Monday, January 28, 2008

The Catholic Register likes The Spiritual Brain ... and the fun part is ...

The fun part is that Dorothy Cummings's review picks out the very thing that I found funny about materialist approaches to spirituality, and she enjoyed it too:
The chapter entitled "The Strange Case of the God Helmet" is alone well worth the work involved in reading a book that is, after all, about neuroscience. The Spiritual Brain is hardly a beach book. But it has its rewards, and among them is the account of Michael Persinger, a researcher at Laurentian University who invented a machine he claimed could induce mystical experiences. As Beauregard and O'Leary explain, "Persinger proposed that… electrical microseizures within the temporal lobes generate a wide range of altered states, resulting in religious and mystical visions, out-of-body experiences and even recollections of abduction by aliens." From experiments inducing electrical microseizures in students with his "God helmet," Persinger concluded two things: "that the experience of a sensed presence can be manipulated by experiment, and that such an experience ‘may be the fundamental source for phenomena attributed to visitations by gods, spirits and other ephemeral phenomena.' " However, as Beauregard and O'Leary point out, "The first conclusion is a research result that should be able to be replicated if it is valid. The second is, of course, an opinion." As a matter of fact, Swedish researchers were unable to reproduce Persinger's results. But the God helmet did manage to convince some very influential and credulous people — the pop-science media.

Well, yes, I nearly split a gut laughing, myself, over how credulous self-confessed skeptics can be.

Listen, I learned far more about religious people from being a deputy warden at an Anglican church for some years than they will ever learn from reading village-atheist books. They need to get out more. If they want to know about religious people, they could try going to church, for example, and meeting some of them.

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