Braintrust, by contrast, is just not a good read. The bulk of the book consists of discussions of various neurotransmitters and brain areas and how they may be related to human social behaviour. Oxytocin, for example, may make us behave all trusting and kindly, as it's involved in maternal bonding. There's a long discussion of the neurochemistry of male sexual behaviour in voles.
It's not clear how this is relevant to ethics. Whether it's oxytocin that does it, or something else, and whether voles are a useful model of human behaviour or not, clearly sometimes we trust people and sometimes we don't. That's psychology. And biology can't yet explain it.
Churchland doesn't claim that the various biological concepts that she covers can fully explain anything, and she doesn't vouch that all of these findings are rock solid. Which is good, because they can't, and they're not. So why spend well over half of the book talking about them?
The Princeton philosopher Peter Singer, for example, gets a quick drubbing in Braintrust. Singer has argued that Westerners should reduce their standard of living substantially to support the developing world. His philosophy is "much more demanding, and much more meddlesome, than the morally moderate, such as I, find reasonable," Churchland writes. "The urgings of the ardent utilitarian sometimes alarm me the way intrusive do-gooders can be alarming, not least because of infringements on liberty and the conflict with paradigmatically good sense."
I agree, Mooski, with the caveat that the modern Atheist does not necessarily have any idea what science actually is.
By embracing an implicitly positivist (or just sloppily "practical") scientism, many of the pop atheists ironically open themselves to charges of theism, because they simply aren't aware of the relevant rigorous questions and lines of inquiry.
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