Linking the Science of Senses to the Deeper Needs of Our Soul: “Touch, Robotic Devices and Our Longing for Community.”

Leonardo DaVinci once said, “The five senses are the ministers of the soul.” Every moment of every day we use these to help us navigate and experience the world around us. As scientists study the human body, we have gained a greater understanding of how each sense is used to help us gain information. Ongoing investigations continue to demonstrate how each one positively impacts our health and wellbeing. As a Christian, when I read or hear about some of these scientific studies I am often struck by the way God uses our senses to understand who He is and how He created us. This week we will take a brief look at a few of these and relate them to a familiar passage of Scripture to see how they can illuminate and refresh our perspectives.


“Touch, Robotic Devices and Our Longing for Community.”

He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,  and gently lead those that are with young.

Isaiah 40:11

embraceThe sense of touch develops before all other senses in utero. Touch is the first way we learn about our environment and bond with other people. This sense never turns off or takes a break and continues to work long after other senses fail us as we age. We use our sense of touch to learn, protect ourselves from harm, relate to others, and experience pleasure. For decades researchers have studied how positive touch impacts our emotional and physical wellbeing. We now know that babies who are given affectionate touch are more likely to thrive physically, emotionally and mentally when compared with infants who are deprived of nurturing touch. We need to be touched in order to bond and adapt to the world around us.

Not surprisingly, the benefits of human touch are not just limited to children. The Touch Research Institute, an organization dedicated to studying the effects of touch therapy, has conducted many different studies that show how human touch can decrease pain, improve pulmonary function, lower blood glucose levels, and improve immune function. Conversely, their studies indicate that there is a clear and quantifiable cost across the lifespan when we are deprived of nurturing touch for long periods of time.

I recently read an article about how technological advances are being used to help combat the problem of isolation and loneliness that is often experienced in certain populations like the elderly, disabled and the mentally ill. Many do not have caregivers or regular companions who can offer them the nurturing touch that will benefit them physically and emotionally. To help with this problem, several developers have created robot pets and even robot people. These mechanical creatures provide touch, make noises, talk and even respond appropriately to the person who is interacting with them.

While some may find these inventions rather fascinating, they greatly concern me. As our dependence on technology radically increases and we appear to grow more and more isolated from one another, is this what our future holds? While a robot may offer stimulation to a person seriously deprived of touch, neither can replace the power of nurturing touch in the context of human relationships. We long to touch and be touched by others because we were made for community. This begins at home with our own brood and extends toward extended family, neighbors and people around us who are lost, alone and disconnected from the fold. As you tune into this incredible sensation, allow God to use you to reflect His tenderness by being His hands and His feet in the lives of others.