Nothing more than feelings

I watched a bit of Eugenie Scott’s talk at the Secular Humanism party again, via a post on it by Jerry. I watched the bit where she talked about The Feeling of bonding with her infant daughter, and the fact that “it is the meaning of the experience that is important.” Science can’t – you know the rest.

A commenter made a very good point about this idea.

Tell you what; if accomodationalists feel (heh) that they must use emotions to show that science doesn’t know everything, and there is room for the supernatural, how about accomodationalists only use descriptions of other feelings such as post-natal depression, racism, bigotry etc. and point out that their benevolent, all-loving god gave them those sensations.

Quite. Scott totally stacked the deck by selecting bonding with an infant as an example of Meaningful Feeling that science can’t add anything important to.

What is important is how I feel about that bond, which is distinct from any additional scientific understanding of the process.

Very nice, but what if you change the variables? Scott’s story is a peripeteia, a reversal of fortune. Just before the birth she was full of dread; then perinatal hormones kicked in, and she bonded. Imagine a different peripeteia. There’s the one in Christopher Browning’s book Ordinary Men, for instance. At first the men didn’t want to walk their assigned Jews into the forest and shoot them to death; then the demands of group loyalty kicked in, and they gritted their teeth and did their job, and it got easier and easier. Does it sound quite the same to say that “what is important is how I feel about that job, which is distinct from any additional scientific understanding of the process”?

No, it doesn’t, because the feeling is not one we want to valorize, and it’s one we do want to know how to interrupt or prevent, so additional scientific understanding is seen as quite germane and useful.

Not all Feelings are to be embraced rather than analyzed or understood.

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