The Empiricism Of David Brooks

The combination of a reporter's ear and an intellectual's mind is a rare thing, which is why I'm grateful for David Brooks, and particularly excited about his burgeoning interest in and study of neuroscience. It seems quite likely to me that this relatively new field will be the most fecund in the future for understanding just who we mortals be. Nuggets like these leap out:

Jonathan B. Freeman of Tufts and others peered into the reward centers of the brain such as the caudate nucleus. They found that among Americans, that region was likely to be activated by dominant behavior, whereas among Japanese, it was more likely to be activated by subordinate behavior the same region rewarding different patterns of behavior depending on culture.

The complex interaction of environment and genes, and the fluidity and flexibility of the human mind, take us beyond what we used to think of as science and what we used to think of as being human:

Reem Yahya and a team from the University of Haifa studied Arabs and Jews while showing them images of hands and feet in painful situations. The two cultures perceived pain differently. The Arabs perceived higher levels of pain over all while the Jews were more sensitive to pain suffered by members of a group other than their own.

Maybe that's why Jews tend to be liberal. And maybe that's a useful insight into the politics of the Middle East.