2 thoughts on “Paul Zak: Trust, morality — and oxytocin

  1. I think the potential dangers from oxytocin are underestimated.

    It is true that maternal bonding is mediated through oxytocin, and that maternal bonding is the archetypal mammalian social behavior (all mammals, even non-social mammals still exhibit maternal bonding).

    However, there are circumstances where maternal bonding is not a survival factor, if the new mother has insufficient metabolic resources to sustain lactation, then positive maternal bonding would result in death of both mother and offspring.

    The maternal bonding pathway also needs the ability to activate a maternal anti-bonding pathway under the proper circumstances. It turns out that in essentially any mammalian species, subjecting new mothers to sufficient stress results in maternal infanticide.

    I suspect that oxytocin is also the mediator of the maternal anti-bonding pathway, but as modulated by metabolic stress (I suspect nitric oxide, but it could also be something else).

    Just as maternal bonding is the archetypal positive social behavior, I think that maternal anti-bonding is the archetypal negative social behavior. I think it has to be. As strong as maternal bonding is, maternal anti-bonding has to be even stronger. I think this is the physiology behind the line by William Congreve.

    “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned,”

  2. This completely contradicts the argument put forward by some creationists that there is no morality without religion. Principled behavior seems to be more a function of our hormones than our beliefs.

    I would love to see the oxytocin levels of people like Casey Luskin and Ken Ham. I suspect notable creationists include a large number of people who fall in the group technically defined in Paul Zac’s lab as “bastards.”

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