A Conversation With: Matthew Alper, Author of “The ‘God’ Part of the Brain”

Monday, February 8th 2010 at 7:30 pm
Monday, February 8th 2010 at 9:00 pm
Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture, Prospect Park West & 1st St.

Is man a spiritual being, immortal, created by a God -- or is he strictly physical in nature, destined to eternal dust? So begins "The 'God' Part of the Brain," in which Matthew Alper asserts it's no coincidence every culture has believed in some form of the spiritual realm. CFI's Michael De Dora Jr. will interview Alper about his book and his arguments, with an audience Q&A to follow.

This event is co-sponsored by the Center for Inquiry | New York City and the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture. Admission is free and open to the public. 

Alper posits in "The 'God' Part of the Brain" that the human animal must be genetically "hard-wired" to perceive reality this way. And why would the forces of evolution have selected such a trait? According to Alper, in order to assuage the crippling anxiety engendered by our species’ unique awareness of death, we evolved a cognitive adaptation -- a coping mechanism -- that compels us to believe that though our bodies will one day die, our "spirits" will live on forever. In our brains lie nature’s survival mechanisms in which gods, souls and afterlives are nothing but protective lenses through which humanity is "wired" to view the world -- an inherited predisposition Alper refers to as "nature’s white lie."

Building upon this "Bio-Theological" premise, Alper goes on to explore the physical nature of religious/spiritual beliefs and experiences, atheism, religious conversion, drug-induced transcendental states, self-conscious awareness, near-death experiences, speaking in tongues, moral consciousness and more. Alper asks us to look beyond our inherent religious propensities that repeatedly incite discrimination and war with the hope that we might one day replace them with a more promising secular humanistic ideology.

Since the book's initial publication in 1996, Alper has lectured all over the United States, appeared on NBC, been written up in the Washington Post, done numerous radio shows and is a contributor to the anthology, "Neurotheology," an emergent new science of which he is considered one of its founders. Alper, who has a BA in philosophy, presently lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn.