Saturday, November 15, 2008

Spotted: Neuroscientists in the movies - Andrew Newberg!

Earlier this week, I saw Bill Maher's Religulous (because I will be discussing it on iChannel) later this month).

I found the film distasteful because Maher enjoys making fun of simple people, including the truckers who were praying for him. That's not a taste that deserves any encouragement.

In any event, Maher wasted the time of a number of scientists to whom he gave little opportunity to explain their position, including genome mapper Francis Collins, astronomer George Coyne, and neuroscientist Andrew Newberg (pictured here). Chris Knipp, the Baltimore Chronicle reviewer picks up on precisely that:

Dr. Andrew Newberg, a research neurologist who's done a study on brain activity associated with religion, is cut in walking through Grand Central Station and talking with Maher, but Maher's attitude that religious thought is some kind of nuttiness isn't Newberg's, though from the movie you wouldn't know that. (6 November 2008)
No, you wouldn't. So save your ticket money. You might consider, for example, Newberg's book, Why God Won't Go Away. He has others, but I have read that one and recommend it.

(Note: Non-materialist neuroscientists are doing okay in the world of documentaries (though Britain's New Scientist magazine is convinced that they are part of a murky plot that has never surfaced except in its own pages). In addition to Newberg in Religulous, Jeffrey Schwartz has a cameo in Expelled.)

(Note: Someone has pointed out to me that that Schwartz cameo did not appear on the DVD. (I saw Expelled in a theatre myself (the verson over which Yoko Ono famously sued, no less!), and have not viewed the DVD. But here he is in Wingclips (about 3/4 mark)!)

See also:

Commentator challenges "Religulous" documentary producer to a debate

Does religion protect us against pseudoscience?

Atheist bigots: Avoiding serious questions and targeting ignorant religious folk

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