The Moral Human

I came to think of myself as a bit of a human guinea pig over the last year or so. I went from one drug to another - all in the search for something to 'cure' my problems with insomnia, hoping that that in turn, would help with the bigger problem of fibromyalgia. The drugs were anti-depressants and anticonvulsants that had drowziness as an added 'benefit'. I have a particular skill in being incredibly sensitive to chemicals - I can sniff out a side effect at fifty paces. It was quite an unpleasant roller coaster ride and it's lucky I'm very aware of what's going on with my body.

Being prone to depression, I certainly noticed when the drugs messed with my cognitive and emotional functions. It didn't mean it was easy to deal with and I wasn't affected - but I was really aware that something was *not right* and I was very much not *me*. Especially feelings of sudden anger, aggression, and despair.  When you realise a drug can bring this on, and you experience it first hand, it changes how you view life a little.

I don't believe our thoughts are as much 'our thoughts' as we think they are. We might be educated, opinionated individuals, and come up with unique and creative ideas - but I think a lot of it is a mish-mash of the chemicals washing through our brains mixed with the environment we have grown up in. Each moment in time, neurotransmitters are tickling our neural taste buds, and that cocktail is changing depending on any number of factors,  so what comes out is something we call 'me'. It governs how we experience the world, how we react to it, what we think is real, what we dream and how we are as a person. If the balance gets out of kilter - then it can turn us into a depressive, make us angry, make us psychotic, make us even violent. Or... it can make us creative - an artist, someone with prodigeous talents. How many creative people have I met with incredible skill but tortured minds of some kind - I always felt the two almost came hand-in-hand.

It's easy to see that the 'me' I think I am, is not as fixed or set in stone as I expected... when the knobs can get tweaked by a drug. It makes me think of larger issues... that some of what I believe is a result of chemicals reacting to the world around me (and a certain amount of stubbornness).

As an atheist, I didn't get dished up morals on a religious platter.  It was obvious to me right from the get-go that I didn't like being made fun of, or being pushed around - so I wouldn't do those things to anyone else. My parents were gentle and kind, and I emulated that - it wasn't rocket science to know that you don't go around killing and hurting fellow creatures. It didn't occur to me that I shouldn't do something because I was a girl, and I had a sense that everyone was equal. I am sure a lot of that came from my mother, though I can't remember ever having conversations about it. It was more how everyone acted - fair and kind.

I'm not going to discuss how the fundamentalists of most religions claim that people like me are not decent humans as we have no morals, but I do think that morals are a big result of chemistry colliding with environment. It's just my theory... I haven't even looked to see if there is any basis for it yet. If I had a 'do-over' I would love to be a neurologist and study this sort of thing (with no fibro hampering my efforts of course).  There is a conference (of sorts) that I am just starting to watch online - 'This is Your Brain on Morality' the title of which made me think about it in the first place.

postscript:   So I have been totally enthralled in these videos - didn't even finish the blog post! This one in particular stands out. Controversial and excellent. A scientist with the balls to say that morals have a basis in science. Oooh... I can see the sparks flying.

The panel discussion at the end is excellent. I can listen to interesting people debating their positions for hours. I love to listen  (whether I agree or not) when people talk intelligently and offer so many new ideas and research in a clear way. Quite the opposite of politics, isn't it.



11/25/09, 1:03 PM

"For every twisted thought there is a twisted molecule."

— Dr. Ralph Gerard


11/26/09, 9:32 PM

Yes yes! Of course. Oh if only fibro fog had not wiped this from my mind! Thanks so much.. reminding me of the great conversation we had about this. :) I had lost it all.


The Out Campaign: Scarlet Letter of Atheism