Saturday, March 3, 2012

From the LA Times today. :

'We have a biology for reciprocation. I call oxytocin "the moral molecule." It's a chemical that motivates us to engage and care about others — and that's the basis for moral behavior. '
Yes, but there is much more to the story!   The chemical has a dark side:
'Oxytocin, a hormone produced in the brain during bonding activities such as breastfeeding, childbirth, and sex, helps humans to relax, trust one another, and feel comfortable with others. Its pleasant effects are so well-known that it's often referred to as the "love hormone." But researchers at the University of Amsterdam have recently uncovered a dark secret: oxytocin appears to prime humans to prioritize in-group members over out-group persons, prompting questions of whether oxytocin is the key ingredient of ethnocentrism and prejudice.'

Scientists should know better than to oversimplify.  Flattered by the attention, honest scientists simplify and "clarify" complex data.  The popular press seizes on such carelessness, and later, when the full facts come out, the public assumes that science is untrustworthy and is constantly changing it's view of reality.  Not true, but it looks so to careless and poorly informed minds.  Minds that vote.

Bobby, back in the days of the Philosophy Club, I once made point about humans as biochemical robots.  I pointed out that naked mole rats made lousy fathers and unfaithful mates, until dosed with oxytocin.  Then they became nurturing fathers and stayed loyal to one mate.  I have since discovered that the actual research was done on prairie voles.  In my defense, a story about prairie voles' sexual conduct has less amusement value than one about naked mole know, like Rush Limbaigh, the nakedest mole rat ever to insult American women.

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