So Much for NOMA

25 Jul
It's really frustrating dealing with theist who think that NOMA (Non-Overlapping Magisteria) is a valid defense of religious claims. Even some atheists fall into that trap; thinking that religion and science deal with two different realms of… something… and never the two shall meet. Often expressed by the witty catchphrase “religion tells us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go”. Of course, that saying assumes what it is trying to prove by saying that heaven even exists in the first place.
If religions make claims about the world, then they should be subject to the same judgement and criticism that all other claims about the world are subject to. But no, if we did that, then religious claims would be completely demolished by the weight of critical inquiry. Really, NOMA has always been a reactionary apologetic, it was never a proactionary supposition. I forget who said it, but religious people are always quick to jump on scientific discoveries that confirm some claim that the believer's religion makes. But as soon as the tables are turned, and some scientific discovery disconforms something that the believer's religion makes, they quickly retreat to NOMA so that their beliefs won't be open to disconfirmation.
Take a look at this article

Just like the hippie culture found a pill that conveniently removed the “inconvenience” of pregnancy, today’s hookup culture believes it has found a recipe for removing the inconvenience of emotion: friends with benefits.

Scientifically, though, that’s impossible. We know that thanks to what neuroscientists have learned about a walnut-sized mass in the brain called the deep limbic system.

The deep limbic system stores and classifies odor, music, symbols and memory. In other words, it’s a place for romance (my emphasis), capable of processing a splash of cologne on your lover’s neck, a particular iPod playlist or a bouquet of red roses.

The brain chemicals associated with romance and sex wash over the deep limbic system during a wide variety of sexual experiences, according to research from the Medical Institute for Sexual Health.

Holding hands, embracing, a gentle massage and, most powerfully, the act of sexual intercourse work together to create a cocktail of chemicals that records such experiences deep into the emotional center of your brain.

It’s why we remember sexual experiences and images so clearly.

One of the critical neurochemicals released during sex is dopamine. Dopamine makes you feel good; it creates a sense of peace and pleasure. Anytime your body experiences pleasure, whether it’s good for you (working out) or bad (doing crystal meth), the limbic system gets washed in dopamine.

In essence, it is a “craving” chemical. It makes you want more. It creates addiction. Dopamine attaches you emotionally to the source of pleasure.

Another critical sex hormone is oxytocin, the subject of recent books like “The Chemistry of Connection: How the Oxytocin Response Can Help You Find Trust, Intimacy and Love.” The chemical is released during sexual expression. A tiny dose is downloaded during intimate skin-to-skin contact; a much bigger dose is released during orgasm.

In fact, the only other time as much oxytocin is released as during orgasm is when a mother is breastfeeding her baby. The mother feels its release and is bonded to her child, and the baby’s brain learns for the first time to enter into relationship by connection. I’d say the chemical’s job is to bond us for life (my emphasis).

The knowledge of sexual bonding is nothing new. 

But wait, I thought science couldn't explain love: Attachment to the source of pleasure? Bonding hormones? What else is there to love than bonding with someone? You see, science is fine when it is used to support a religious conclusion (in this case, abstinence, if you go read the whole article). But then, when you point out that the basis for love, commitment, and attachment are well known in science – answering one of the most oft asked questions by the religious “how do you explain love without a god?” – the theist will then fall back on NOMA so that they can keep the “mystery of love” ball in the religious answers side of the court.
While the author thinks that these hormones only relate to sex, obviously not since oxytocin is released and shared when a mother is breastfeeding. Otherwise she's right; the job of oxytocin is to bond us, a lot of times for life (a somewhat subtle and off-topic nudge that breastfeeding is better for a mother/child relationship than the bottle). And to still keep this post in line with my study of early Christianity and Greek, the word “oxytocin” is a corruption of the Greek word ωκυτοκίνη (oe-ky-toh-KIN-ae), which means “quick labor”; oxytocin also released during childbirth. A former friend of mine told me, somewhat paraphrased after giving birth to her first child, that it was like “…bam! I love him!”.
The concept of NOMA, it seems, is abject hypocrisy.
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Posted by on July 25, 2011 in apologetics, cognitive science


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