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
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Dr. Thomas R. Insel, neuroscientist and psychiatrist, is presently Director of the Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center, Professor of Psychiatry at Emory University School of Medicine, and Adjunct Professor of Psychology at Emory University College of Arts and Sciences. As director of the Center, Dr. Insel is responsible for leadership of a $16 million research institute with 140 scientists involved in primate studies of infectious diseases, reproductive physiology, cardiovascular function, neurology, vision, communication, and the biological bases of behavior. As Professor of Psychiatry, Dr. Insel leads a research team focused on the neurobiology of complex social behaviors, including parental care, pair bonding, and aggression.

Dr. Insel graduated from Boston University College of Liberal Arts (1971) and School of Medicine (1974), completed postgraduate training in psychiatry at U.C. San Francisco (1979), and joined the intramural program of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), where he remained for the subsequent 15 years. At the NIMH, Dr. Insel had two quite independent research careers. From 1979 until 1984, he initiated and developed the first program for the study of adults with obsessive-compulsive disorder in the United States. He was the first U.S. investigator to demonstrate the unique anti-obsessional properties of serotonin uptake inhibiting drugs and the first to suggest a serotonin hypothesis of obsessive compulsive pathophysiology. This work, which was recognized with the A.E. Bennett Award from the Society for Biological Psychiatry in 1986, established the concept of anti-obsessional drugs as a new research area for neuropharmacology.

Beginning in 1984, Dr. Insel shifted his research increasingly from the clinic to the laboratory. Following a sabbatical at Johns Hopkins Department of Neuroscience with Dr. Michael Kuhar, Dr. Insel assumed leadership of the Section of Comparative Studies of Brain and Behavior within the Laboratory of Clinical Science of the NIMH. In this role, he pursued the chemical neuroanatomy of various neuropeptides with specific reference to behavior and development. His work on oxytocin and vasopressin pathways in the rodent brain demonstrated the importance of these neural systems for the mediation of social attachment. This work was recognized with the Curt Richter Prize from the International Society for Psychoneuro-endocrinology in 1991.

While in the Laboratory of Clinical Science and later in the Laboratory of Neurophysiology, Dr. Insel trained 10 post-doctoral fellows, authored or co-authored 200 publications, edited or co-edited 3 books, and served on 10 journal editorial boards. He received the Outstanding Service Medal from the U.S. Public Health Service (1993) and the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Boston University School of Medicine (1997) and was asked to give several distinguished lectures in this country and abroad. Dr. Insel joined the faculty of the Emory University School of Medicine and the Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center in 1994.

The Molecular Basis of Monogamy: Implications for the Neurobiology of Love

This paper develops a strategy for investigating the cellular and molecular substrates of monogamy. Monogamy is a form of social (as opposed to sexual) organization found in perhaps 3% of mammals. Monogamous mammals usually exhibit pair bonds as well as high levels of parental care in both males and females. Various species of voles, mouse-like rodents, have been classified as monogamous or non-monogamous based on both field and lab studies. We have studied the prairie vole, a monogamous species that forms a lifelong pair bond after copulation. Two peptide hormones, oxytocin and vasopressin are released with copulation in most mammals. Monogamous and non-monogamous voles differ, not only in social behavior, but also in the pattern of oxytocin and vasopressin receptors in their brains. In monogamous voles, oxytocin and vasopressin facilitate pair bonds in animals that do not mate and antagonists for these hormones block pair bond formation in animals without reducing mating behavior. In non-monogamous species, these hormones do not enhance social behavior, presumably because the receptors are not located in the appropriate brain pathways in these species. Recent work has focuses on the molecular mechanisms by which these receptors are expressed in different pathways in closely related species. In monogamous voles, we have discovered variations in the promoter regions of the genes for both oxytocin and vasopressin receptors. Gene transfer studies demonstrate the importance of these promoter differences for the neuroanatomical pattern of expression and the behavioral responses to these hormones. Apparently, these regions of the genome are highly variable. Although the origin of these DNA sequence differences remains unknown, the characteristics of the vasopressin receptor promoter are consistent with insertion of a retrovirus. Monogamy may have evolved from a retroviral infection that altered the neuroanatomical pattern of receptor expression, leading to changes in behavior which in specific socio-ecological conditions were adaptive, resulting ultimately in species with different social organization.

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

John Templeton Foundation
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