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Survival of the Kindest

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posted on Sep, 12 2011 @ 09:53 AM
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What is the use of religion?

Strictly speaking, this is not a question a man or woman of faith ever needs to ask. For such a person, religion is a necessity, an obligation resulting from the very existence of the Being they worship. It is only unbelievers like myself who feel compelled to ask, 'of what use is religion?’

In reply, many believers will say, 'religion is the basis of morality.' Asked to elaborate further, they may cite the moral precepts of a particular religion (such as the Ten Commandments) and argue that without such god-given instructions, human beings would be nothing but selfish, violently competitive beasts, killing and raping, lying and stealing, taking what we want any way we can and damn everyone else. Life would be hell.

For those of us who do not believe, though, this answer often seems inadequate. Do we actually need moral instructions and the threat of divine punishment to make us good? Are there no compelling reasons to be good and kind to others, aside from the belief that God wants us to act that way?

I don’t think it is very hard to find reasons for being good. Cooperation with others makes life easier for all. So does honesty, which inspires the trust without which cooperation is impossible. Kindness and generosity are appreciated for their own sake and often returned with interest. Even self-sacrifice can be worthwhile if it means that something we value highly – our children, for example, or our reputations perhaps – will profit from the sacrifice and endure.

This kind of argument is increasingly supported by scientific studies in evolutionary biology that show, in the blunt calculus of survival and procreation, the enormous material value we can derive from being good, kind, cooperative and generous. In this UC Berkeley news release, we learn that researchers at Berkeley are ‘building the case that humans are successful as a species precisely because of our nurturing, altruistic and compassionate traits.’ Building on Charles Darwin’s insight that sympathy is ‘the strongest human instinct’, they are redefining kindness, cooperation and altruism as outcomes of the evolutionary process that has made us what we are.


"Because of our very vulnerable offspring, the fundamental task for human survival and gene replication is to take care of others," said Dacher Keltner, co-director of UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center. "Human beings have survived as a species because we have evolved the capacities to care for those in need and to cooperate."

These capacities, we learn, are evolved characteristics, ‘hard-wired’ into us, although our individual personal histories naturally affect their development.


The study, led by UC Berkeley graduate student Laura Saslow and Sarina Rodrigues of Oregon State University, found that people with a particular variation of the oxytocin gene receptor are more adept at reading the emotional state of others, and get less stressed out under tense circumstances.

Furthermore, there is evidence that acts of kindness and generosity confer greater social status, and therefore a wealth of mating opportunities, upon the actor:


According to UC Berkeley social psychologist and sociologist Robb Willer, the more generous we are, the more respect and influence we wield. In one recent study, Willer and his team gave participants each a modest amount of cash and directed them to play games of varying complexity that would benefit the "public good.” The results, published in the journal American Sociological Review, showed that participants who acted more generously received more gifts, respect and cooperation from their peers and wielded more influence over them.

"The findings suggest that anyone who acts only in his or her narrow self-interest will be shunned, disrespected, even hated,” Willer said. "But those who behave generously with others are held in high esteem by their peers and thus rise in status.”

(All quotes from linked article)

But if morality is genetically programmed into us (along with greed, selfishness, lust and the rest of the Seven Deadly Sins, of course), what is the purpose of religion? Clearly it cannot be to teach us morality, because – instinctively – we already know it. Could it be to encourage the development of some instincts rather than others, or to teach us to distinguish our better instincts from our worse ones? If that were the case, shouldn’t the history of religion be very different from what it is?

Perhaps not. We are all human, whether we are religious or not, and the failures of religion are very much the failures of humanity. But if, as modern science increasingly shows, goodness and kindness are as natural to us as their opposites, and religion doesn’t really help people behave better, does it have any use at all?

Does religion serve us, then, or do we serve religion?


edit on 12/9/11 by Astyanax because: of stuff.




posted on Sep, 12 2011 @ 10:02 AM
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Religion itself serves the administration, money and effort flows to the individuals running that religion. We see that in almost every organized religion we care to review.

Spirituality is very different from Religion, and we should make that distinction. Organized religions are money and political machines that exist to serve administrators, spirituality exists to serve and improve the individual.



posted on Sep, 12 2011 @ 10:06 AM
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reply to post by ariel bender
 


Spirituality is very different from Religion, and we should make that distinction.

Could you explain the distinction? I’m not very clear about it myself.


Spirituality exists to serve and improve the individual.

Are you saying that spirituality, whatever it is, is the source of morality? How do you square that with the scientific findings mentioned in the linked article?

Perhaps you need to explain what you mean a little more clearly. Defining spirituality would be a good place to start.



posted on Sep, 12 2011 @ 10:18 AM
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reply to post by Astyanax
 


Even those morals that are "hard-wired" into us do not become absolute. Morality is merely the consensus of what is deemed 'right' and 'wrong' by those in positions of authority in different regions of the world at a period of time. Religion is simply one avenue which by "morals" can be said to be based, but they are not the basis for acting righteously as is commonly believed by followers of Organised Religions.

***

As for a distinction between Spirituality and Religion, perhaps the following will help you differentiate between the two:

Spirituality is the metaphysical connection one feels with Nature, Energy, The Spirits or a Divine Creator (even all four). To develop one's sense of spirituality, they take part in behaviour that brings them feeling closer to these things.

Religion is the adherence to a religious creed as defined by a deity or religious figure, or taking part in customs/rituals that confirm religious beliefs about that deity.


edit on 12/9/2011 by Dark Ghost because: (no reason given)



posted on Sep, 12 2011 @ 10:19 AM
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I've had numerous lengthy conversations on the topic of 'morality', several of which found the campfire being but mere waning embers as the sun rose and the conversation was still going strong.
... and from a near myriad of perspectives as well.

Are we born with a 'hard coded' sense of morality?
Are we born with a sense of morality which is then further cultivated, altered and/or influenced by our cultural upbringing?
Is one's sense of morality merely the sole result of their culture or upbringing?
Can 'morality' [what is 'right' and what is 'wrong'] ever truly be universally define?
... and the list goes on and on.

That researchers are predicating morality as being a sort of hard-coded inborn trait only further clouds the air on the subject, since one then is tasked with actually defining, "what is morality?"

For me it's very much akin to the whole 'god' thing. If there is but one 'god' then why are there hundreds of religions and numerous so-called deities in this world? At the same time, if there is a single universally-accepted definition of 'morality' then why are there so many different 'views' as to what is 'right' and what is 'wrong in various cultures, sects, religions, societies, etc.?

It sure makes for rather interesting conversations though.

Great thread!







edit on 9/12/2011 by 12m8keall2c because: (no reason given)



posted on Sep, 12 2011 @ 11:39 AM
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Well anyone who thinks that we need the word of a god to know good from bad, clearly haven't thought things through.
To suggest that we need for instance 'thou shall not kill', to know that killing is wrong is wrong.
As well look at what they suggest. Basically they are saying that without the threat of punishment from a divine being, they would go out and murder and steal and all those other fun things. That shows a sort of sociopathy, and immoral compass.

Morality as I understand it can be derived mainly from biology.
Like any creature, our instincts push us to act in certain ways. Self preservation, preservation of species as whole, reproduction etc.
As well, as the OP has put forth, we are a social species. And as such certain things like empathy and sympathy guide our moral frame work.

However unlike most species human beings have things like conscious thought, and the ability to think things through. This allows us to disregard what our instincts would tell us, and instead act in a more pragmatic way. And some people lack empathy all together, and often times these are the most dangerous individuals.

I will agree with christianity on one thing. The golden rule. We should do unto other as we would have them do unto ourselves. Within reason of course.

For instance a masochist might want people to hurt them, they should not however hurt other people being guided by this rule.

But if we would not wish someone to steal, harm or treat us with disrespect, then we should not steal, harm or treat others with disrespect.
edit on 12-9-2011 by FreezingVoid because: (no reason given)

edit on 12-9-2011 by FreezingVoid because: (no reason given)



posted on Sep, 12 2011 @ 12:12 PM
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reply to post by Astyanax
 


My argument for this is that people want a "foundation". Morals obviously change over generations, and even adjust the foundation to fit the change sometimes. Religion can be looked at from many angles, including the discussion of major historical phenomenons that are perceived true in man's history. Another angle is of course the discussion of temptation, sin, proverbs and teachings that set the character for those that want to use that path as their moral compass in a world that has slippery circumstances. Not even mentioning prayer and the afterlife that serve as a tool and promise for some people.

Are you going to also suggests that churches have no use? You can provide alternative solutions all day, but it doesn't change the good things that churches do for people all over.



posted on Sep, 12 2011 @ 01:02 PM
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Originally posted by juveous
reply to post by Astyanax
 


Are you going to also suggests that churches have no use? You can provide alternative solutions all day, but it doesn't change the good things that churches do for people all over.



Maybe I am anti-theist, but I personally view churches as mostly unnecessary.

On the surface they may appear to do good. They encourage community and togetherness as well at times acts of generosity. But I feel despite that churches do more harm than good.

For one, churches often encourage fear and distrust of outsiders, as well as many dogmatic views.

If one looks at what the churches teach and the holy books of that religion, often times one see's two different things.

And often times they teach things that defy all logic and reason.

Aids runs rampant in Africa, and the Catholic church teaches that the use of condoms is sinful. Thus many children are born with this disease.

Religions has done more to set back scientific progress than any other force. It took centuries for the idea of the earth revolving around the sun to be accepted in Europe, mainly because it wen't against the idea taught by the church.

Even today, religions holds back back science.
Ignoring the creationists who claim that science is bull because it teaches things different than the church, certain things are left unexplored because we supposedly shouldn't "Play god".
I talk of course of things like cloning, stem cells, and bio engineering.
These are things that could save lives, eliminate diseases, and make lives better, and yet time and time again progress in these area's are slowed.
Granted I am still iffy about the idea of cloning entire human beings I am intrigued by the idea of cloning body parts.

And to me the worst part of religion is, most religions teach that this world doesn't matter, that we should work towards an afterlife.
Rather than working together to fix the problems of this world, and trying to make this world a heaven, people go and search for a possible heaven elsewhere.

I speak mostly of the abrahamic religions. Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Mormonism.
My knowledge of the dharmic religions is sketchy, but I understand that what they teach is vastly different. Searching for heaven inside oneself and such.



posted on Sep, 12 2011 @ 02:29 PM
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Originally posted by FreezingVoid

Originally posted by juveous
reply to post by Astyanax
 


Are you going to also suggests that churches have no use? You can provide alternative solutions all day, but it doesn't change the good things that churches do for people all over.



Maybe I am anti-theist, but I personally view churches as mostly unnecessary.

On the surface they may appear to do good. They encourage community and togetherness as well at times acts of generosity. But I feel despite that churches do more harm than good.

For one, churches often encourage fear and distrust of outsiders, as well as many dogmatic views.

If one looks at what the churches teach and the holy books of that religion, often times one see's two different things.

And often times they teach things that defy all logic and reason.

Aids runs rampant in Africa, and the Catholic church teaches that the use of condoms is sinful. Thus many children are born with this disease.

Religions has done more to set back scientific progress than any other force. It took centuries for the idea of the earth revolving around the sun to be accepted in Europe, mainly because it wen't against the idea taught by the church.

Even today, religions holds back back science.
Ignoring the creationists who claim that science is bull because it teaches things different than the church, certain things are left unexplored because we supposedly shouldn't "Play god".
I talk of course of things like cloning, stem cells, and bio engineering.
These are things that could save lives, eliminate diseases, and make lives better, and yet time and time again progress in these area's are slowed.
Granted I am still iffy about the idea of cloning entire human beings I am intrigued by the idea of cloning body parts.

And to me the worst part of religion is, most religions teach that this world doesn't matter, that we should work towards an afterlife.
Rather than working together to fix the problems of this world, and trying to make this world a heaven, people go and search for a possible heaven elsewhere.

I speak mostly of the abrahamic religions. Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Mormonism.
My knowledge of the dharmic religions is sketchy, but I understand that what they teach is vastly different. Searching for heaven inside oneself and such.


As a whole, I would disagree. Even though as a whole, I would agree that Churches are unnecessary, but it is besides the point of the layperson. The point is really that the average individual doesn't know, and is attracted to the majority depending on where that is. People come together for a common interest in diverting their attention to do good. - Again, you can address contradictions in what they teach, nonsense, irrational positions, but if you were to base it off intention, I would disagree, even though for the most part it is closed minded intention.



posted on Sep, 12 2011 @ 02:59 PM
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Intentions I will admit are important. But the result is just as important if not more.

A man who kills someone who they believe is a serial killer intend to do good, by stopping the killer. It is later found at the person they killed was innocent. Their intentions may have been good, but it does not change the fact that they killed an innocent person.

As well, maybe its just the Christians i talk to, but their reasons for doing good are not for the sake of doing good. Sometimes you will get, the bible says I should. But more often you get, I am trying to buy my way into heaven.

I find very few people do good for good sakes.

And sometimes these people with good intentions end up causing more harm by trying to help than not.

In Africa alot of the time we see one tribe in power, and their rival tribe starving and being being killed by the former tribe mentioned.
Food Aid is sent to help the lesser tribe, but is given to the stronger tribe to be distributed. The food is then traded for weapons, and used against the lesser tribe, without any food actually reaching the people it was meant to help.
It would have been better for the lesser tribe for the aid not to have been given in the first place.

In this example we see aid given with good intentions but do to corruption is subverted and brings about negative consequences.

I suppose the real questions is which is more important. The intent, or the action and result.



posted on Sep, 12 2011 @ 03:44 PM
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reply to post by FreezingVoid
 


How are you going to have results without intentions? I don't know how you can separate action without it in this case.
Ignorance and misunderstandings can't be blamed on good intentions.

Doing good for goodness sake, is similar to saying they did good because their bible instructs them to. It is personal none the less on what is in the interest of good - is it rationality? is it pleasurable? Is it trust? All of those can deceive, some people, like I said above, want a foundation.



posted on Sep, 12 2011 @ 03:53 PM
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The use of spirituality is to guide people towards the truth.

Religion is mostly for control, if it is a false religion. Truths should be based on logic and argument, not divine command unless those commandments are based on logic and argument.

Morality is fairly easy for all people to comprehend: don't kill, don't steal, don't want more than you need.

Fear only controls people to a certain extent, but for someone who is fearless, where's the motivation? The idea of a gain is more plausible than control through fear. The idea that if you are good, you receive good.

There are plenty of reasons to do good


I don’t think it is very hard to find reasons for being good. Cooperation with others makes life easier for all. So does honesty, which inspires the trust without which cooperation is impossible. Kindness and generosity are appreciated for their own sake and often returned with interest. Even self-sacrifice can be worthwhile if it means that something we value highly – our children, for example, or our reputations perhaps – will profit from the sacrifice and endure.


Yes, good paragraph here.

All people want what is good, only mistake leads them away from good. Everyone wants to be happy, and they believe they will be through good things or being good at something.



posted on Sep, 12 2011 @ 04:33 PM
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It appears I wen't a little off topic.

On topic, I suppose the results of one actions due to intentions derived from a moral code, I suppose the results do not matter.

Ones moral code, leads one to have have good intentions generally. Those intentions cause one to take actions.

My apologize for not realizing sooner that I had gone off on a off-topic tangent.



posted on Sep, 12 2011 @ 05:00 PM
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Originally posted by Astyanax
What is the use of religion?

Strictly speaking, this is not a question a man or woman of faith ever needs to ask. For such a person, religion is a necessity, an obligation resulting from the very existence of the Being they worship. It is only unbelievers like myself who feel compelled to ask, 'of what use is religion?’

In reply, many believers will say, 'religion is the basis of morality.'


I am a religious and could not care a rat's tail about the morality of others (unless someone crosses me with their immorality).

But.. it was your argument that it exists only for morality, and I know of no theologian who would make that claim.

On the other hand, I couldn't swing a dead cat in this town without hitting some fundamentalist who would agree with your claim.

The point is, what "many" say is the reason for religion, can mean that "many" are clueless. My experience is that many are, in fact, clueless.

I may not have the answer, but I have some clue as to what the answer is not-- and it is not so that humans will be moral.



edit on 12-9-2011 by Frira because: typo



posted on Sep, 12 2011 @ 05:28 PM
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Originally posted by Frira
I may not have the answer, but I have some clue as to what the answer is not-- and it is not so that humans will be moral.


you sure 'bout that?

me?
if folks were to cast aside religious,cultural and societally ingrained beliefs and the like, i believe the moral fiber of this world's society as a whole would likely only further heal, mend and become what it should have been all the while.

acceptant, caring and supportive.

[to add]

not utopian by any means, just saying.




edit on 9/12/2011 by 12m8keall2c because: (no reason given)



posted on Sep, 12 2011 @ 07:08 PM
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Originally posted by 12m8keall2c

Originally posted by Frira
I may not have the answer, but I have some clue as to what the answer is not-- and it is not so that humans will be moral.


you sure 'bout that?


Yeah. I am pretty sure. And it sounds like we agree:




me?
if folks were to cast aside religious,cultural and societally ingrained beliefs and the like, i believe the moral fiber of this world's society as a whole would likely only further heal, mend and become what it should have been all the while.

acceptant, caring and supportive.

[to add]

not utopian by any means, just saying.


edit on 9/12/2011 by 12m8keall2c because: (no reason given)


However, as a religious, I reject the claim that religion is the problem. I detect no essential difference between tyranny-- religious tyrants are as bad as the non-religious ones.The religious ones, do, however tend to smear the likes of me with their tyranny. The non-religious one smear likes of you with theirs.

Funny though, how I, as a religious, resent the religious tyrants more than the non-religious, and you as a non-religious, seem to resent only the religious.

Perchance you subscribe the notion that most wars are created in the name of God? First things that comes to mind are Civil War, Spanish American War, Texas Revolution, World War I, World War II, Grenada, Somalia, the Falklands, etc. You get the idea? Blaming religion when the non-religious are obviously just as bad or worse, is to snipe at something you do not appreciate without due introspection. And that kind of explains conflict, doesn't it?



posted on Sep, 12 2011 @ 07:27 PM
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i've never mentioned religion in the discussion ... aside from a mere question with regards cultural upbringings and the like perhaps playing a key and demonstrative role in the eventual formation or 'evolution' of one's 'sense of morality'.

whether or not we're born with any sense or semblence of such would seem the question and/or query of this discussion.

are morals instinctive and inherent ?

studies show .... ??? .... what?

or are 'morals' and 'morality' simply that which is [perhaps inborn], but also] experienced and 'learned'

... from and since birth ... all the way through to each and every individual's social upbringing, religious beliefs, teachings, cultural & societal influences, etc. - with each and every having played a part in the same. (?)

i find it fascinating, myself.

*what is 'right'? what is 'wrong'?'

morality ?
?



edit on 9/12/2011 by 12m8keall2c because: merely to clarify



posted on Sep, 13 2011 @ 01:10 AM
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reply to post by Dark Ghost
 


Spirituality is the metaphysical connection one feels with Nature, Energy, The Spirits or a Divine Creator (even all four).

Are you sure this answer is the same one Ariel Bender would give? It is not one with which everyone would agree.

I would like Ariel Bender to provide his or her own definition; I can’t discuss his or her post based on yours.

*


reply to post by juveous


My argument for this is that people want a "foundation". Morals obviously change over generations, and even adjust the foundation to fit the change sometimes.

Are you suggesting that religion does not change over the generations? But it does; religion, like all other sociological phenomena, is subject to the vagaries of circumstance and fashion. The history of Christianity demonstrates this admirably, but then, so does the history of any other religion.

*


reply to post by Frira
 


it was your argument that it exists only for morality.

I said that one argument often advanced in favour of religion by the religious is that religion is the foundation of morality. You will see the argument proposed time after time in this very forum. You may also find the entry on religion and morality in the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy enlightening.


I know of no theologian who would make that claim.


It is the claim of many influential Christian and Jewish theologians (Brunner, Buber, Barth, Niebuhr and Bultmann – to take outstanding examples) that the only genuine basis for morality is in religion.

‘God and the Good: Does Morality Need Religion?’
by Kai Nielsen, published in Theology Today



posted on Sep, 13 2011 @ 01:26 AM
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reply to post by Astyanax
 


People are on such different levels of development and understanding that I am of the opinion, that it is extremely difficult to have discussions of such personal insights on a general public basis on religion and its purpose. I also find our available vocabulary too little and loose to have a precise discussion.

Nevertheless, with the above in mind, I do would like to participate with some of my observations and thoughts:

firstly
Wasn’t for example g.w.bush a very moral person? didn’t he always go to church?
didn’t he always have God in his speech and was not his big wish, that God bless America?
but was he ethical ?!
could it be defined, that following ‘god-given instructions’ make a person moral alright - but have we not forgotten to pondered upon the fact what it does to a person to follow someone’s instructions may they be god-given, in the interest of a church, club or set up by any authority for that matter?
does the cultivation of moral behaviour sacrifice our own instinct? does it not silence that inner voice that is pure and all-knowing and gains in power the more we cherish it? the voice that truly tells us how to look after ourselves in the face of danger - may that danger be what ever it is.
could that behaviour, to be in touch and in honour of that inner knowledge and to cultivate it, be called spiritual?


secondly
I’m not against nurturing, altruistic and compassionate traits. quite the contrary. but are we humans as a species really successful? I’m not so sure who will stand longer, humans or trees. these ‘scientific studies’ are probably based on statistics.

statistics that say ‘those who behave generously with others are held in high esteem by their peers and thus rise in status’ and not distinguish whether those peers were direct recipients of the generosity and do not mention the jealously and malevolence one can receive from some other peers involved.
is it not quite common in too many companies, that employees are scolded for every mistake, but if they do good, they never hear a praise?

to be kind is a very controversial issue (and I’m sure we actually lack enough words to express this issue). is not love sometimes so cruel and unkind? yet I am absolutely convinced that it is love, that will lead us home and set us free !

and last, Astyanax, I have a question. the article you quote mentions

‘people with a particular variation of the oxytocin gene receptor are more adept at reading the emotional state of others, and get less stressed out under tense circumstances’

I noticed in other articles of yours that you mention genes often, therefore I conclude that you know quite a bit about them. could you explain to me whether I would be correct understanding the following in regards to the above statement: if I increase my ability to read emotions of others, does that alter my genes or am I stuck with what I inherited? or is a oxytocin gene receptor something totally different?

I don’t even understand what a gene does, how it functions. is there a brief introduction to this? like in a few basic sentences (it’s a matter of lack of time)………… I know, I’m very ignorant in this regard but would love to know more.



posted on Sep, 13 2011 @ 01:35 AM
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reply to post by bestintentions
 

Thank you for contributing to the thread. Most of the questions you raise are ones I hope will be taken up by others, so you’ll understand why I don’t respond to them immediately myself.


if I increase my ability to read emotions of others, does that alter my genes or am I stuck with what I inherited? or is a oxytocin gene receptor something totally different?

You can certainly improve your social skills through practice. That will not alter your genes; chemically speaking, you’re still stuck with what you inherited, and your offspring will be stuck with whatever you pass on to them. But the genes you inherit are only one part of the story; the history of your physical development is also of great importance. The environmental influences you were exposed to, both in the womb and in childhood, play a key role in how genes are expressed, and in the kind of human being you become.




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