Self-conscious reflection is the highest level of operation of a human brain. Although human beings have evolved from primates, these organisms lack the ability to reflect. This is evident in the behavior of primate species, such as chimpanzees. Chimps like to play games with their friends but cannot strategize and think about how to improve their skills while playing a game. They lack the ability to organize multiple thoughts and ideas in their brains because their brains are not as complex and well-developed as human brains. However, the brains of primates are well-developed compared to brains of lower order mammalian species such as dogs and mice.
So how has such a marvelous characteristic evolved in human brains? Self-conscious reflection is built on several levels of processes that Marvin Minsky calls the Six-Level Model of the Mind:
1) instinctive reactions
2) learned reactions
3) deliberate reactions
4) reflective thinking
5) self-reflective thinking
6) self-conscious reflection
Instinctive reactions are already operating in a human at birth since these reactions have evolved from the time of the earliest humans. The next two processes are developed at an early age as a young human being explores and studies their surroundings and interacts with their imprimers (family and friends). Throughout adolescence the remaining processes are developed and strengthened as a result of new experiences that challenge an individual to think about their choices and reflect on their actions.
Education tremendously facilitates a human's ability to problem solve and make informed choices and goals. It helps an individual gain knowledge of life and the universe and, in turn, expand their minds to different possibilities in nature. Educated individuals have the freedom to reach the highest level of the mind which is self-conscious reflection. For those who are oppressed by their communities, families, and poverty there is much difficulty in reaching this level because they lack the basic knowledge of life and nature to facilitate their human abilities-- they are limited in their abilities to learn and grow as a human being. This is the case for Muslims around the world, particularly women. It is also the case for many people who are forced to believe in religion at an early age without the proper knowledge of other religions and belief systems.
In many parts of the world, there is no open discussion about religious beliefs of other peoples around the world and, as such, a person's scope of nature and world views is limited to the belief system their family and community hold so strongly. When a child grows up in this environment and is forced to adhere to one religious belief system they are robbed of their freedom to learn about all religions and make informed choices. They become limited to learning only about their parent's religion. This hinders a child's ability to reach the higher level processes in the brain because they are taught about a world-view that is skewed and inaccurate. Since there is little discussion about religion in the modern education system today a child remains closed-minded about the differences and similarites between all people and their world-view is reduced to their own communities and families. Their level of understanding of life and nature remains immature and simple. As they grow up their transition to adulthood is more difficult because their view of the world does not change so much as a result of the influence on them to adhere to their religious belief.
Any idea they encounter throughout their life which encourages them to question their belief system is ignored and dismissed because of what they have been taught to believe by their family and community. To these people the complexities of science are misunderstood, like the structure and function of the cell, so they remain immature in their thoughts and practices. They build their knowledge around their religious belief, whether moderate or strong, and leave out important facts, such as quantum physics, neuronal transmission in the brain, and evolution, which they find unnecessary or insufficient to learn. Their religious belief helps them to fill in the gaps so there is no need to further their understanding of the facts. But, what their religious belief actually does is hinder the development of their mind. Having a religious belief is closing one's mind to the world and all the possibilities in the universe, it negatively effects the way people live and think.
Self-conscious reflection, the highest level of the mind, can be reached by an educated human being that considers all the possibilities of a given idea and that can let go of their pre-conceived beliefs about an idea. The reason for this is that in order to comprehend a particular fact or concept one cannot believe in something that is unproven or make-believe because it may conflict with a given fact and cause the person to be confused and misunderstand the fact itself and all other facts and concepts related to that fact. When ideas and concepts are understood properly a person can self-consciously reflect on their thoughts and come to accurate conclusions and decisions. Moreover, this reflective process can stimulate new thoughts and questions that are completely in line with existing facts and concepts.
Self-conscious reflection is important because it gives human beings the power and encourages them to understand their own nature and the nature of the universe. It helps people to understand their niche on earth-- that we have evolved over millions of years for the purpose of surviving for as long as possible on planet Earth. And in doing so, we have been able to sense the beauty of nature and depend on the fruits of it. Isn't life grand?! It should be, since all life has worked hard to survive for millions of years and make the Earth their home.
Charles Darwin was a very intelligent man that had reached the highest level of the mind, and this is a remarkable feat in his time. He was able to properly collect, analyze, and organize his thoughts to correctly explain the concept of evolution. He devised a concept from previously built concepts. What a remarkable human being indeed! If it weren't for him, our children today would not have the benefit of understanding the history and biology of life on Earth.
Why should we hinder our children's brain development by teaching them about our religious beliefs thus limiting their horizons. What ever happened to the idea that "our children are our future". Education in today's modern societies cater to the proper care and development of our children, which is funded by the citizens. Why should we interrupt this education by teaching our children about magical beliefs that conflict with what they are learning in school. There is no benefit in this but rather the cost of burdening our children with the difficulty of grasping scientific, mathematical, historical, and social concepts. What a burden! It will be our children that will build institutions and projects, based on the foundations earlier generations have built and preserved for them, to carry us all safely into the future (Dennett, Breaking the Spell 2006). Our children need to be encouraged and given time to grow and learn. Open discussions about religion at home and in the education system are important for there to be an open society and for expanding our knowledge of nature and the universe. With this knowledge people can focus on making the world a better place to live and recognize that their lives do have meaning.
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