SOURCE: Vision Media

November 25, 2008 03:05 ET

Science and Environment: Neuroscience Book Offers Scientific Window Into Human Identity -- Vision.org

Looking for Something Beyond Nature Is One of Many Unique Human Qualities

PASADENA, CA--(Marketwire - November 25, 2008) - Frank Capra's classic holiday film, "It's a Wonderful Life," hinges on the value of the individual. Often rebroadcast at this time of year, it is a poignant reminder of how easily we lose track of our place in the world and our importance in the lives of so many others. Without this sense of connection we experience a kind of personal identity crisis. This crisis also exists on a wider scale. For humankind as a whole, we have also not yet come to grips with what and who we are in the greater scheme of life on earth. In a recent science and environment article titled "Identity Crisis" Vision.org explores this most human dilemma.

"Like George Bailey embedded in a kind of twilight zone where he knows everyone but no one knows him," Vision.org science editor Dan Cloer writes, "we live in a world apparently void of an understanding of what makes humans unique."

A compilation of insights into this problem of human identity come from neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga. Professor of psychology at UC Santa Barbara and director of the SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind, Gazzaniga's new book, "Human: The Science Behind What Makes Us Unique," is reviewed in the Vision article.

"No other species," Gazzaniga writes, "aspires to be more than it is. Perhaps we can be."

This dovetails with thoughts in his previous book, "The Ethical Brain" where he noted, "Our species wants to believe in something, some natural order and it is the job of modern science to help figure out how that order should be characterized." A review of "The Ethical Brain" is available in the Fall issue of Vision.org.

The reductionist answer that mind springs from brain alone apparently trumps all others in its rationality and material essence. Success in the material sciences has washed over into the biological. Thus, for all practical purposes, the evolutionary view is the only view. To believe, or even consider a nonmaterial conclusion -- that human beings could actually be a special creation, formed in the image of God and endowed with capabilities that are not wholly organic -- is considered irrational and remains easily belittled.

Still, as our material knowledge grows, we seem to be less satisfied on a gut level with science and environment, chemicals, DNA, cells, and brain tissue alone as the ultimate reason for our consciousness. Do these questions arise from mere tissue? Somehow looking for the answer to consciousness in matter alone does not ring true. Looking for something beyond nature is also one of our unique qualities.

What makes us "want to believe in something?" Finding an answer to that question will, like Clarence leading George Bailey to his own personal epiphany, direct humankind to a solution to its identity crisis.

About Vision:

Vision.org is an online magazine with quarterly print issues that feature in-depth coverage of current social issues, religion and the Bible, history, family relationship topics and insights into philosophical, moral and ethical issues in society today. For a free subscription to the Vision quarterly magazine, visit their web site at http://www.vision.org/visionmedia/default.aspx

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