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[The Creation of the Chicken]

An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Biological Determinism ALERT

I'm serious people we really need to beware of this sort of research and much more specifically to what is implied by it. As THIS article notes (in wording that could have used some better editorial work):

Fundraisers have long invoked religion, volunteerism, family and cultural traditions, tax breaks, peer pressure and the desire to make a difference or leave a legacy as being big factors in charitable giving. But NIH researchers used MRIs to monitor brain activity as 19 people made decisions to give -- or not give -- to a variety of causes.

The last sentence is flawed in what I think the author was trying to communicate: altruism exists NOT because of religion or any of those other things, but because of chemicals in the brain. Sigh.

Biological Determinism is growing in popularity, even many Christians buy into it when they deny that gay people could possibly be born with an inclination for same sex attraction, and they must in turn ask how and why people are ever born with severe deformities. And those who uphold the "born gay" science as a reasoning for absolute acceptance must then also answer for why they do not accept those who may have been born with an inclination toward violence or homophobia or even...gasp...social conservatism.

Fact is, biological determinism - even if partially true - is untenable in real life as we understand and live it.

Now this study, as with ALL sociological and behavioral studies, is ripe for my criticism. You must, somehow, rule out the role of environment in such studies. How do we know that actually believing something (e.g. religious instruction) cannot alter how your brain responds to certain types of stimuli? In other words, if we are raised to believe that altruism is a good thing, might this make a HUGE difference in how we FEEL (biologically) about giving? Hmmmm....

So redesign your study if you wish to prove popular notions of biological determinism, find 100 (preferably more) new born infants. Take 50% of them and raise them in a loving and giving environment. Teach them extensively about the goodness of giving, sharing, and general altruism...maybe even teach them about Jesus. Now, with the other 50%, teach them hardcore Darwinism, indoctrinate them with lofty notions of self, and self-pleasure, and intelligently using others to the benefit of yourself. Teach them that the world is a "dog eat dog" world and you MUST look out for number one.

Now, do your experiment. Would we expect to see the same pleasure indicators in the second group if you COULD get them to give up their money? I doubt it. And of course, the moral problems of actually doing such a study is obvious...further reason why human behavioral studies that seek biological explanations are usually little more than rubbish. The innumerable variables of environment are almost always too much to give much legitimacy to the conclusions the media LOVE to drum up.




...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 8:47 AM [+]
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2 comments


2 Comments:

Are you asserting that we have no biological nature? That maybe reality is really a social construct?

I am guessing not. The middle ground is that we have inclinations that are biological in nature that are modified by experience. The question that is easy to answer is whether just because I have an innate inclination toward something should I therefore do it?

In our modern times, the idea has been promulgated that in fact it is bad to have repressed desires. Therefore, if a desire is built in it must be expressed.

However, being one prone to large amounts of anger, I can say for a fact that just because I have an inclination toward rage, it is probably better for everyone that I repress this inclination as much as possible. The modern idea is dead wrong.

-Rick

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:13 AM  

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You and I are in complete agreement Rick.

What I assert is that humans are far too complex to limit to solely biological explanations for our behavior.

I would further assert that one thing that distinguishes us from animals is that we are NOT slaves to our "selfish genes"

We are told "be not conformed...but be TRANSFORMED by the renewing of your mind..."

You are spot on about "repressed desires" and I think it explains MANY MANY of our societal woes. How many families have been broken because someone could not repress their desires for multiple partners or for greater freedom or just for what they deem to be something better. And our "no repressed desires" culture reinforces their perceived needs.

I've not done well in repressing anger lately...[sarcasm]I guess maybe I should stop trying since it is so hard.[/sarcasm]

By Blogger fdj, at 12:31 PM  

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