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Posts Tagged ‘Research’

God in our Brains….

March 11, 2009 1 comment

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.

‘God-spot’ research finds faith hard-wired in the brain

“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….”

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Fascinating Discovery

March 2, 2009 Leave a comment

From the DailyMail.co.uk – A fascinating article about an archaeological discovery that has recently been made in Turkey. Click the heading to read the full article.

Do these mysterious stones mark the site of the Garden of Eden?

“For the old Kurdish shepherd, it was just another burning hot day in the rolling plains of eastern Turkey. Following his flock over the arid hillsides, he passed the single mulberry tree, which the locals regarded as ‘sacred’. The bells on his sheep tinkled in the stillness. Then he spotted something. Crouching down, he brushed away the dust, and exposed a strange, large, oblong stone.

The man looked left and right: there were similar stone rectangles, peeping from the sands. Calling his dog to heel, the shepherd resolved to inform someone of his finds when he got back to the village. Maybe the stones were important.article-0-03b0564a000005dc-751_634x471jpg
They certainly were important. The solitary Kurdish man, on that summer’s day in 1994, had made the greatest archaeological discovery in 50 years. Others would say he’d made the greatest archaeological discovery ever: a site that has revolutionised the way we look at human history, the origin of religion – and perhaps even the truth behind the Garden of Eden.”

To date, 45 of these stones have been dug out – they are arranged in circles from five to ten yards across – but there are indications that much more is to come. Geomagnetic surveys imply that there are hundreds more standing stones, just waiting to be excavated.
So far, so remarkable. If Gobekli Tepe was simply this, it would already be a dazzling site – a Turkish Stonehenge. But several unique factors lift Gobekli Tepe into the archaeological stratosphere – and the realms of the fantastical.
The first is its staggering age. Carbon-dating shows that the complex is at least 12,000 years old, maybe even 13,000 years old.
That means it was built around 10,000BC. By comparison, Stonehenge was built in 3,000 BC and the pyramids of Giza in 2,500 BC.


Gobekli is thus the oldest such site in the world, by a mind-numbing margin. It is so old that it predates settled human life. It is pre-pottery, pre-writing, pre-everything. Gobekli hails from a part of human history that is unimaginably distant, right back in our hunter-gatherer past.”

Doodling makes you pay attention

February 28, 2009 Leave a comment

An article published on Time.com offers some insight into doodling. Having been in lectures for most my life, and prone to doodling, its nice to get some reinforcement on my study techniques. 🙂 Excerpts from the article are below, click the heading to get the full article.

Study: Doodling Helps You Pay Attention

“In her small but rigorous study, Andrade separated 40 participants into two groups of 20. All 40 had just finished an unrelated psychological experiment, and many were thinking of going home (or to the pub). They were asked, instead, whether they wouldn’t mind spending another five minutes helping with research. The participants were led into a quiet room and then asked to listen to a two-and-a-half-minute tape that they were told would be “rather dull.”

…..

Afterward, the papers were removed and the 40 volunteers were asked to recall, verbally, the place names and the names of the people coming to the party. The doodlers creamed the non-doodlers: those who doodled during the tape recalled 7.5 pieces of information (out of the 16 total) on average, 29% more than the average of 5.8 recalled by the control group.

Why does doodling aid memory? Andrade offers several theories, but the most persuasive is that when you doodle, you don’t daydream. Daydreaming may seem absentminded and pointless, but it actually demands a lot of the brain’s processing power. You start daydreaming about a vacation, which leads you to think about potential destinations, how you would pay for the trip, whether you could get the flight upgraded, how you might score a bigger hotel room. These cognitions require what psychologists call “executive functioning” — for example, planning for the future and comparing costs and benefits.”

Why women can’t read maps!

February 25, 2009 Leave a comment

I always knew there was some truth to this. This article was published today in the NZ Herald, and serves to confirm what men have known for generations. 🙂

“The cliches that women can’t read maps and men can’t see things right under their noses seem to have been explained by science.

Researchers believe the reason the sexes differ is because of their specific roles in evolution.

Men had to hunt and stalk their prey, so became skilled at navigation, while women foraged for food and became good at spotting fruit and nuts close by.

The theory emerged from a study which looked at the different way in which men and women appreciate art.

The researchers tested 10 men and 10 women, showing them paintings and photos of urban scenes and landscapes, asking them to rate each scene as either “beautiful” or “not beautiful”.

At the same time the scientists looked at images of the magnetic fields produced by electrical currents in the brains of the men and women.

They discovered that when women admired a “beautiful” picture, neurons on both sides of the brain were stimulated, but in men only those on the right side activated. The left side deals with closer-range objects while the right is better at co-ordinates. Read more…

An Interesting Article From Time.com

February 13, 2009 Leave a comment

The Biology of Belief

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…