Science and Faith Dialogue

  • Thread starter Garth
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Garth said:
But why should this neurological feature exist? Merely as an evolutionary adaptation that aids survival of the species? Or, like the other senses, has it evolved because the spiritual is a real feature of the natural universe? So the 'God Spot' has evolved to 'receive God', just as eyes have evolved to receive light, ears to receive sound, and so on.
It shouldn’t be surprising that we find humans hard-wired for religious experiences, after all, humans have been practicing ritualistic activities for tens of thousands of years. These rituals often involved consuming psychoactive drugs to heighten ones spiritual experience. If you imagine yourself in the distant past with all your relatives surrounding a campfire smoking peyote (or whichever way it’s consumed) and altering states of consciousness, you’d undoubtedly conclude communication with spirits or gods. This is one of the main reasons we say God is a product of mans imagination – that it’s all in your head.
 
  • #77
arildno
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Garth said:
The God Spot is another case in mind. It seems human beings are 'hard wired' to have religious experiences.
But why should this neurological feature exist? Merely as an evolutionary adaptation that aids survival of the species? Or, like the other senses, has it evolved because the spiritual is a real feature of the natural universe? So the 'God Spot' has evolved to 'receive God', just as eyes have evolved to receive light, ears to receive sound, and so on.
A disgusting insinuation that those millions of individuals for whom religion is of no concern whatsoever is somehow failed human beings without this magnificent God sense.

Stop this effrontery at once.
 
  • #78
Les Sleeth
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arildno said:
A disgusting insinuation that those millions of individuals for whom religion is of no concern whatsoever is somehow failed human beings without this magnificent God sense.
Stop this effrontery at once.
I hope you are kidding about being outraged at Garth's suggestion. I'd hate to see you blow a circuit over that! :surprised Besides, even if such a "god spot" exists, it could still be each person's choice whether or not to take advantage of it, plus God may not judge people one way or another for their decision in that regard.
 
  • #79
Les Sleeth
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Vast said:
These rituals often involved consuming psychoactive drugs to heighten ones spiritual experience. If you imagine yourself in the distant past with all your relatives surrounding a campfire smoking peyote (or whichever way it’s consumed) and altering states of consciousness, you’d undoubtedly conclude communication with spirits or gods. This is one of the main reasons we say God is a product of mans imagination – that it’s all in your head.
Is that the voice of experience speaking?
 
  • #80
arildno
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Les Sleeth said:
I hope you are kidding about being outraged at Garth's suggestion. I'd hate to see you blow a circuit over that! :surprised Besides, even if such a "god spot" exists, it could still be each person's choice whether or not to take advantage of it, plus God may not judge people one way or another for their decision in that regard.
Hmm..sloppy research designed to produce "justification" for religious belief?
Sure, I am at the very least resigned about the whole thing.
 
  • #81
Evo
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Temporal lobe seizures seem to enhance the feeling of spirituality. Religious/superstitious thoughts seem to be affected by this area of the brain.

There was a great NOVA episode on this.

"It has been known for a long time that some patients with seizures originating in the temporal lobes have intense religious auras, intense experience of God visiting them. Sometimes it's a personal god, sometimes it's a more diffuse feeling of being one with the cosmos. Everything seems suffused with meaning. The patient will say, "Finally I see what it's really about, Doctor. I really understand God. I understand my place in the universe, in the cosmic scheme." Why does this happen and why does it happen so often in patients with temporal lobe seizures?

"Now, why do these patients have intense religious experiences when they have these seizures? And why do they become preoccupied with theological and religious matters even in between seizures?"

"V.S. RAMACHANDRAN: A few years ago, the popular press inaccurately quoted me as having claimed that there is a God center or a "G-spot" in the temporal lobes. Now, this is complete nonsense. There is no specific area in the temporal lobe concerned with God. But it's possible there are parts of the temporal lobes whose activity is somehow conducive to religious belief. Now this seems unlikely, but it might be true. Now, why might we have neural machinery in the temporal lobes for belief in religion? Well belief in religion is widespread. Every tribe, every society has some form of religious worship. And maybe the reason it evolved, if it did evolve, is that it is conducive to the stability of society, and this may be easiest if you believe in some sort of supreme being. And that may be one reason why religious sentiments evolved in the brain."

If you do a search on "John Sharon", it will take to the section about damage to the temporal lobe and it's connection to religious/spiritual feelings.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/transcripts/2812mind.html
 
  • #82
Astronuc
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. . . . religion does pose a serious threat to the world.
I believe that corruption in religion or corrupted religion is the serious threat, not religion. By that I mean, incorrect thinking - such as dogma, especially dogma based on false or misinterpretations of religious principals - leads to actions which are inconsistent with righteous behavior, which is the goal of a religious person.

Righteous behavior precludes imposing one's beliefs upon another.


The term religious is often incorrectly applied to those who subscribe to a dogma, or who religious practices are largely limited to the mystical or the metaphysical, while devoid of application of righteous principals.

A 'religious' person who does not question his/her beliefs is not truly religious.

One definition of religious is - relating to or manifesting faithful devotion to an acknowledged ultimate reality or deity (Merriam Webster). An atheist, who practices 'faithful devotion to an acknowledged ultimate reality' is by this definition religious. However, there are those theists who would deny that atheists could be religious. On the other hand, that definition is so broad that it could be applied to anyone with 'destuctive' or 'nihilistic' view of reality, and then one such a religious practice would be a threat.

In the long run, I suppose the accuracy of the above quote depends on the definition of 'religion'.

(1) : the service and worship of God or the supernatural (2) : commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance

(2) a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices

(3) a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith

I fall into category (2), where I conduct myself in accordance with adherence to a system of principles based on my understanding/knowledge of an ultimate reality. I certainly do not impose understanding on anyone. I quietly work to change the world in a positive way.
 
  • #83
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Evo said:
There was a great NOVA episode on this.
I remember watching this documentary, really fascinating!

After a little googling I found that Vilayanur S Ramachandran is also a part of Edge. You can read his answer to this years “http://www.edge.org/q2006/q06_12.html#ramachandran""

Also of interest is a set of 5 lectures you can listen to online called “http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/reith2003/lecturer.shtml" [Broken]" I have still to listen to them.
 
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  • #84
Evo
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Vast said:
I remember watching this documentary, really fascinating!
Yes, it was very fascinating and cleared up the misunderstanding of that so called "god spot" that doesn't exist. Although I can see that part of the brain controlling superstitious and religious thought. If it becomes active or damaged either through seizure or meditation, those types of thoughts will become activated. Interesting. I guess through meditation you can affect this part of the brain enough to cause an altered state that allows you to believe that you have a higher understanding of things and a deeper connection with a higher concscious, when all that is happening is that your brain is backfiring.

I need to look into this more, but it does seem to explain things people say they experience.

After a little googling I found that Vilayanur S Ramachandran is also a part of Edge. You can read his answer to this years “http://www.edge.org/q2006/q06_12.html#ramachandran""

Also of interest is a set of 5 lectures you can listen to online called “http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/reith2003/lecturer.shtml" [Broken]" I have still to listen to them.
Thanks, I will check them out!
 
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  • #85
Garth
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arildno said:
A disgusting insinuation that those millions of individuals for whom religion is of no concern whatsoever is somehow failed human beings without this magnificent God sense.
Stop this effrontery at once.
No insinuation or effrontery intended.

From Steve Connor, Science Correspondent, LA Times, Wednesday 29 October 1997 'God spot' is found in brain
Evolutionary scientists have suggested that belief in God, which is a common trait found in human societies around the world and throughout history, may be built into the brain's complex electrical circuitry as a Darwinian adaptation to encourage co-operation between individuals.
If the research is correct and a "God module" exists, then it might suggest that individuals who are atheists could have a differently configured neural circuit.
(Emphasis mine)

I should have said "The God Spot - if it exists - is another case in mind." The rest of the argument follows as a hypothetical analysis to illustrate my main point that there is need of a perspective of faith either way when interpreting the data.

Garth
 
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  • #86
Astronuc
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Evolutionary scientists have suggested that belief in God, which is a common trait found in human societies around the world and throughout history, may be built into the brain's complex electrical circuitry as a Darwinian adaptation to encourage co-operation between individuals.
Interesting notion - co-operation by obeisance to a virtual authority. I can see were problems arise when one or more individuals in a society think the one or many have the exclusive right of interpreting the virtual authority.

And I see problems for the rational/intelligent person who realizes that there may not exist a god - so from where does the authority arise?

Some people conduct themselves out of fear of 'divine retribution', while others conduct themselves simply because it is the right thing to do. Different neural patterns perhaps. Then again everyone's brain represents a unique neural pattern. On the other hand, a Darwinian evolution-based perspective might imply some common architecture shared among those with common believes.
 
  • #87
Les Sleeth
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Evo said:
I guess through meditation you can affect this part of the brain enough to cause an altered state that allows you to believe that you have a higher understanding of things and a deeper connection with a higher concscious, when all that is happening is that your brain is backfiring.
:rolleyes: God haters and physicalist believers have labelled experiences they don't understand in all sorts of ways. One of those ways is to frame an experience (they've never had) into terms that fits what they already believe but cannot prove, and then proclaim everywhere that their little pet theory is virtually a fact.

A respectful attitude would be more cautious when talking about such things, especially when it is something a great many people cherish with all their hearts. But no, their little self-righteous hatred crusade makes them think they can say anything they please.

And then to make scientists some sort of all-wise group! :yuck: Afterall, scientists are little more, when reasoning as scientists, than glorified mechanics. What makes anyone think they have wisdom, and can speak about subjects sans-experience? Know-it-all and intolerant attitudes, whether done in the name of science or religion, are equally ignorant.
 
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  • #88
Evo
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Les Sleeth said:
:rolleyes: God haters and physicalist believers have labelled experiences they don't understand in all sorts of ways. One of those ways is to frame an experience (they've never had) into terms that fits what they already believe but cannot prove, and then proclaim everywhere that their little pet theory is virtually a fact.
Well, I'm not a God hater, but you have to admit that the effects you talk about are the same effects people with frontal lobe siezures experience. It seems logical that with drug use and the meditation techniques, a person could possibly trigger responses in that part of the brain that will either bring on or immitate the seizure in the brain, causing all of the feelings described.

If you read about what these siezure patients experience, it does sound exactly like what you describe. It makes sense. Why is finding out what part of your brain you are affecting to cause these feelings a problem for you? Apparantly the people that have these seizures love them so much they don't want them to stop and some doctors agree that it would be a shame to take the feelings away from them. I don't see anything disrespectful in figuring out what causes the feelings. Is it because it removes the mystical part if you know the actual physical cause? Personally I prefer to know the answers.

From the transcript:

"V.S. RAMACHANDRAN: Just because some patients with temporal lobe seizures have intense religious experiences, this does not in any way invalidate that experience for that patient. In fact, it can very often enrich the patient's life enormously. And it poses a dilemma very often for the physician, because what right do we have to treat the patient with medication or with surgery, thereby, in some instances, depriving him of these valuable experiences? To me the exciting thing is that subjects like God and religion can now be actually addressed by us scientists. We can begin to ask questions about religion and God and begin to approach these questions by listening to these patients—by talking with them and by studying them.

NARRATOR: It is a tragic irony that today's breakthroughs in our understanding of the human brain are made possible by the misfortune of brain injury. For centuries, philosophers have labored to understand God, consciousness and the mysteries of human nature. Now perhaps science will have its chance."

Advances are being made in understanding the brain and how it affects how we think and perceive. If you are able to alter a part of your brain to induce certain perceptions, I think that's awesome, it would validate that you have actually changed something and what you experience isn't just "pretend" as some people believe. I would think you'd want scientists to prove you can tap into this part of the brain to create your own experiences.
 
  • #89
Garth
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To reduce experience to "nothing but" 'frontal lobe seizures', or more common simple excitation of particular 'spots' in the brain is to make a category mistake. (the error of ontological reductionism)

The fact that stimulation of one particular area in the brain, which produces a religious experience, no more settles the question of whether normal religious experiences are delusional or not, than whether stimulation of another area, which produces the experience of a flash of light, settles the question of whether normal sight is delusional or not.

The interpretation of such experiments and equivalent normal experiences is theory dependent, and in no way resolves the faith degeneracy (the faith of whether there is a 'God', or the faith that there isn't).

Garth
 
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  • #90
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If religious or mystical experiences are real there must be a way for the brain to respond and interpret these experiences.

That these areas of the brain can be stimulated by a probe or activated by damage disease or malfunction to generate the same type of feelings and sensations should then be a given.

That this happens and can be detected by scanning does not prove that these experiences are real or that they are delusional. It only proves what we already know, that the brain can and does respond to and interpret these experiences.

Which is the cause and which is the effect?

Can a normal healthy brain self-induce hallucinations of that kind of intensity with that kind of repeatability form person to person over many varied cultures and ages? I don't know but, I doubt it. But, I do not doubt the experiences nor the results that I have had nor the experiences that others report having.
 
  • #91
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An interesting interview with Daniel Dennett in the NYT about religious belief:nytimes.com

You’ll have to use bugmenot to gain access.

The interviewer Deborah Solomon, begins by asking a couple of unintelligent questions; “how can religious devotion/belief be studied scientifically?” I don’t know about you, but isn’t this essentially anthropology and sociology? She then goes on to state that religious belief cannot be studied in the lab. Is she totally ignorant of neuroscience?

There’s a few other stupid questions, but a good read nonetheless.
 

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