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First Published May 21, 2008

If there is one thing that can make religion unpopular in today’s pluralistic society, It is the idea of claiming access to exclusive truth.  On my mission I learned firsthand how the act of sending someone to your door is felt deeply offensive for so many people.  It is one reason religion is just something you are not supposed to talk about, in the interest of keeping peace.  Religion is simultaneously deeply personal and deeply divisive. 

     When you feel a strong spiritual bond of community, spirituality and faith, the proselyting of others is seen as an assault on everything you stand for.  At the same time, helping others see what you have and sharing it also becomes important the more invested you become and the more joy you find in your faith.  Calm assurance that you are “right” has been used to justify coercion, violence and even genocide against outsiders through history.  This in spite of the fact that such actions are almost always roundly condemned in the holy writings of all the faiths involved. Read the rest of this entry »

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First Published May 29, 2008.

  It turns out that trust is chemical, at least according to modern neuroscience and research into oxytocin.  Oxytocin is a hormone produced by the neuron part of the pituitary gland that has long been known to strengthen uterine contractions in childbirth and to start milk production in breast feeding.   More recently, scientists have started to understand its role in brain and behavior with key role in trust. Read the rest of this entry »

Every man can, if he so desires, become the sculptor his own brain“.
             Santiago Ramon y Cajal (1852-1934)
                             Spanish Neuroscientist

  Life is distinguished from the inanimate by its ability to recreate itself and hold a pattern.  Throughout our lives, The very material we are made up of is recycled or regenerated.  Every few weeks we completely change out the cells that compose our skin.   The body is constantly in a state of regenerating itself.  Even the bones are borrowing or depositing calcium throughout our lives.  The machinery of our cells are constantly disposing of waste, replacing damaged portions, killing cells that are old or dysfunctional and making new ones.  All this processes are kept in order by our genetic information.  In essence the only thing that holds our form and keeps it from weathering away and degenerating is our DNA.  This is the master set of instructions that our cells use to replace, rebuild, and develop us into the body we now have.  It is the ultimate difference between the collection of elements that is us, and a rock.

     However, there is much more to what we are than just the DNA blueprints.  I remember a moment at the beginning of my very first year of medical school that really brought this home to me.  In anatomy we had to memorize every crater, every bump, every nodule, line and crevice in every bone in the body.  As we learned about these landmarks, we learned that they form not as part of some genetic program, but as a reaction to stress forces from pulling tendons and ligaments, triggering a reaction that caused the cells in that part of the bone to duplicate and reinforce the bone as needed.  In other words, our actions determine the shape of our bones every bit as much as our genes.

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Welcome, welcome one and all to the very best of the stuff I found laying around in cyberspace this week.  It may be a day late, but better late than never, I always say.  So without delay I present the very best I found on the Internet- Read the rest of this entry »

Well, another week gone by and as always, I’ve mined my favorite nuggets from the internet I have surfed across, especially for you, the reader.  So without further delay, I present the very best of the internet- Read the rest of this entry »

When I was in the third grade, I learned about this very cool thing called a bike-a-thon.  I could take my bike and by just riding it help cure cystic fibrosis, a disease that I had no idea what it was, but sure sounded bad.  In my idealistic eight year old mind this just seemed like it just having fun for a good cause, so I signed right up and went for it.

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My second grader sister heard about the same thing and decided she had to do it as well.  That was a pain.  This meant every pledge I went to get had to pledge equally to the both of us by royal decree of my mother.  I was irritated, but we both pluckily canvassed the small town of under 1,000 inhabitants, all of whom knew our family, and gathered pledges.  I knew no fear in those days, heck, I didn’t even realize knocking on doors asking for money is annoying in my innocence. 

    Pledges were made per mile and so the first question we were asked was how many miles we were going to bike.  I pulled the number twenty off the top of my head as it seemed a nice even number.  I still remember some of the amused, patronizing smiles as these wordly wise adults then penciled in their donation.  Our pledges piled up and we ran out of room to contain them, requiring extra pledge sheets.  What’s the harm in donating to a couple of naive kids playing grown up biking on their Schwinn’s after all.   Read the rest of this entry »

  It turns out that trust is chemical, at least according to modern neuroscience and research into oxytocin.  Oxytocin is a hormone produced by the neuron part of the pituitary gland that has long been known to strengthen uterine contractions in childbirth and to start milk production in breast feeding.   More recently, scientists have started to understand its role in brain and behavior with key role in trust. Read the rest of this entry »

 

If there is one thing that can make religion unpopular in today’s pluralistic society, It is the idea of claiming access to exclusive truth.  On my mission I learned firsthand how the act of sending someone to your door is felt deeply offensive for so many people.  It is one reason religion is just something you are not supposed to talk about, in the interest of keeping peace.  Religion is simultaneously deeply personal and deeply divisive. 

     When you feel a strong spiritual bond of community, spirituality and faith, the proselyting of others is seen as an assault on everything you stand for.  At the same time, helping others see what you have and sharing it also becomes important the more invested you become and the more joy you find in your faith.  Calm assurance that you are “right” has been used to justify coercion, violence and even genocide against outsiders through history.  This in spite of the fact that such actions are almost always roundly condemned in the holy writings of all the faiths involved. Read the rest of this entry »

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