Scientists and atheists are among groups of people who value rational thinking, the former because being rational and logical in one’s thinking is essential if one is to be able to navigate one’s way through the complexities of trying to understand the workings of nature, the latter because taking a rational approach to life would make the absurdities of religious beliefs and the behaviors they generate more manifest. But of course, none of us can be purely rational beings in every aspect of our lives. The emotional centers of our brains respond to stimuli in ways that can overpower the centers that govern rational and logical thinking, as all of us can testify from personal experience when we have done soothing impulsive and stupid.
But even if it were possible to be a purely rational being, would that even be a good thing? Probably not. Apart from the fact that life might be a little dry, we would be paralyzed with indecision about almost everything. Most of the decisions, big and small, that we make in our lives involve many variables and there is no obvious guidance as to the relative weights we should assign to them in order to arrive at a decision. Hence even in deciding something simple like what to eat for breakfast, it would be possible to go back and forth between many options weighing the merits and disadvantages of each. Should we go with the best price? The most tasty? The most healthy? The most attractive looking? The most convenient? It is often irrational emotions that enables us to avoid endless vacillations and decides things for us.
NPR had a story following the death of Leonard Nimoy who played the famously logical Mr. Spock on Star Trek.
There’s a scene toward the end of the 2009 “Star Trek” film in which Zachary Quinto, who now plays Spock, encounters his older self, Spock embodied by Leonard Nimoy. The metaphysics get a little confused, but wise, old Spock, who’s been around the heavens, advises his younger self to continue his mission among the stars.
NIMOY: (As Spock Prime) Spock, in this case, do yourself a favor – put aside logic. Do what feels right.
Sound advice from someone who lived long and prospered.