Dr. Shelli Carter
Robert Sapolsky: The Trouble with Testosterone
Dr. Robert Sapolsky, a Professor at Stanford University, gathered a compilation of essays based on the world and the human experience. Sapolsky examines some of the ways that our biology influences behavior, such as testosterone, and whether it causes aggression. This book also discusses the process of puberty, an animal’s social position, the advantages of taking risks, and how certain hormones affect the human body. One major highlight in this book was the breakdown of mental illnesses such as: schizophrenia and obsessive compulsive disorder in the development of religion. Sapolsky had one major point which I totally disagreed with, and that was his theory that individuals who are religious have some form of mental illness. This book touches on many different topics, but none directly related to the title of the book.
Sapolsky is a self proclaimed atheist, and many of his viewpoints are rather interesting; however, it’s not easy for the reader to actually comprehend this book without opposing views. I can agree with Sapolsky when he states that society will change when everyone carries a dozen biological labels/ diseases. There are so many people suffering with mental illness, but where do these illnesses stem from? And how can it be proven that just because someone is slightly different, they’re suffering mentally? Sapolsky also believed that a particular brain region size can predict sexual orientation. I do not have any way to prove whether this is correct or not, I believe that sexual orientation is based on the level of attraction, I have never thought about sexual orientation in a scientific way. Many scientists relate human beings to baboons, Sapolsky has made that comparison in his book; he has also studied baboons on a deeper level to prove his theories. One chapter that I could really make a relation to was “The Solace of Patterns”, where Sapolsky discusses how people progress through life by following predictable patterns, the author then makes a comparison between grief and denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. The topics discussed in this chapter were very relatable for me; I have experienced each pattern mentioned. Much of what the author discusses helps me to better understand some of the leading causes to why human beings struggle. Many believe that hormones can be traced back to aggressive behavior. I have found that a lack of hormones can cause the same affects as having too much of a certain hormone. This is called a hormonal imbalance, but does the aggression with testosterone come from having too much, or having too little? Scientists have researched and proven that too much testosterone actually causes happiness in men, not anger.
I found it difficult to read the last chapter of the book, simply because it interferes with my religious beliefs. In my opinion, it was a bit harsh for Sapolsky to compare a religious person to someone with schizophrenia, or “the milder twin”. Just because someone studies numbers and how they relate to religious doctrines, it doesn’t mean that person has obsessive compulsive disorder, but these are the beliefs of Sapolsky. I can agree that a