Logic-emotionI was listening to a program on NPR called Radio Lab and it was one I had heard before a few years ago, but had forgotten about. It was a program about choices and how logic and reason don’t always figure into the equation. The program itself was called Choice (Season 5, Episode 1) and one story in this program caught my attention again as it did some years before. The story I refer to is called Overcome by Emotion and tells the tale of a man who, after an operation to remove a tumor from his brain, lost all his emotions as a result. One immediately thinks of Mr. Spock and a quick fix to Vulcan rationalism, but apparently the end result was that this man had difficulty making any decisions at all. Turns out, this case was something important in a link that our emotions play a larger part in decision making than previously thought. Our choices, it seems, are guided by emotions, and not just pure reason. They work in tandem (emotion and logic) to give us a basis of what is best in choice. Before you make the conclusion that Humans have it better than Vulcans, remember that Vulcans have emotions too, but suppress them by training their minds. They are not emotionless, but find that suppressing the emotions allows the logic to be a dominant behavior. This got me to wondering, what happens to humans who suppress their emotions? It’s a complicated question I think. I can see that without emotional influence, rational behavior results, but making choices becomes more difficult. Choices, as we all know, often involve an emotional element and are seldom black & white logical.

spock's-brain

If I am never happy or sad, love or hate, content or frustrated, then what basis do I have for what is the right decision in any given circumstance? This is different from Vulcans, who know emotions, but choose (mind over matter) to suppress them. What would the total absence of emotion really  do? Again, I make another Star Trek analogy and mention the Borg. They are mostly a machine mind, though composed of a collective – various species assimilated into a hive mind. The Borg do encounter problems with decisions, and when confronted by something not understood, they spend all their resources to resolve it and neglect everything else in the process no matter how long it takes. This is getting closer to an understanding maybe. Of course Vulcans and the Borg are fictional beings, but ones that we can extrapolate from our own being to understand emotion, logic and reason. Is there an example in nature, something more primal than us, that we can look to. Perhaps the bacteria and virus are biological primal forms that have no emotion or logic. They are pure programming (with some logic) and serve one function.  Through random mutation they survive to live another day. What, then, is in between these primitive forms and animal life (humans included)? I am not sure, but emotions evolved in the higher species for a particular purpose maybe – that being the ability to adapt to an environment without waiting for a mutation, but to do it freelance style, so to speak. How would this be accomplished? The answer must be by incorporating emotion!

Logic is good to a point, incorporate emotion in time, and there is reason. All the higher animals function this way. When there is too much logic, or too much emotion, the reasoning goes astray. The balance must be kept in some harmony. Logic and emotion confront to make the best of reason – the best choices in fact. The really difficult aspect of it all is how difficult it is to judge whether another person is too logical or too emotional, because we ourselves are subject to the same conditions under examination. It’s like the brain trying to examine itself in an impartial way – it can not be done! So, what’s the ‘take away’ from all this and what can we learn from it? I may be wrong, and disagree with me if you have a conviction, but the brain is a biological mechanism. Inside that mechanism is a complex network of complexity that affords us a logical and emotional side. If we use one or the other too much we are not using our full capacity to combine them in ways they were meant for – that is, to reason! Perhaps that is the fundamental nature of what is wrong with humanity, why we struggle so with one another in love, war, race, ethnicity, nationality. Maybe humans are a species that came to their prime before their time – or maybe that prime time has yet to come. I won’t see it in my lifetime and maybe it won’t be see in humans for 50 thousand years if man survives that long.

Perhaps we face a Planet of the Apes scenario in the future. Maybe it’s not apes, but another species rising. Or it could be like in the song: “In the Year 2525” (1969) by Zagar & Evans.

Our own emotion, logic and reason will play a role in the ultimate understanding of these 3 things that make us who we are, how they are balanced, and our destination. It’s not politics (yesterday, today, or tomorrow) which is basically meaningless, and it’s not money (yesterday’s gold & silver, or today’s paper & plastic), nor is it science (whatever the current understanding is), and I believe it will be philosophy that ultimately makes the decision – it’s the only thing that makes sense. USA, USSR, OPEC, NATO, Christian, Islam, Buddhist, Black, white, yellow, green or purple – it’s all so divisive it seems! Man must find a philosophy all people can embrace. Maybe then he will make a paradise of this Earth. I’d like to see that day come, but if it’s not meant to be then I don’t lament my own death because it’s a future I don’t necessarily wish to see if there is no hope for change. Emotion, Logic, Reason – humanity’s gift, I hope, is not squandered, ultimately, in the destiny of man.

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