Science and heart

Last night, I heard Ben Bradshaw, the Labour MP for Exeter, speak at Sheldon’s Friday Fringe about “The Church and Civil Partnerships”. He spoke about his own experience and the journeys that the state and the church have been on, the need for equality, but the pitfalls of trying to move too fast. He came across as genuine and tactically astute. If only he were still my MP, and the constituency boundary changes in 2010 hadn’t shifted Topsham and St Loyes out of Exeter and into East Devon!

He prefaced his talk with some science. It’s almost indisputable that hetero- or homosexuality are innate, rather than learned, and there is increasing evidence of a genetic basis. But people don’t believe what they believe because of the science. It’s the same with climate change. People think and make decisions with their hearts or emotions, rather than their heads, and are much happier to stay with outdated beliefs than to change their prejudices or their lifestyles.

Last Friday, I was the storyteller (cool name for blogger) at the first TEDxExeter, a festival of ideas worth spreading on the theme of “Sustainability and Our Interconnected World”. You’d have thought that an event about ideas would have been interesting, cerebral, perhaps even inspiring. But one of the most telling responses was the openness to the emotional and spiritual. For example:

  • @GeekDadGamer : The only framework I have to make sense of @TEDxExeter is a spiritual one. Not expected that, or the emotion.
  • @KirstiAfS : Reflecting on an inspiring day at #TEDxExeter & what engaged me most: personal stories (especially from childhood ) + passion. And Taiko!
  • @TPiMBWAcademic : @BandiMbubi Amazing speech, absolutely deserved the standing ovation! pure inspiration! tears in my eyes #MakingTheDifference #TEDxExeter

So, a question: how best can science be used to engage the heart and emotions?

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