From today’s NZ Herald, an interesting article on whether or not we are hard wired to have a belief system that manifests itself in the form of religious beliefs. Of course, this then raises a chicken/egg scenario, depending on any apriori assumptions you have before considering this. Those who believe in God might say that God created us with this hard-wired ability so that we might know who God is, and facilitate this belief. Those that don’t believe in God will inevitably argue that this is an evolved function in order to facilitate survival. Both arguments are self-fulfilling, in that each position provides its own evidence to support itself and exclude the other. It comes down again to the apriori assumption made prior to the assimilation of this information.
From a strictly evidence based perspective, i.e. assume nothing until there is evidence for it (which is still an apriori assumption) and is the foundation of modern day science and research, then you would have to assume that it is an evolved feature of our brains. However, if you ask a person of faith about evidence based conclusions, they will gladly point to many areas in their life where there is evidence of God at work.
So, to quote Brett from FOTC… “its a chicken egg situation really..”
Click the heading below to read the full article.
“A belief in God is deeply embedded in the human brain, which is programmed for religious experiences, according to a United States study.
Scientists searching for the neural “God spot”, which is supposed to control religious belief, believe several areas of the brain form the biological foundations of religious belief.
The researchers said their findings supported the idea that the brain had evolved to be sensitive to any form of belief that improved the chances of survival, which could explain why a belief in God and the supernatural became so widespread in human evolutionary history.
“Religious belief and behaviour are a hallmark of human life, with no accepted animal equivalent, and found in all cultures,” said Professor Jordan Grafman, from the US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in Bethesda, near Washington.
“Our results are unique in demonstrating that specific components of religious belief are mediated by well-known brain networks and they support contemporary psychological theories that ground religious belief within evolutionary-adaptive cognitive functions….”
Most folks probably couldn’t locate their parietal lobe with a map and a compass. For the record, it’s at the top of your head – aft of the frontal lobe, fore of the occipital lobe, north of the temporal lobe. What makes the parietal lobe special is not where it lives but what it does – particularly concerning matters of faith.
If you’ve ever prayed so hard that you’ve lost all sense of a larger world outside yourself, that’s your parietal lobe at work. If you’ve ever meditated so deeply that you’d swear the very boundaries of your body had dissolved, that’s your parietal too. There are other regions responsible for making your brain the spiritual amusement park it can be: your thalamus plays a role, as do your frontal lobes. But it’s your parietal lobe – a central mass of tissue that processes sensory input – that may have the most transporting effect. (Read “Top 10 Medical Breakthroughs”.)
Needy creatures that we are, we put the brain’s spiritual centers to use all the time. We pray for peace; we meditate for serenity; we chant for wealth. We travel to Lourdes in search of a miracle; we go to Mecca to show our devotion; we eat hallucinogenic mushrooms to attain transcendent vision and gather in church basements to achieve its sober opposite. But there is nothing we pray – or chant or meditate – for more than health.
Health, by definition, is the sine qua non of everything else. If you’re dead, serenity is academic. So we convince ourselves that while our medicine is strong and our doctors are wise, our prayers may heal us too.
Here’s what’s surprising: a growing body of scientific evidence suggests that faith may indeed bring us health. People who attend religious services do have a lower risk of dying in any one year than people who don’t attend. People who believe in a loving God fare better after a diagnosis of illness than people who believe in a punitive God. No less a killer than AIDS will back off at least a bit when it’s hit with a double-barreled blast of belief. “Even accounting for medications,” says Dr. Gail Ironson, a professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Miami who studies HIV and religious belief, “spirituality predicts for better disease control.” (Read “Finding God on YouTube.”) Read more…