Saturday, June 27, 2009

In the garden of Eden

This is one of those rare books that inspires aching disappointment that it will have to end. It offers daredevil adventures, life and death drama, warm introductions to the most exotic people on earth, data that shatters received scientific paradigms, moving memoir, and deep meditations on the meaning of life and truth.

Daniel Everett has spent his life as a missionary and student of the language of the Pirahã (pronounced pee-da-HAN) on the Maici river in the central Amazon. Graduating at the top of his class from the Moody Bible Insitute, he undertook the most arduous possible mission to what were known as the most recalcitrant native people in the world- who had rejected missionary activity for 300 years and counting. Daniel became the first outside person to thoroughly understand the language and later served as translator for the Brazilian government which had no interpreters of its own when it began the process of protecting the tribe's land.

The Pirahã are people of many superlatives, numbering only about 300, strictly hunting and gathering, who do not indulge in abstractions, worry about the future, or regret the past. They trust only first-hand information, disregarding accounts from long ago or far away. They have no gods, creation stories or other myths (though they do see spirits in people and physical objects, and dramatize them in theatrical productions.) They treat children on equal terms as adults, with minimal correction and no corporal punishment. They have virtually no mental illness or problems with adolescent adjustment. The can't count, and Everett spent eight months to no avail trying to teach them that 1+1=2.

They are neither matriarchal nor patriarchal, nor do they prevent divorce and remarriage when one partner wants it. Their severest punishment is ostracism. They change their names from time to time, as the spirit strikes. Their language is tonal and has several distinct modes, including hummed, sung, yelled, and whistled. The male version has one more letter than the female version. Oh, and they are the happiest people on earth.

One of my favorite paragraphs was:

As I became more fluent in Pirahã, I began to harbor a suspicion that the people were keeping their speech simple for my sake. When they spoke to me, the sentences seemed short, with only one verb each. So I decided it would be worth listening more carefully to how they spoke to one another, rather than basing my conclusions on how they spoke to me. My best opportunity, I knew, would come from Báígipóhoái, Xahoábisi's wife. Each morning she talked loudly, beginning around five o'clock, sitting up in the hut in the dark, with Xahoábisi getting the fire going strong, only a few feet from my bedroom. She spoke to the entire village about what she had dreamed. She asked people by name what they were going to do that day. She told men leaving in canoes what kind of fish to catch, where the best places to fish were, how foreigners could be best avoided, and on and on. She was the village crier and gossip rolled into one. She was enjoyable to listen to. There was a certain artistry to her discourse, with her deep voice, the range of intonation in her talk (from very low to very high and back down again), the stylistically different way she pronounced her words- as if breath were going into her lungs and mouth rather than coming out. If ever there was a speaker that was speaking Pirahã for Pirahãs and not for me, the linguist, Báígi was it. Important for me, as I recorded then transcribed her sentences, they were structured identically to the sentences spoken to me by Kóhoi and other teachers- just one verb each.

One might say that this culture has, for complex cultural/linguistic reasons, declined to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, and appears to be quite the happier for it.

Incidental links:

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Explaining away

What constitutes an explanation?

Correspondent Eric Reitan makes a provocative point in an interview (ignore the first 5 minutes) and elsewhere, that the naturalistic world view has to explain away many realities (such as religious belief and ideas) in a way that does not do it credit. If we just took our inner experiences more seriously, (not assigning them to "the brain" and related scientific accounts, sometimes further derided as "scientistic"), they would be taken to point to realities as real as the much-vaunted "empirical" realities of modern scientific naturalism.
The most popular form of naturalism today extends a preferential bias to empirical experience. It begins with the assumption that only experience of this sort is veridical (that is, it assumes that only experience of this sort connects the subject to a reality “out there,” tracking it in such a way that one can learn about that reality through the kind of careful examination of the content of the experience that scientists engage in). It then constructs an account of reality on the basis of this kind of experience alone. And when other kinds of experience, were they to be treated as veridical, would require one to posit orders of reality transcending this “naturalistic” account, naturalism explains away these other experiences as epiphenomenal by-products of entities whose reality is endorsed by the naturalist metaphysics (e.g., the brain).

Hence, for example, my immediate sense of my daughter’s intrinsic value is not treated as an experience of something real “out there.” Since there is nothing in the naturalistic account of reality that corresponds to “intrinsic value,” the experience I am having is explained away as nothing but an inner psychological phenomenon, a product of brain activity whose neural subroutines probably evolved because of their role in promoting reproductive fitness.
As Reitan says, naturalism has a working model (though partial) for how emotions like his regard for his daughter arise. They come from specific locations like the amygdala upon the perception of things we are highly attached to- attachment that arises from prior learning and memory. People have been known to assign such value to pet rocks or to blankets. The subjective feeling consists of brain activity, though we do not have an account of exactly how that relation works- what qualia or conscousness really "is", bridging the subjective / objective divide. But much of the circuitry is clear, and the study of oxytocin gives a compelling example of the chemical underpinning of social bonding, helping explain its mechanism and origin.

Is that an explanation? People with strokes and dementia lose this valuing connection to people they have known their whole lives. How can this connection and sense of value then be spoken of as real and "intrinsic", if it is actually ephemeral and mechanistic, however strongly felt? If it is a matter of computational data storage, just as the naturalistic account has it? Whether the naturalistic account is sufficient as an explanation of these emotions or not, it is certainly a necessary component. Even as advanced theists posit that god works "through" evolution, so must she work "through" the brain mechanisms to generate thoughts and emotions, leaving aside the question of whether the assumed external actuation makes any sense or is supported by any evidence.

Explanation is a process of creating a narrative of whatever it is that we wish to "understand", which is to say, creating an abstract model of a phenomenon that serves to simplify its workings and relations, hopefully to the extent that we can mentally project its activities backward and forward in time. That is the whole point of our big brains- to understand (or explain) social relations and other aspects of the world in order to bend them to our needs. To understand an episode of a TV show means that we have knowledge of the setting, the predicament, and the traits of the characters, such that we "get" why they conspire to defraud their friends, or whatever the plot developments happen to be.

Such understanding depends on accurate knowledge of all the components that make up the phenomenon- the causes and effects that surround it, which in turn make up a consistent model we can use to work with the phenomenon. That consistency is the hallmark of accurate models of reality versus other worlds of imagination and dream, since outer reality is both self-consistent and also is the object of our very extensive sensory capacities that give us a leg up in evaluating it (in contrast to our extremely poor internal senses). Thus the critical importance of empiricism when making explanations of "reality".

Do intuition and spritual feeling amount to other forms of "knowing", thus also to understanding and explanation? That is a tricky question. These ideas and feelings are certainly real subjectively. They exist. They are even "empirical experience". They may guide one to a correct model of reality. Our instincts and intuition can be incanny in their accuracy. Yet they can also lead us terribly astray. The sense of value you ascribe to another is a datum about you, but it is quite simply not a datum about the other. Rather it is a projection, which in our social world is all we have to rely on and is extremely important. But that projection is evanescent, and can turn (subjectively) into its opposite with tragic consequences, as dramas are only too ready to illustrate.

There is no way from the content of hunches, dreams, and visions alone to verify their correspondence with reality, even while they may be accompanied by the strongest possible "sense of truth". Intuition is a good bet in areas where it has been honed over evolutionary time- estimating how hard to throw a stone, guessing which plant might be edible, figuring whether to trust someone with your money. Science has shown time and again, however, that the farther a phenomenon from our common experience, the poorer intuition is in deeply understanding it.

Lightning is a simple example, where intuition leads directly to supernatural explanations, while the corrective of empirical science has substituted a more naturalistic one. Supernatural explanations have the virtue of extraordinary simplicity. For the cost of one mystical being or realm, all other mystifying phenomena can be swept under its rug. But they have little to do with reality or the consistency that is reality's hallmark, since they do not rely on detailed knowledge of the phenomena in question, nor on a system of logic in explaining it, other than the ad-hoc and jerry-rigged. Attempts to make such systems more "explanatory" end up with pantheons of gods and reams of myth, like those of ancient Greece, which in the end do more harm than good to the credibility of the enterprise, though they are highly entertaining.

But whyyyyy?

Like children driving a parent crazy, the last refuge of the theist is to say that for all that science tells us, it can not "explain" the really deep questions- why we exist and where our meaning lies. But these questions have been answered, (Darwin and all that ...), just not to the satisfaction of those who believe we have a purpose dictated by a higher being and communicated by way of maddeningly contradictory scriptures. Only if one imagines and assumes that we need a cosmic meaning does the question even arise. Far from being deep, these questions simply restate theism as an assumption rather than a hypothesis.

In the end, it seems cheap rhetoric to disparage detailed naturalistic explanations as "explaining away". If they are wrong, then impeach them on their merits and details. If they are right but not complete, then extend and deepen them. If their perspective is different from your own, then put up your own explanatory narrative to compete on the merits of clarification, unification, and predictive value (and empirical detail), keeping in mind the premises that you are importing and their plausibility. The only improvement to be made on a bad explanation is a better one, since explanations are by definition our mental narratives of all phenomena.

It is particularly wrong-headed to fault science on its explanations of human cognition, just when it is making so much progress. The impulse to tap "transcendent orders of reality" to account for our behavior and thoughts completely ignores the bounds of basic biology and physics, and takes the experience of consciousness as a fundamentally inexplicable and mystical datum, which it is not. Articles just in the last month have tackled the computation of social behavior and the nature of cognitive attention by way of long-range gamma wave coupling across the brain, each of which speak to our regard for our children, among other things. The extraordinary resistance of theists to regarding themselves as computational machines will lead them to grief as this last bastion of mysticism and human special-ness is breached by serious explanations.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

American Taliban

A long-standing campaign of intimidation, terror, and killing ... forgive my anger about it.

Much was made of the "American Taliban"- Silver Spring and Marin county-raised John Walker (now Hamza) Lindh, who in a fit of teenage spiritual seeking wound up in Afghanistan fighting with the Taliban. He joined a fundamentalist movement clothed in religious garb dealing death and oppression to all who came in contact with it. Lindh was a part of the Taliban, but not part of an American Taliban. For that, we need to look at the anti-abortion movement.

Of all the fixations of the right, this is surely the most fixed and relentless. Just as the Taliban sought a re-norming of society in Afghanistan and now in Pakistan, including the definitive oppression of women, adherence to a fantastical interpretation of Islam, all covering a lust for absolute power, fundamentalist Christians seek a renorming of American society, extensive regression in women's rights, schooling in accordance with a fantastical interpretation of the Bible, all covering a lust for absolute power, signaled by their formula that ours is a "Christian nation".

For all its talk of love and life, the right is tellingly served by its media, which massages its erogenous hate-zones with talk radio and FOX news, including numerous incitements to attack abortion providers such as George Tiller. How different is this from the mosques in Europe and elsewhere that stream denunciations of the kaffir, hatred of the societies that host them, and all those opposed to the triumph of Islam? Where democracy demands reasoned debate premised on pragmatic grounds of mutual understanding and forbearance, the right cleaves to authoritarianism and absolutism, yearning for an emotionally secure hierarchy of God in his heaven, (Republican) president in his White House, pastor in his church, and father in his family. Patriarchy is central to the emotional needs of traditionalists, leading to their various fixations- on executive power, on the imagined absolute morals of religion, and on the "proper role" of women.

The quiverfull movement is a fascinating example of this mind-set, going far beyond home-schooling and stocking the basement for the apocalypse, to a complete subjugation of the women to be barefoot and pregnant, to spend their lives raising children, satisfying their men, submitting to his every decision, and "opening" their wombs to the lord's desires, be He celestial or domestic.

But it is with abortion that the right has found its most potent issue- a club with which to bludgeon the larger secular culture. If framed solely around the fetus, it is a heinous act, expecially if one posits that conception conjures an everlasting soul which will meet and reprove its mother in the hereafter (fathers, well, they get off scot free, I believe). But what of the mother's frame- a mother who may not want, or can not have, another child, who had accidental sex, who may want to plan for children farther in the future, who in any case is far more sentient and morally valuable than the fetus she carries? (Or is she? The right might say otherwise.) The extremists insist on seeing the dilemma through one frame only when it suits their political agitation, though when their own daughters get into difficulties, it suddenly becomes a personal choice.

The moral calculus is not black and white. Life is increasingly valuable as it is developed, raised, educated, and conscious. Making a fetish of fetuses that have meager or no consciousness or ability to suffer is to create a peculiar imbalance in the moral order. And the point of this imbalance is as clear here as it is in Afghanistan- to disempower women. Rightists want to treat women as vessels, as fields planted with the male seed, as wombs whose most serious purpose is to carry children.

If the principle were truly to preserve and multiply all human life, it would in the first place be abhorrent, since there is already an excess of human life on the planet, from which we need to find some way to climb down as humanely as possible. Generating 12 billion, 24 billion, and more people as we are on a natural path to do will be catastrophic for humanity and for the biosphere- an unsustainable path that ends in monumental suffering. In the second place, rightists tend to be wildly inconsistent, cheering on killing in the form of death penalties and wars, (and apocalypses targeting the unrighteous), even while imagining themselves adherents of an iron-clad, absolute commandment to not kill.

As with the subtle workings of the muslim hijab, the anti-abortion movement has even enlisted women in their own disempowerment, playing on their compassion and love as a front for asking the state to tell all women that once they are successfully impregnated, they must lose control of their bodies and destinies. Why the boundary must be at the point of conception, and not the production of eggs, or sperm, is somewhat mysterious- they are all potential life, all vulnerable to heartless disregard. Now it turns out that all the cells of our bodies are potential new life, by the miracle of cloning technology. Is it immoral to discard skin cells?

The status of women evokes deep-seated feelings. Indeed if any feelings can be said to be "deeply held", it would be these. The Catholic church makes a fetish of Mary as inert immaculate mother, while denegrating women's capacities for spiritual experience and leadership, indeed banning them from office, and not only opposing abortion, but also opposing condom use, as if breeding like rabbits (or sheep) were the highest lay aspiration.

In the US as elsewhere, opposition to abortion is a stalking horse for misogyny and patriarchy- the devaluation and oppression of women in the guise of saving innocent life, tradition, and nature itself. That is why the killing of George Tiller is not an isolated incident. It is part of an extremist effort to turn back the clock of the modern world using religiously cloaked campaign of intimidation, terror, and killing to send the women of America back into the shadows of hearth and home. The movement may tepidly distance itself from this particular killing and killer, but it has spent decades inciting his actions as it has terrorized and intimidated women, doctors, and politicians who disagree.

The status of women is one of the most important global issues of our day and of the future. It is women who scare the heck out of the Afghan Taliban (and the Saudi monarchy, and the Iranian mullahs, etc.) and will break its back politically if given the chance. It is empowered women who care for their children enough to have few rather than many, advancing both human development and environmental protection, and it is empowered women who bring peace to world politics, putting compassion and sustainability over competitiveness and conflict.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Tempest in a nonspatial entity

Reply to Eric Reitan's defense of Goetz and Taliaferro

I've been honored by the attention of the author of the book "Is God a Delusion?", one of the many replies to Richard Dawkins and the new atheists. Eric Reitan is a philosopher and professor at Oklahoma State, and blogs at The piety that lies between, whose title is a reference to Plutarch, as well as to one founder of liberal theology, Friedrich Schleiermacher.

He expresses some appreciation and differences with my post on the spiritual atheist, on my post against theology, and most incisively, on my review of the book Naturalism by Stewart Goetz and Charles Taliaferro (G&T) which defends the idea of a supernatural soul. I'll reply to his points about this book here, to bring this discussion to a higher level, as it deserves.

I'll grant that I did not fathom all the jargon swirling within this book. I quoted three instances of what I believed to be egregious nonsense, and Reitan maintains that it is just when the jargon gets thickest that the work is most lucid. Seeing as he believes the purpose of the book is to "jar academics back to work", it should to be accessible to them- not just to specialists, but especially to the naturalists who wear the supposed blinders that predispose them against supernaturalism, such as myself, for instance.

I would not represent myself as a philosopher but as an educated layperson and scientist, capable of dealing with considerable thickets of jargon. I also labor under not having the book at hand, having borrowed it from the library (but will make some use of G&T's responses online). All the same, I think I can still say that G&T were egregiously unclear in an area that is, frankly, not rocket science.

To propose supernatural entities is to free oneself from any logical bounds: whether point-like or distributed, whether intuitive or counter-intuitive, there is no restriction at all on one's theorizing in this area, other than the points at which it contacts reality- the presumed interactions that the nonspatial entity (soul) has with our brains- causal, confined to one individual, confined in time, etc. I do not think one can point to any necessary condition of G&T's supernatural model that is not necessitated by empirical facts. Logic can not create bounds in this sphere- the nonspatial entity could be any size, any where, have any properties whatsoever, as long as it does not violate the empirically evident consciousness functions.

I could just as well propose that Peter Pan pushes around the earth's tectonic plates. There is no end of jargon I could devise to "clarify" how this might take place. But without engaging in the science at the reality-based end of this interaction, (as G&T do not do in the case of neuroscience), I would have no logical bounds on my models, and would be free to write another book about how I now think it is not Peter Pan after at all, but Poseidon who is responsible.

The basic point is that there is a reason to take the naturalist position- it eschews fantasy in deference to reality. That humans (especially children) are congenitally prone to jump to conclusions (or assumptions), including the wide-open field of supernatural conclusions, is no reason to give them philosophical credence. G&T in their web responses reiterate that "This commitment drives the naturalist’s world view and leads naturalists to question and deny the reality of how things appear to ordinary human beings." As mentioned in my original review, this is no philosophical justification for their premise, despite the smoothly expressed "reality" of this ordinary view. Ordinary human beings regard the sun as travelling through the sky and species as fixed types. Ordinary understanding does need to be explained (and corrected), but it is not a source of explanation, especially when conflicting so flagrantly with other logic and observation.

So the claim of doing "metaphysics" is not helpful in freeing the philosopher from dealing with reality. Either the system proposed agrees with reality, or it is an idea untethered from it. The test is empirical (defining "truthiness", to put it in lay terms), and every empirical indication we have is that when you chop off someone's head, their mind disappears promptly as well. Ditto for countless smaller interventions by drugs, lesions, strokes, electricity, etc. that affect aspects of consciousness.

Mathematics has a similar flexibility- one can make a mathematics of any assumptions one likes, and then strive to create a self-consistent system out of it. If that system is truly self-consistent (by way of proofs, etc.), then it stands a chance of describing aspects of the real world, since the real world is by necessity self-consistent. But that alone is no guarantee, the final test still being empirical. If the assumptions one gives oneself are completely free and without bound, however, then one is quite likely to end up in a morass of meaningless, or at any rate unnecessary, jargon and tangled thought, counting angels on the head of a pin.

Jargon aside, I think the first quote I pointed to from the book remains indefensible:
Hence, it does not seem the least bit implausible to say that a soul's thinking, choosing, experiencing pain, etc., are explainable in terms of its having the power to think and choose and exercising them, and its having the capacity to experience pain and its being actualized. (p.69).
Reitan calls the thinking behind this "neo-Aristotelian" and a "'causal ontology' that depends on a metaphysics of 'substances' with powers that derive from their 'natures'--thematically attuned to an older scholastic metaphysics". Why don't we use Aristotelian assumptions and scholastic metaphysics in modern thought outside of theology? Because they are completely vacuous. Why were the scholastics barren in their natural philosophy over hundreds of years? Because these assumptions don't productively work for anything having to do with outer reality, however closely they may cleave to psychological reality.

The basic point is that one can not just grant oneself assumptions. One has to examine, test, and judge one's assumptions at the deepest possible level. The naturalist shies from accepting a premise that is not reality-based and logic-based. The supernaturalist accepts "common understanding", causal open-ness, non-necessity of evidence, god, and other positions as starting points, each of which is philosophically impeachable. While this may count as just another pair of interpretive glasses in Reitan's book, there seems little reason to go down that path if the glasses are known to be mirrors instead of lenses. Putting on questionable or extravagant assumptions may be appropriate when exploring and teaching philosophical history, but it is no way to do philosophy.

For example, basic thermodynamics necessitates causal closure. The first law of thermodynamics about the conservation of energy is not just an assumption about reality, it is an observation that energy, in the forms of mass, energy, and information, can not be created from nothing and is interconvertable. There are no exceptions in the form of perpetual motion machines, etc. drawing data, energy, mass, etc. from outside reality (possibly excepting the origin of the universe itself, about which we are as yet profoundly ignorant). Thus to breezily propose causal open-ness and souls as supernatural entities that interact with brains, tell us what to do, etc. flies in the face of the most basic bedrock of physics, both theoretical and observed. The naturalist presupposition in this instance is not an option on the metaphysical smorgasbord, but a rather hard-won piece of empirical data.

Let me turn to some more specific notes Reitan provides on G&T:

For example, it is argued (by Sosa and others) that in order for A to causally influence B, A must first stand in a NONcausal relation with B that explains how and why A affects B as it does rather than something else (or nothing at all).
My understanding of this was that the non-causal relation was perhaps a term for a conceptual relation- one in our heads by which we make sense of the two entities in some narrative or model about their relationship which is causal in the real world. I may very well be wrong about this ... hard to tell. But it seems axiomatic that if there is a causal relation to physical objects, it should be empirically detectable, and that this would be the locus of investigation and controversy, not the armchair science that G&T offer. To reiterate, as far as the non-spatial, supernatural sphere of speculation goes, there are no intrinsic limits- the relations of A and B have no possible bounds or preconditions, interacting magically as far as we know.

[PS- After posting, I realized that I had mistaken this argument. Put concretely, two gears need to be physically close (noncausal relation) before they can induce movement in each other (causal relation). For the case of a nonspatial entity with no physical properties, one would be using purely fictive resources to describe these relations, especially if one failed to even attempt to account concretely for how the brain physically receives the signal. One might just as well resort to Star Trek tech-talk and claim that the soul and body interact over subspace (noncausal relation) by exchanging tachion pulses (causal relation).]

The passages you call gibberish all have the following in common: they presuppose their alternative metaphysical assumptions, in terms of causal powers rooted in a thing's nature. These alternative assumptions are in an important sense at odds with the assumptions that shape contemporary naturalism, assumptions which seek to understand things not in terms of a 'nature' conceived in Aristotelian terms (invoking the idea that a thing is a combination of FORM and MATTER, and that the nature of a thing is given by its FORM), but in terms of the interaction and organization of constituent physical parts--that is, reductionistically and spatio-temporally.
Right- I recognize that, but as above, it is worthwhile to analyze these assumptions at point blank, however deep and "embedded" they may be. Is thermodynamics correct? That is what naturalists assume, based not on scripture or common understanding, but on empiricism. Conversely, do we have reliable access to supernatural phenomena of any kind, or to things called "forms"? Not outside of our intuition, (aka "common understanding"), whose defects and predilections are all too obvious to the student of art, psychology, and comparative religion. Indeed the naturalistic world view and scientific method were primarily a psychological achievement, withdrawing the many projections elaborated in theology and prior philosophy and substituting for them critique by experiment and reason.

If you bring this latter metaphysic TO G&T's arguments, you are not merely begging the question but wearing a set of interpretive lenses which make it impossible to understand WHAT they are saying (and hence impossible to even begin the process of adequately assessing it).
I would be happy to grant that given all their assumptions, they make perfect, if extremely convoluted, sense. What their argument boils down to is that, given the assumption that we have souls and that super-nature exists, then we have souls with indeterminate properties and naturalism begins to look pretty silly. The argument is not at all whether their conclusions follow from their assumptions, but whether their assumptions make any sense, by the metric I hope we all share, which is congruence with reality, critically considered.

Here is a quote from web responses by G&T:
"We respectfully beg to differ. We never said that we posit the existence of the soul to fill an explanatory gap. Rather, we argued that there must be an explanatory gap in the physical world, given the existence of the soul and its choices to act. We are first convinced that the soul exists and makes libertarian choices for purposes and then go on to explain to our readers that the soul’s existence and causal activity implies that there must be a gap in the physical explanatory story."

I think it is pretty clear that they are going about this backwards. It is no surprise that if you posit souls, then the regular order of natural explanation leaves something to be desired. It is they who are not examining their assumptions, other than to lamely claim that they are following "common understandings".

The inescapable premise, it seems to me, is that science cannot discern whether there is more to reality than science can discern.

So, if we want to figure out what overarching metaphysics we should adopt, we need other considerations besides the scientific facts.
Here I have to disagree. The statement implies that reality can be defined in a way that exceeds "facts". But what would that difference be? G&T try to treat our common intuitions as facts of the highest order, from which we can conclude the existence of super-nature. But what of all the other facts that belie that same conclusion? Isn't this simply the privileging of one set of selected observations over a much more rigorous set of observations, based on their intimacy and affect?

In my view, their achievement lies in something else: reminding us that there is a research program here, and that a comprehensive worldview should be assessed not merely in terms of its 'fit' with science but with the totality of human experience, including the experience of ourselves as agents who act for reasons.
Indeed, this is where a truly scientific research program on human reasoning and volition will tell a great deal. My take on that research is that the intuitive ideas we have about will and authorship are being (or have already been) replaced by a paradigm that will explain them in a productive fashion- not explaining them away, but giving concrete accounts of their origin, mechanism, and role without impairing their subjective enjoyment. Thus one more long-cherished intuitive idea will go the way of so many before.

With that, I'll finish and return to the original topic of love and agree that the mystical religious experience generates in us love for the world, which is now so desperately needed. We needn't ask whether it loves us back- it might have a hard time doing so at this moment of ecological peril. In that respect the atheist may even agree with the doctrine of original sin- regarded as a perpetual duty we as conscious beings have to safeguard the unconscious source of our being from harm- especially including that harm caused by our own existence. Our consciousness is also our main hope, however- an expensive, hard-fought, rare, and precious achievement which may yet be of greater benefit to ourselves and our fellow creatures.