The Science of Sin: Why We Do The Things We Know We Shouldn’t

Jack Lewis. Bloomsbury Sigma, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-1-4729-3614-1
Lewis (Sort Your Brain Out), a neurobiologist, explores the brain activity behind the seven deadly sins of Christianity in this diverting but messily organized work of popular science. Each sin receives its own chapter exploring its treatment in a variety of world religions (Christianity receives the most thorough examination), accompanied by relevant insights from neuroscience research. For instance, in the chapter on “wrath,” he discusses the part of the brain involved in aggression, as shown by cases in which “a tumor pressing up against the amygdala was implicated in extremely violent conduct.” Some of these scientific tidbits are intriguing and surprising, but they seem chosen for those qualities rather than to lay out a systematic argument. Lay readers would benefit from plain English about the geography of the brain; references to the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and the like quickly become meaningless. After examining the sins, Lewis devotes a chapter to steps one might take to harness brain behavior to act more ethically, but the ideas seem like the result of brainstorming more than refined and well-considered suggestions (fight “wrath” with Botox injections?) People new to reading about neuroscience will be entertained, but those wanting to delve more deeply into the subject should look elsewhere. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 06/18/2018
Release date: 09/01/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-1-4729-3615-8
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