Searching for god in the brain
Posted: 15 November 2007 06:33 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Here is an interesting article for Scientific American titled Searching for God in The Brain.  The conclusion is an unnecessary bust, but it explores the notion that there is a specific part of the brain in which religious “feelings” take place.

This is your brain… this is your brain on religion… any questions?  LOL

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Posted: 15 November 2007 07:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I get the magazine and it is one article I can’t wait to sit down and read.

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Mriana
“Sometimes in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark.” ~ Iris Hineman (Lois Smith) The Minority Report

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Posted: 15 November 2007 07:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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A pretty well written piece and I to found it interesting. Thanks for the heads up…

Something fascinating for me is with scientific discovery reasonable answers are found for so called “proofs of God’s” existence. With this line of research we take it right down to personal experience. There’s little doubt to me that these “proofs” will slowly be worn away (as they have been), and I think the brain research with discoveries in other fields such as evolutionary biology has potential to offer fairly precise accounts of god belief and religion. I think also much of this extends to paranormal experiences that like “spiritual” experiences correlate to neural and behavioral explanation.

[ Edited: 15 November 2007 08:00 PM by zarcus ]
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Posted: 15 November 2007 09:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Personally, I find the details of how brain activity correlates with subjective experience fascinating. NPR’s Science Friday recently had an interview with Oliver Sacks about his new book of neuropatholgy and music. But I’m starting out with the presumption that all we are is what happens in our brians. The subjective power of the kinds of experiences described in the article is such, you’re not ever going to convince people they are “mere” biological phenomena.

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Posted: 16 November 2007 05:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I can’t access the article right now—the SciAm server seems to be down. But there was a recent book out on a related subject: The God Gene by Dean Hamer. I have a copy but haven’t read it yet. I believe that Hamer is trying to search for some genetic propensity for religious experiences, and presumably if there were a genetic link, it would be expressed by some difference in brain chemistry.

As Brennen says, this is all unsurprising if you believe that the mind is what the brain does.

But interestingly the book is sort of pitched to believers as well—the subtitle is: “How faith is hardwired into our genes.” I can see a scientifically oriented believer, or even a proponent of intelligent design, being pretty happy with that sort of conclusion.

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Posted: 16 November 2007 08:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Interesting article. Thanks for the link, erasmusinfinity.

Here is a link in which Brian Clegg was interviewed on his book, “The God Effect: Quantum Entanglement, Science’s Strangest Phenomenon”

http://calitreview.com/2007/03/30/the-strange-world-of-quantum-entanglement/

Could entanglement prove to be the “Holy Grail” for merging scientific and mystical, religious thought?
 
There have certainly been people who have tried to draw this kind of conclusion, but I think they are mistaken. Entanglement is a wholly physical process. I called my book The God Effect because it has been suggested that entanglement is the working mechanism of the Higgs boson, a very special particle that gives everything its mass, and has been called the God Particle, because it’s so fundamental. But that’s just a label.It’s also true that Nobel Prize winning physicist Brian Josephson has suggested that entanglement could explain telepathy (much to the irritation of paranormal debunker James Randi), but Josephson was saying if telepathy exists, then here’s a physical mechanism that could explain it – he wasn’t indulging in mystical navel-gazing.

What entanglement (and quantum theory in general) does do is remind us is that the real world is much stranger than we imagine. That’s because the way things are in the world of the very small is totally different to large scale objects like desks and pens. We can’t rely on experience and common sense to guide us on how things are going to work at this level. And that can make some of the effects of quantum physics seem mystical. In the end, this is something similar to science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke’s observation that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Here is an interesting article from the BBC:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/6960612.stm

Out-of-body experience recreated

Experts have found a way to trigger an out-of-body experience in volunteers.

The experiments, described in the Science journal, offer a scientific explanation for a phenomenon experienced by one in 10 people.

Dr Susan Blackmore, psychologist and visiting lecturer at the University of the West of England, said: “This has at last brought OBEs into the lab and tested one of the main theories of how they occur.

“Scientists have long suspected that the clue to these extraordinary, and sometimes life-changing, experiences lies in disrupting our normal illusion of being a self behind our eyes, and replacing it with a new viewpoint from above or behind.”

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Posted: 16 November 2007 08:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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From Doug Smith:

But interestingly the book is sort of pitched to believers as well—the subtitle is: “How faith is hardwired into our genes.” I can see a scientifically oriented believer, or even a proponent of intelligent design, being pretty happy with that sort of conclusion.

I’m not sure I understand your comment, Doug.  I find that conclusion implausible.  Since I don’t seem to have any faith hardwired into me, must I assume I and all the rest of the solid atheists are mutants or genetic defectives?

Occam

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Posted: 16 November 2007 09:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Well, as I imagine a believer will react, they will either claim that the science is wrong and menaingless if they are the extremist, literalist type, or they will claim that it supports what they’ve been saying all along—that God speaks directly to us and now we’ve found the part of the brain that recieves His transmission. People like you, undoubtedly, have chosen to turn off your receiever and will burn in Hell, or aren’t ready to understand the message, or some such twaddle. You’re never going to get around faith with facts for most people. *sigh*

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Posted: 17 November 2007 07:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Right, I was thinking something along Brennen’s lines. A believer in intelligent design might well say, “See, now we see how God designed us to be aware of him through faith!” And they will, further, argue that being without faith is somehow unnatural, with the suppressed implication that there’s something wrong about it.

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Posted: 17 November 2007 07:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Kinda like stating that, although it is true that the world is more than 6000 years old after all, the vastness of the universes prooves gods design.  Or, “well OK yes, it isn’t really 6000 years, but because there are tomatoes, green tastes like cheese.  And poof.  There is god.  Hah!  Disprove that you doubting heathen.”

Total and utter nonsense.  Yes.  Believers believe despite the obvious fact that their belief makes no sense at all.  Because there is a banana there is god.  Because there is a little toe there is god.  Because there is _______ (fill in the blank), god must exist.  Religion doesn’t make sense and it isn’t supposed to.  If it did, it would lose its magic.

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Posted: 17 November 2007 08:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Geeze!  I’m trying to read this article this morning and I can’t seem to access page two due to it’s popularity.  :(  So far, from page 1, I haven’t seen anything new, but with how long it is, I do hope to read some new findings- when I can access of it that is.  I keep thinking the new findings will show that religious belief is all up in people’s heads, only psychological and not much more. The findings so far have been pointing in that direction.

Now I get through.

In a series of studies conducted over the past several decades, Persinger and his team have trained their device on the temporal lobes of hundreds of people. In doing so, the researchers induced in most of them the experience of a sensed presence—a feeling that someone (or a spirit) is in the room when no one, in fact, is—or of a profound state of cosmic bliss that reveals a universal truth. During the three-minute bursts of stimulation, the affected subjects translated this perception of the divine into their own cultural and religious language—terming it God, Buddha, a benevolent presence or the wonder of the universe.

Persinger thus argues that religious experience and belief in God are merely the results of electrical anomalies in the human brain. He opines that the religious bents of even the most exalted figures—for instance, Saint Paul, Moses, Muhammad and Buddha—stem from such neural quirks. The popular notion that such experiences are good, argues Persinger in his book Neuropsychological Bases of God Beliefs (Praeger Publishers, 1987), is an outgrowth of psychological conditioning in which religious rituals are paired with enjoyable experiences. Praying before a meal, for example, links prayer with the pleasures of eating. God, he claims, is nothing more mystical than that.

Like I said, it’s all psychological.  I’m sure I will find more doozies like that.  Too bad more of the religious don’t read these studies.

[ Edited: 17 November 2007 09:49 AM by Mriana ]
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