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01/12/2005

Dr. Love

Utne Reader discusses the really cool Research in Unlimited Love Institute, in Cleveland, directed by Stephen Post of Case Western. It is a cool idea, but difficult to explain:

IRUL’s funding is modest-it has raised about $4 million in the past four years for research, conferences, and publications-but Post hopes to use empirical research to transform the way modern people view themselves and treat others. It’s an ambitious goal, considering that the scientific community is focused almost exclusively on the implications of negative, rather than positive, human behavior (over the past 40 years, for example, there have been approximately 100,000 peer-reviewed scientific studies on depression, and just seven on happiness).

“Is being selfless as much a part of being human as selfishness?” asks Post, who is editor-in-chief of The Encyclopedia of Bioethics and author of The Moral Challenge of Ahheimer Disease. “This question has been debated for centuries, but the perspective shifted in the last century. Freud thought human nature was nothing but a seething, boiling cauldron of self-interest, and [B. R] Skinner concluded from his rat studies that human motivation was based on pleasure stimulation. These viewpoints were based on bad science and jaded pedagogical speculation, but they created a tremendous burden of proof for anyone who wanted to say otherwise.”

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