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Monday, September 10, 2007

Winnipeg Free Press review of The Spiritual Brain, and my posted comment

Here's an informative review of Mario Beauregard's and my just-released book,The Spiritual Brain: A neuroscientist's case for the existence of the soul, by a Winnipeg neuroscientist, Bruce Bolster, who coordinates the biopsychology program at the University of Winnipeg.

He writes,
Is the experience of God a state of mind or a state of brain? Or is there really Something Out There? Will neuroscientists find what novelist Douglas Adams called "the answer to life, the universe, and everything"?

This provocative book is an exploration of these questions, written by a University of Montreal experimental neuroscientist and co-authored by a journalist with an interest in both religious and scientific issues.

Great shot of Mario too. One handy thing about the Internet is that you can post comments, and here's one that I posted, addressing some issues that the review raises:
Hi from Denyse O'Leary, co-author of the book - two quick comments

Thank you very much. Dr. Bolster, for such an informative review. I am sure Free Press readers appreciate your careful outline of our book's contents.

Our actual subtitle is "A neuroscientist's case for the existence of the soul" not "How neuroscience is revealing the existence of God." (There was a goofup at the publishing house, in which a staff person who did not know the contents of the book put that subtitle on the handbound review copies and sent them far and wide. The correct subtitle hit the system later.)

We had no intention of stirring up any controversy abut God; we are quite clear, as you rightly say, that neuroscience cannot demonstrate the existence of God, But we think it can demonstrate the existence of the mind (soul). That at least implies the possibility of a divine Mind - plausible, not proven.

However, you also write - and this puzzles me: "One would need to look very hard indeed to find a psychologist or neuroscientist in the 21st century willing to dispute the influence of mind in organizing brain function."

In fact, we provide many examples in the book of key people who do not think that the mind has an organizing function because they argue that it is an illusion created by the workings of the brain. Daniel Dennett, Steven Pinker, and Francis Crick (who worked with Christoph Koch in his last years on a theory of consciousness) hold and disseminate views along this spectrum, and they are often widely quoted in the media.

I am glad to learn that - despite what one might gather from popular science media - their views are doubted among neuroscientists. May I assume that you are one of them? I hope that more neuroscientists who doubt them will speak up.

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