Intelligence is Always Better than Emotion

IrrationalThe farther I look in this world, the more irrationality I see everywhere and even when it’s clearly pointed out, far too many people who pretend to be rational continue to embrace emotion and ignore intellectual thought.

Sorry, there simply is no case where emotionalism is better than rationalism.  Not a single one.

That’s not to say that emotion should never have a part in our decision-making process, after all, we are inherently emotional beings, it’s part of the chemical makeup of our brains, but it should not be the core of any intelligent decision, nor should it be the largest part of the decision.  If all you’re doing is running on pure emotion, you are not going to make a good choice, that much is almost guaranteed.

Yet I see so many supposedly rational atheists doing exactly that.  This seems especially obvious when we get out into liberal politics and social justice issues.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not excusing anyone on the right, they’re just as bad, if not worse, but most of them aren’t pretending to be looking at the world logically and making their decisions rationally.  Plenty of atheists do, yet in a critical evaluation, that’s not how they actually function.

The fact is, in most decisions, “but… but… but… it makes me FEEEEEEEEEL BAD!” is not a rational position to take. It’s not a good place to start, it’s not a good place to finish, it really has no place in any intellectual decision making process.  It’s worse when it has a part and the individual isn’t able to perceive it as such.

Case in point, that ever-popular liberal claim about slavery.  I recently went through this with yet another person who claimed that morality was objective and slavery was absolutely wrong.  It was, as it always is, an emotional argument, but when I pointed that out, he refused to hear it.  According to him, slavery has always been wrong, for all people, across time and space, and everyone who claimed to support slavery actually knew it was wrong, they just did it anyhow.  It reminds me of the Christians who claim that atheists know God exists, they just want to sin.  It’s a clearly ridiculous argument on it’s face, there have been millions of people who have had slaves throughout history who didn’t think it was wrong, in fact, there were many who thought they were doing their slaves a favor.  There are millions of slaves in the world today, owned by people who clearly believe slavery is fine and dandy.  The idea that they’re all wrong and know it, just because thinking otherwise causes some emotional distress  to someone on an Internet forum somewhere, is beyond absurd.

Clearly, by the definition of the word “objective”, morality just doesn’t work that way.  You cannot have an objective morality when people can pick and choose their moral compass, any more than we can declare the speed limits to be objective when we can change them at our whim.  The only way for morality to be objective is for it to come about totally beyond our control.  The speed of light is objective.  It moves at a certain pace, entirely apart from our wishes or desires.  Gravity is objective, the acceleration curve is a constant, regardless of our yearning for it to be different.  That’s not how morality works.

Now don’t get me wrong, just because I recognize that morals aren’t objective, that doesn’t mean anything goes.  Within a particular society, people can choose what will be and will not be acceptable.  The United States has enshrined equality and freedom into our Constitution and it is that Constitution that invariably led to us outlawing slavery, women as second-class citizens and will lead to the end of unequal rights for gays.  That doesn’t necessarily mean we get to declare that everyone on the planet has to think the way we do, any more than they get to declare we should think the way they do.  Where we have seen one nation going to war against another for the purpose of changing moral behavior, that’s been one of military, political and financial force, not moral superiority.  Usually, that’s based on emotion, not intellect.  In fact, I’d argue that virtually all wars are emotionally-driven, if you have to pull out guns and shoot at other people, you’re probably doing something wrong.

How the world feels to us, while it might be terribly important to us as individuals, it really isn’t a good way of handling disagreements between individuals.  Emotion doesn’t get to truth, it doesn’t find facts, that’s the job of the intellect.  We may have started as entirely emotional and instinctual beings, but we’ve evolved beyond that. We have the ability to over-ride our primitive instincts and emotions with the power of our large mammalian brains.  We don’t have to give in to our emotions when doing so is dumb, dangerous and destructive, yet far too many people still follow the dictates of primitive brain chemistry and refuse to consider whether what they are doing is right or wrong.

We should have evolved beyond that, I know I have, what’s it going to take for everyone else to follow suit?

4 thoughts on “Intelligence is Always Better than Emotion

  1. What rationale did this person use who said all slave owners knew what they doing was wrong, they just chose to do it. I would gather the God hypothesis, but that surely must make you wonder why so many Christian's had slaves. If anything the slavery question was one of the arguments that showed me that morality was subjective and not objective.
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    1. The problem is, it's not even theists making these claims, there are tons of atheists claiming that slavery is always wrong, has always been wrong and everyone has always known it's wrong because they want morality to be objective. It's one of Matt Dillahunty's primary arguments in fact, which is one reason I keep using it. They make the declaration that slavery is always wrong, at all times and in all places, yet they are unable to produce evidence that it's actually wrong, that it's been considered wrong everywhere, it just makes them feel good to think so.

      I object to people using emotional feel-good nonsense in what should be intellectual arguments.

      1. Its crazy really that while from today's perspective (our relative view) we can see that slavery always has been wrong, but this does not mean that in another time from that relative perspective we would not see it as wrong. I think its this that makes people so uncomfortable as the feel-good aspect will no longer be relevant.
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        1. But that's the problem, it's no more "wrong" today than it was "right" in the past. It's all opinion, it always has been and it always will be. My opinion that it's wrong today isn't objectively true, any more than a slave-owner's opinion that it was right hundreds of years ago was objectively true. People just keep acting like their opinions make something valid when it's just not the case. It's a shame that so many people are more interested in their own emotional comfort zone than with factual, demonstrable, objective reality. It's why we have so many problems on this planet.

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