Brains in a Jar
Godol Hador is blogging away furiously. I think he's having a crisis of something. A recent polemic against the skeptics broached the subject of all of us being "brains in a jar". I think the implication was that clearly we're not. But how clear is that?
I don't really mean that literally. What I am talking about is that in many ways our feelings, emotions, and perception of reality are very heavily influenced by simple electro- and bio-chemistry. Not enough seratonin and you're depressed. A lesion in your brain and you can hear music that isn't there. Exposure to certain chemicals that cross the blood/brain barrier can make you psychotic, or unable to control your sexual urges. Electrical stimulation can make you remember or forget, say things that you don't want to say or not be able to speak at all.
Which leads to a more complicated question. If there is a G-d out there who cares about our actions and determines our reward or punishment based on these actions, how can we account for the fact that many of our actions are really not byproducts of free will, but rather of simple statistical distributions of defects in our bodies.
So a mother who drowns her kids did so because she heard voices in her head telling her to do this. This hallucination was caused by the abnormal presence of a chemical in her brain. How can she be responsible for her actions. How can she be punished by the Divine?