Wednesday, 21 January 2009

"Lord, I believe; help me produce more oxycotin."

Yes, it's been almost two years, that I've let this blog lie. There seemed to be waning reader interest at the time, but I've noticed more comments of late. And I've felt the muse as well, so I am returning to post, on occasion, my musings on the interaction between science and faith.

Recently, World Science published a summary of research on trust in dogs. It's been discovered how "puppy dog eyes" work. The expression in a dog, or anyone else, produces oxytocin, the "trust hormone". If your dog does something bad, and you look at him when he's got that sad gaze, you are more likely to forgive him. His expression has changed the chemistry in your brain, causing you to trust him, and decide that your dog didn't mean it. If you do not look at your dog when he has this expression, then the chemical is not produced in your brain.

Rather intriguing on its own. But I wanted to look at the results for this in terms of trust and faith in God. Obviously, God doesn't provide us with an expression that we can see. But the hormone can be produced in other ways- the key is, the hormone is associated with trust. We know that now, faith is being sure of what you hope for, and certain of what you do not see. Faith is quite clearly a form of trust.

And yet, without faith it is impossible to please God. Not because he's out to come up with arbitrary rules, but rather that he desires the best for us, and knows we will be most joyful if we rely on him, if we trust that he is out for us- which is what faith is in the simplest terms. Happily, even when I lack it, God is still there. If I deny him, he will deny me. But if I am faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot deny himself. Even when I lack faith, he is still there for me.

But now we learn that trust- and therefore faith- is something chemically determined. This is not to negate our responsibility, but rather to say that it is something which, to a degree, we have no control over. In truth, it is nothing new to know that hormones influence our emotions. But faith seems to be something so much more than an emotion. And yet, I must rely on my oxycotin levels in order to fully have it.

Perhaps this is the reason for the prayer of the father with the possessed son, a prayer echoed down through the ages, in the masses of the faithful, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief." There is a level that we can believe to. But not on our own. Even that is beyond us, without help. We must have faith - trusting in God to help - even to get more faith. And now we know what we are asking for.

And so, please pray with me now: "Lord, I believe; help me produce more oxycotin."

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