I'm an atheist that feels there's too much invalidation of other people's emotions in the name of atheism. Or maybe a better way to say this is that science discourages emotion from affecting rational thought, and therefore many science minded people discount emotion as empirically measurable, and therefor is irrelevant in discourse about scientific realities.

But human emotions are animal emotions, engaging us with our most fundamental survival needs. Many people even discount that animals have emotion, attributing their feelings (e.g.) to a deeper "soul" that must exist within each human, not other animals. Yet those same humans are not out kicking their pets around like soccer balls; empathy for one's own pets is not only undeniable, but the reason why we have pets at all.

In our animal evolution, cerebral cortex, prefrontal cortex came relatively recently, enhancing consciousness; building complex language, intellect; enabling social discourse, manual skills by design; enabling emergence of complex artistry, and community conscience/ethics. The more evolved systems of behavior (i.e. cultural behavior) result from society's effective focus on childhood nurturing and growth.

Maturing as a supportive and culturally engaging adult requires suppression at times of emotional impulses, but each person's ability to actualize to his/her fullest also requires each others' validation of those same emotions. It's initially fruitful to suppress one's impulses originating from (e.g.) jealousy, but it is also emotionally costly to permanently deny the validity of the jealousy. Angst and mental dysfunction can result from too much denial/invalidation of our more deeply felt, animal-evolutionary originated emotions.

What is jealousy? I remember hating the feeling. It made me feel angry, betrayed, powerless, even vindictive. It's not a stretch to imagine that could be the same way males feel in the animal kingdom when they have to compete with each other for females. If we too are animals, doesn't it make sense to assume that emotions of jealousy have the same origins, and at least to some extent feel the same?

Obviously, this is a non-scientific conclusion, with ill-defined terminology and absence of empirical evidence. Scientific method can't yet add much to our understanding of the reality of feelings like jealousy, and ancient philosophers (or authors of parable, at least) constantly mistook emotions as deriving from external gods, or spirits possibly alien to one's self. It's interesting how empathy linked each others' feelings/emotions to outside, eternal forces. One's self must also then have connection to eternal spirit.

But back to our animal nature, before religion was invented. My question is, sans scientific clarity and evidence, how (if at all) is it unreasonable to assume that human feelings/emotions (e.g. of jealousy) are closely analogous to deeply felt, animal evolved traits? Is this assumption parsimonious enough for Occam's razor?

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Comment by Ed on November 2, 2014 at 8:13am

"But human emotions are animal emotions, engaging us with our most fundamental survival needs."

"...is it unreasonable to assume that human feelings/emotions (e.g. of jealousy) are closely analogous to deeply felt, animal evolved traits?"

I am not sure analogous is the correct term here. All mammals have developed emotional qualities dependent upon their surroundings, in both a social and solitary context. To me the core issue is that we as humans should not allow our emotions to factor into the formula that allows us to determine the plausibility of a supernatural realm. To me emotions are somehow at odds to the process of critical thought. 

 

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