Empathy comes from the brain

Science Daily has an article detailing a study which examined the origin of empathy – our ability to put ourselves in the emotional shoes of others (in case anyone didn't know that) – in the brain.
According to Aziz-Zadeh's findings, empathy for someone to whom you can directly relate -- or example, because they are experiencing pain in a limb that you possess -- is mostly generated by the intuitive, sensory-motor parts of the brain. However, empathy for someone to whom you cannot directly relate relies more on the rationalizing part of the brain.
Empathy is a big deal. It's the driving force behind moral values, and it's the reason why people suffering from sociopathology are doomed to construct their moral behaviors based on a desire for self-preservation. Empathy is the reason we're supposed to want to write a check after we see a starving African child on TV. It's the source not only of day-to-day moral behavior, but altruistic behavior as well.

And it comes from our brains. Our biology. Does this "disprove" that it's not bestowed upon us from on high, and that the brain is merely running supernatural "software"? No. It can't. What it does do, however, is add to the pile of evidence which shows we have no need to invoke supernatural explanations to understand our moral behavior. And as I always like to say, the only thing worse than a God who doesn't exist is one who might as well not exist.


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