How does gene feel about his actions in the tree

Chapter 2



The morning after the boys first jump from the tree, Mr. Prud'homme, a substitute Master for the summer, scolds Gene and Finny for missing dinner. Finny tells Mr. Prud'homme that they were late because they were jumping out of the tree to prepare for military service — a far-fetched excuse he weaves into a long, funny explanation. Finny's friendly chatter charms Mr. Prud'homme, and the Master lets the boys off without punishment.

That day Finny wears a very un-Devon bright pink shirt, and its unconventional color draws Gene's attention. The shirt, Finny insists, is an "emblem" — a celebration of the first Allied bombing of Central Europe. Later, at a formal tea, Finny wins over the strict Mr. Patch-Withers with his "emblem." Finny even gets an appreciative laugh from the faculty and their wives when they see that he has also used his Devon tie as a belt, a gesture of disrespect for which anyone else would have been punished.

After the tea, Gene and Finny walk across the playing fields talking. Finny declares that he does not believe the Allies bombed Central Europe, and Gene, surrounded by the peace and serenity of the elms, agrees. Bombs in Central Europe, Gene reflects, seem unreal to a boy at Devon.

As they approach the river, Finny dares Gene to jump out of the tree again. When Gene accepts, Finny offers to jump at the same time, to "cement" their "partnership." They also decide to form the Super Suicide Society of the Summer Session, in which all members will have to jump from the tree.

On the limb, Gene turns to talk to Finny and suddenly loses his balance. Instantly, Finny grabs Gene's arm, steadying him, and then both jump successfully into the river. Only later, after dinner, does Gene realize that Finny's quick response may have saved his life.


As this chapter illustrates, Finny enjoys getting himself into tight (and sometimes dangerous) situations, and he relies on his natural charm and often illogical view of the world to extricate himself. While military service overtakes the older students, only the 16-year-old boys remain careless and happy in this peaceful world. For the masters of Devon — and Gene, too — Finny comes to represent the "essence of this careless peace."

While Finny likes to defy authority, play games, and jump out of trees — all of these essentially childish activities — Gene, by contrast, wants to become an adult and feels that he should learn how to live in the grown-up world. His basic nature points him in the direction of conventionality and conformity, and his instincts make him fear Finny's youthful spontaneity as dangerous — and yet also dangerously attractive.

As the chapter unfolds, Gene feels more and more caught in the irresistible pull of Finny's spontaneous nature, as well as his charismatic power to inspire people by creating his own imaginative world out of nothing more than his own whims. But Finny's ease at convincing others of his ideas also secretly galls Gene, who finds himself "unexpectedly" wishing to see his friend punished for his easy, winning ways of escaping trouble.

Finny's pink shirt stands as the central symbol of the chapter, the expression of his unique gift for making things mean what he wants them to mean. He chooses the pink shirt carelessly, as he does all his clothes, but once he puts it on, his inventive mind conjures up a reality for it that defies challenge, even when Gene offers his own typically conventional interpretation that people will think Finny is a "fairy." Finny calmly rejects Gene's objection and proposes instead his own eccentric idea, bridging the gap between reality and his whim with effortless grace. The pink shirt, he declares, is an "emblem" to celebrate the beginning of the Allied bombing of Central Europe.

At Mr. Patch-Withers' tea party, Finny's pink shirt — with the emblematic nature he ascribes to it — becomes his passport into the formal adult club that excludes and terrifies other students. While the other boys worry about making fools of themselves at this rather stiff and formal occasion, Finny proves himself calm and glib, his zany explanations coming from a sheer delight in talking freely, as a friend, with anyone, including the masters and their wives. In fact, his winning conversation, marked by casual grace and natural wit, charms everyone into accepting not only an unconventional piece of clothing, but his freely offered views on the war. Audaciously, Finny even talks his way out of a potentially disastrous situation when he casually reveals — to the horror of the headmaster's wife — that he is wearing his school tie as a belt.

But Finny's gift for talking himself out of trouble also arouses a strange spitefulness in Gene, who unconsciously desires to see his friend fail, and even, significantly, to fall. For example, Gene secretly delights at the prospect of Finny getting into trouble for wearing his school tie disrespectfully, but Gene's spirits deflate when the master laughingly accepts Finny's comical excuse. Even though it does not harm or even affect Gene, Finny's imaginative freedom seems to him an affront — an excess that must be punished.

Despite his resentment, though, Gene succumbs to Finny's charismatic power and persuasiveness. When Finny, in an imaginative reversal, declares his belief that there is no bombing in Europe, Gene comes to share in Finny's vision of a world set apart from conflict. As the two boys cross the forested campus on their way to the river, Gene gazes up at the sheltering elm trees, which seem to him to extend endlessly into the heavens and northward almost indefinitely. For Gene, at this moment, Devon — the "tame fringe of the last and greatest wilderness" — becomes a kind of Eden, where the thought of war seems impossible, even absurd.

But in the midst of this Eden, there already lurks deep in Gene's heart a type of original sin — his growing envy and resentment of Finny. Finny, though, remains unaware of his friend's true feelings and proposes that they climb the tree again and make the jump together. He means this double jump as a ritual act of friendship — a way of sealing the bond of their "partnership."

What happens next, on the limb before the boys jump, foreshadows the central dramatic event of the novel (in Chapter 4). Suddenly, Gene loses his balance — physically, of course, but symbolically, too — and Finny instinctively grasps his friend's hand to balance him and save him from falling.

Finny's action clearly reveals his true feelings for Gene; without even thinking, he reaches out to save his friend. Only later, after dinner, does Gene fully realize the danger from which Finny has saved him. The rush of gratitude and affection Gene feels seems to wash away the resentment about Finny's controlling influence.

As the novel progresses, though, Gene will move continually between these two emotions, further complicating his relationship with Finny — because, ironically, Gene has, in a sense, already fallen from Eden.

Chapter 5



As the chapter opens, Gene hears from the school doctor, Dr. Stanpole, that Finny's leg has been "shattered" in the fall. Numbed by the terrible accident and fearing that he will be accused of causing it, Gene stays in his room. There he dresses in his roommate's clothes (including the pink shirt) and feels, for a time, as if he has become Finny — sharp, optimistic, confident. But when the moment passes, Gene again feels dread and guilt about what he has done to his friend.

After chapel one morning, Dr. Stanpole tells Gene that he may visit Finny in the infirmary. Finny is recovering, Dr. Stanpole explains to Gene, but he will never play in any sport again. Gene bursts into tears at the news. Gently, Dr. Stanpole encourages Gene to cheer up, for Finny's sake. Gene is the only person Finny has asked to see.

Gene arrives at the infirmary, certain that Finny will accuse him of causing the accident. In their conversation, Gene probes to see whether Finny realizes what made him fall. Although he has a vague sense of Gene's involvement in the accident, Finny pushes these thoughts aside and apologizes to his friend for suspecting him. Gene suddenly feels he must tell Finny the truth, but he is prevented by the arrival of Dr. Stanpole, who ends the visit.

That fall, on his way to Devon, Gene visits Finny in his home outside Boston, where he is still recuperating. There Gene admits jouncing the limb deliberately in order to make Finny fall. Finny refuses to believe his friend, and when Gene insists he is telling the truth, Finny tells him to go away.

Realizing that he is hurting Finny, Gene stops the talk, mumbling an excuse about being tired from the train ride. Finny tells Gene that he will return to Devon soon. The roommates part as friends, with Gene promising, falsely, that he will not start "living by the rules."


This chapter presents the consequences of the fall, physically for Finny and psychologically for Gene. Here, as he tries to determine how much Finny actually knows about the fall, Gene begins a slow and torturous process to understand himself.

Although he is absorbed in his own grief in this chapter and fearful of discovery, Gene still senses the deep sadness the masters feel over Finny's injury. Such a tragedy seems to them especially cruel for a 16-year-old boy, who should be enjoying his last months of freedom before going to war. In fact, Finny's shattered leg becomes a poignant image of the peace that has been shattered prematurely.

The chapter begins by exploring Gene's numbed reaction to the consequences of his unthinking action in the tree. The leg, the doctor explains, is "shattered" — a term Gene cannot fully understand. And when the doctor also announces that "sports are over" for Finny, he assigns Gene the terrible responsibility to try to help his friend to come to terms with this devastating prospect. In no uncertain terms, then, Gene realizes that he has truly destroyed his friend — and not the imagined rivalry that he now sees as nothing more than his own selfish illusion.

Afraid of accusations and also frightened of his own deepest emotions, Gene retreats into himself, where he discovers paradoxically his own mirror image of his friend — and victim. Alone in the room he shares with Finny, Gene decides, on an impulse, to dress in his friend's clothes, including his pink shirt. In the mirror, Gene sees himself becoming Finny, even down to the expression on his face — "Phineas to the life."

Imaginatively restoring his friend to vigor, Gene feels momentarily relieved of his guilt — and at one with Finny. Yet this illusion, comforting as it is, lasts only a single night for Gene, although the theme of his identification with Finny — their doubleness, as it were — continues to develop throughout the novel.

Gene not only identifies with his friend, but also tries to confess his wrongdoing to Finny. Twice in the chapter, he makes the attempt, first at the infirmary and later at Finny's home in Boston, but both times the discussion ends without any true resolution. Yet even these attempted confessions show Gene struggling to cope with his psychological turmoil and still very much caught up in his conflicted emotions about Finny.

The scene at the infirmary — when he makes his first (abortive) attempt at confession — reveals the guilt, fear, and anger that Gene still feels toward Finny. Dreading a direct accusation, Gene hesitantly probes Finny's memory of the fall, hoping, it seems, to find a lapse of memory that would make his guilt disappear. When Finny remembers an urge to reach out and catch on to his friend, Gene reacts in anger and fear — "to drag me down, too!" — confusing his own unspoken violent impulses with Finny's simple and innocent instinct to save himself.

Reliving the fall with Finny in the infirmary room, Gene emphasizes his own pain and fear, insisting that the accident, in a sense, happened to him, too. Again, Gene seeks relief from his guilt through his identification with Finny.

As the two boys struggle with their memories, Gene tries to confess to Finny, but is interrupted by Dr. Stanpole. Actually, Gene welcomes the interruption, because he comes to his confession not so much out of contrition as shame. Indeed, before Gene begins his stuttering admission, Finny makes a confession of his own — he vaguely suspects that Gene somehow caused the fall — but quickly apologizes to his friend for thinking badly of him without any proof of wrongdoing. Ironically, then, it is Finny who confesses out of innocence — he feels guilty for guessing the truth — rather than Gene, who should be confessing out of guilt.

Gene's second attempt at confession takes place during an impulsive visit he makes to the recuperating Finny at his home outside Boston. His impulse here suggests the beginning of his growing maturity and personal integrity, which prompts his need to confess.

Yet, visiting at Finny's home, Gene feels like a "wild man." In fact, he launches into a declaration that seems more like another attack on Finny than an admission of guilt or a heartfelt apology. Finny, in turn, lashes out in anger, hurt by his friend's words and unable to accept the dark secret inherent in their meaning. And Gene, in turn, sees this reaction as a vindication of his own violent instinct; if Finny can express such murderous rage, Gene reasons, then his own action must be no worse than his friend's.

The truth of the matter, it seems, cannot really be discussed between the roommates. Uncomfortable but still wanting to be friends, Gene and Finny part on a false note — Gene will not lapse back into the old rules when he returns for the new term at Devon.

But Gene ends the chapter by foreshadowing his regression back into conformity when he judges this promise to be "the biggest lie of all."

Genes govern behavior, and behavior governs genes

The journal Science published a series of review and theoretical papers on the relationship between genes and behavior. Recent data from genetics and neuroscience point to the complexity and ambiguity of this relationship. Genes influence even such complex aspects of human behavior as family and social relationships and political activity. However, there is also a reverse influence of behavior on the work of genes and their evolution.

Genes influence our behavior, but their power is not unlimited

It is well known that behavior largely depends on genes, although in most cases one cannot speak of strict determinism. The genotype does not determine behavior as such, but rather the general principles for constructing neural circuits responsible for processing incoming information and making decisions, moreover, these "computing devices" are capable of learning and are constantly rebuilt throughout life. The absence of a clear and unambiguous correspondence between genes and behavior does not at all contradict the fact that certain mutations can change behavior in a very specific way. However, it must be remembered that each behavioral trait is determined not by one or two, but by a huge number of genes that work in concert. For example, if it is found that a mutation in a gene leads to the loss of speech, this does not mean that "scientists have discovered the speech gene. " This means that they have discovered a gene that , along with many other genes, is required for the normal development of the neural structures by which a person can learn to speak .

This range of topics is the subject of behavioral genetics. Review articles published in the latest issue of Science provide a number of striking examples of how changes in individual genes can radically change behavior. For example, back in 1991, it was shown that if a small fragment of gene 9 is transplanted0004 period from a fly Drosophila simulans to another species of flies ( D. melanogaster ), transgenic males of the second species begin to perform the courtship song D. simulans during courtship.

Another example is the for gene, which determines the foraging activity of insects. The gene was first found in Drosophila: flies with one variant of this gene search for food more actively than carriers of another variant. The same gene, as it turned out, regulates the feeding behavior of bees. True, it is not differences in the structure of the gene that play a role here, but the activity of its work (see below): in bees collecting nectar, gene for works more actively than those who take care of the young in the hive. How is it that the same gene influences the behavior of so many different insects with vastly different levels of intelligence in similar ways? There is no clear answer to this question yet. Below we will come across other examples of amazing evolutionary conservatism (stability, immutability) of the molecular mechanisms of behavior regulation.

The Baldwin Effect: Learning guides evolution

The relationship between genes and behavior is by no means exhausted by the unidirectional influence of the former on the latter. Behavior can also influence genes, and this influence can be traced both on an evolutionary time scale and throughout the life of an individual organism.

Changed behavior can lead to a change in selection factors and, accordingly, to a new direction of evolutionary development. This phenomenon is known as the "Baldwin effect" after the American psychologist James Baldwin, who first put forward this hypothesis in 1896 years old For example, if a new predator appears that can be escaped by climbing a tree, victims can learn to climb trees without having an innate (instinctive) predisposition to do so. At first, each individual will learn a new behavior over the course of its life. If this continues long enough, those individuals that learn to climb trees faster or do it more dexterously due to some innate variation in body structure (slightly more prehensile paws, claws, etc.) will receive a selective advantage, then eat will leave more offspring. Consequently, selection will begin for the ability to climb trees and for the ability to quickly learn this. Thus, a behavioral trait that initially reappeared each time as a result of lifelong learning can eventually become instinctive (innate) - the changed behavior will be "inscribed" in the genotype. Paws at the same time, too, are likely to become more tenacious.

Another example: the spread of a mutation that allows adults to digest the milk sugar lactose has occurred in those human populations where dairy farming has come into use. Behavior has changed (people began to milk cows, mares, sheep or goats) - and as a result the genotype has changed (the hereditary ability to absorb milk in adulthood has developed).

The Baldwin effect is superficially similar to the Lamarckian mechanism of inheritance of acquired traits (results of exercise or non-exercise of organs), but it operates quite in a Darwinian way: through a change in the vector of natural selection. This mechanism is very important for understanding evolution. For example, it follows that as the ability to learn grows, evolution will look more and more “purposeful” and “meaningful”. It also makes it possible to predict that a positive feedback loop may occur in the development of intelligence: the higher the ability to learn, the more likely it is that selection for an even greater ability to learn will begin.

Social behavior affects how genes work

Behavior also affects how genes work during the life of an organism. This topic is developed in detail in an article by Gene E. Robinson of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign et al. The paper examines the relationship between genes and the social behavior of animals, with special attention paid to how social behavior (or socially significant information) affects the functioning of the genome. This phenomenon began to be studied in detail relatively recently, but a number of interesting findings have already been made.

When a male zebra finches ( Taeniopygia guttata ) — a bird from the weaver family — hears the song of another male, the gene egr1 starts to be expressed (works) in a certain area of ​​the auditory area of ​​the forebrain. This does not happen when a bird hears individual tones, white noise or any other sounds - this is a specific molecular response to socially significant information.

The songs of unfamiliar males evoke a stronger molecular genetic response than the chirping of old acquaintances. In addition, if the male sees other birds of his species (not singing), the activation of gene egr1 in response to the sound of someone else's song is more pronounced than when he sits alone. It turns out that one type of socially significant information (the presence of relatives) modulates the reaction to its other type (the sound of someone else's song). Other socially significant external signals lead to the activation of the egr1 gene in other parts of the brain.

Surprisingly, the same gene plays an important role in social life in fish. "Elements" has already written about the complex social life and remarkable mental abilities of the aquarium fish Astatotilapia burtoni In the presence of a dominant male winner, the subordinate male fades and shows no interest in females. But as soon as a high-ranking male is removed from the aquarium, the subordinate rapidly transforms, and not only his behavior changes, but also the color: he begins to look and behave like a dominant. The transformation begins with the activation of the already familiar gene 9 in the neurons of the hypothalamus0004 egr1 . Soon, these neurons begin to overproduce the sex hormone (gonadotropin-releasing hormone, GnRH), which plays a key role in reproduction.

The protein encoded by the egr1 gene is a transcription factor, that is, a regulator of the activity of other genes. A characteristic feature of this gene is that a very short-term external influence (for example, one sound signal) is enough to turn it on, and the turn-on occurs very quickly - the time counts down to minutes. Another feature of it is that it can have an immediate and very strong influence on the work of many other genes.

egr1 - is far from the only gene whose work in the brain is determined by social stimuli. It is already clear that the nuances of social life affect the work of hundreds of genes and can lead to the activation of complex and multi-level "gene networks".

This phenomenon is studied, in particular, on bees. The age at which a worker bee stops caring for young and begins to fly for nectar and pollen is partly genetically predetermined, partly depends on the situation in the team (see: A gene regulating the division of labor in bees has been identified, "Elements", 03/13/2007). If a colony lacks "preservers", young bees determine this by a decrease in the concentration of pheromones released by older bees, and can move on to foraging at a younger age. It turned out that these odor signals change the expression of many hundreds of genes in the bee's brain, and especially affect the genes encoding transcription factors.

Very rapid changes in the expression of multiple genes in response to social stimuli have been identified in the brains of birds and fish. For example, in female fish, contact with attractive males in the brain activates some genes, and contact with females, others.

Relationships with relatives can also lead to long-term stable changes in gene expression in the brain, and these changes can even be transmitted from generation to generation, that is, inherited almost completely “according to Lamarck”. This phenomenon is based on epigenetic DNA modifications, such as promoter methylation, which leads to a long-term change in gene expression. It was noticed that if a mother rat is very caring towards her children, often licks them and protects them in every possible way, then her daughters are likely to be the same caring mothers. It was thought that this trait was genetically predetermined and inherited in the usual way, that is, "recorded" in the nucleotide sequences of DNA. One could also assume cultural inheritance - the transmission of a behavioral trait from parents to offspring through learning. However, both of these versions turned out to be wrong. In this case, an epigenetic mechanism works: frequent contacts with the mother lead to methylation of the promoters of certain genes in the brain of rat pups, in particular genes encoding receptors that determine the response of neurons to certain hormones (the sex hormone estrogen and stress hormones - glucocorticoids). Such examples are still rare, but there is every reason to believe that this is only the tip of the iceberg.

The relationship between genes and social behavior can be extremely complex and bizarre. Red fire ants Solenopsis invicta have a gene that determines the number of queens in a colony. Homozygous workers with the BB genotype do not tolerate more than one queen in the colony and therefore have small colonies. Heterozygous Bb ants willingly care for several females at once, and their colonies are large. Workers with different genotypes have very different levels of expression of many genes in the brain. It turned out that if BB workers live in an anthill dominated by Bb workers, they go along with the majority and subdue their instincts, agreeing to take care of several queens. At the same time, the pattern of gene expression in their brain becomes almost the same as in Bb workers. But if you conduct a reverse experiment, that is, move Bb workers to an anthill where the BB genotype predominates, then the guests do not change their beliefs and do not adopt intolerance towards “extra” queens from the hosts.

Thus, in a variety of animals - from insects to mammals - there are very complex and sometimes very similar systems of interactions between genes, their expression, epigenetic modifications, the functioning of the nervous system, behavior and social relations. The same picture is observed in humans.

The neurochemistry of personal relationships

Relationships between people until recently seemed too complex to biologists to seriously explore them at the cellular and molecular level. Moreover, philosophers, theologians and humanitarians have always been happy to support such concerns. And the thousand-year-old cultural traditions that have inhabited this area from time immemorial with all sorts of absolutes, “higher meanings” and other ghosts cannot be so easily discarded.

However, the successes achieved in recent decades by geneticists, biochemists and neurophysiologists have shown that the study of the molecular basis of our social life is not at all hopeless. An article by neuroscientists from Emory University Zoe Donaldson and Larry J. Young tells about the first steps in this direction.

One of the most interesting discoveries is that some molecular mechanisms of regulation of social behavior turned out to be extremely conservative - they exist, almost unchanged, for hundreds of millions of years and work with the same efficiency both in humans and in other animals. A typical example is the system of regulation of social behavior and social relations with the participation of the neuropeptides oxytocin and vasopressin.

These neuropeptides can work both as neurotransmitters (that is, to transmit a signal from one neuron to another individually), and as neurohormones (that is, to excite many neurons at once, including those located far from the neuropeptide release point).

Oxytocin and vasopressin are short peptides consisting of nine amino acids, and they differ from each other by only two amino acids. Almost all multicellular animals (from hydra to humans inclusive) have these or very similar (homologous, related) neuropeptides, and they appeared at least 700 million years ago. These tiny proteins have their own genes, and invertebrates have only one such gene, and, accordingly, a peptide, while vertebrates have two (the result of a gene duplication).

In mammals, oxytocin and vasopressin are produced by neurons in the hypothalamus. In invertebrates that do not have a hypothalamus, the corresponding peptides are produced in similar (or homologous) neurosecretory parts of the nervous system. When the fish gene for isotocin (the so-called homologue of oxytocin in fish) was transplanted into rats, the transplanted gene began to work in rats not just anywhere, but in the hypothalamus. This means that not only the neuropeptides themselves, but also the systems regulating their expression (including the regulatory regions of the neuropeptide genes) are very conservative, that is, they are similar in their functions and properties in animals that are very far from each other.

In all animals studied, these peptides regulate social and sexual behavior, but the specific mechanisms of their action can vary greatly between species.

For example, in snails, the homologue of vasopressin and oxytocin (conopressin) regulates oviposition and ejaculation. In vertebrates, the original gene doubled, and the paths of the two resulting neuropeptides diverged: oxytocin affects more females, and vasopressin affects males, although this is not a strict rule (see: Males become calmer and bolder after mating, "Elements", 10/16/2007 ). Oxytocin regulates female sexual behavior, childbirth, lactation, attachment to children and a marriage partner. Vasopressin affects erection and ejaculation in a variety of species, including rats, humans, and rabbits, as well as aggression, territorial behavior, and relationships with wives.

If oxytocin is injected into the brain of a virgin rat, she begins to care for other rats, although in a normal state she is deeply indifferent to them. On the contrary, if a mother rat suppresses the production of oxytocin or blocks oxytocin receptors, she loses interest in her children.

If in rats oxytocin causes concern for children in general, including those of strangers, then in sheep and humans the situation is more complicated: the same neuropeptide ensures the mother's selective attachment to her own children. For example, in sheep, under the influence of oxytocin, after childbirth, changes occur in the olfactory region of the brain (olfactory bulb), thanks to which the sheep remembers the individual smell of her lambs, and only to them does she develop attachment.

In prairie voles, which are characterized by strict monogamy, females are attached to their chosen one for life under the influence of oxytocin. Most likely, in this case, the previously existing oxytocin system for forming attachment to children was "co-opted" to form inseparable marriage bonds. In males of the same species, marital fidelity is regulated by vasopressin, as well as by the neurotransmitter dopamine (see: Love and fidelity are controlled by dopamine, Elements, 07.12.2005).

The formation of personal attachments (to children or to a husband) seems to be only one of the aspects (manifestations, realizations) of a more general function of oxytocin - the regulation of relations with relatives. For example, mice with a disabled oxytocin gene no longer recognize relatives that they previously met. At the same time, their memory and all sense organs work normally.

The same neuropeptides can act quite differently even on members of closely related species, if their social behavior is very different. For example, administering vasopressin to male prairie voles quickly turns them into loving husbands and caring fathers. However, vasopressin does not have such an effect on males of a closely related species, which is not characterized by the formation of strong family pairs. The introduction of vasotocin (avian homologue of vasopressin) to male territorial birds makes them more aggressive and makes them sing more, but if the same neuropeptide is injected into male zebra finches that live in colonies and do not guard their territories, then nothing like this happens. Obviously, neuropeptides do not create this or that type of behavior out of nothing, but only regulate the already existing (genetically determined) behavioral stereotypes and predispositions.

This, however, cannot be said about receptors for oxytocin and vasopressin, which are located on the membranes of neurons in some parts of the brain. In the note “Love and fidelity is controlled by dopamine” mentioned above, it was said that scientists tried, by acting on dopamine receptors, to teach a male non-monogamous vole to be a faithful husband, and nothing came of it (I then noticed on this occasion that “the neurochemistry of family relationship continues to keep its secrets”). Three years later (that is, already this year), neuroscientists nevertheless picked up the key to this secret, and inveterate revelers were finally turned into faithful husbands. For this, as it turned out, it is enough to increase the expression of vasopressin receptors V1a in the brain. Thus, by regulating the work of the vosopressin receptor genes, it is possible to create a new behavior that is not normally characteristic of this animal species.

In voles, the expression of vasopressin receptors depends on a non-coding region of DNA, a microsatellite located upstream of the V1a receptor gene. In a monogamous vole, this microsatellite is longer than in a non-monogamous species. Individual variability in the length of the microsatellite correlates with individual differences in behavior (with the degree of marital fidelity and care for offspring).

Of course, it is much more difficult to study all this with a person - who will allow genetic engineering experiments to be carried out with people. However, much can be understood without rough intervention in the genome or brain. Surprising results were obtained by comparing the individual variability of people for microsatellites located near the V1a receptor gene with psychological and behavioral differences. For example, it turned out that the length of microsatellites correlates with the time of puberty, as well as with character traits associated with social life, including altruism. Want to get better? Increase the length of the RS3 microsatellite near the vasopressin receptor gene in brain cells.

This microsatellite also affects family life. A 2006 study in Sweden showed that men who are homozygous for one of the allelic variants of the microsatellite (this variant is called RS3 334) are half as likely to develop romantic relationships leading to marriage than all other men. In addition, they are twice as likely to be unhappy in family life. Nothing of the kind was found in women: women homozygous for this allele are happy in their personal lives no less than others. However, those women who got a husband with the “wrong” version of the microsatellite are usually dissatisfied with family relationships.

Carriers of the RS3 334 allele have several more characteristic features. Their share is increased among people with autism (the main symptom of autism, as you know, is the inability to communicate normally with other people). In addition, it turned out that when looking at other people's faces (for example, in tests where it is necessary to determine the mood of another person by facial expression), the amygdala (amygdala) is more excited in carriers of the RS3 334 allele - a brain region that processes socially significant information and is associated with such feelings like fear and distrust (see below).

Such studies have only recently begun, so many results need further verification, but the overall picture is beginning to emerge. It seems that in terms of the nature of the influence of the oxytocin and vasopressin systems on relationships between individuals, humans are not very different from voles.

It is difficult to inject neuropeptides into the brain of living people, and intravenous administration gives a completely different effect, because these substances do not pass through the blood-brain barrier. However, it turned out unexpectedly that they can be administered pernasally, that is, dripped into the nose, and the effect is approximately the same as in rats when injected directly into the brain. It is not yet clear why this is so, and there have been very few such studies so far, but the results are nonetheless impressive.

When men get vasopressin in their noses, other people's faces become less friendly. For women, the effect is the opposite: other people's faces become more pleasant, and for the subjects themselves, facial expressions become more friendly (for men, on the contrary).

Experiments with pernasal administration of oxytocin have so far been carried out only on men (it is more dangerous to do this with women, since oxytocin strongly affects female reproductive function). It turned out that men from oxytocin improve their ability to understand the mood of other people by facial expressions. In addition, men begin to look the interlocutor in the eyes more often.

In other experiments, another surprising effect of pernasal administration of oxytocin was found - an increase in gullibility. Men who have been injected with oxytocin turn out to be more generous in the “trust game” (this standard psychological test is described in the note Trusting and gratitude are hereditary traits, “Elements”, 03/07/2008). They give more money to their playmate if the playmate is a human, however generosity is not increased by oxytocin if the playmate is a computer.

Two independent studies have shown that the administration of oxytocin can also lead to harmful consequences for a person, because gullibility can become excessive. A normal person in the “trust game” becomes less generous (gullible) after his trust has been betrayed once by a partner. But men who have had oxytocin injected into their noses do not: they continue to blindly trust their partner even after the partner “betrayed” them.

If a person is told bad news when he looks at someone's face, then this face will subsequently seem less attractive to him. This does not happen in men who have had oxytocin dripped into their noses.

The neurological mechanism of action of oxytocin is also beginning to be clarified: it turned out that it suppresses the activity of the amygdala. Apparently, this leads to a decrease in distrust (people stop being afraid that they will be deceived).

According to researchers, society may soon face a whole series of new "bioethical" problems. Should merchants be allowed to spray oxytocin in the air around their merchandise? Is it possible to prescribe oxytocin drops to quarreling spouses who want to save the family? Does a person have the right to find out the allelic state of the vasopressin receptor gene in his partner before marriage?

Until the court case, oxytocin is sold in any pharmacy. True, only by prescription. It is administered to women in labor intravenously to enhance uterine contractions. As we remember, it regulates both childbirth and egg laying in mollusks, and many other aspects of reproductive behavior.

It's time for political scientists to learn biology

Aristotle, who is considered the founder of scientific political science, called man a "political animal". However, until very recently, political scientists did not seriously consider the possibility of biological factors (such as genetic variability) influencing political processes. Political scientists developed their own models, taking into account dozens of different sociological indicators, but even the most complex of these models could explain no more than a third of the observed variability in people's behavior during elections. What accounts for the other two-thirds? It seems that the answer to this question can be given by geneticists and neuroscientists.

The first scientific evidence indicating that political attitudes are partly determined by genes was obtained in the 1980s, but at first these results seemed dubious. Convincing evidence of the heritability of political beliefs, as well as other important personality characteristics that affect political and economic behavior, has been obtained in the last 3-4 years in the course of the study of twins (one of such studies is described in the note Trusting and gratitude are hereditary traits, "Elements of ", 07.03.2008).

These studies have shown that political affiliations are largely hereditary, but they have not revealed which genes influence these affiliations. So far, only the first steps have been taken in this direction. It was possible to find a number of correlations between political views and allelic variants of genes. For example, the variability of the gene encoding the dopamine receptor DRD2 correlates with adherence to a particular political party. However, these results are preliminary and need to be verified.

"Political thinking" seems to be one of the most important aspects of social intelligence (see: Found key difference between human and monkey intelligence, "Elements", 13. 09.2007). In everyday life, we (like other primates) constantly have to solve problems of a “political” nature: who can be trusted and who cannot; how to behave with different people depending on their position in the social hierarchy; how to raise your own status in this hierarchy; with whom to make an alliance and against whom. Neurobiological studies have shown that when solving such problems, the same parts of the brain are excited as when thinking about global political problems, making judgments about a particular political figure, party, etc.

However, this is only seen in people who understand politics, such as strong supporters of the Democratic or Republican Party in the United States. Democrats and Republicans use the same "social-oriented" parts of the brain to generate political judgments. If you ask people who are not interested in politics to speak about national politics, then completely different parts of the brain are excited in them - those that are responsible for solving abstract problems that are not related to human relationships (for example, tasks in mathematics). This does not mean that politically naive people have poor social intelligence. It only means that they do not understand national politics, and therefore the corresponding tasks in their minds fall into the category of "abstract", and socially oriented circuits are not involved. Disruption of these circuits is common in autistic people, who can handle abstract tasks very well, but cannot communicate with people.

Large-scale political problems first confronted people very recently on an evolutionary time scale. To solve the world's problems, we seem to be using old, proven genetic and neural circuits that evolved over time to regulate our relationships with fellow tribesmen in small communities. And if so, then in order to understand the political behavior of people, it is completely insufficient to consider only sociological data. It's time for political scientists to join forces with behavioral geneticists, neuroscientists, and evolutionary psychologists.

1) Gene E. Robinson, Russell D. Fernald, David F. Clayton. Genes and Social Behavior // Science . 2008. V. 322. P. 896–900.
2) Zoe R. Donaldson, Larry J. Young. Oxytocin, Vasopressin, and the Neurogenetics of Sociality // Science . 2008. V. 322. P. 900–904.
3) James H. Fowler, Darren Schreiber. Biology, Politics, and the Emerging Science of Human Nature // Science . 2008. V. 322. P. 912–914.

See also:
1) Z. A. Zorina, I. I. Poletaeva, Zh. I. Reznikova. Fundamentals of ethology and genetics of behavior.
2) Political convictions depend on fearfulness, Elements, 09/26/2008.
3) The biochemical foundations of love are laid in infancy, "Elements", 02.12.2005.

Alexander Markov

Interpretations of the Holy Scriptures. Interpretations on Gen. 2:9


  • Commentary on Gen. 2:9

    • St. John Chrysostom

    • St. Gregory the Theologian

    • St. Ignaty Brianchaninov

    • St. Filaret (Drozdov)

    • Mch. Justin the Philosopher

    • Schmch. Cyprian of Carthage

    • Ex. Simeon the New Theologian

    • Ex. Efrem Sirin

    • Bliss. Jerome Stridonsky

    • Bliss. Augustine

    • Ex. Maxim the Confessor

    • Ep. Vissarion (Nechaev)

    • Lopukhin A.P.

previous verse to the text of Scripture next verse content

St. John Chrysostom

And out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, and the tree of life in the midst of paradise, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil

Here is another beneficence with which God honored the created. Having desired that man should live in paradise, God commanded that different trees grow out of the earth, which could both amuse him with their appearance and be fit for food. "Every red tree in vision" , that is, in appearance, "and good for food" , that is, able to both amuse the eye and delight the taste, and with their multitude and abundance give great pleasure to the one who will be them enjoy. In a word: God has grown "every tree" that you can imagine. See what a carefree place to be! See what a wonderful life! The man lived on earth like an angel - he was in the body, but had no bodily needs; like a king, adorned with scarlet and diadem, and clothed in purple, he freely enjoyed the heavenly dwelling, having everything in abundance. "And the tree ," he says, " of life in the midst of paradise, and the tree that knows the good and the evil one" . Having shown us that the earth, at the command of the Lord, produced every tree, and “red in vision” , and “good food” , (Scripture) says later: “and the tree of life in the midst of paradise, and the tree that you lead understanding of the good and the evil one" . The philanthropic Lord, as the Creator, foreseeing what harm could result from great freedom over time, also sprouted “the tree of life in the midst of paradise, and the tree that guides the understanding of the good and the evil one” , from which (the tree), a little later, he will command a person to abstain, so that he knows (man) that he enjoys everything by grace and humanity (of God) , and that there is a Lord and Creator both of his nature and of everything visible. Therefore (Moses) mentioned this tree here, and tells us further about the names of the rivers and their, so to speak, separation, and that from the river that soldered paradise, others separated and formed four beginnings, thus delimited the countries earthly.

Discourses on the book of Genesis. Conversation 13.

He creates in Paradise "every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food" . He deprived the criminal of the opportunity to justify himself in advance. When the chronicler said about the wife: “and the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasing to the eyes and desirable” (Gen. 3:6), so that no one would think that it alone was beautiful compared with other trees, he said that all trees were distinguished by this property, that they were all beautiful in appearance and beautiful, so that you know that a person transgressed the commandment not because of a lack, but fell in full abundance. "And the tree , - it is said, - "of life in the midst of paradise, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" . Trees were of three kinds. Some were given to man to live; others - to live well; the third - to always live. He could live from trees from which he was allowed to eat; could live well without touching forbidden trees; could live well, touching what was not forbidden to him, and not touching what was forbidden. Living well meant obeying God. The tree of life was in the midst of paradise, as a reward; the tree of knowledge - as a subject of competition, achievement. If you keep the commandment regarding this tree, you will be rewarded. And look at the amazing thing. Everywhere in paradise all sorts of trees bloom, everywhere abound in fruits; only in the middle are two trees as an object of struggle and exercise. There was food all around.

Talk about the fifth day of creation.

St. Gregory the Theologian

And out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, and the tree of life in the midst of paradise, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil

Christ is taken up on a tree and nailed; but restores us with the tree of life, but saves the thief crucified with Him, but darkens all that is visible.

Words. Word 30.

St. Ignaty Brianchaninov

And God was still vegetating from the earth, every red tree for vision and good food for food: and the tree of life in the midst of paradise, and the hedgehog tree leads the understanding of the good and the evil one

See Commentary on Gen. 2:8

St. Filaret (Drozdov)

And out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, and the tree of life in the midst of paradise, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil

The special attributes of paradise were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Tree of life , which, according to the closest application to the Jewish name, can be called the tree of lives and also the tree of health (Josh. 5:8) Moses represents, as it were, the head of the trees of paradise good for food , similarly as the tree knowledge of good and evil delivers in some accordance with the trees, pleasing views . Being as far removed from the essential knowledge of the tree of life as from eating its fruits, we must content ourselves with this comparative mode of explanation. It was between the trees of paradise what man is between animals, what the sun is between the planets. The fruits of the trees of paradise served for nourishment, the fruit of the tree of life for health. Those could make up for the lack in the body caused by movement, and this one, bringing its forces into the same balance always, retained in it the ability to0282 live forever (Gen. 3:22) and mature into a painless transformation from the soul into the spiritual body (1 Cor. 15:44-46). But since the life and light of man have always been in the hypostatic Word of God (John 1:4), the tree of life in its beneficial effect on natural life was a majestic formation of grace-filled life in God, in which the name of the tree of life is also used in the New Testament. (Rev. 2:7; Rev. 22:2). When the tree of life appears in the middle of the garden , then this sim points out the Holy Scripture not so much to the focus of the place, but to its excellent property and obvious greatness. Thus the king appears in the midst of his people (1 Kings 3:8). The name of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil no doubt refers to the effect it could produce in a person. However, it could not be a source of knowledge, both because this is incompatible with the nature of the tree, and because the image of the Creator was in man a source of reason or knowledge (Col. 3:10) and the whole world presented him with images of goodness . Thus, this tree was to be only a means and an opportunity for experiential knowledge or a real feeling of the difference between good and evil. This action could depend both on the properties of the tree and on the special purpose of God. From the property of the tree, if we imagine that it was in its nature opposite to the tree of life; that as much life-giving force was contained in the tree of life, so much deadness akin to the substance was hidden in the tree of knowledge; that as much as the influences of the former corresponded to the structure of the human body, so much the actions of the latter were inconsistent with it and therefore destructive. From a special purpose, inasmuch as the tree of knowledge, having been chosen as an instrument of testing, presented to man, on the one hand, an ever-increasing knowledge and enjoyment of goodness in obedience to God, on the other hand, knowledge and feeling of evil in disobedience. Everything that Holy Scripture says about the tree of knowledge belongs to this most test purpose.

Interpretation of the Book of Genesis.


The name of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil corresponds to its essence, because through this tree a person has learned by experience what good lies in obedience to the will of God and what evil lies in resisting it.

Lengthy Orthodox Catechism of the Orthodox Catholic Eastern Church. Part two. About faith. About the third member of the Creed.

Mch. Justin the Philosopher

And out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, and the tree of life in the midst of paradise, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil

…God first planted in the middle of paradise [the tree of knowledge and] the tree of life, pointing to knowledge as the path to life. But the first people, not with pure thoughts, took advantage of it, and lost it through the deceit of the serpent. For neither life without knowledge, nor knowledge without true life, is not lasting. Therefore, both trees were planted next to each other.

Epistle to Diognet.

Ssmch. Cyprian of Carthage

And out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, and the tree of life in the midst of paradise, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil

See Commentary on Gen. 2:8

Ex. Simeon the New Theologian

And out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, and the tree of life in the midst of paradise, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil

See Commentary on Gen. 2:8

Ex. Efrem Sirin

And out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, and the tree of life in the midst of paradise, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil

See Commentary on Gen. 2:8

Bliss. Jerome Stridonsky

And out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, and the tree of life in the midst of paradise, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil

If wisdom is the tree of life, then wisdom itself is Christ. Now you understand why a blessed and holy man is likened to this tree - the tree of wisdom. Now you understand why this just and blessed man, who did not follow the advice of the wicked and does not do this, but does this - why he is like a tree planted by streams of water (Ps 1:3), that is, why he is like Christ for God raised us up with him and seated us in heaven (Eph 2:6). Now you understand that Christ and I reign in heaven. Now you understand why this tree was planted in Paradise and why we are all planted with it.

Treatise on Psalms (Ps. 1).

Bliss. Augustine

And out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, and the tree of life in the midst of paradise, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil

See Commentary on Gen. 2:8

Ex. Maxim the Confessor

and the tree of life in the midst of paradise, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil

See Commentary on Gen. 2:8 and Prov. 3:18

Ep. Vissarion (Nechaev)

And God was still vegetating from the earth, every red tree for vision and good food for food: and the tree of life in the midst of paradise, and the hedgehog tree leads the understanding of the good and the evil one

Among the trees of paradise , "red in vision" [pleasant in appearance] and "good in food" , two trees were of particular importance: the tree of life and the tree of understanding or the knowledge of good and evil. The first got its name from the fact that its fruits were intended to maintain immortality in a person through the very body, as is evident from the fact that the fallen progenitor was expelled from paradise, "Let not when he stretch out his hand and lift up from the tree of life and live forever" (Gen. 3:22). And in other cases, Scripture testifies that the God of death did not create (Wisdom 1:13), that He created man in perishability (Gen. 3:23), and that death entered the world through sin (Rom. 5:12). But the immortality of a person according to the body did not depend on the nature of the body itself, created from earthly dust, but solely on the grace of God, and was intended for a person under the condition of his obedience to the will of God. The tree of life was nothing but a conductor or instrument of this grace, which acted mysteriously on the human body. By its nature, this tree, of course, could not impart immortality to the human body, for it itself, like everything earthly, was not eternal; but as a conductor of life-giving divine power, with its fruits it could renew a person’s health, weakened over the years according to the laws of elemental life, and maintain in him the ability to live forever, so that a person would either always remain in the same body, or his body, without having tasted death, could be painlessly transformed from the natural [animal] into the spiritual (1 Cor. 15:44-46). The tree of knowledge of good and evil was the tree of tests for the first people. It received its name not from the fact that it itself had the power to inform people of the knowledge of good and evil , but from what served as an external aid in acquiring this knowledge . The first people in their innocence did not suspect the existence of evil and were inclined towards good by nature, and not by conscious conviction in the superiority of good over evil. Destination tree of the knowledge of good and evil was that, with his help, they could achieve this conviction, and that they could consciously learn to prefer the good of obedience to the evil of disobedience. This does not mean, however, that they were destined to experience the evil by their own experience, and that this experience served as a necessary condition for them to be able not only to know good and evil , but together, having tasted the bitterness of the latter, to love the former and be affirmed. in him. No, the first people could consciously fall in love good and hate evil without losing your innocence and rightness. The good angels have attained perfection in the knowledge of good and evil , having not experienced evil and having stood in one good . In order for the first people to be able to achieve similar success in knowing good and evil , for this they did not need to lose their innocence and experience evil in deed, but it was enough only to know the threatening danger of evil , which, as we shall see, is not the Lord hid from them, and at a meeting with evil to oppose him, for the power of evil is recognized in the confrontation with him.

Interpretation on proverbs from the book of Genesis.

Lopukhin A.P.

And out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, and the tree of life in the midst of paradise, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil

“and the tree of life, in the midst of paradise…” In the midst of all the trees of paradise that delighted the eye and nourished the human body, there stood one that had miraculous power - to impart immortality to those who ate from its fruits (Gen. 3:22), for which got its name "tree of life" . The specified feature of this tree was, without a doubt, its natural property, but represented one of the types of special, supernatural action of divine grace associated with eating its fruits, as with its external symbolic sign. In addition to its actual historical existence (Rev. 2:7; Rev. 22:2), the tree of life, both in Scripture itself and in the Fathers of the Church, received a mysteriously figurative meaning, pointing mainly to the tree of the cross, by which the Lord returned life to us spiritual, and to the sacrament of the Eucharist as the saving fruit of this sacrifice on the cross (John 6:51-58, etc.), leading to eternal life.

“and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil… This was another famous paradise tree, standing next to the first one (Gen. 3:3; Gen. 2:9), but possessing, as it was discovered later, properties directly opposite to it (Gen. 3:17). God chose this tree as a means to test Adam's faith and love, as well as his gratitude to the heavenly Father, for the purpose of which He gave him the commandment not to eat from the fruit of this tree.

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