Friday, March 13, 2009

This is your brain ... on God

In a neuro-scientific study examining 40 people, of all stripes of faith, researchers found three parts of the brain that are activated when contemplating religious and moral statements. The researchers found:
MRI scans revealed the regions that were activated are those used every day to interpret the feelings and intentions of other people.

'That suggests that religion is not a special case of a belief system, but evolved along with other belief and social cognitive abilities,' said Jordan Grafman, a cognitive neuroscientist at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in Bethesda, Maryland.
This study reinforces previous research in the area and concludes that no one part of the brain is utilized to understand God and religion. There is no "God Spot," as many parts of the brain are implicated:
'There is nothing unique about religious belief in these brain structures,' Professor Grafman said.

'Religion doesn't have a 'God spot' as such, instead it's embedded in a whole range of other belief systems in the brain that we use every day.'

The networks activated by religious beliefs overlap with those that mediate political beliefs and moral beliefs, he said.
'Religion has so many different aspects that it would be very unlikely to find one spot in the brain where religion and God reside,' Dr [Andrew] Newberg [Director of the Centre for Spirituality and the Mind at the University of Pennsylvania] said.
I'm sure that theologians and scientists will point to this study as proof of their understandings of the developmental nature of religion within an individual (i.e., divinely created, biologically predisposed, sociologically developed, etc.). But for me, I just think it is cool to learn about how our brains work when we think about and discuss God and religion. Amen.

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