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Brain Science Is Our Modern Bible

At least in the sense that it is overturning old doctrines, like folk psychology, and attracting legions of people seeking answers to contemporary philosophical and spiritual questions.

What’s the Latest Development?

The force with which brain science has come to frame the debate around many age-old questionsqueries about ethics, free will, the mind-body problem, partly the result of how two of its most passionate advocates explain their point of view. Paul and Patricia Churchland, who are husband and wife as well as professors at UC Berkeley, often speak “on the importance to ethics of the neurochemicals associated with mammalian emotions, such as oxytocin, dopamine, vasopressin, serotonin and adrenalin.”

What’s the Big Idea?

The idea that brain chemistry determines many of the thoughts and actions we typically consider to be made freely, after a mixture of reason and emotion points us in a particular directions, has wide ranging consequences for society. Our justice system, for example, is premised on the idea that individuals are free to choose between right and wrong behavior. And we hardly think of love as the emergent property of the brain chemical oxytocin. Still, when it comes to human motivation, Churchland says: “There is only the brain.”

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