Sam Harris speaks with James R. Doty about his memoir Into the Magic Shop: A Neurosurgeon’s Quest to Discover the Mysteries of the Brain and the Secrets of the Heart. They discuss the significance of childhood stress, the possibility of changing one’s core beliefs about oneself, the relationship between surgeons and their patients, the nature of compassion, the Dalai Lama, the relationship between wealth and empathy, the worsening problem of social inequality, the physiology of compassion, the broken healthcare system in the U.S., and other topics.
James R. Doty is a clinical professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at Stanford University and the director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University School of Medicine.
As director of CCARE, Dr. Doty has collaborated on a number of research projects focused on compassion and altruism including the use of neuro-economic models to assess altruism, use of the CCARE-developed compassion cultivation training in individuals and its effect, assessment of compassionate and altruistic judgment utilizing implanted brain electrodes and the use of optogenetic techniques to assess nurturing pathways in rodents. Presently, he is developing collaborative research projects to assess the effect of compassion training on immunologic and other physiologic determinants of health, the use of mentoring as a method of instilling compassion in students and the use of compassion training to decrease pain.
Dr. Doty is also an inventor, entrepreneur and philanthropist having given support to a number of charitable organizations including Children as the Peacemakers, Global Healing, the Pachamama Alliance and Family & Children Services of Silicon Valley. He is on the Board of Directors of a number of non-profit foundations including the Dalai Lama Foundation, of which he is chairman and the Charter for Compassion International of which he is vice-chair. He is also on the International Advisory Board of the Council for the Parliament of the World’s Religions. He also writes for The Huffington Post.
Episodes that have been re-released as part of the Best of Making Sense series may have been edited for relevance since their original airing.