Does the Heart Think?

Author: Stephen Caesar
Subject: Biology
Date: 05/21/2005

The wording of Genesis 6:5 makes it sounds of as if the human heart is capable of thinking, or at least of having some sort of emotional capacity: “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of THE THOUGHTS OF HIS HEART was only evil continually.” Critics deem this expression to be unscientific, since the heart is viewed as a purely mechanical pump. However, the science journal Discover, in a review of the book A Man after His Own Heart by Charles Siebert, reported that Siebert’s book recognized

“that the heart is no mere pump, as some physicians still insist, but a sophisticated participant in the regulation of emotion. The heart has a mind of its own: It secretes its own brain-like hormones and actively partakes in a dialogue among the internal organs―a dialogue on which cardiac researchers are only beginning to eavesdrop. The heart likewise undergoes all manner of organic change inflicted on it by the tempestuous brain and its neurochemicals. As one doctor explains, people do suffer heartbreak, literally” (Burdick 2004: 72).

The journal used the real-life example of William Schroeder, who was the second (as well as the longest-surviving) recipient of the Jarvik-7 artificial heart. As a purely mechanical pump of his blood, the device kept Schroeder alive for an unprecedented 620 days. However, as Discover reported,

“The patient’s mental state was another matter. Schroeder was weepy and deeply despondent. (Barney Clark, the first Jarvik-7 recipient, expressed a wish to die or be killed.) The blood still circulated, but something vital―some emotionally charged communication between heart and mind―had been lost….Affirming all [alleged] myths, the heart truly is a seat of human emotion. The Jarvik-7, in contrast, was deaf to the song of human experience; built to invigorate its patient, it instead alienated him, supplying Schroeder with everything but the will to live. He had the look, Siebert writes, ‘of a man who has lost his heart’” (Burdick 2004: 72).

It is discoveries like these that should caution us not to be too quick in judging the Book of Genesis as scientifically unsound.

Burdick, A. 2004. Review of A Man after His Own Heart, by Charles Siebert. Discover 25, no. 5.

Stephen Caesar holds his master’s degree in anthropology/archaeology from Harvard. He is a staff member at Associates for Biblical Research and the author of the e-book The Bible Encounters Modern Science, available at

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