Saint Francis was right

st francis

Interesting article in this morning’s Washingon Post: If It Feels Good to Be Good, It Might Be Only Natural. It’s about some neuroscience studies conduted at the National Institutes of Health and their implications on moral behavior:

The results were showing that when the volunteers placed the interests of others before their own, the generosity activated a primitive part of the brain that usually lights up in response to food or sex. Altruism, the experiment suggested, was not a superior moral faculty that suppresses basic selfish urges but rather was basic to the brain, hard-wired and pleasurable.

Their 2006 finding that unselfishness can feel good lends scientific support to the admonitions of spiritual leaders such as Saint Francis of Assisi, who said, “For it is in giving that we receive.” …

The research enterprise has been viewed with interest by philosophers and theologians, but already some worry that it raises troubling questions. Reducing morality and immorality to brain chemistry — rather than free will — might diminish the importance of personal responsibility. Even more important, some wonder whether the very idea of morality is somehow degraded if it turns out to be just another evolutionary tool that nature uses to help species survive and propagate.

Read the whole thing.

Between work, gardening and holiday festivities, it’s been hard to find time to blog. Will start sorting through pictures tonight and be back in action soon.

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2 thoughts on “Saint Francis was right”

  1. ok i can’t lurk anymore! i love your philosophical entries. out of curiousity, do you agree with the observation in that article? that somehow a morality born of our own brain chemistry isn’t good enough? i’ve never understood that idea, yet i see it articulated in every article that seems to say there’s a chemical component to empathy. thank you for sharing it!

  2. A lady I once knew in Lexington, KY, quite a socialite, said that she had observed people doing marvelous things with selfish motives, esp. hankering for status or just plain wanting to look good (as perhaps Francis wanted?).

    This lady said, “I don’t care how awful people’s motives are, just so long as they do the right thing.” I tend to agree, though it seems from my own experience rather hard to do the right thing when one’s thinking is crappy.

    Whether it’s glandular, electrical, or sociological at the source, I think morality applies to the field of action.

    Thanks for the spark, C.

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