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The Science of Sin

The Science of Sin

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People lie, cheat, steal, and yes, they still ‘covet thy neighbour’s wife’. Deadly or not…big or little…people sin. Every major religion has a stance on sin, and in our secular world, almost all modern-day laws have been written to curb the dark sinner lurking within all of us. What remains a mystery is why we sin, even when our brains know better.

The Science of Sin is a 4-part series that explores the shadowy pathways of the human mind to examine why the temptation to sin is evolutionarily hard-wired and asks if this scientific reality can be trumped by culture, laws or religion.

Each of the films tackles two of the Seven Deadly Sins with a modern twist, interweaving leading-edge science with the personal stories of our ‘characters’– regular people who have sinned in life-changing ways. The final episode will explore only the one sin of “Pride”, as we find out why it is still regarded as the “mother of all sins”.

Episode Synopses:

Episode 1: “Greed & Envy”

Theologians say that greed is like drinking saltwater: you think you’re going to be satisfied but you always thirst for more. Stephanie, a former runner-up on The Apprentice, describes herself as ambitious and greedy. She enjoys the chase, the power and the “freedom” greed brings. She has been on the other side, and does not want to change her sinful ways. But as she desperately seeks to have relationships with other people, does greed prevent her from reaching out? Science holds the key.

On the flip side of greed, is envy. Research suggests that envy is in fact a dangerous emotion as it is inherently social: people are not envious of the Lamborghini; they envy the person who owns the Lamborghini. Rachel has been envious her entire life – so much so that she now battles a shopping addiction. For more than four decades Rachel has struggled with overspending fueled by western culture and advertising that conspires to have us envy the rich and emulate the lifestyles of “the rich and famous.” But why has she acted this way? Could it be she has the “credit card” gene in her DNA?

Episode 2: “Gluttony & Sloth”

Terry is a 400 pound, stand-up comedian who wants to make a “big” impact on his audience; Karen is a competitive fitness model with surreal body and sculpted frame. What could they possibly have in common? According to our religious scholars, both are considered gluttons, obsessed by food impulses. While Karen will binge eat, Terry methodically fills space with food. Under the guidance of cutting-edge scientists, Terry and Karen will undergo a series of tests to reveal their inner sinner. What we find out, is what can happen to all of us if we give in to the eternal sin of gluttony.

When it comes to the sin of sloth we meet Aidan,  a 17-year-old video gamer who spends most of his life time in front of a plasma screen.  He routinely falls asleep on the couch after playing video games and social networking on his computer late into the night.  He is chronically tired and underperforming at school, the true picture of sloth. But Dr. Mariana Figueiro thinks otherwise. Since the industrial revolution, artificial lighting and a myriad of technologies has brightened our evenings — could this be affecting our sleep patterns?

Episode 3: “Lust and Wrath”

Wrath is any harmful action that comes out when anger (or rage) goes out of control. Yet to not be angry, when we should be full of rage, is also considered a religious sin.

Clive has a history of violent outbreaks and trouble with authority – the latest resulting in his arrest, with his wife and children leaving him. He knows he needs help, and refuses to give up on his family. Can renowned Los Angeles psychologist Dr. Ray Novaco, who coined the term “anger management”, help someone so enraged? Clive’s anger will be put to the test.

Lust, a natural drive, is the mind fog of when sexual urges go out of control – and while biological evidence suggests we are meant to have multiple partners, infidelity is a sin. Brian and Ashley’s 12-year marriage hangs by a thread due to Brian’s infidelity. The couple travels to the ‘Love Lab’ to meet Dr. John Gottman who has studied couples and relationships for over 30 years. With one in two marriages ending in divorce, are we really meant to stay together? Can evolution, and our DNA, wash away responsibility for Brian’s sins?

And what happens when anger and passion explode into the most destructive behaviour of all—murder? Rev. Glowacki introduces us to Iouri who is serving a life sentence for the second degree murder of his wife. In prison, Iouri is studying theology and he talks about taking responsibility for his crime. Can science explain why people murder? It turns out, it can. Our theologians weigh in – can anyone truly be redeemed for this most grievous sin?

Episode 4:  “Pride”

Pride — the belief that my will trumps all, even the will of God — is the deadliest of the Cardinal Sins. Yet, science suggests that our ability to think well of ourselves is a crucial cognitive function, our survival, and happiness.  But Pride is also the creator of hate and dishonesty. Theologians agree that the denial of the truth has a role in all sin and pride is the ultimate in self-deception.

Tevya is obsessed over his looks and ambition, consuming daily supplements and barely ever eating “chew meals” to maintain his ‘porn star’ body. Even when professionally warned of the damage he may be doing, Tevya insists on his unhealthy regimen. Is he deceiving himself about much more in his life? He meets neuroscientist Dr. Julian Keenan, who points out that the human brain has evolved a unique cognitive process: the ability to lie to ourselves and each other, and this is part of what makes us human.

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