Empathy, Altruism & Agape:Perspectives on Love in Science and Religion
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October 1-3, 1999, University Park Hotel at MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Path Home: Empathy, Altruism and Agape | Presenters or Itinerary

Gregory Fricchione is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School. zHe is Director of the Medical Psychiatry Service at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, as well as Director of Research at the Mind-Body Medical Institute. His clinical work has been instrumental in establishing the use of lorazepam as first line treatment for the catatonic syndrome. His research in neuroimmunology and neuropsychiatry has focused on macrophage-endothelial cell interaction with resulting publications in the Journal of Immunology, Immunology Today, Endocrinology, the American Journal of Hematology and in various neurology and psychiatry journals. Recently, he has been studying the important role brain evolution may play in the human spiritual imperative. He is a co-director of the Harvard Medical School course on Spirituality and Medicine.
Brain Evolution: Separation, Attachment and Agape

The core dialectic of separation-attachment is the foundation of each man’s development. Separation/attachment is a common referent conferring extensional identity across different conceptual levels of complexity. It therefore has architectonic potential in terms of evolution.

The evolution of life is intimately connected with the complexifying of the approach-avoidance task and the key to this complexification is the increasing complexity of the evolved brain. The brain is arranged in the form of circuits called basal ganglia thalamo-cortical loops. The basal ganglia provide a motor effector control system. The thalamus provides a sensory synchronizer and the cortex, both limbic and neocortex, provides an increasingly complex analysis system. All living organisms possess an attachment drive at the most primitive level towards food as a source of energy. Those organisms complexified enough to have developed sexual reproduction possess a higher level of attachment drive toward the sexual mate for the purpose of speciies preservation.

The reptile has a strategy based on these two levels of attachment drive. Overall however, their social strategy is one of separation. The mammal however has evolved to a new level of attachment, that of the “mammalian behavioral triad.” This includes maternal nurturance and caring, the separation cry, and mammalian play. This behavioral triad can be seen to foster parental attachments to offspring from the point of view of brain evolution.

In man, after the development of the anterior cingulate/medial orbital frontal loop responsible for the mammalian behavioral triad and more complexified attachment, there is the further evolution of the prefrontal cortical basal ganglia thalamo-cortical loop. In essence, there is an increasing complexification in the sensory motor analyzer effector function of the brain exhibited in the evolution of these segregated yet integrated circuits. Thus man develops the capacity to have a “memory of the future” as well as a “memory of the past.” Man’s prefrontal cortex allows him to design and execute movement plans for future approaches to pleasurable attachments and avoidances of painful separations. However, we are also the only species capable of having a memory of our future separation. This of course is the psychological rendering of the basic core dialectical process of separation and attachment. I would argue that the impetus for the development of language was the evolutionary need to express and communicate approach/attachment and avoidance/separation behaviors. With the coming of language there was the fostering of memes. Information is passed from individual to individual and communities sharing information are thus solidified. Memetic evolution begets cultural evolution but cultural evolution can only be understood if we hearken back to the core dialectical issues that led to its development in the first place. Repulsion/avoidance/separation, and attraction/approach/attachment are the key issues in cultural evolution. It is here we must start to investigate the forces of altruistic love. We must look for a process of evolution that is both broad enough and deep enough to encompass the biological, psychological, sociocultural and spirtual concepts of agape.

A good candidate for such an evolutionary theory may be the separation/attachment dialectical process.

Friday, October 1, 1999

Elliott Sober, Ph.D.
University of Wisconsin
Mapping the Conceptual Terrain

Leda Cosmides, Ph.D. & John Tooby,Ph.D.
University of California, Santa Barbara
Friendship, engagement, and the Banker’s Paradox: Other pathways to the Evolution of Altruism

William H. Durham, Ph.D.
Stanford University
The Role of Culture in the Evolution of Altruism

David Sloan Wilson, Ph.D.
Binghamton University SUNY
The Rise and Fall and Rise and Fall of Altruism in Evolutionary Theory: Discussion with Audience

Frans B. M. de Waal, Ph. D.
Emory University, Yerkes Primate Living Links Center
Communication of Emotions and the Possibility of Sympathy in Monkeys and Apes

Antonio R. Damasio, M.D., Ph.D.
University of Iowa Hospital
The Neurobiology of Emotion

Hanna Damasio, M.D.
University of Iowa Hospital
Impaired Emotion and Social Behavior Following Brain Damage

William B. Hurlbut, M.D.
Stanford University
Empathy, Evolution and Ethics

Rev. Eugene Rivers
Ella J. Baker House

Saturday, October 2, 1999

Thomas R. Insel, M.D.
Emory University, Yerkes Primate Center
The Molecular Biology of Monogamy

Greg Fricchione, M.D.
Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Brain Evolution: Separation, Attachment and Agape

Jerome Kagan, Ph.D.
Harvard University
The Human Moral Sense

Don Browning, Ph.D.
The University of Chicago
Agape, Empathy and the Foundational/Nonfoundational Debate

Joan Eads, Zone Coordinator
L’Arche USA

Jeffrey P. Schloss, Ph.D. Westmont College
Is It Really More Blessed to Give than to Receive?: Emerging Questions in the Evolution of Radical Altruism

Edith Wyschogrod, Ph.D.
Rice University Pythagorean Bodies and the Body of Altruism

Stephen J. Pope, Ph.D.
Boston College
The Ordering of Love

Rev. Robert Hamerton-Kelly
Woodside Village Church
Emergence of Radical Love in the Biblical Tradition

Dame Cicely Saunders
St. Christopher’s Hospice

Sunday, October 3, 1999

Samuel P. Oliner, Ph.D.
Altruistic Personality and Prosocial Behavior Institute
Extraordinary Acts of Ordinary People: Faces of Heroism and Altruism

Pearl Oliner, Ph.D.
California State University - Humboldt
Ingroup and Outgroup Altruism: Protestants and Catholics

Kristen Renwick Monroe, Ph.D.
University of California
How Identity and Perspective Constrain Choice

Dan Batson, Ph.D.
University of Kansas
Addressing the Altruism Question Experimentally

V.S. Ramachandran, Ph.D.
University of California, San Diego
Neural Basis of Empathy and of Artistic Experience

Lynn G. Underwood, Ph.D.
Fetzer Institute
The Human Experience of Agape & Compassion: Conceptual Mapping and Data from Selected Studies

Ruben L.F. Habito, Ph.D.
Southern Methodist University
Compiversity Pythagorean Bodies and the Body of Altruism

Stephen J. Pope, Ph.D.
Boston College
The Ordering of Love

Rev. Robert Hamerton-Kelly
Woodside Village Church
Emergence of Radical Love in the Biblical Tradition

Dame Cicely Saunders
St. Christopher’s Hospice

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