Science, Art, Litt, Science based Art & Science Communication
Several people think science can't deal with emotions and morals. They even taunt scientists that these things are beyond science. Is this correct thinking? If I say this is wrong 'belief' based on ancient analysis promoted by anti-science people? If I say something I should also provide evidence for my statement.
So let me explain ....
If I say science has a moral dimension too?
To be frank science is a neutral study of the universe without any biases and prejudices. It exactly shows what reality of our universe is. And if that helps in human culture moral judgements?
Like DNA fingerprinting helps in finding the culprits in forensic science who cheat others?
When it comes to questions of morality and meaning, the way we go about deciding what is right and wrong, and meaningful or not, is not the same as the way we discover what is true and false or facts. Some emotions like kindness and empathy will be involved. Controlling them is highly important to arrive at a good decision. Just because a criminal cries and acts funnily, you cannot support him. Oh yes, his brain could be differently wired! You try to analyze what could make any person behave so differently from others. On the other hand you can empathize with a poor thief when he steals food. But if you are a logical thinker you will try to understand what circumstances made him stole the food and try to correct them. Critical and scientific thinking helps here.
Anyone who knows how a nervous system works during pain processing can do no physical harm to any living being. And anyone who knows how the brain really works at the emotional level will never try to harass another living being. Any person who has seen how the scientific rules are followed universally in a given set of conditions, and understood its beauty can never think in local terms and can never come under the influence of artificially created races, castes, groups, communities or citizenships. He sees all the living beings as his own images - following universal rules of life and as citizens of this universe.
So far science has described how various social animals work in their groups, using various mechanisms to interact collectively. Bees use pheromones. Humans use emotions. And morality is just a word for emotional responses for how people do or do not behave according to 'rules' of the group they identify with. And science described it in spite of centuries of claims of mystical magical forces that made people behave as they do.
Unlike what several people think, science deals with moral ( derived from reasoning related to...empirical evidence) issues too and can be a good guide to life's journey through the checkerboard of blacks and whites!
Emotion, in its most general definition, is a neural impulse that moves an organism to action, prompting automatic reactive behaviour that has been adapted through evolution as a survival mechanism to meet a survival need.
Experts define emotion as a feeling that is expressed through physiological functions such as facial expressions, faster heartbeat, and behaviours such as aggression, crying, or covering the face with hands.
Human emotions are governed by a complex mixture of chemicals and electricity.
Emotions, like fear and love, are carried out by the limbic system, which is located in the temporal lobe. While the limbic system is made up of multiple parts of the brain, the center of emotional processing is the amygdala, which receives input from other brain functions, like memory and attention.
Based on discoveries made through neural mapping of the limbic system, the neurobiological explanation of human emotion is that emotion is a pleasant or unpleasant mental state organized in the limbic system of the mammalian brain.
Defined as such, these emotional states are specific manifestations of non-verbally expressed feelings of agreement, amusement, anger, certainty, control, disagreement, disgust, disliking, embarrassment, fear, guilt, happiness, hate, interest, liking, love, sadness, shame, surprise, and uncertainty.
If distinguished from reactive responses of reptiles, emotions would then be mammalian elaborations of general vertebrate arousal patterns, in which neurochemicals (e.g., dopamine, noradrenaline, and serotonin) step-up or step-down the brain's activity level, as visible in body movements, gestures, and postures.
In mammals, primates, and human beings, feelings are displayed as emotion cues.
For example, the human emotion of love is proposed to have evolved from paleocircuits of the mammalian brain (specifically, modules of the cingulated gyrus) designed for the care, feeding, and grooming of offspring.
Pleasure is evolutionarily ancient and is based on a chemical reward system that acts as a biological incentive to repeat beneficial behaviour. There are several ‘reward pathways’ in the brain, but the best studied is the mesolimbic pathway. The pathway transmits dopamine signals from nerves in the middle of the brain, upward and forward, to the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex, both of which are involved in emotional processing. Under normal conditions, this pathway serves as a motivator for positive actions, producing pleasurable feelings that reinforce evolutionarily beneficial behaviour like eating high-calorie food, social interaction and reproduction. Activation of the pathway also aids in memory storage, increasing the likelihood that the action will be repeated in the future.
Let us analyse various emotions scientifically now ...
Love: When you're falling in love with a person, there's a combination of hormones (dopamine, norepinephrine, phenyethylamine) that rushes through your brain. fMRI shows that in this state , blood flow increases in the regions where high amounts of dopamine receptors are present. Dopamine is responsible for the feeling of 'bliss' or 'euphoria'. Norepinephrine increases your heart beat and causes excitement. This cocktail elates you, causes sleeplessness and makes you focus on nothing much but your relationship. Serotonin levels get lower and you obsess about your lover. That helps you to get your pair bonding stronger. As love grows older and you have more and more physical intimacy, oxytocin is released. Oxytocin together with vasopressin helps in growing attachment, but they interfere with the previous dopamine-norepinephrine pathways and causes the initial euphoria of romantic love to fade away. The oxytocin is associated with mother-infant bonding and the let down reflex for breast feeding.
Male Bengalese finches naturally alter their song performance depending on their audience. Each male has his own song that he rehearses alone. However, when aroused and courting a female, the male produces a song that is more stereotypical (less variable), longer, and faster. Several specialized neural circuits – some in the cortex, and some in the basal ganglia – are required to learn and produce songs. Researchers can monitor and manipulate these circuits with precision to understand their function (2). Focusing on a premotor cortical region called HVC, where they locally infused a drug that mimics the effects of acetylcholine. As a result, males started to sing as if a female were present: songs were faster, louder, and less variable during drug infusion than in control conditions. Neurons in HVC also started to show the same type of pattern observed during courtship singing towards females – there was, in particular, neural activity increased. Decreasing acetylcholine activity in HVC therefore weakened the vigour of courtship singing, revealing that acetylcholine can drive changes in the brain that energize male performances towards females. Together, these experiments suggest that acetylcholine plays a role in shaping singing behaviour in a social context of birds, especially while coaxing females.
Interestingly, bird and human brains have some similar architecture, and the same range of important neurotransmitters and hormones. Some of these may allow long-term attachments.
Powerful hormones that regulate stress and induce positive emotions are well developed in both humans and birds. These include oxytocin (which plays a part in social recognition and sexual behaviour) and serotonin (which helps regulate and modulate mood, sleep, anxiety, sexuality, and appetite). The dopamine system also strongly influences the way pair bonds are formed and maintained in primates – including humans – and in birds. Birds even produce the hormone prolactin, once associated only with mammals. This plays a role in keeping parents sitting on their clutch of eggs, including male birds that share in the brooding.
So social behaviour, mating, staying loyal to ones mate are all controlled by hormones, the biochemistry dictates the emotions and morals.
Happiness: When you are in love you also experience happiness. In general, happiness is understood as the positive emotions we have in regards to the pleasurable activities we take part in through our daily lives. Our evolutionary biology ensures that everything necessary for our survival makes us feel good. All animals seek pleasure and avoid pain. Therefore, our brain has a wellspring of self-produced neurochemicals that turn the pursuits and struggles of life into pleasure and make us feel happy when we achieve them.
There are four major chemicals in the brain that influence our happiness (DOSE): Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin and Endorphins.
Notorious narcotic drugs of abuse, such as morphine, heroin and oxycontin/oxycodone act on the opioid-receptor system, producing the pleasurable effects that make these drugs so addictive.
However, there is an odd opioid receptor out, so to speak, that is not involved in signaling pleasure.
The kappa opioid-receptor system is the antithesis to other opioid receptors. It's often referred to as an anti-reward system.
Instead of feelings of pleasure, the kappa opioid receptor produces stress and discontent.
When people drink and experience positive effects, that is partially due to pleasurable opioidreceptors being activated. However, after they have finished drinking and nausea, headache, and the stress of withdrawal start to set in, the kappa opioid receptor system has been activated.
Turning off the kappa opioid receptors in the brain decreases binge drinking. This finding suggests that the kappa opioid receptor system is important not only in the negative state of withdrawal but also in driving binge drinking itself. Kappa opioid receptors play an important role in the negative emotional state that drives drinking when it becomes compulsive in alcohol use disorders.
So if you understand how these emotions arise and what controls them, you can control emotions and behaviour of individuals too.
Fear: Fear is the expectation or the anticipation of possible harm ... We know that the body is highly sensitive to the possibility of threat, so there are multiple pathways that bring that fear information into the brain.
For instance you hear a sound in the dark ... and you don't know what it is
The nerves in your ears that transduce that sound are the first part of the nervous system. That signal is relayed to the thalamus, a telephone switching station in your brain, and then directly to the amygdala, which releases neurotransmitters throughout the body -- notably glutamate, essentially the chemical behind fear. The actions of glutamate in the amygdala in response to the fearful thing you’ve heard set off this cascade of other responses.
A reciprocal response comes from an area of the brain called the “periaqueductal gray,” a region deep within the ancient brain that controls two classic responses to fear: jumping and freezing. Sound familiar? The hypothalamus controls the fight or flight responses -- increased heart rate and so on. A signal sent to the adrenal glands in your torso causes them to send out cortisol and adrenaline. The fear response also a release of glucose into the bloodstream -- a power up to get you running for your life.
Depending on the level of risk, the body regulates the response from these various systems to control whether we fight, freeze -- or flee.
Anger: Have you ever been so mad that you felt hot headed, blood boiling, palms sweating? Anger is an actually very interesting thing if you think about it. There goes on a lot of chemistry when you become angry.Anger is an emotional response natural and most of the time an automatic response to one or another form of pain like emotional or physical pain.
Epinephrine and non-epinephrine are the main chemicals which play the vital role in chemistry behind anger. In the absence of these chemicals, the body wouldn’t be able to deliver off any reactions while you are in anger or in any other emotion that has involvement of adrenaline.
Epinephrine which is also known as adrenaline is a chemical compound with formula (HO) 2C6H3CH (OH) CH2NHCH3 and is released while becoming angry. Epinephrine is among the chemicals that are released by the adrenal gland when an individual experiences anger or any other form of stress.
Epinephrine lets the amygdala to send signals to the brain front lobe which then allows neurotransmitters which speed up your heart rate and display other signs of you becoming angry.
Non-epinephrine which is also known as an adrenaline rush is a chemical compound with formula (HO) 2C6H3CH (OH) CH2NH2. This is the chemical that monitors your heart rate and blood pressure. Decreased amount of non-epinephrine is generally the depressed people characteristic.
This chemical is responsible for your decisions making related to handling the situation in a positive way or a negative way. Non-epinephrine gives an individual strength and motivation for defending themselves in extremely serious situations.
I wrote about the science of laughing and crying some time back ... you can read about these emotions here: the-science-of-laughing-and-crying
I can have emotions as well as understand how and why they come into existence and can also use the knowledge to control them.
You love a person and your brain chemistry dictates how you feel and what you do when you are undergoing it. Other people cannot feel the same way or understand your feelings because their brain chemistry is not under the same influence of hormones your body is producing.
They might argue you cannot understand these feelings. That shows their inadequacy in understanding, not in the knowledge brought by science.
Different people experience different grades of emotions because brain chemistry differs from person to person. The intensity or lack of them should not make people think science has no answers to these. It is 'you' who cannot deal with the enormity of the problem. Not science. Because all these emotions have origins in science and science is what controls them. If we can study how nature works with the use of science, and if that tallies with natural laws, it is evidence enough we understood it and make use of it. And we are making using of this knowledge.
Why do you think depression can be controlled using drugs? Just because we understand how it happens what mechanisms cause and control it. We can tweak them to have control on our lives.
Why do you think sex drives can be controlled by chemical castration?
A team of National Institutes of Health-funded researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina has found recently that deactivating a stress-signaling system in a brain area known for motivation and emotion-related behaviors decreases binge drinking. The study, which was published online in February and is to appear in the May issue of Neuropharmacology, pinpoints a particular system in a specific brain region that can be manipulated to reduce harmful binge drinking (1).
So the sum total of all our emotions is the biochemical balance of our systems. And morality is just a word for emotional responses for how people do or do not behave according to 'rules' of the group they identify with.
Isn't that evidence enough?
If you don’t understand these mechanisms like scientists do, you think nobody else can do too. Feel sorry for such people.
Do you still have a doubt that science can't explain these things related to human culture and psychology? If you have, either you refused to read this and chose to remain ignorant or refused to consider this evidence because of your obstinate nature or can't deal with science's dominance and the inconvenience it causes to your conditioned mind.
If this is true you are still a BOX MAN !
1. Harold L. Haun et al, Kappa opioid receptors in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis regulate binge-like alcohol consumption in male and female mice, Neuropharmacology (2020). DOI: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2020.107984
The release of hormones can be triggered by changes in the blood (“humor”), by the actions of other hormones, or by neurological stimuli.
Alright some people have raised some Qs here and said science doesn't work with regard to such Qs. This is not understanding the word science properly.
Science has two aspects:
One: The principles with which this universe came into existence and run by it.
Two: The process with which we study this universe.
If you take the first aspect into account, you will not find any place in our universe where scientific principles don't work and are not responsible for things existing and things happening. Without these principles this universe doesn't work and collapses and becomes non-existent. The very fact that it is working so well is evidence enough that science is working everywhere in this universe and running it wonderfully.
Right, if you come to the second aspect, i.e., the process with which we study and try to understand our universe, it is not science that is not working. It 's human mind's inadequacy to understand things in our 'scientific universe' responsible for that, not science.
Why do you try to shift your inadequacies to science and say science cannot do this or science cannot do that? Science, the thing this universe is run by, can be tackled only by science. If you cannot use your tool properly and blame science for it, it is like a bad worker blaming his tools for his lack of efficiency.
Now show me with genuine evidence a place in this universe where science doesn't work. Mere logic and argument won't do.
Please follow the space Science Communication on Quora
A person who read this asked this Q: How does science(s) answer “why should (not) i kill that insect stinging me on my toe?”?
And ants control pests naturally. Like ladybeetles, green lacewings, and other beneficial bugs, ants often help control pests (they actually support some pests, too ) by eating their eggs and young or disturbing them during feeding.
Ants are such an effective biological control agent, in fact, that some growers introduce them on purpose as part of an Integrated Pest Management strategy.
So leave that ant alone even if it stings you - it helps you in reality. Even if a friend fights with you and hits you, don’t you forgive him for the sake of friendship?
Does that make sense?
The person who asked the Q:Makes a lot of sense. Thanks for the links. New facts!
But 'you should help/forgive the one who helps you' isn't coming from science, I think. It's coming from somewhere else.
I am not a behavioural biologist but i am told by life science - friends that many species tend to kill/eat their friends/mates. Am I right on this one?
*But 'you should help/forgive the one who helps you' isn't coming from science, I think. It's coming from somewhere else.*
Science shows you that bees and ants are friends with evidence. That fact influences your thought process.
‘Kill mates’, yes. That includes human beings too but for other reasons!
But when nature made them that way it has a reason too. Like some animals eat their mates after fertilization - as the reproduction process is completed and so the males are consumed by the females to get more food and energy for the growing progeny or whatever name you give them.
*…but for other reasons!* Interesting! Would love to know the reasons.
*…influences your thought process.* True. That's why many people are motivated to do science. But here's the tricky part. How it influences (how you allowe it to influence) your thought process, your decisions, goals, morals/ ethics… doesn't seem to be something that science reveals to us. It's very subjective and it's difficult, many times, to tell who's right in extracting out the values from these facts.
I am afraid that the fact of some females, in animal kingdom, consuming the males after fertilization can change the thought process of some hardcore feminists and they start a social trend of #KillDownYourManWhenThePurposeIsOver
Lol. That's a stupid exaggeration. But the point is, scientific facts alone are directionless, we need ‘something more' that can facilitate the 'appropriate’ or ‘positive' change in our thought process, actions, goals, desires and what not. It's perhaps that something more that determines what kind of technology we develop after some discovery, what new experiments we dare to do etc etc etc. I don't know to what extent we can change that 'something more' and what it really is.
I am an MSc physics student. I don't know about life sciences, but with physical sciences that seems to be the case. Dr Sabine puts it in a different way:
Krishna: Right. science doesn’t say directly, do this or do that. . But if you are a person of science, the knowledge you know would definitely influences your thought process.
I noticed several times, people who don’t have the knowledge I have think and behave differently. I think their thought process becomes lame without scientific knowledge. Again ,there are people, even among scientists, who don’t use their knowledge in their thinking process. They have conditioned minds and their science training ‘s so inadequate that they ‘re unable to come out of this conditioning and do Critical Thinking. There will be all sorts of people in this world.
Is Dr. Sabine an authority on these things? Anyway opinions have no place in science and we don’t care about anybody’s opinions, even if they are Einsteins and Newtons.
But for me atleast my science training is good and I can use it perfectly in my life. It’s guidance in my life is absolute!
If some people cannot do what I do, their science training might not be as good as mine.
Yes, without basic scientific knowledge people tend to believe in pseudoscientific explanations & claims in the name of faith or perhaps just to feel proud of themselves or their culture/history; which, I see, is happening a lot around me. And it's very difficult for them to ever realise their biases.
Thanks for the articles. I came to know about many new biochemical & chemical processes happening right here in my body every moment.
*…because their brain chemistry is not under the same influence of hormones your body is producing.*
What governs this production of hormones in my body such a unique way, resulting into a unique experience for 'me' at that moment? Is it just direct consequence of the biochemical reactions happening in my body? Or can 'i' interfere somewhere in these processes to create the kind of experience I aspire for?
I don't know if I have put it correctly.)·
Yes, you can control the process by controlling the background stimuli.