The Moral Molecule by Paul Zak
Today I’m reviewing The Moral Molecule: The New Science of What Makes Us Good or Evil by Paul J. Zak, from Corgi books. With a PhD in Economics, post-grad training in Neuroscience and lecturing as a Clinical Professor of Neurology, Paul J. Zak’s is a specialist in human behaviour. His latest investigation delves into, what many believe separates us from the animals, morality. Zak focuses on the how, when and why behind positive human actions.
The majority of his research is based on the reproductive hormone called oxytocin. Commonly known as the hormone that controls pregnant women’s contractions, mother’s production of milk and creates the ‘warm glow’ one feels when being hugged, massaged or having sex. Various experiments, from blood taking at weddings to money based trust trials, demonstrate where our Oxytocin levels naturally peak. But surely everyone putting themselves first means survival of the fittest and therefore stronger human beings? Well, apparently not. Zak states that a more trustworthy society will lead to improved economic development and increased prosperity for all of us. This theory is backed up by the fact that generosity is attractive in a partner, therefore likely to enhance chances of finding a mate and reproducing. He also goes on to explain that naturally higher levels of oxytocin leads to a happier, more carefree existence and therefore a longer life. But if oxytocin can truly make us ‘good’ is it testosterone that makes us ‘evil’?
The Moral Molecule is not only wholly fascinating but a joy to read. It finds the perfect balance between being accessible enough to be understood by all but never too simple to lose the readers full attention. This book will leave you amazed (and maybe unnerved) at just how much one hormone can affect what we think of as our personality.
If you enjoyed The Moral Molecule by Paul Zak, you’d love Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks.
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