During the message on Sunday 14th July I will make mention of a scientist, Professor Robert Sapolsky, a neuroscientist and primatologist who has investigated for many years the human stress response and how it influences our behaviour in many ways. He is the author of many books, including Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers: The Acclaimed Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases, and Coping and more recently Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst. For those willing to commit around 40 minutes of their time, I would highly recommend watching his 2009 Class Day Lecture to the graduating class at Stanford University, entitled The Uniqueness of Humans. (https://news.stanford.edu/news/2009/june17/videos/557.html )
In the lecture, Sapolsky outlines the many ways in which we humans are ‘just the same’ as any other mammal, and the ways, both good and bad, in which we are truly unique. I found the lecture fascinating, enlightening and, ultimately, deeply moving as this former-Orthodox-Jew-now-atheist describes the ways in which the uniqueness of human behaviour can range from the appalling to the sublime, including at the end of his lecture a clarion call to the students in a way that – amazingly for an atheist – presents religious conviction and practice in a most magnificent and uplifting way.