wiser by Dilip Jest, MD., with Scott Lafee–Book Review

The author of this book is not Christian, but wisdom is a biblical topic, and of interest to all people of faith.  Dilip Jest is a doctor and for many years has been studying the neuroscience of wisdom.  His first step is to define wisdom.  What are the qualities of a wise person?  After consulting various religions and philosophies and rounds of surveys with experts, he came  up with the following list of items that are characteristic of wisdom:

  • Prosocial attitudes and behavior — these include empathy, compassion and altruism
  • Emotional stability with happiness –the ability to maintain self-control and positive feelings
  • Balancing decisiveness with acceptance of uncertainty–realizing that things can change over time with new knowledge and experience
  • Reflection and self understanding–this includes insight, intuition and self-awareness
  • Social decision-making and pragmatic knowledge of life–i.e. the ability to give good advice
  • Spirituality–a belief in something larger than the individual

He also concluded that wisdom does increase with age, and is uniquely human and personal.

He spends time on each component of wisdom and how it can be cultivated, as well as the brain and how the decision making process works.  He has developed a scale to measure wisdom — the San Diegeo Wisdom Scale (SD-WISE)– and the 24 statements used are included in one of the chapters.  However, Dr. Jeste suggests that you go to this interactive website — http://sdwise.ucsd.edu–and do the assessment online.  The site will automatically give you your Wisdom Index total score, as well as your score on each component of wisdom along with the mean and standard deviation of scores for people in your own age and sex group.  You will not be asked for any personal information other than age, sex and level of education, and your anonymous results will be used to further refine and improve the scale and its value.  I haven’t done this yet, but I plan to.

Of course, there are things about this book, that from a Christian worldview are simply incorrect.  It is subtitle, “The scientific roots of wisdom, and what makes us good.”  We know that we cannot be made good this side of heaven.  However, there are other conclusions that do not surprise or offend — for example, research supports we become healtihier people not by simply professing a religious faith, but by practicing it.

VERDICT:  5 STARS.  I don’t know if everyone will find this book fascinating, but I did.  I love to learn about the brain and find it amazing that scientific research often supports biblical truth.