Willpower, The "Slacker" Brain, and Religion

I just got done listening to a fascinating piece on NPR's "Morning Edition," which dealt with two major processes within the brain and the internal conflict which can occur between them. This was demonstrated by an intriguing experiment described in the story involving memorization of a number which could be from two to seven digits in length, followed by a distraction in the form of a choice between something good for you and something not-so-good (read the article, please; they describe it so much better than I can!). In summary, though, the experimenters concluded that:

the part of our brain that is most reasonable, rational and do-the-right-thing is easily toppled by the pull of raw sensual appetite, the lure of sweet. Knowing something is the right thing to do takes work — brain work — and our brains aren't always up to that.

This made me wonder: is this yet one more thing we're up against in terms of getting people to realize the folly of religion? I have said multiple times that belief is easy and discipline is hard, but now it appears we're up against the tendencies of the brain itself and its capacity for managing the conflict between reason and emotion! Clearly, we do it, and it makes me wonder what a study of only atheists would show ... and for that matter, a study of only theists!

So ... would you choose the chocolate cake ... or the fruit salad?

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Comment by Loren Miller on January 26, 2010 at 6:00pm
Ummm, could I choose NASA and science, with a side-order of IRL?
Comment by Howard S. Dunn on January 26, 2010 at 4:37pm
BTW - is it just me or has anyone else noticed that NASCAR is about going around in circles, getting nowhere fast, with any deviation from the proscribed path resulting in a fiery crash? Remind you of anything?
Comment by Howard S. Dunn on January 26, 2010 at 4:35pm
REALLY? I need a photo dammit! That is AWESOME.

Both are, to some extent, about loud, powerful, high tech vehicles racing around in circular paths .... ;^)
Comment by Howard S. Dunn on January 26, 2010 at 3:56pm
Would you choose NASCAR and salvation ... or NASA and science?
Comment by Loren Miller on January 26, 2010 at 9:15am
GRANT MONEY? NUTZ, let me find a fraggin' JOB, first!!!
Comment by Loren Miller on January 26, 2010 at 8:53am
That's why I want a study of only atheists and a parallel study of only theists ... to see if there's any correlation between each groups' ability to process intellectually and resist the sensual appeal. That's why I'm putting this up here: as a POSSIBLE point on the data curve which we may want to consider.

As to the fruit salad ... hey, it coulda been raw vegies and dip! Just watch the chocolate cake kick ass! [chuckle!]



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