Are human beings biologically designed to be good?

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Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why and Leaders Eat Last, was on radio for the full three hours today. He and Glenn were able to dive into a long list of topics, but perhaps the most fascinating was Simon’s explanation on how the human brain is chemically wired to do good.

So in our brains, in our bodies, there is a system of chemical rewards so when we do things we get a feeling of doing those things that is designed to reward behavior that is in our best interest.  There’s four chemicals that are mainly responsible for all the good feelings that we would have,” Simon explained. “So any kinds of feelings of happiness, joy, success, friendship, trust, love, loyalty can basically be boiled down to endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin.”

So how does it work?

Simon explained, “Dopamine is something you get when you accomplish something you set out do accomplish so that feeling when you get when you cross off something off your to do list the feeling find something on Google or eBay.  Nobody goes to Google and types in things you’re not looking for.  We have something in mind.  We type it in and the feeling of there it is, that’s dopamine.  Dopamine is also the feeling you get when you win the game.  Yes, that sort of fantastic, we did it.  Or when you feel like you’re making progress.  So that’s why they put mile-markers — if you ran a race without mile-markers it’s actually unnerving so dopamine helps us feel like we’re making progress.  It’s the reason we’re achievement machines.”

“The problem with dopamine is it doesn’t last.  It comes in hits,” he said. 

While dopamine doesn’t last and leave people with strong feelings of accomplishment, the chemicals serotonin and oxytocin are what do last and are what Simon calls “social chemicals”.

“This is the importance — what you’re talking about is the solution to the imbalance of dopamine.  Right?  Which is these other beautiful, beautiful chemicals called serotonin and oxytocin.  Broadly speaking these two chemicals are the selfless chemicals.  They are the social chemicals.  These are the chemicals that reward us — it’s the feeling of trust.  It’s the feeling of friendship.  It’s the reason we like spending time with our friends.  It’s the reason we’d rather sit next to someone that we know and we leave a blank space at the movies because we don’t want to sit next to somebody we don’t know.  That feeling of safety.  That comes from these other two beautiful chemicals and the most important thing about those chemicals is they last.  They take a while to build up.  It takes time to build up trust, but they last,” he said. 

Now the great thing about serotonin — one of the ways in which we get oxytocin — and there’s a whole bunch.  Oxytocin is the warm and fuzzies.  One of the ways we get it is generosity.  Acts of kindness.  Giving of your time and energy with no expectation of return.  Money doesn’t count.  Time and energy,” he explained.

Simon explained that if he goes online and donates a $1,000 to charity, he gets a very different feeling than if he spent a whole weekend afternoon painting a school. While a $1,000 may go further than his physical labor, it is a different mental reward.

“As human beings we put a premium on those who are willing to spend a nonredeemable commodity.  It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor.  We all have 24 hours in a day and once that is spent, you never get it back,” he said. “The human body is trying desperately to get us to look after each other.  And reason is very simple.  By ourselves, we’re junk.  Right?  But in groups, we are remarkable.”

It is what Benjamin Franklin said, was the American religion,” Glenn added. “They were trying to trap him into pick one religion, and he said finally the American religion is 1) There is a God 2) He’s going to judge us 3) The best way to serve him is to serve your fellow man.”

“Our Creator is trying to tell us is serve one another.  You want to serve me?  Serve one another.  So you’ll feel good,” Glenn said.


  • landofaahs

    The heart of man is deceitful above all things. Jer. 17:9. ’nuff said

    • Elena

      And yet the Lord GOD said when He finished creating that it was very good — that includes us. Of course, we did not stay that way…

    • CHANGEIN2014

      “and desperately wicked: who can know it?”

  • Connor Kenway

    I am sorry but this is not always the case.

  • landofaahs

    Create in me a clean heart Oh God and renew a right Spirit within me. Psalm 51:10

    • CHANGEIN2014


  • Elena

    If you want to feel good — love God w/everything you are and will be. Then love your neighbor as yourself. You cannot afford to confuse the two or reverse the order.

    • Anonymous

      You want to feel good? Live by the golden rule, which means that ANYBODY will be happy and satisfied with oneself.

  • Anonymous

    Don’t worry about how you are to speak because in that hour what you are to
    say will be given to you. Matthew 10:19

  • Type 53

    Nu-age twaddle, the likes of which the Reverend Beck traffics in.

  • Type 53

    “Our Creator is trying to tell us is serve one another. You want to serve me? Serve one another. So you’ll feel good,” Glenn said.I hope someday Beck stops posturing and making ‘Christian’ noises, and actually settles down and reads what the Bible says. Note the universalist use of *creator*.

  • suz

    so i’m driving in manhattan and i stop just before entering the corner to let the old lady cross the street. she looks up at me (i’m in a big truck), smiles and mouths the words ‘thank you.’ the traffic behind me has blown their horns, oh maybe two or three times by now so no third-party serotonin because they could care less what’s going on ahead — they just want to get to where they’re going.

    this, i think, illustrates the state of america.

    you have to be that kind of person who cares to know…anything. and i think it stems from a spirituality that, in my opinion, most people do not have.

  • The Blue Tail Gadfly

    Re: “The human body is trying desperately to get us to look after each other. And
    reason is very simple. By ourselves, we’re junk. Right? But in groups, we are remarkable.”

    And here I always thought it was by ourselves we are junk, but with Christ we are saved. While Beck and Sinek are telling you to appease your body’s desires, the Apostle Paul disagrees:

    Romans 7:18

    For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.

    Do not be led astray by Glenn’s New Age gibberish which permeates his entire thinking process on all matters.

    • landofaahs

      The great discoveries and inventions were mostly made by individuals determined to succeed not groups that lose heart and give up all to easily.

  • BlueMN

    “The human body is trying desperately to get us to look after each other. And reason is very simple. By ourselves, we’re junk. Right? But in groups, we are remarkable.” Sounds like utopian socialism to me.

  • David

    “Der Wille zur Mact” -Fredrick Nietzsche.

    The will to power. Nietzsche pondered what was left when you stripped away all morality in society that came from faith and religion. What is left is the desire to acquire and maintain power at ALL cost. Nietzsche called this desire the will to power. Without realizing it, he was quoting the Torah and Buddhist texts warning about the selfishness and cruelty of humanity. Altruism is only taught by faith, NOT by any teaching of man. The pure evil that man can create lead to such acts of depravity such as the Holocaust, the Killing Fields of Cambodia, and the “Worker’s Paradise” of DPRK (North Korea).

  • Anonymous

    Tired of our government creating crisis to enslave us and our children?

  • Anonymous

    Fortunately and lovingly God created our animal bodies and animal instincts with a soul, one that distinguishes humans from an animals. The soul is linked like a web site to an unknown live good howdy-doody and an unknown live bad howdy-doody giving us spiritual good or evil conversations for us to choose each day, which one we will serve. We then are responsible for the consequences of our choices with many opportunities in our lifetime to repair all damages except one.

  • mommyfur

    I think you all are blowing this way out of porportion. Didn’t God put all those chemicals in our bodies? Perhaps it was to biologically signal us when we are doing right and wrong. Back then they didn’t have chemical or artificial means of simulating those feelings. Maybe saying we’re junk is not the best way of expressing what he was wanting to say…but you have to admit, group can do things better if they all work together…good things or bad. I think the “junk”comment was more humility than any new age stuff. He doesn’t talk that way and I”ve watched him or many years. Hope all of you are always perfect in expressing your thoughts.

  • Pocahontas

    It would help the conversation if people would try to answer the question of What is America’s Why? Stop attacking Beck to confuse the issue. We are all flawed messengers and imperfect human beings. The words “Serve one another” sounds pretty good to me.

  • Jacob

    The natural man is designed to seek pleasure. If you reward people/children who do good. Then they will continue doing so because it brings them pleasure. If you do not bother to teach them and leave them to their own devices people will seek whatever brings them pleasure. Man is selfish in nature. Selflessness is something that needs to be taught and reinforced day in and day out.

  • Guest

    So then we are predetermined to be Socialist, if you believe this view. I don’t.

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