Author Topic: 'The Moral Molecule' by Dr Paul Zak  (Read 1054 times)

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Offline EV

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'The Moral Molecule' by Dr Paul Zak
« on: September 27, 2012, 05:19:01 AM »
I first encountered Paul Zak and this book because I was studying the origins of morality for Philosophy last year. I remember looking briefly into his theories, which were that the hormone Oxytocin is responsible for all base human morality, and cited it in my research.

However, this year I finally got around to reading the book. It was oddly interesting and majorly thorough in its writing, detailing how the study of the Oxytocin molecule had been undertook, then leading through into how he expanded his theory, all interspersed with witty anecdotes from Dr Zak and some fantastically illustrated biological examples.

The core experiment is that of the Trust Game, where person A is given $10, and told that if they transfer some of that money over to person B, then the transferred money gets tripled. Person B then has the opportunity to transfer money back to Person A.

Dr Zak looks at people from different social groups, with different social disorders and backgrounds taking this test and measures their Oxytocin levels before and after the game.

The research focused on taking blood from people before and after sparking that trust of transfer, and Oxytocin was found to have surged by up to 150% in those who trusted the most, transferring all their money across.

His theories detailed how the molecule was used to foster group bonding in early humans and mammals, and delves from subjects like how people who are horrifically abused have a physiological shutdown of the Oxytocin receptors, thus sparking little trust and empathy; to studying the benefits of religion on Human social constructs, to utilitarianism, to Wall Street to Music. It was totally fascinating.

By stark contrast, the administration of Oxytocin to severe social autistics (who have impaired oxytocin release) actually raised their social awareness to a near non-autistic level.

The implications of discovering this can form a fairly solid scientific proof of the non-existence of morals from God, as by temporarily blocking Oxytocin, the Human moral system totally flicks off, people become non-trusitng, selfish and unemotional.

All in all it was a genuinely riveting read, praise I do not often give, and I would highly recommend this book to all as an interesting and thought provoking read

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Moral-Molecule-science-makes/dp/0593067495/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1348741125&sr=8-1
« Last Edit: September 27, 2012, 05:22:13 AM by EV »
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Offline EV

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Re: 'The Moral Molecule' by Dr Paul Zak
« Reply #1 on: September 27, 2012, 05:46:30 PM »
Some excerpts from his writing online can be found here for anyone interested: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-moral-molecule
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"Although it is not true that all conservatives are stupid people, it is true that most stupid people are conservative."
- Philosopher John Stuart Mill, from a Parliamentary debate (May 31, 1866);

Offline screwtape

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Re: 'The Moral Molecule' by Dr Paul Zak
« Reply #2 on: September 27, 2012, 09:31:48 PM »
causing trouble.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-moral-molecule/201204/the-science-jesus/comments#comment-255105

I didn't even get into the problems regarding mother theresa.


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Re: 'The Moral Molecule' by Dr Paul Zak
« Reply #3 on: September 27, 2012, 09:34:21 PM »
bm
"...but on a lighter note, demons were driven from a pig today in Gloucester."  Bill Bailey

all edits are for spelling or grammar unless specified otherwise

Offline EV

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Re: 'The Moral Molecule' by Dr Paul Zak
« Reply #4 on: September 28, 2012, 05:30:22 AM »
causing trouble.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-moral-molecule/201204/the-science-jesus/comments#comment-255105

I didn't even get into the problems regarding mother theresa.

Ha, well fair enough. His book is much more level and intellectually sound. He does say that Dawkins is wrong when he talks about religion having less benefits than problems, as it does promote an oxytocin increase. Obviously for the people involved this is the case, and it is a very good theory to show why people keep doing it.

However it is not quite taking into account how the problems of 'one group versus another' come into play, that is to say the rise in testosterone when defending your beliefs against another causing irrational judgement and violence.

Meh. Every theory has flaws, this one has a slightly brainwashed author, but the evidence is empirical and you can use it how you want. He's just trying to twist it to his own view to promote a self-satisfied release of Oxytocin...  ;D
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"Although it is not true that all conservatives are stupid people, it is true that most stupid people are conservative."
- Philosopher John Stuart Mill, from a Parliamentary debate (May 31, 1866);

Offline Quesi

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Re: 'The Moral Molecule' by Dr Paul Zak
« Reply #5 on: September 28, 2012, 07:28:45 AM »
EV- I was probably a year or two older than you when I first read Mutual Aid by Peter Kropotkin.  This book, which was written more than 100 years ago, explores cooperation, rather than competition, as a factor impacting on the survival of species.

There are probably few books that have had a greater impact on my life. 

Kropotkin observed the natural world, and meticulously recorded his observations.  But perhaps more importantly, he re-interpreted animal behaviors that had previously been misunderstood.

I remember being struck by the example of "Why do birds fly south for the winter?"  Well, we all know that they go where the weather is warmer.  But Kropotkin points out that rather than staying and fighting over limited resources, birds group together and travel to a place with more abundant resources.  So in this case, it is not the "fittest" who survive, but the community working to ensure the survival of the community. 

I mention this book because it also addresses the idea of "moral" behavior, not as a chemical reaction, but as a contributing factor to natural selection and survival of a species.

You might enjoy it. 




Offline EV

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Re: 'The Moral Molecule' by Dr Paul Zak
« Reply #6 on: September 28, 2012, 01:24:28 PM »
I mention this book because it also addresses the idea of "moral" behavior, not as a chemical reaction, but as a contributing factor to natural selection and survival of a species.

You might enjoy it. 

Dr Zak covers this in fairly high detail, he studied the behavior of two certain types of shrew, one that was social and one that was anti-social. The anti-social shrew had not evolved as many oxytocin receptors. It is meant to be a startlingly large part of natural selection, co-operation rather than competition, but competition of different groups with testosterone used as the other side of the scale (to enhance aggression and dominance over rivals)

I will look it up though! Definitely. Is there a version of it on project Gutenburg?
Quote
"Although it is not true that all conservatives are stupid people, it is true that most stupid people are conservative."
- Philosopher John Stuart Mill, from a Parliamentary debate (May 31, 1866);