So, the science we are looking at here is a little “iffy” — to be polite about it — but, since we don’t know everything about the brain quite yet, we really do have to keep our minds open to new ways of approaching ridiculously complicated problems. (To impart a bit of experienced wisdom, if I may: even if a method of thinking is crazy and entirely incorrect, it can certainly still lead to new and original brainstorms into potentially correct paths of inquiry!)
Slate Magazine covered a brain science “year in review” in 2007, and one interesting feature looked at neurotheology. (Yes, this is a little bit of old news now, but we’re still catching up!) No matter what you believe, human beings of all faiths and background really do have some sort of “spiritual” experience that is real in the sense that we can personally feel it happening if and when it does happen. This “feeling” certainly doesn’t prove that a Caucasian older gentleman with a long white beard sits up in a puffy white cloud watching over our every thought and motion, but it also doesn’t mean there isn’t something, evening if it’s not supernatural. It might be an illusion, but it is still something to understand.
So why not directly measure brain activity of those of us homo sapiens who have excessive spiritual feelings and see if there is anything different from those of us who don’t have similar experiences–or, those of us who inadvertently repress. It’s all in our heads… the complex neural network in our brain is everything, and maybe it’s also god… or maybe it’s the most amazing connection to the “real” god that is still beyond our comprehension. Even if the science is a little loosy-goosy at this point, religion is certainly an experience of human beings, which means it is a direct experience of our brains, which means our neurons have a whole lot to do with religion.
“God Is in the Dendrites” :: Slate April 26, 2007
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