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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Why brain scans cannot tell whether you are religious or not

Andrew Newberg, author of Why God Won't Go Away spoke recently at Princeton. Attempting to explain how people see what they want to see with respect to beliefs, he related,
When Newberg showed a Franciscan nun her brain scan and the changes in activity while she prayed, she thanked him for confirming that something unique happened in her brain when she thought about God.

But when he showed an atheist his brain scan, however, the atheist thanked Newberg for reaffirming his nonreligious beliefs, underscoring Newberg's point that different people draw different conclusions from the same message.

I am deeply suspicious as to whether the linked article conveys what Newberg really wanted to say about spirituality, but it does help get across the point that the mind is not simply what the brain does.

I read Newberg's " Why God Won't ... " with great interest while working on The Spiritual Brain. I think he is on to something, almost in spite of himself. Hat tip to Stephanie West of Brains on Purpose.

About The Spiritual Brain, Newberg has said,
The Spiritual Brain is a wonderful and important book that provides new insights into our experience of religion and God. It offers a unique perspective to the ongoing dialogue between science and religion. This book is a necessary read for both the scientist and the religious person.

-Andrew Newberg, M.D. Associate Professor of Radiology and Director of the Center for Spirituality and the Mind at the University of Pennsylvania. Co-author of Why We Believe What We Believe.

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