Sunday, March 1, 2009

Next battle in religion wars?

Could the obsessively religious start attacking science for studying the brain? Orignal article here, though I haven't read it.

Most religions endorse the idea of a soul (or spirit) that is distinct from the physical body. Yet as neuroscience advances, it increasingly seems that all aspects of a person can be explained by the functioning of a material system...as neuroscience begins to reveal the mechanisms underlying personality, love, morality, and spirituality, the idea of a ghost in the machine becomes strained.
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Brain imaging indicates that all of these traits have physical correlates in brain function. Furthermore, pharmacologic influences on these traits, as well as the effects of localized stimulation or damage, demonstrate that the brain processes in question are not mere correlates but are the physical bases of these central aspects of our personhood. If these aspects of the person are all features of the machine, why have a ghost at all?

By raising questions like this, it seems likely that neuroscience will pose a far more fundamental challenge than evolutionary biology to many religions. Predictably, then, some theologians and even neuroscientists are resisting the implications of modern cognitive and affective neuroscience.

6 comments:

Galspanic said...

Brace for incoming Fugublowfish comment.

AI-BU9 said...

The only difference between psychosis, cults, and organized religion is the number of people who share your delusion.

Fugublowfish said...

Panic! What's up!

I just read an article on this that was pretty cool. It talks about two areas in the brain that basically control religious experiences--there's one that triggers the I-just-talked-to-Jesus hallucination (or aliens, if that's what turns you on), and there's a completely separate area that deals with feelings of faith and everyday religious convictions.

But I don't see what the big deal is. You could still say that a god/alien/ghost can stimulate those areas of the brain to broadcast images into people's heads for fun, but that gives me a serious case of heebie-jeebies. It's much more refreshing to think that I probably just licked a funny stamp.

Fugublowfish said...

"The only difference between psychosis, cults, and organized religion is the number of people who share your delusion."

I'm totally devoting a good percentage of my life to adding that in the DSM-IX, or something.

odori said...

i will have to check out the original now.

i can see the deeply religious becoming outraged that scientists are offering a physical explanation for their faith or spiritual experiences.

Mr. Pony said...

I just heard something on the radio about the Catholic Church taking another look at the theory of evolution, and seeing if maybe it isn't quite so incompatible with their faith as previously thought. Whatever. Like I care what a cult that worships a magic zombie thinks. I mean, I'm all for people deluding themselves, but at this point, I think it's pretty fair to ask them to sit down and be quiet when the grown-ups are talking about grown-up things.