The Bible and Neuroscience on Promiscuity
April 4, 2011
The Bible is the greatest source of wisdom for life in all of humanity. If followed, its teaching regularly and without rival leads to human flourishing. It is important to keep this in mind, because, since the beginning of the twentieth century in the United States, current after current of alleged thought has told us to jettison scriptural teaching in favor of some recent, more updated findings. This has especially been true in the sexual revolution, which tells us that traditional biblical morality is stifling and repressive. However, if the Bible is true, one would predict that. In fact, following its teachings would lead to flourishing, and disobeying its teachings would have a deleterious effect on people.
I just finished reading Joe McIlhaney, MD, and Freda Bush’s, MD, book, Hooked: New Science on How Casual Sex is Affecting our Children (Northfield Publishing, 2008). So far as I know, neither author is a believer, and if he or she is, neither’s religious views form a part of his/her arguments. The thesis of the book is that, given current brain research, is it now beyond reasonable doubt that sexual promiscuity (basically, any intense sexual activity, including, but not limited to, intercourse) has a negative impact on one’s brain chemistry, one’s health, one’s ability to enjoy sex, and one’s ability to connect emotionally and relationally with someone. They argue that only in the context of traditional marriage can sexual relations be life-giving.
The book is an important read, and the findings are what one would expect if the Bible’s teachings in this area are true. People ask me why I believe the Bible. There are many reasons, but one of them is that the Bible is born out by real life, and this book is another example of that fact.
One other observation. The author’s make the claim that certain states of the brain (e.g., the release of certain chemicals) affect one’s sense of attraction for and connection with another person. Now, if we were just our brains, it would seem that such states of the brain, along with physical inputs, would actually determine these factors. But if that were so, it would seem that using irreducible semantic contents to argue for healthier sexual approaches (i.e., abstinence until marriage) would be otiose unless, of course, those semantic contents, and other irreducible mental states have a causal impact on brain chemistry. Thus, the very act of arguing their case shows that some form of at least interactionist property dualism is true. Were this not the case, then the authors should be seeking some sort of medication to alter brain chemistry in this area that would, in turn, alter behavior. Pills, not arguments, would be the order of the day.
Hi Prof. Moreland, this is remarkable on one hand, but not surprising on the other. But I do have a question for you: what do you make of the studies coming out against spanking (eg. http://www.webmd.com/parenting/news/20100412/spanking-linked-to-kids-later-aggression). Shouldn’t we expect studies to be showing that spanking (appropriately) facilitates the flourishing of children?
Thanks for your thoughtful reply. Given my current research commitments, I cannot take the time to read the article on spanking you reference. In spite of that, I have three things to say that I hope will be helpful.
First, to decide whether or not a study shows an activity is conducive to human flourishing, we would need to see what the researchers mean by flourishing. The book on promiscuity aligned well with a biblical notion, but I am suspicious that the studies on spanking do not. That would be something I would want to look at, especially in light of the fact that many (not all) contemporary Western ideas of flourishing (e.g. being a self-contained individualist; achieving autonomy from external moral authority; being tolerant in the contemporary sense) are not consistent with biblical flourishing.
Second, the effect of spanking is to promote adult flourishing, not childhood flourishing per se; that is, the correct effects to study regarding spanking would be the impact on adult behavior when the children grow up. What are needed are longitudinal studies.
Third, one would need to see if the current practice of spanking is an accurate instantiation of biblical spanking, and I am fairly certain that this is not the case. For example, Proverbs and the Sermon on the Mount make clear that anger is to be dealt with as a first item of business in our lives. It follows, that biblical spanking should not be done in anger, but I am certain that much of contemporary spanking is, in fact, so done.
So these are three things that need to inform an accurate comparison of the current practice with biblical teaching. The book Hooked scored well on all three in my view.
this is very true and puts science on the spot as a real proof for the bible
[…] From J.P. Moreland’s web site. (H/T Thinking Matters NZ) […]
Here’s an article that might help you to defend spanking:
I just have a comment about spanking for the previous entry. The rod spoken of in Proverbs speaks of parental correction and not about actual spanking. I would encourage any any who disagrees to meditate upon all references to the rod in Proverbs. If you still think the bible teaches spanking then the next time you see a fool, you can suggest to the authorities to beat his back with a rod. I am typing on an iPhone so I hope this short comment isn’t argumentative. At the time of the writing of Proverbs the rod simply had to do with correction.