by Lloyd H. Whitling

 https://hedonix.wordpress.com/2009/01/16/atheist_faults

We start with a premise, that atheists have something “wrong” with them that causes them to make strange choices, reject all gods, and lead amoral, immoral lives.  Add to that a second premise that arises from a different view, that we are born as hedonists, whether we later learn to condemn that label, misapply it, or study to discover what all it may imply about us. Most people seem to subscribe to the premise that both are somehow bad-wrong, even when they can be observed to live as though they have those same traits.

Our first question must generally be, “Why?” Why, if both turn out to be true, must it be so? If they are true, can anything be done about it? What if the opposite is true, and the atheists’ naturalistic (so most claim) way of thinking is the most correct, and it turns out something is wrong with the majority of people, as some famous people have stated over the centuries? What if it might turn out that something that could be genetic works to separate atheists from the religious, since most atheists proclaim it to not be an intentional choice they have made, as religionists would like the world to believe. What if it boils down to something that separates both parties’ thinking processes, so that they can but barely communicate with each other about certain kinds of topics? Does that have to mean that some god created atheists with an extra hurdle to jump on their way to Heaven or Hell, that the merely religious do not face?

We have had some success with tabbing up a bunch of pages that had to do with the Hedonic Treadmill, that we stirred through to see what we could unearth. We could try that once again, this time looking for some basic characteristic of the human brain that might explain why atheists get results from their thinking that differ from the religionists, and why they prefer different kinds of material to gain those results. While we have as yet no reason to assume there is a brain difference, we must realize it is the brain that we use for our act of thinking, and so the assumption does seem reasonable. Looking into it, the most obviously basic difference may be in the fact of separation between the right and left cerebral hemispheres and the way they are wired together by the corpus callosum, “the arched bridge of nervous tissue that connects the two cerebral hemispheres, allowing communication between the right and left sides of the brain (American Heritage).”

Our first tab, from http://www.indiana.edu/~primate/brain.html by M.K. Holder, shows a graphic image of that, and introduces us to the phrase brain lateralization, the name psychologists have given to the functions played by each half of the brain, and the fact that many of those functions differ from one side to the other. Paul Broca and Carl Wernicke identified areas on the left hemishpere that are concerned with speech production and comprehension. While that applies to the majority of us, leaving others with anomalous conditions and patterns, prosody contrarily occurs in the right hemisphere, so that we can emote, and sing, invent poetry and be persuasive, or be responsive to others through intonation and accentuation and the processing of visual and musical stimuli, spatial manipulation, facial perception, and artistic ability. [See link at Wikipedia] It is interesting to know that singers who stutter do not do so while singing, an example of the effect this makes.

We can go to Wikipedia’s link at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lateralization_of_brain_function to verify what we think we have learned, and see what else may await our eager eyes. Two facts emerge: One is that no one in whom the two halves have been surgically separated is a left or right brain only person; the two halves do communicate. The other is that damage to a function may be repaired when that function moves to another area, or perhaps to the other side. Language functions such as linear reasoning, vocabulary and grammar most often are lateralized to the left hemisphere.

Wikipedia lists left hemisphere functions as analytical, verbal, logical, exact numerical computation (exact calculation, numerical comparison, estimation), language: grammar/vocabulary, literal; and for the left hemisphere only: direct fact retrieval. Under right hemisphere functions in their little table, we find listed: holistic, prosodic, and intuitive functions, (compare:) approximate calculation, numerical comparison, estimation, and in reference to language: intonation/accentuation, prosody, pragmatic, contextual functions. In other words, the left side deals with facts and reasoning, the right side with guessing and emotions.

Not so fast, we might be warned by the page found at http://www.rapidnet.com/~jbeard/bdm/Psychology/brain.htm, where a Xian writer introduces us to the “two-brain myth,” and that bicameral laterlization comes out of pseudoscience rather than the real thing, because “…in the wake of the first flush of false teaching generated by incomplete findings having to do with persons with brain damage, [they] have then embraced the implications, labeled them science….” He goes on to complain, “The so-called left-brain person is thought to be linear, logical, analytical, and unemotional; and the right-brained person is thought to be spatial, creative, mystical, intuitive, and emotional.” What I like about Xian writers is that, even while taking a position in error, they can explain things in a nutshell and, for that reason, we will continue down the page.

Doing our best to not allow ourselves to get distracted by rampant poisoning of the well, where we read such as “Faith cannot operate in the left side of the brain” (His quoting of a radio preacher), we find him quoting Terence Hines, in the book Pseudoscience and the Paranormal (1988), that, “The actual evidence shows that, if anything, the left hemisphere is more involved with dreaming and mental imagery than the right.” We are not, however, informed about what evidence Mister Hines had researched to gain that, but hopefully that would show up in his book.  He is further quoted or paraphrased as saying. “While each hemisphere may specialize in certain activities, the only clear-cut function which only one side has is related to speaking. The left hemisphere controls the muscles of the vocal tract.” (Terence Hines, Pseudoscience and the Paranormal, 1988, pp. 298-299).

The problems that sloppy speech and thought introduce to technical subjects becomes apparent when something called “the two-brain theory” gets introduced, and we discover what this page is really all about when his sources are shown as dealing with the bicameral brain as though the corpus callosum failed to interconnect them. The entire page appears to be dated 8/92. I wonder whether it will get updated to the newest science techniques before twenty years have passed. Probably not, because the only way to make it accurate and honest is to throw it out.

Having abandoned that as not current and out-dated, let us progress to http://www.viewzone.com/bicam.html, by Dan Eden, where, on the other hand, we get to be reassured that each of us is really two people. Perplexing? Yes! Informative? Well, let’s have a look-see.

I thought I had seen more than enough of Nixon’s image while he was still president, but I discovered the more I looked at his flipped images on this page, the more differences I could find in the details. It appears to demonstrate that we are as different side to side on the outside as on the inside. It makes me wonder if there is an upside to all of this, or if it has to be all on the downside.

Think of our brain, he suggests, as two computers connected together on the same network, to run the same information using different programs.  Hence, two people tied together to work as one; two eyes, two ears, two lungs, two arms two feet and legs, two hearts, two stom— Hey, wait just a dim-witted minute, Buster!

He describes Roger Speery’s experiments with a patient whose corpus callosum had been deactivated: “Although this did not prevent his ability to walk, talk and eat, some unexpected findings were encountered in some of the higher brain functions when each side was examined independently of the other. The right hand and eye could name an object, such as a pencil, but the patient could not explain what it was used for. When shown to the left hand and eye, the patient could explain and demonstrate its use, but could not name it. Further studies showed that various functions of thought are physically separated and localized to a specific area on either the left or right side of the human brain.”

Interesting statements from this page: “The two brains not only see the world in vastly different ways but, in our current society, the left side just “doesn’t get” what the right side is all about.” “Our conscious mind can only focus on data from one brain at a time.” “Sometimes skills which the right brain can perform better are routinely handled, with less skill, by the left brain.”

This next one seems to address Sam Harris’s ‘monkey-chattering voice’ that he seeks to subdue by meditation: “The logical left side is easily bored by lack of input and tends to “doze off” during such activities as meditation (repeating a mantra or word over and over) or in sensory deprivation environments. The right brain is then able to “sneak” into our consciousness, filling our minds with emotional and visual vignettes and freely associated images. All too quickly, though, the left brain will assert itself and dispense with these irrational images, asserting its Spock-like logical dominance and the right brain will have to be content to find expression in dreams.” “…the left brain … is usually the dominant side.” Further exercises: http://www.viewzone.com/bicam33.html

Let us now progress to http://www.mathpower.com/brain.htm so we can discover, “Both sides of the brain can reason, but by different strategies, and one side may be dominant. The left brain is considered analytic in approach while the right is described as holistic or global. A successive processor (left brain) prefers to learn in a step-by-step sequential format, beginning with details leading to a conceptual understanding of a skill. A simultaneous processor ( right brain) prefers to learn beginning with the general concept and then going on to specifics.”

Here we begin seeing how the right hemisphere may be of a religious nature, while the left may lean toward concepts with a more logical appeal. That gets borne out by the interesting chart presented in the bottom portion of this page, where we spot, in slot number 5: (for left side)  Responds to logic; (for right side) Responds to emotion.

The tab to http://tolearn.net/hypertext/brain.htm opens up a bit of history. Roger Sperry earned the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1981 for research that clearly showed that the brain is divided into two major parts or hemispheres, the right brain and the left brain. His research also identified that each of the parts of the brain specializes in its own style of thinking and has different capabilities. Groovy!

The left hemisphere, we are told, is associated with verbal, logical, and analytical thinking, naming and categorizing, symbolic abstraction, speech, reading, writing, arithmetic, sequential order. The three Rs, we learn, reading, writing and arithmetic, are the domain and strength of the left brain.

For the right hemisphere’s domain we are offered the realm of creativity. It functions in a non-verbal manner, excels in visual, spatial, perceptual, and intuitive information, which means that it processes information differently than the left brain via a nonlinear and nonsequential method. Because it looks at the whole picture and seeks out the spatial relationships of all the parts as they relate to the whole, this component of the brain is not concerned with how patterns fit with prescribed rules, but flourishes instead when faced with complexity, ambiguity and paradox. Right brain thinkers may often face a loss of words when the right hemisphere has developed a concept frought with complexity despite its ability to process information quickly, for its non-verbal nature can exceed the storehouse of language available from memory by outrunning the left hemisphere’s more careful sequential processing capabilities.

This page’s author, Michael P Pitek, III, proclaims that our educational system is too left-hemisphere oriented. You will find a similar statement on many of the pages we will visit here, even from other lands across the world. I do not wish to duplicate the long list of characteristics for each hemisphere found at the bottom of the page, and so have left it for you to make your own  efforts at plagiarism. Put this one in your list of favorites for future reference, instead.

http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=3629, our next tab, deals with problems inherent to teaching students whose predominant hemispheres may predispose them toward different styles and methods of learning that would tend toward different needs in order to be successful. We are informed about the tendency toward predominance of one or the other, and introduced to the concept of a “middle brain” with, “You now know whether your preference tends to the left, right, or middle brain, but what does this mean? First, for those of you who came out to be strong to moderate left- or right-brain dominant, be assured that your other hemisphere is alive and well; however, the results do mean that you tend to lead with your dominant hemisphere.

“For example, if you are right-brain dominant, it is your intuitive, emotional right hemisphere that guides the decisions you make throughout the day. If you are left-brain dominant, it is your sequential, time-oriented left hemisphere which tells you how to think, what to believe, and what choices to make.

“Those who are middle-brain dominant tend to be more flexible than either the left- or the right-brain folks; however, you often vacillate between the two hemispheres when you make decisions.”

So, what is this “middle brain” business about, when it is so obvious from all the sketches and photos we’ve run across on this journey that there is no substance in any of them showing with that name? A picture claiming to show it can be found at http://comps.fotosearch.com/comp/LIF/LIF151/sagittal-view-cerebrum_~ca205009.jpg and is great, providing you already know exactly what (in all that mess) to look for. That, you can learn at
http://www.jcu.edu.au/office/tld/learningskills/studysmart/energise.html. Viewing that allows us to interpret that it is buried beneath the outer hemispheres, and apparently beneath the corpus callosum. The literature on the page describes it as Mammalian Brain, functions much the same as the brain in most other mammals, which puts it in charge of the emotions, sexuality and the immune and hormonal systems and long term memory. But, shouldn’t we wonder, does that mean it is conscious?

http://www.alloexpat.com/taiwan_expat_forum/glance-remember-course-t1946.html puts the “middle brain” the same as the corpus callosum, and claims an ability to develop a “genius mind” with their method of training it. It would seem that, for this to be obviously true, it should also be common knowledge, not something one would have to stumble across while browsing the Internet. We can keep on trucking here, and see if we run across any verification for this.

http://my.safaribooksonline.com/9780768681826/ch18 tells us, in a book review, about a man whose corpus callosum has been kept exercised to increase his capacity for many occupations. The gist of his message is that exercising this “middle brain” increases the ability of the right and left hemispheres to communicate with each other. A person accomplishes this by constantly taking on diverse challenges while keeping in mind the necessity to succeed.

Alright, so maybe the corpus callosum is deeply imbedded in the thinking process. It is, after all, the network through which thought signals would be sent between the hemispheres, whether or not any would originate within its web of wires.

Is there a middle brain? we get queried at ugich konitari mumbai’s 
http://kaimhanta.blogspot.com/2008/09/is-there-middle-brain_26.html where we are further informed of the differences (rightly or wrongly, and for most people, as always) between the left and right hemispheres.

Right brain, he says, uses feeling, is “big picture” oriented, imagination rules, symbols and images prevail, as do present and future, philosophy & religion, can “get it” (i.e. meaning), believes (which relates to our topic), appreciates (and other emotions would be included with that), spatial perception, intonation and accentuation, knows object function, fantasy based (also most relevant to our topic), presents possibilities, impetuous, risk taking (which may also be very relevant to our topic). [Material in parentheses is, of course, my own.]

As for the left hemisphere, he lists: uses logic, detail oriented, facts rule, words and language, present and past, math and science, can comprehend, knowing, acknowledges order/pattern perception, knows object name, reality based, forms strategies, practical, safe. None of that disagrees with much of the foregoing but he treats the “middle brain” as a joke.

Hmmm?

Onward to the next tab, and hopefully a bit of actual enlightenment: at http://www.proedit.com/articles/article_middle_brain.asp we become informed that writing for the web requires us to use our middle brain. The left side of your brain, he (Doug Davis) tells us, does all of the highly technical work. Right brain is where your creative marketing and charm develop while you focus on your readers’ emotional sides, get into their heads and, while filling up their minds with factual information from the left side, you work to keep your readers interested.

That’s great, and in keeping with our learning so far. But, then he tells us (and I quote, “Middle Brain … (news flash), there really isn’t a middle brain, per se. But, writing for the Web requires so much right brain and left brain activity that most of the work probably happens in that soggy middle. The right side creates the draft, and the left side perfects it. Write, edit, write, edit… rinse, repeat. The left brain identifies the need to optimize the content, and the right brain finds creative ways to accomplish the optimization.”

If the “middle brain” turns out to be metaphoric, as it appears to be tending toward, even with identifying the wiring harness as a part of the human computer’s CPU, and all the advice available for its development could more accurately have been presented as a hedonic need for balance to increase its efficiency and power, the results boil down to being much the same.

Think of it in musical terms, especially if you have an old piano close at hand, where you can demonstrate this: Pick any two keys not too far apart and strike them both at the same time. If they are not perfectly in tune, you will hear what is called a “beat” frequency, a slow tremolo that varies the loudness of sound you hear. Piano tuners use that phenomenon to tune those big instruments, that (since the diatonic scale is not a perfect pitch setup) requires counting the numbers of those beats over a short period of time to know when the best tuning has been achieved for each set of strings. Superheterodyne radio circuits worked that same way, by using a ‘beat’ frequency created by two differently tuned oscillators to create a third frequency that could only exist because the other two frequencies worked to create it. Let all religious persons think about that, and realize that if their God is a human creation, their putting an end to this world and all the life upon it would make them responsible for the death of that God—and Allah—and all the rest!

Let that serve as a metaphor for the way disharmonic information serves to separate the two (strings = cerebral hemispheres) by creating dischordant waves between them. Tuning up your brain by making certain your information is accurate, can pass challenges by demonstrating its rectitude, serves to lessen your level of stress while increasing self confidence levels and ends up making you a more effective person. The “middle brain” might serve as a model of what your refinements accomplish, and as a warning center as you attune yourself more closely to disharmonious situations and teach yourself to automatically research for accuracy before either adopting or rejecting new information and ideas.

Or, so we might hope.

About.com offers an abundant resource for all kinds of information about all kinds of topics. In this case, we discover a tab for Grace Flemings’ page about how students can use an awareness of their own predominance to help in learning. At http://homeworktips.about.com/od/learningstyles/a/leftrightbrain.htm she informs us “According to recent research, people who are right brain dominant and those who are left brain dominant process information and respond in different ways. Most theories suggest that right-brain dominant people are guided by the more emotional, intuitive right hemisphere while left-brain people respond in sequential, logical ways, guided by the left hemisphere.”

“Everyone is different,” she tells us later, “and everyone has characteristics from both types. Some people are very equal when it comes to characteristics. Those students are middle brain oriented….” by which we must assume she means the two hemispheres have a balanced effect upon those fortunate persons’ thinking processes. Or else, according to the writer of a previously visited tab, cause them to vacillate.

The following links were also among our tabs, and more or less verify the foregoing. While there are likely thousands of pages written on the web about this subject, I suggest you might begin with these if you want to dig further into this.
http://www.funderstanding.com/content/right-brain-vs-left-brain
http://www.web-us.com/brain/LRBrain.html
http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=3629 for teaching your students. Take the simple test toward the bottom, to determine your own predominance and raise your own level of effectiveness. There are enough of these tests that can be found on the Internet to verify each other and increase your confidence in the results.

So, have we yet an idea of what is “wrong” with atheists? The most notable trait among us seems to be a preference of logic and reason above inspiration and spontaneous thought. We like numbers and data and demand to be provided them. No speculative forays into the night for us: We like the safety of having our inferences backed up by numbers and experiments so we can “show” somebody why their irrational guesses are either wrong or baseless. We see no more reason to believe in gods or the supernatural than in Paul Bunyan, unicorns or the tooth fairy. We tend to regard all of that as intellectually insulting. We tend to be cautious, calculate risks, to not rely on metaphorical images to justify our reasons, and so to behave with high standards because that is statistically better. We are of the left-predominant majority.

What puts us into a minority, as atheists, is a result of early training which reinforces right-hemisphere concepts. Before we can begin to gain language skills, our heads get filled with angels, fairies, witches, devils, ghosts, and other components of imaged language that serve to induce the best possible behavior in people who’ve not yet developed a capacity for reasoning and speech processing. Maybe our school systems are rather left-brained, but think what it might otherwise be like. Look at the Muslim institutions for your most expedient example, and you will see whole nations of people easily aroused into irrational behavior, stampeding each other to death at the slightest offense while they parade about and flagellate themselves in anger.

Secularity is a left-side process. That does not mean there is no place it it for creative thought, that only rational thought belongs to secular people. The greatest part of the universe is available to us as sounds, images, tastes, feelings. Words to describe them come from our minds, but they fail to replace the joyous aspects of our existence. Have you never marvelled at the stars?–at scenic vistas?–at brilliant sunsets and sunrises?–a full-blown oversized moon being chased across the sky by a tiny planet?–at nature’s bounty of sights and smells in April and May?–at the naked, wet body of your lover while skinny-dipping in a shallow woodland pool?–at the thrill of powerfully composed music the first time you heard it on fine equipment?–at the joy of  making love, the comfort of falling asleep still entangled, and the thrill of waking up while still embraced and held close. If you have not, you have never really lived, for those are (for most of us) the things of the righthand side, the side that tends toward religion. It is where you bury the hedonic self you wosh to not acknowledge. Try to describe them with words, and then go and experience them and see how badly your words fail you–how inadequate they will always be. The difference is the amount by which a strictly left-side-performing person will have missed out on the best things life has to offer.

Does that make atheists into naturally bad people? In no way. Their left-side predominance imposes the controls that serve to keep the boundaryless righthand side from getting carried away. It is what makes atheists insist on a moral structure that has to be derivable from observable facts and data, not from hearsay and rumors for which no tangible verification can ever be found. Those who wish to repeat what a god has said had better be prepared to demonstrate that god’s existence in order to not seem hare-brained to your average lefty atheist.

So, what does that leave to show how something is wrong with atheists? We can assume that millenniums of being killed of by the religious has evolved the typical atheist into a quietly careful type who stays, as in the cliche, under the radar. If that is true, and our awareness of how biological evolution works allows that inference, the atheistic role whereby the rules-based left-side predominance serve to keep the right-side predominant in check has fallen to a level wherein it has achieved ineffectiveness. World-wide, Islam appears to have gone on a rampage, perhaps inspired by Xian atrocities of the past, and Jewish atrocities before that but still ongoing, so that religiously inspired violence has become a cancer world-wide. An active and effective, but well-protected population of atheists might well serve as  a buffer for all the kinds of thought-processing that gives free rise to the wild right side’s inspired but unvetted free-for-all mode of thought.

Here are factoids for you to consider: If the vast majority of people are left-side predominant, then the vast majority of people are potentially atheists without the proper training. Most people to acknowledge themselves as atheists make it clear they do not have the proper training to defend that position. Most people who claim to not be atheists make it clear by their choices and actions that they are not truly believers, but make it unclear why they continue to dishonestly defend unsupported and obviously doubted beliefs. Here’s the topper: Truth be told, if all people suddenly and without warning would become 100% honest, atheists might far outnumber all the religions combined.

That last, if anything, might be all of what is wrong with atheists. The gist of all this is that the right-brain (a phrase most people use as shorthand) is the fun side. If we were stuck with the left side only, we could not do the things that require fast computation. We would be stuck with using words, numbers, and logic. The left hemisphere, if given the task of controlling our actions, would be so engaged with analyzing data that we could only respond to most emergencies only after we had wrecked. If we should observe a car on our left, calculating distances and clearances and comparing those umerically to the amount of its obvious weaving, the sudden appearance of a truck crossing the intersection ahead of us would initiate brain freeze in much the same way as an overload of data processing affects our computers.

Right brain processing appears to be responsible for much of the reason for why we jump in response to surprise, and then stop responding before we have recognized an absence of danger well enough to express an opinion about it. We can go flying, skiing, boating, and run complicated courses because of our fun hemisphere, the one on the right. Our fun hemisphere also enables us to fall in love, express that love with poetry, enjoys the pleasurable feelings of being in love, the sense of its warmth and the warmth of our empathy with a beloved person.

If put in full charge of our wellbeing, the fun side of our brain would respond to emotional stimuli with no logical controls, no data, no reasoned input. It would respond to emotive manipulation with fanatical zeal and quickly get us into trouble. If left in full charge, on the other hand, the left hemisphere would soon turn us into grumpy, half-starved, people-hating too busy at trying to figure everything out to do much about it, capable to point out all the flaws in the environment and everybody in it, but incapable to advise them about how to successfully change their ways.

What I gained most from this study is that only by balancing the two hemispheres’ influence in our lives can we be at our best, our happiest, take the best care of ourselves and those we love, and operate at our highest potential level of knowledgeable understanding. That is a very hedonic thing to learn.

If hedonism, at its fullest, is about achieving and maintaining homeostatic balance, we surely must begin with learning our own traits toward predominance, and how to achieve balance there. We who are mean and feisty, and we who are weak-willed and wishy-washy, are at opposite extremes from each other. Knowing this basic nature of how our brains function in cross-lateralization should alert us to the notion that this is where aiming for balance ought to begin. We might study art, music, poetry and other such subjects to develop our right hemisphere by giving it practice at its own natural functions. We ought to also study logic, develop writing and speaking skills, tease ourselves with puzzles that challenge our abilities to figure things out to give the left a chance to develop. Looking at the lists of predominant traits on a few of the sites devoted to this material, we might realize where we are weak and strong and, even though we feel resistive toward it, emphasize those in which we would question our own abilities.

The best part of this is that we can engage in this privately. We don’t have to worry about looking stupid or ignorant. The worst part is that, with so little inspiration to improve ourselves, we are very apt to never initiate the process. And, for those put off by the notion that a high enough percentage of us are wired backward to deserve special mention, the effect is the same. We won’t know it without specific tests aimed to discover that, so that if our right-brained traits are actually on the left side, we would still deal with them in exactly the same way—as right-brain traits.

Copyright ©2009 by Lloyd Harrison Whitling. All rights reserved. Materials quoted belong to their authors and were repeated here only as references. Please visit their pages to see all the quotes in context, to assure yourself about their rectitude.

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