What happens in our bodies and in our brains when we join together in a communal liturgy, where people sing or dance or celebrate together?
Sara Gottlieb is a graduate student in psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. She holds a BA in psychology and philosophy from Macalester College, and previously served as the lab manager for the Moral Cognition Lab at Harvard University. Sara’s core research interests fall at the intersection of psychology and philosophy, and include moral judgment, the competing explanatory power of science and religion, and moral disgust. One current project aims to understand how secular experiences – and especially encounters with science – can provoke a deep and meaningful sense of awe. She is also currently researching how explaining things in reductionist terms, such as using neuroscience to describe the mind, influences our bioethical judgments about things like abortion, physician-assisted suicide, and cloning.
We talked to Sinai and Synapses fellowship alum Sara Gottlieb about her research on awe, which has been published in the journal Cognitive Science.
We choose not to eat meat, but would our wedding guests feel uncomfortable with us pushing this choice on them?
Does religion offer something special that science doesn’t?
Why are morality, religious experience, and love topics that are often perceived as being beyond the scope of science?
What do seeing oneself as a part of nature and seeing oneself as part of a massive demonstration have in common?
Can religion — as a source of creative meaning — “inoculate” us against the fears that naturally arise?
Awe often leads both theists and non-theists to seek order and structure.
If we can approach our level of knowledge with humility and openness, we can discover more about ourselves and our world.