Are We More Than Our Genes? That’s the spring focus of the Sinai and Synapses Discussion Forum. Each week, we’ll gather some of the most interesting articles on the topic from across the online world. We hope they make you think — and share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.
Why do we believe what we believe? Are the brains of atheists and religious people different? What happens to a person’s brain when they are praying or meditating or communing with God? Andrew Newberg has been studying these questions for years. He calls it Neurotheology, a discipline that “seeks to understand the relationship specifically between the brain and theology.” He joins Steve Paikin to discuss the neuroscience of religion. (TVO)
The volunteers who performed the nasty deeds had greater heart rate and blood pressure changes than the volunteers who only watched, and much greater than those who performed non-murderous actions. The researchers concluded that even when people anticipate no one getting hurt, they can get physiologically jazzed from performing murderous acts—or even from seeing them. (Marc Abrahams, The Guardian)
In the three decades since DNA emerged as a forensic tool, courts have rarely been skeptical about its power. Other forensic sciences had taken a stab at this task. Lie detector tests, ballistics, fingerprinting, arson analysis, hair examinations—but DNA was different. It came up through science, which began, in the 1950s, to unravel the ways the double helix drafts our existence. The mere introduction of DNA in a courtroom seemed to stymie any defense. But much DNA analysis involves interpretation. With interpretation comes subjectivity, and with subjectivity can come error. (Katie Worth, The Marshall Project)
Corey Cook: In short, my answer is “no.” This is simply because all that makes us “human” is in light of our mortality. As social animals, the psychological traits, cognitive capacities, and social structures we have developed are all directly related to the challenges of survival within interdependent groups. If we were unconcerned with survival, we would not be subject to the biological laws of evolution and would not resemble any living being that we currently have any knowledge of. In other words, we couldn’t possibly be human. (SABQ)