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 readhttp://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Moral-Molecule-science-makes/dp/0593067495/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1348741125&sr=8-1