Monday, January 07, 2008

Neuroscience and religion: Key medical journal prints thoughtful article

We all like pleasant surprises, and Mario Beauregard and I were pleasantly surprised by a recent article in the elite New England Journal of Medicine by Solomon H. Snyder, "Seeking God in the Brain - Efforts to Localize Higher Brain Functions." Snyder, a famous neuroscientist, takes a cautious approach. About claimed links between brain malfunction and religious visions, he notes, "attempts to localize such purported functions within the brain are always fraught with hazards," also observing,
... , any extrapolation from a mapping of brain areas that mediate language
use to likely cerebral contributions to religious or creative dispositions would be highly speculative.

In an age when just about anyone can come up with a crackpot theory to explain spirituality - and expect public attention! - we find much to praise in Snyder's caution. Mario hopes that the journal will publish more articles on the serious study of spirituality and the brain, such as he and colleagues such as Andrew Newberg engage in. Newberg is the author of the excellent Why God won't go away.

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