accountable for. Since I am not fully awake I can't say whether this makes sense or not yet.

I am trying to wrap my head around a few things so forgive a little rambling. I think that some of you free thinkers say that we can't control our thoughts, which I agree with to a point. My problem with embracing that is I can come here and read posts, then weigh the info against my own knowledge and come to a conclusion. Is this then part of the "biological evolutionarily developed algorithms and heuristics" you refer to Lee, or is there some control we can have over our thoughts. Even if our thoughts aren't always voluntary, certainly we can have the ability to control our actions, yes?

Lee,
"if you can say that a good god would save them, you must say that a good god wouldn't let evil/extreme suffering exist and have killed god."

I don't agree that you must come to this conclusion. Saving infants and those unable to be held accountable doesn't mean that God must not allow evil/suffering whether it be extreme or minimal.

Zilch said something (is that an oxymoron):)
"Of course, we must often draw such lines in order to get things done. But we should always bear in mind that just because we put things into separate categories, doesn't necessarily reflect the way the world works. This is a misconception we are all prone to, but religion has raised it to a principle of belief: either/or."

I agree, and sometimes we are forced to draw lines we shouldn't draw. I think certain people, especially when it comes to religion, like to think they have everything worked out so they can comfortably draw lines but refuse to apply their lines to real situations because there are too many variables to consider. This is why we should learn to leave the judgment up to God, since we don't have all the facts.

Jason said...

Lee said: "You say we don't know enough about this issue to say one way or the other, is that it?"

Bingo.

Rich: I would say that's a fair conclusion. The increase of knowledge ultimately leads to being accountable for one's actions. It's the same reason why the criminal system doesn't charge 2-year olds. It's also the same reason why only the older generation of Israelites were barred from the Promised Land (Num 32:13).

Lee Randolph said...

Could we say that understanding right from wrong is a progression of knowledge....
I would agree with that as long as we throw in a context. Is stealing right or wrong? I can think if a context that I wouldn't think that stealing is wrong. Like starving to death. Or lying to protect someone from harm.

Is this then part of the "biological evolutionarily developed algorithms and heuristics" you refer to Lee, or is there some control we can have over our thoughts. Even if our thoughts aren't always voluntary, certainly we can have the ability to control our actions, yes?
That is better addressed as two subjects. The heuristics thing in a nutshell is we developed evolutionarily. Our brain developed a certain way. In some respects it is hardwired, in others not. We take our perceptions and store them, and associate them as best we can. Our brain automatically process things. It has to process things in accordance with what it already knows about. We are self aware, and have experience with people from birth. We learn causal and correlative relationships and have to relate that to what we already know or have been taught. So we know about predators. We know that people do things. We find things that we don't understand like thunder, lightning we have to attribute it to something. The lowest common denominator is someone like us but stronger. Hope that make sense, it does to me, but the scientists explain it better.
The "control our thoughts and actions thing". Obviously I can decide to respond to you or not. But I don't decide how many breaths I'm going to take in the next minute or have taken in the past minute, and I don't choose to think about that chocolate bar that pops into my head periodically during the day. The heap/beard problem. When is a heap a heap, and when is a beard a beard? As zilch said it is subjective. We are all electrochemical machines. If my sodium channel feeding a portion of my brain starts to deteriorate, who's gonna know? Me? probably not, you probably not, my partner? probably not. When is a person responsible for any given action if they cannot control it, or are operating outside the mean? This question goes beyond this religious topic and extends into the legal system. What do you do with criminals when they have diseased brains? Lock them up to be sure to mitigate harm to society, but hold them accountable? Punish them rather than help them? I think you would agree that punishing for something that has no defined boundaries like loving or believing god is rediculous. It should be a nurturing, loving remediation process that goes on during the lifetime, not at the end when there is no hope. The ancienst that wrote these books oversimplified these things. We have the benefit of thousands of years of new information to take into account. Its high time we do it.


- Saving infants vs. problem of evil:
If you have to interpret the scripture to come up with 'babies die when they go to heaven' when you can just as easily come up with "babies don't die when they go to heaven" then it is a matter of interpretation. So lets just say that a good god wouldn't let innocents go to hell. Fine. Then we have decided that we can say what is good or not with respect to God.
If we can see that scripture says in no uncertain terms that god loves us, has mercy on us, and keeps track on the hairs of our head. No dispute there. We can see it in the scripture and it is plausible. Lots of people say god answers prayer and is good to them. No problem. Using the principle that is created in the 'babies go to heaven' doctrine, (which is disputed remember) we can say that a good god would not permit useless suffering or innocents to go to hell. If there is useless suffering then god does not exist.
If we fall back on the christian problem of evil solution, that we can't say what god would do or not, then we don't have any idea what good is and we can't say that babies go to heaven. But we should be able to know something like that shouldn't we? Especially if christianity is built on truth, right? Absolut truth right? The kind of truth that is so simple that children get it?
Since the problem of evil cancels god, and the problem of evil depends on the principle that we can't know what god would do, then we have to accept that it may be that god punishes infants for not believing in Jesus christ or that god doesn't exist.

This is why we should learn to leave the judgment up to God, since we don't have all the facts.
we supposedly have a holy book with the word of god in it which god supposedly helped create. We can't tell if infants go to heaven or not? We can't get even that modicum of comfort out of it without bending over backwards to squeeze meaning out of few words that could just as easily have anticipated this quesion and addressed it, like the famous "bury your poop because it bothers the lord" in deuteronomy 23:13
" 13and you shall have a spade among your tools, and it shall be when you sit down outside, you shall dig with it and shall turn to cover up your excrement.

14"Since (K)the LORD your God walks in the midst of your camp to deliver you and to defeat your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be (L)holy; and He must not see anything indecent among you or He will turn away from you.

Jesus was wrong about his return, (matt. 16:28) unless as a mormon you think john is still alive, then I'll let Jason light into you over that one.
28"Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the (A)Son of Man (B)coming in His kingdom."

Guys, wake up. Use your freakin head. The bible is folklore and putting pearls (of wisdom) on a pig don't make it any less of a pig and don't make it any prettier.

Lee Randolph said...

oops, typo
as if to illustrate the point that we don't always do what we want, my "will" was not to say
"'babies die when they go to heaven' when you can just as easily come up with "babies don't die when they go to heaven""
but to say
"'babies go to heaven when they die ' when you can just as easily come up with "babies don't go to heaven when they die"

richdurrant said...

"The "control our thoughts and actions thing". Obviously I can decide to respond to you or not. But I don't decide how many breaths I'm going to take in the next minute or have taken in the past minute,"

So it would be fair and agreeable to say there are involuntary actions that stem from our thoughts/brain? However I can decided that in the next minute I will take one breath and hold it, so in fact there is an amount of control to even breathing. of coarse there are things we can't control. I agree that you can't control a thought popping into your head, but you have to see that you can control what action you choose to take from that thought. Eat the candy bar or not? I have already agreed that we can't control what pops into our head, but I am saying that we certainly can decided what action to take with our thoughts. Am I wrong here?

"I would agree with that as long as we throw in a context. Is stealing right or wrong? I can think if a context that I wouldn't think that stealing is wrong. Like starving to death. Or lying to protect someone from harm."

And in fact I think you could find scripture where God has commanded such things.

"I think you would agree that punishing for something that has no defined boundaries like loving or believing god is rediculous."

Yes I would except there are some defined terms in these two examples. "If ye love me keep my commandments" and I would say that if you are doing things defined in the gospel, baptism, prayer, repentance, ect... you are showing you understand the boundaries of belief in God, IMO.

"Jesus was wrong about his return, (matt. 16:28) unless as a mormon you think john is still alive, then I'll let Jason light into you over that one.
28"Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the (A)Son of Man (B)coming in His kingdom."

OK go ahead Jason;) If in fact there are some found to be still alive since Jesus said that then he won't be wrong there, and since He hasn't returned yet I would say the jury is still out:)

richdurrant said...

I forgive all kinds of typos. I had considered making my name, "holyfatfingers" or "onekeyatatimeplease" in fact I miss the misspelled words frequently.

Joseph said...

My comment may be taking the conversation in another direction, Lee. My grandmother had three strokes culminating in dementia (she was in her 80's). I certainly saw the mental deterioration, but surprised me most was the spiritual deterioration. While she didn't do anything completely off the wall morally, she was noticeably less inclined towards "the things of God." Here was a preacher's wife who prayed daily, read the Bible through faithfully each year, called up "backsliders" each week to encourage them to come back to church, and had such a sweet disposition. By the time that dementia set in, of course, all of this changed dramatically.

For years I had been taught to believe in a "spirit man"--the "real me" who is eternal, worships God, and makes moral choices. The spiritual being was thought to be intertwined with the physical, yet entirely different from it. However, in the months following my grandmother's illness I could discern only a material self, a self that was as much linked to the brain as the body was. Thus, as her brain was dying, her religious/spiritual self died along with it.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Joseph,
thank goodness there's you.
you are actually keeping the conversation on track!

That is exactly where I want to go with this argument.

That we are the result of the cooperation of the systems in our brain and at the mercy of its performance in all aspects of our life, spiritual included. I think there is enough evidence to show a reasonable doubt about spirituality and god based on the brain research of the past fifty years or so.

You all should check this article from "the best of DC". It is where I want to go, and he uses some interesting examples. I wish I had written it!

Lee Randolph said...

Hi richdurrant,
I have already agreed that we can't control what pops into our head, but I am saying that we certainly can decided what action to take with our thoughts. Am I wrong here?
I'm going to try to avoid absolutes. There are various degrees of perfomance related to the inhibitory circuitry in the brain. When the performance is degraded in this region for whatever reason, from being born that way to degradation, from aging to disease, then the fabric of the consciousness is changed. Some of the rules for processing information change. I am sure we are going to have difference of opinion about what that means and you can legitimately say that I overstate my case from your perspective but from the atheist, to the overeater, to the alcoholic to the obsessive compulsive to the psychopath, assuming god punishes for disobedience and lack of love, the presumption is that we have the ability physically to do that. My argument is that presuming that god punishes for those things is to presume that we all are on equal footing where our minds are concerned. That presumption is demonstrably wrong. Would you say that it is "just" to put a paraplegic on a basketball court and say "play ball or your going to get punished" or to give me or you an IQ test and say "if you don't get the minimum grade you are going to be punished". Our beliefs are changed by our environment as much as by chemicals. Stress breaks parts of the brains systems. To say that the atheist is going to go to hell because they can't believe anymore is not justified knowing that the brain can be influenced by external factors such as stress and chemicals (for example). And to say that god can save anyone he wants is to undermine the sacrifice of the atonement.


Yes I would except there are some defined terms in these two examples. "If ye love me keep my commandments" and I would say that if you are doing things defined in the gospel, baptism, prayer, repentance, ect... you are showing you understand the boundaries of belief in God, IMO.
but those don't have anything to do with whats going on inside. What motivates it. I go back to a point I press in the holy spirit article "how do you know?", you may think you are doing it out of love but how do you know? Your frame of reference is all inside you, based on what you know, self contained. What you think is love may not be according to god. Evidently we can't tell what acts lead to the greater good so how can we tell if we love something or not? There are various types of love is there not, you love your kids in a way, love your wife in another, love your hobbies in another, love god in another, but how do you know what love really is? Is it motivated by fear? are we motivated to love our partner because we don't want to be alone? Are we motivated to love our kids because it isn't socially acceptable to turn them loose outside (bear with me)? As the bible talks about the heart it means motivation doesn't it? Where is this "heart"? It is in the mind right? If the mind appears to work fine but really doesn't then the whole question of love is void. There is no external standard. To default to "God knows and he can save who he wants" undermines the atonement.

the opposite to this argument is that it could be that since the brain is "flawed" with algorithms based on evolutionary heruistics (to be afaid of the dark for example) we have to learn to reason them away. Since Religion is so fundamental to so many people and has been for so long, maybe we need to reason it away. Isn't it a kind of "fear of the dark"? We are fearful not to love this god that we can't see, touch, feel, etc?
I think this is the case and I think it is supported by compelling evidence.

zilch said...

A bit off topic: lee, after reading your long, detailed, well-thought-out comments here, I must ask: how do you find time to do anything else?

richdurrant said...

"When the performance is degraded in this region for whatever reason, from being born that way to degradation, from aging to disease, then the fabric of the consciousness is changed."

But then how do we explain how so many people overcome these factors. Being overweight because of my biological make, slower metabolism, other factors, and maybe my brain being unable to make good food choices, because my brain is wired this way, and I could say that it is beyond my ability to control overeating or what I choose to eat, does that mean I should just accept the fact that I am to be overweight because of all these factors that tell me I have no chance to change, or can I change how my brain is wired and make myself choose better food and portions, exercise more, and do all the things that would overcome all those factors that dome me to be overweight? I believe there is plenty of evidence to show that I can make the change even though my body make up says differently. That being said I think there it is reasonable to assume that a person can overcome a great many factors that make up their person and make positive change to their lives. You are bringing up specifics that are exceptions to this but that doesn't change the fact that the vast majority of us have the ability, both physically and mentally, to overcome many things.

I also would think that we could lose the accountability for our action, in Gods eyes, as things like brain atrophy take over.

"we are the result of the cooperation of the systems in our brain and at the mercy of its performance in all aspects of our life, spiritual included."

So taking the track you want to follow then, I will agree completely with this statement. I think we have the ability to shape ourselves along this line rather than it being out of our control. Am I what I am today because of being at the mercy of my brain without any control whatsoever, or did I choose to follow certain steps that lead me to be what I am? I say its the later, which then makes us accountable for our actions. And believing that we can be in control of our actions is part of what the gospel is about, choose to follow Christ, choose to believe, choose to sin, choose to repent, basically have the ability to choose for ourselves the path our life takes. Free agents.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi zilch,
does "long, detailed, well-thought-out comments" mean they have merit or am I just a raving loon?

I sleep 6hrs or less a day and copy the comments i want to respond to into gooogle docs so I can get to them from anywere, and work on them when I have time. Its not as bad as it sounds. Instead of taking smoke breaks or watching tv, I think funny thoughts and regurgitate them every now and then.

I have an Ipod loaded with science podcasts instead of music and listen to them when i drive. And when I walk to lunch or am waiting on someone I think about what I want to say to whatever comment i've saved in google docs so I'm ready to regurge when I get on a computer.

I have less time this month than i have in the past.

thanks for asking. ;-)

Lee Randolph said...

Hi rich,
remember when I said I wanted to avoid absolutes? your response is why. I don't think we are not completely accountable, I think we are partially accountable.
but that it is not wholly a moral choice. If its not wholly a moral choice or if the degree of effort needed to come to a moral choice is not equal between us all, then that is an inequitable arrangement. The comments format and lack of time prevent me from explaining better, I will mull it over and try to express it better in a little while.

Jason said...

At least we can agree that judgment and salvation is a matter left up to God :)

richdurrant said...

Hi Lee,
I was trying to stay away from absolutes also but I guess I didn't do a very good job:)

It's starting to tie in a little with my comments on your other post, or maybe it was earlier in this one, anyway, that our accountability is a progression that follows our gain in knowledge.

"If its not wholly a moral choice or if the degree of effort needed to come to a moral choice is not equal between us all, then that is an inequitable arrangement."

I may be jumping the gun a little here because you haven't fully explained yourself yet, but I have a comment to this statement anyway. This is certainly a truthful statement. I think what makes the difference here though is that Will will be judged according to our ability to make moral choices, our knowledge of what morality is, and how we respond to those choices, as in if we make a moral mistake did we fix it(repent). Well I should probably wait to write more until I get a better idea of where your headed, I think I am seeing some common ground here to build on.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Rich, I won't be able to spend a lot of time on this response for another 13 to 14 hours from now.

In the big picture I am trying to argue that the biological bases for behavior mitigate our culpability for our "sins" to the degree that eternal damnation is unwarranted.

in a nutshell its "a reasonable doubt about sin"

But here are some questions that relate to the direction I am going. Please mull it over and do some introspection before you answer it, maybe ask it of someone else.

Think of something that you like or love a lot. Now ask yourself, did you choose to like it or love it?

Think of your sexual orientation. Did you choose it?

Do you choose what you are aroused by?

And before you whip out a "but we choose how we act" I concede the point that most people do.

zilch said...

lee- I gotta get me one of them there iPod thingies too. Not that it would improve my work habits...

rich- I agree absolutely with what you said about being able to overcome genetic tendencies. It's not easy, but it's part of what makes us humans wonderful. In fact, we wouldn't be able to build the kind of complex societies we have without cultural support for overcoming our genes, in the form of morals, laws, politics, and religions.

The problem I still have with the Christian idea of God judging whether or not we are culpable is that it is dualistic: in God's eyes, either we're culpable, or we're not, because there are only two places He can send us (at least that's what lots of Christians say). But as lee and I pointed out, there is a continuum of losing your reason, and there's no place you can reasonably draw a line between being capable of making decisions and not.

Of course, it might well be that God sees it differently, and decides based on a single synapse discharge who's culpable and who not. Of course, that would imply that He can tell us when a heap of sand stops being a heap, if we take away one grain at a time.

richdurrant said...

OK Lee, I am mulling. I also conceded earlier your point that we don't control what jumps into our brain, so I think we're progressing along;)

hi zilch,
" in God's eyes, either we're culpable, or we're not," yes this is true.

"because there are only two places He can send us (at least that's what lots of Christians say)." And thus we come to where Christianity and I see things differently. I believe your arguments hold up pretty good where there are two choices of places to be sent. Bur if reality there are more than just 2 places, I see that as a plus for God's side. Christ said there are many rooms in his father's mansion, and Paul speaks of 3 different degrees of glory and compares them to stars by saying that one star differs from another in glory(brightness). These 2 things together give us a glimpse of the complexity of God's judgment rather then the simplicity of two choices. I also believe that it is a much stronger case for a fair judgment.

One last note is for me to state that as our ability to reason increases, so does our accountability. Likewise, as our ability to reason decreases, so does our accountability.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Zilch,
that was elegant and succinct.
thank you!

Rich, I had to go tie up a defense of my 'RD about the atonement' on irishfarmers blog, so I didn't get a chance yet to explain, but I will.

Just for the record, I don't think i'm going to go around on other blogs anymore, it takes up too much time to and i end up repeating what i say here anyway. I'm not trying to deconvert christians, I'm trying to help resolve the Cognitive Dissonance in the 'fence-sitter'.

zilch said...

Hey lee- you're most welcome. I'm thinking of giving up irishfarmer's blog too, if he doesn't ever get around to responding to us.

rich- you say

One last note is for me to state that as our ability to reason increases, so does our accountability. Likewise, as our ability to reason decreases, so does our accountability.

I'll go along with that wholeheartedly. I'd also say the same thing, substituting "power" for "ability to reason". As Thomas Mann said (I just saw this on a billboard at a bus stop) "Der Freiheit anderer Name heisst Verantwortung". That is, "the other name of freedom is responsibility".

Lee Randolph said...

Hi rich,
I think I'm going to do an article with this argument laid out better, and call it "reasonable doubt about sin".
in any case here's an attempt to explain better.

The crux of this argument is not that people are not accountable for their actions, but that mitigating factors cast doubt on the concept of punishment for sin.
Excuse the following, I am trying to cram a lot into a small space in a small amount of time. The point of the question about "think of something you like or love a lot and decide if you chose to like it or love it" is because I don't think you have a choice. Our brains react to stimulus and give us a 'feeling' favorable, not favorable or no difference. The only way we can observe the world is through our senses and apply it to what we already know. It is a self-centered process. From the beginning in the womb, when our brains were getting put together, they have been RECORDING, PROCESSING AND STORING the best that they can. Factors in the mothers handling of the pregnancy and the processes in the pregnancy make a difference in the outcome. Pregnant mothers shouldn't drink excessively or smoke, or mud wrestle, etc ;-) There are correlations to birth order and amount of hormone in the mothers womb and homosexuality. Behaviors are largely passed on genetically. And those genetic factors put us at risk for harmful things like depression, addiction, bi-polar, psychopathy, obesity and diabetes but also give us advantages and things that don't really make a difference and things that fit into all those categories in between.

The process of reasoning in those tiny brains starts out rudimentary obviously, using those evolutionary algorithms that have been passed on. Part of that is the sensation of pleasure and pain, then it turns into stress and eustress and gets more sophisticated as we get older. This dichotomy of "feels good" "feels bad" "think favorable" "think unfavorable" is a set of simple rules that create complex behaviors. There is a precedent for simple rules creating complexity in evolution and in technology. Electronic information depends on the change in state of voltage. Information can be transferred simply by a change in state and not necessarily in voltage. Chemical changes in state confer information. Positional changes in state confer information. One simple algorithm is resistance to change. Change is bad m'kay?

So we go through life experiencing things and getting these cues, favorable or not. We are genetically predisposed to some behaviors. The majority of them have been shown to be passed on genetically. So from the beginning, we feel the womb, get used to it or find it favorable, and continue this algorithm. Another large part of our behavioral development is the environment, our peers etc. People with the MAOA gene are predisposed to aggression and anti-social behavior. It can be brought out if they are put under familial stress in the household such as abuse. Now you may say that anyone abused is likely to be an abuser, and maybe that's true, but people with the MAOA gene have been shown to become like that to a degree higher than the mean. Why should they be burdened with having it harder to control that behavior than I should? Sometimes its too difficult to control. Sometimes the controlling is so stressful it leads to more stress. We are a in a big positive feedback loop determining our personalities and behavior. So now there is your chink in the argument, God can change that. Yes, so please get god to get busy! Irishfarmer says he is bi-polar and a christian but he has to take medicines to control it. Why medicine and not god? He's in that feedback loop as well, Not that he's going to give up god. Not only does he have to deal with the same pressures you and I have, he's got a genetic disadvantage.

Have you ever heard of synesthesia? It is a 'disorder' that causes people to see numbers as colors. For example if you or I looked at a math book on a page with all black numbers, a synesthete would see them as colored. Each number having a different color. It is caused by a merging of two parts of the brain that are close together. There is a composer that uses it to create really nice pieces of music, like symphonies (excuse my un-cultured use of the word), I've heard a couple of them and listened to how he described writing them. But is it a 'disorder'? Why would it be, simply because it is outside the mean? What harm does it do?

Believe it or not, men are aroused by a chemical in women's urine, and women are aroused by a chemical in men's sweat. This is not something we choose. Isn't it likely that in the same way a synesthetes brain is wired to create a different outcome that a homosexual brain could be likewise 'wired' differently? This hypothesis is being researched.

Why I bring this up, is that it is an example of a brain that functions differently, because of its wiring. They do not control it. I think this can be extrapolated to less dramatic examples. If a subtle change in wiring makes someone predisposed to synesthesia then why not "drunkenness, fornication, homosexuality" and the rest of them. Why choose to punish and not choose to fix?

Peoples behavior are (in my layman's view) 75% a product of factors they don't have any control of and maybe 25% that they do. Genetics, Environment, Physiology, and Attitude. Punishing people for not overcoming their nature is unjust. Fixing people and helping them overcome their natures is a better principle. And then if someone, such as a pedophile resists therapy for some reason, whether freewill or damage to the frontal cortex, do what it takes to keep them off the street.

So in summary, peoples behavior is complex, and saying that punishing someone for eternity because they don't love God doesn't fit the problem. For all we know, Christians could be genetically predisposed to believing in God and vice versa for atheists. After all, research has shown that genetics are a predictor of political affiliation, believe it or not.

A silly anecdote.
My parents got divorced when I was small. My environment led me to be a republican. But my dad, whom I see periodically during the year is a democrat. These days, through no influence by him, my views are substantially less republican. It happened about the same time my atheism kicked in. Now I can give you reasons why I don't like the republican track these days and they all have to with my desire to "make government smaller" (closer to the original Republican values), but someone could have used those stats to predict that I would not align with the republican party later in life based on my Dad.

richdurrant said...

Hi again Lee,
Thank .you for the response first of all. Quite frankly I really don't object to pretty much everything you just said. I really try not to bring up this very often because it tends to be used as a scapegoat, but I'll say it anyway because I think it is very important, and relevant, to this thread, there is a difference here between evangelist beliefs and mine. I know this sight is about debunking Evangelists, but I really have liked discussing the topics here.
That being said let me add a couple of things that are actually, I hope, adding to your side of things. One is to have everlasting punishment and heaven as the only choices really limits God's ability to be both just and merciful. The reality of the judgment of mankind is that it is just as complex as are all of these factors that make up our person. Refer to my last post for a little insight to what i mean here. Based on the purpose for this site, I don't know that you want to get into a longer discussion on that particular matter, especially because it would take this post so far beyond left field we might not return. Lets just say that the destinations (rooms in the heavenly mansion) are numerous. So accountability, biological make up, ect..., would all have to be taken into consideration by a God who is a just judge.

That being said, and I hope I was clear, I believe we have the ability to change all of those factors and choose the coarse we want our life to follow. It's been said and agreed upon that we, as people, can overcome incredible odds to change things about ourselves.

I think it is also as complex a problem to come to a point where God will help you fix things. It is first up to us to do everything we can to make a change, after showing the desire and work ethic to change, then God would change what you can't. This is REALLY general and I know your mouth is watering at the what abouts. I'm not really trying to cover every little detail here but just kind of give a broad statement, which is usually a bad idea:)

I guess in short I think that the heaven or hell doctrine is not accurate and really sells God short on His abilities. You can't be all powerful with limits right?

Lee Randolph said...

Hi rich,
I'll respond better later but I would like to hear your answer to the question. Do you choose who you love?

richdurrant said...

I think I will have to go with probably not, as a general rule. Of coarse I think it is more complicated then we're getting to here. I'll have to wait 'til later for more on this.

Reggie said...

Actually, its not an either/or situation.

There could be many instance of willful sin, even if their were other factors that led to some misdeeds.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Reggie,
I agree there could be many instances of willful sin, but it is still initiated from the framework that has been shaped by environment, genetics and physiology. Someone with a genetic predisposition for depression could shoot themselves in the head because of stress. Some Christians say they will be saved by gods grace but it undermines the value of the atonement and following gods laws to love and obey.