In Strangers to Ourselves, Timothy D. Wilson explores the unconscious mind. One of the interesting phenomena he reveals is this: seconds before we consciously act, the action is already on its way from the unconscious. Wilson interprets this to mean we don’t really have free will. But I believe it means we have to alter our idea of what it means to have free will. That is, we have free will, and it starts in the unconscious. Of course this means we must accept that free will includes some mystery. We are forever separated, consciously, from our unconscious minds, yet they are part of us.
I was reminded of this while reading a NYT Op-Ed piece by Robert Wright on the similarities between religion and science. Wright was speaking of the human sense of morality, which can be used by religion to argue for some kind of special creation with regard to human beings. On the other hand, anti-religionists can argue that the moral sense is likely to have evolved among a social species like our own (and others, such as vampire bats, dolphins, and monkeys!) in response to zero-sum situations. That is, goodness or altruism or the golden rule are favored by natural selection if our neighbor’s benefit benefits us.
Yet once again, as with the workings of our unconscious minds, we are forever separated from knowing the source of our sense of morality.
So I would add to Wright’s very sound reasons for accommodation between science and religion, this additional reason, that we are mysteries to ourselves. Along with all the myriad reasons to be awestruck over the universe, here is yet another. And as the Bible says, “It is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart…”
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Response: Flawless EliteJulie Simon Lakehomer: Science Writer - Wonder of the Moment - Mysteries of the Mind