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Human brains, we are told, are “hardwired for empathy, friendship”

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© Robert Kneschke / Fotolia

Shouldn’t we just lose the phrase “hardwired”?:

“Our self comes to include the people we feel close to,” Coan said.

In other words, our self-identity is largely based on whom we know and empathize with. Coan and his U.Va. colleagues conducted the study with 22 young adult participants who underwent fMRI scans of their brains during experiments to monitor brain activity while under threat of receiving mild electrical shocks to themselves or to a friend or stranger. The researchers found, as they expected, that regions of the brain responsible for threat response — the anterior insula, putamen and supramarginal gyrus — became active under threat of shock to the self. In the case of threat of shock to a stranger, the brain in those regions displayed little activity. However when the threat of shock was to a friend, the brain activity of the participant became essentially identical to the activity displayed under threat to the self.

No real surprise there. Should there be a separate system for each degree of kinship, friendship, or acquaintanceship? All these relationships are learned—or not, as the case may be.

This likely is the source of empathy, and part of the evolutionary process, Coan reasons.

Actually, “the evolutionary process” would more likely reward the person who successfully escapes and leaves others to ope with a mess. It is a matter of mind, reason, and morality that humans choose not to behave this way (when they do), not an “evolutionary process” that somehow rewards those who don’t.

The notion behind “hardwired” contributes nothing to the discussion but misdirection. On the other hand, perhaps we should be grateful that this group is not trying to claim that chimpanzees have chimp charities. They seem to have “got” the fact that people have chimp charities, and chimps don’t. And that matters.

5 Replies to “Human brains, we are told, are “hardwired for empathy, friendship”

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    medicalxpress announced this finding last month:

    Human brains are hardwired for empathy, friendship, study shows, – August 22, 2013
    Excerpt: “Perhaps one of the most defining features of humanity is our capacity for empathy – the ability to put ourselves in others’ shoes. A new University of Virginia study strongly suggests that we are hardwired to empathize because we closely associate people who are close to us – friends, spouses, lovers – with our very selves. “With familiarity, other people become part of ourselves,” said James Coan, a U.Va. psychology professor in the College of Arts & Sciences who used functional magnetic resonance imaging brain scans to find that people closely correlate people to whom they are attached to themselves. …“Our self comes to include the people we feel close to,” Coan said. …”The finding shows the brain’s remarkable capacity to model self to others; that people close to us become a part of ourselves, and that is not just metaphor or poetry, it’s very real.”
    http://medicalxpress.com/news/.....dship.html

    Not only is this very contrary to Darwinian ‘survival of the fittest’ expectations, but this ‘oneness’ of identity to those we cherish is, actually, something that is predicted by Theistic presuppositions:

    Verses and Music:

    John 10:30
    I and the Father are one.”

    Galatians 3:28
    There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

    Related notes:

    ABC News – The Science Behind the Healing Power of Love – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6t1p-PwGgE4

    Social isolation and its health implications January 2012
    Excerpt: Studies show that social isolation and/or loneliness predict morbidity and mortality from cancer, cardiovascular disease, and a host of other diseases. In fact, the body perceives loneliness as a threat. Research from the University of California suggests that loneliness or lack of social support could triple the odds of being diagnosed with a heart condition. Redford Williams and his colleagues at Duke University directed a study in 1992 on heart patients and their relationships. They discovered that 50% of patients with heart disease who did not have a spouse or someone to confide in died within five years, while only 17% of those who did have a confidante died in the same time period.12
    http://www.how-to-be-healthy.o.....lications/

    Study finds it actually is better (and healthier) to give than to receive – February 4, 2013
    Excerpt: A five-year study by researchers at three universities has established that providing tangible assistance to others protects our health and lengthens our lives.
    http://medicalxpress.com/news/.....thier.html

    Verse and music:

    1 Corinthians 13:1-8
    If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.,,,

    For King & Country “The Proof Of Your Love” – Live Music
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pr9YVD05x8M

  2. 2
    Box says:

    Is neuroscience ‘true science’ when the reports of a test subject are credited?

    If our neuroscientist (…) [holds] that only natural science is knowledge, then how could he credit the reports of his test subject given that these reports are made from the first-person point of view and are not about matters that are third-person verifiable?

    If you poke around in my visual cortex and I report seeing red, and you credit my report as veridical, then you admit that there is a source of knowledge that is not natural-scientific, and thus you contradict your scientism.- Bill Vallicella

  3. 3
  4. 4
    Kantian Naturalist says:

    Is neuroscience ‘true science’ when the reports of a test subject are credited?

    Definitely!

  5. 5
    Mung says:

    No wonder they are desired by zombies!

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