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Interaction between genes and the relational environment during development of the social brain

Graeme Finlay
S & CB 30 (2)
October 2018


Humans have complex brains. These have evolved over a vast phylogenetic history. Scientists are discovering genetic innovations that may have contributed to brain development over evolutionary time. The science of comparative genomics reveals when during evolution each such formative genomic event occurred and the mechanism by which it arose. However, genetics are necessary but not sufficient to account for our mental capacities. For example, our ability to interact as persons (to practise theory of mind) is not genetically encoded, but is learned. During infancy and childhood, brains cannot follow normal developmental trajectories in the absence of attentive, loving caregiving. Human brain development and function require personal input. We share in the fullness of being human by interpersonal relationship, and a Christian interpretation of this fact is that human flourishing requires that people know, and are known by, God.

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