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Hardwired Human Nature

Date: 07-05-08
Host: Ian Punnett
Guests: Michael Gazzaniga, Kenneth C. Davis

Researcher Dr. Michael Gazzaniga discussed how the structure of the brain defines humanity. In describing the direction that brain research is heading, he said, "we're going to have to abandon our little 'cause and effect' model and get into what's called 'complex systems thinking' if we're going to really understand how the brain does its work."

He detailed how studies show that certain values are hardwired into peoples' brains, as opposed to being the result of outside forces. Aversion to murder, cheating, and incest are some of the moral judgements that cut across all cultures, according to Gazzaniga. While the question of "nature versus nurture" has been debated for decades, he said that advanced research techniques allow us to "actually see the brain mechanisms involved and you can understand the underlying physiological nature" of the mind.

Gazzaniga also noted that humans are unique in that, by nature, they are socially aware creatures. As such, he said, "a whole new neurophysiology" has been designed to study this aspect of behavior. Illuminating the difference between man and animal, he observed, "you have a theory about your dog, but your dog doesn't have a theory about you. That is the fundamental beauty of the human brain, in that we look beyond the surface."

Hidden History

Appearing during the latter half of the first hour, Kenneth C. Davis talked about his book America's Hidden History. Davis noted that the focus of the book is on "the human side of the story that the textbooks all too often leave out." He detailed the life of forgotten Revolutionary War hero Joseph Warren, discussed the complicity of Benedict Arnold’s wife in his traitorous actions, and told the story of the first statue ever erected for a woman in America: Hannah Dustin.

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