Saturday, October 06, 2007

Scientific American article features Spiritual Brain author's work

In a careful and well-researched article in Scientific American's Mind magazine online, SciAm associate online editor David Biello examines efforts to pinpoint locations in the brain for spiritual experiences. Of course, Mario’s recent work with Carmelite nuns, reported in The Spiritual Brain, demonstrates that looking for a “God spot” as such is based on a misunderstanding of how the brain works. As Biello notes,
The quantity and diversity of brain regions involved in the nuns’ religious experience point to the complexity of the phenomenon of spirituality. “There is no single God spot, localized uniquely in the temporal lobe of the human brain,” Beauregard concludes. “These states are mediated by a neural network that is well distributed throughout the brain.”

Biello also outlines the limitations of what neuroscience can tell us about spirituality, ending with
Moreover, no matter what neural correlates scientists may find, the results cannot prove or disprove the existence of God. Although atheists might argue that finding spirituality in the brain implies that religion is nothing more than divine delusion, the nuns were thrilled by their brain scans for precisely the opposite reason: they seemed to provide confirmation f God’s interactions with them. After all, finding a cerebral source for spiritual experiences could serve equally well to identify the medium through which God reaches out to humanity. Thus, the nuns’ forays into the tubular brain scanner did not undermine their faith. On the contrary, the science gave them an even greater reason to believe.

He also tells me that he "enjoyed" The Spiritual Brain. Wonderful, David, and I enjoyed your article! It is a model of critical good sense that stands out all the more starkly amid so much neurobullshipping and naivete.

Note: I won't be blogging for a couple of days. While searching for a link, I stumbled onthis article on the emotional life of the alligator. Yes, you heard that right. Follow the link.

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