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Non-materialist neuroscience book gets sympathetic review in Publishers’ Weekly


I’ve just seen the Publisher’s Weekly review of Montreal neuroscientist Mario Beauregard’s and my book, The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Case for the Existence of the Soul:

Following C. S. Lewis’s dictum that “to ‘see through’ all things is the same as not to see,” neuroscientist Beauregard and journalist O’Leary mount a sweeping critique of a trend in “the pop science media” to explain away religious experience as a brain artifact, pathology, or evolutionary quirk. While sympathizing with the attraction such “neurotheology” holds, the authors warn against the temptation to force the complex varieties of human spirituality into simplistic categories that they argue are conceptually crude, culturally biased, and often empirically untested. In recently published research using Carmelite nuns as subjects, Beauregard’s group at the University of Montreal found specific areas of brain activation associated with contemplative prayer. But these patterns are quite distinct from those associated with hallucinations, autosuggestion, or states of intense emotional arousal, resembling instead how the brain processes “real” experiences. Insisting that “we have never entertained the idea of proving the existence of God,” the authors concede that “the results of our work are assumed to be a strike either for or against God” and that “on the whole, we [don’t] mind.” Never shrinking from controversy, and sometimes deliberately provoking it, this book serves as a lively introduction to a field where neuroscience, philosophy, and secular/spiritual cultural wars are unavoidably intermingled. (Sept.)

It was great that the reviewer homed in on some of what Mario and I are trying to do – expose the sheer shoddiness of so much materialist thinking in neuroscience in the area of spirituality.

Naturally, I wish more had been said about the growing body of non-materialist neuroscience – and how and why it works – which we outline in the book in considerable detail. Mario, after all, is recognized as a pioneer in this area. But hey, this is a 200-word review, and we are off to a good start if a non-materialist perspective can get serious, non-hostile attention for a change.

A”lively” introduction, the reviewer says. Yes indeed. I swore I’d die laughing when I heard some of the materialist theories of spirituality that have actually been taken seriously in recent years. Shortly after I turned in the manuscript, I wrote, regarding the materialist sludge:

You think it’s all nonsense, do you? Or do you worry in your heart of hearts that one or another of these concoctions might be true? Well, I spent a year examining all of them in detail (or anyway, as many as we could spot flying above the radar). It was the hardest year of my life, considering the piles of stuff I had to get through—dating from 1902 through 2006—and discovered that … it is indeed all nonsense.
I came away astonished by the gullibility of the popular science media in this area. There were times I howled with laughter. The only explanation for the tendency to offer credibility to any “we’ve found God in the genes/brain” announcement, however poorly supported, is reflexive materialism.

Materialists make for great comedy, actually, all the more so because they are deadly serious – and never more so than when they are fronting complete nonsense.

Thanks for the article, bornAgain. Mats
Yes it is on this site: http://www.skepticalinvestigations.org/whoswho/vanLommel.htm it is titled: A Reply to Shermer Medical Evidence for NDEs bornagain77
bornagain77, Any reference for the "trans-cranial magnetic stimulation" you mentioned above? MatthewTan
Mats and Jb, My intention of my blog was to point out that O'Leary has a firm scientific foundation to investigate her topic. I'm looking forward to reading her book. I'm a avid fan of her writing and love the way she gets into the meat of the matter. This particular topic is ripe for someone like O'Leary to analyse as she is proven very capable of doing it with much justice. bornagain77
More books yippee! Too bad I am a poor college student, else I'd go out and buy it... I'll get around to it eventually! bork
BornAgain, Your post is very interesting. It is clear you have given this issue a lot of thought, or maybe this is your field of expertise (sp?). Perhaps you could follow Jp's advice, and gather into one blog all the scientific data refuting materialism. Mats
Congratulations Denyse! I hope your book becomes a best-seller. Atom
Wow! Bornagain77. You certainly have a lot to say! Have you ever considered doing your own blog? jb
will get the book, hopefully it adds to the empirical evidence already collected i.e. How the consciousness relates to the body has two prevailing schools of thought challenging each other for the right to be called the truth. The first school of thought is Theistic in its philosophy; consciousness is a independent and separable entity from the brain. This school of thought implies it is possible to live beyond the of our brains. The second school of thought is Materialistic in its philosophy; consciousness is an dependent and inseparable product of the brain. This school of thought implies we die when the brain dies. Knowledge has recently come to light, establishing the first school of thought as the truth. Neuro-physiological (brain/body) research is now being performed, using a new scientific tool, trans-cranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). This tool allows scientists to study the brain non-invasively. TMS can excite or inhibit normal electrical activity in specific parts of the brain, depending on the amount of energy administered by TMS. This tool allows scientists to pinpoint what is happening in different regions of the brain (functional mapping of the brain). TMS is wide-ranging in its usefulness; allowing the study of brain/muscle connections, the five senses, language, the patho-physiology of brain disorders, as well as mood disorders, such as depression. TMS may even prove to be useful for therapy for such brain disorders. TMS also allows the study of how memories are stored. The ability of TMS for inhibiting (turning off) specific portions of the brain is the very ability which reveals things that are very illuminating to the topic we are investigating. When the electromagnetic activity of a specific portion of the brain is inhibited by the higher energies of TMS, it impairs the functioning of the particular portion of the body associated with the particular portion of the brain being inhibited. For example; when the visual cortex (a portion of the brain) is inhibited by higher energies of TMS, the person undergoing the procedure will temporarily become blind while it is inhibited. One notable exception to this "becoming impaired rule" is a person's memory. When the elusive "memory" portion of the brain is inhibited, a person will have a vivid flashback of a past part of their life. This very odd "amplification" of a memory indicates this fact; memories are stored in the “spiritual” consciousness independent of the brain. All of the bodies other physical functions which have physical connections in the brain are impaired when their corresponding portion of the brain loses its ability for normal electromagnetic activity. One would very well expect memories to be irretrievable from the brain if they were physically stored. Yet memories are vividly brought forth into consciousness when their corresponding locations in the brain are temporarily inhibited. This indicates that memories are somehow stored on a non-physical basis, separate from the brain in the "spiritual" consciousness. Memory happens to be a crucially integrated part of any thinking consciousness. This is true, whether or not consciousness is physically or spiritually-based. Where memory is actually located is a sure sign of where the consciousness is actually located. It provides a compelling clue as to whether consciousness is physically or spiritually-based. Vivid memory recall, upon inhibition of a portion of brain where memory is being communicated from consciousness, is exactly what one would expect to find if consciousness is ultimately self-sufficient of brain function and spiritually-based. The opposite result, a ening of memories, is what one would expect to find if consciousness is ultimately physically-based. According to this insight, a large portion, if not all, of the one quadrillion synapses that have developed in the brain as we became s, are primarily developed as pathways for information to be transmitted to, and memories to be transmitted from, our consciousness. The synapses of the brain are not, in and of themselves, our primary source for memories. Indeed, decades of extensive research by brilliant, Nobel prize-winning, minds have failed to reveal where memory is stored in the brain. Though Alzheimer’s and other disorders affect the brain’s overall ability to recover memories, this is only an indication that the overall ability of the brain to recover memory from the consciousness has been affected, and does not in any way conclusively establish that memory is actually stored in the brain. In other evidence, many children who have had hemispherectomies (half their brains removed due to life threatening epileptic conditions) at Johns Hopkins Medical Center, are in high school; and one, a college student, is on the dean’s list. The families of these children can barely believe the transformation; and not so long ago, neurologists and neuro-surgeons found it hard to believe as well. What is surprising for these people is that they are having their overriding materialistic view of brain correlation to consciousness overturned. In other words; since, it is presumed by Materialism that the brain is the primary generator of consciousness; then, it is totally expected for a person having half their brain removed to be severely affected when it comes to memory and personality. This is clearly a contradiction between the Materialistic and Theistic philosophies. According to Materialistic dogma, memory and personality should be affected, just as badly, or at least somewhat as badly, as any of the other parts of the body, by removal of half the brain. Yet, as a team of neuro-surgeons that have done extensive research on the after effects of hemispherectomy at John Hopkins Medical Center comment: "We are awed by the apparent retention of the child’s memory after removal of half of the brain, either half; and by the retention of the child's personality and sense of humor." Though a patients physical capacities are impaired, just as they were expected to be immediately following surgery; and have to have time to be "rewired" to the consciousness in the brain, the memory and personality of the patient comes out unscathed in the aftermath of such radical surgery. This is exactly the result one would expect, if the consciousness is ultimately independent of brain function and is spiritually-based. This is totally contrary to the results one would expect if the consciousness were actually physically-based, as the materialistic theory had presumed. In further comment from the neuro-surgeons in the John Hopkins study: "Despite removal of one hemisphere, the intellect of all but one of the children seems either unchanged or improved. Intellect was only affected in the one child who had remained in a coma, vigil-like state, attributable to peri-operative complications." This is stunning proof of consciousness being independent of brain function. The only child not to have normal or improved intellect is the child who remained in a coma due to complications during surgery. It is also heartening to find that many of the patients regain full use, or almost full use, of their bodies after a varying period of recuperation in which the brain is “rewired” to the consciousness. II Corinthians 5:1 For we know that if our earthly house, this tent (Our Body), is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. Yet, more evidence for the independence of consciousness is found in Dr. Pim van Lommels' study of sixty-two of his cardiac patients who had near experiences (NDE’s). NDE's are the phenomena of someone being physically for a short time; yet, when they are revived, they report they were in their spiritual bodies, outside of their physical bodies and taken to another dimension. Dr. Lommel's research found no weakness in the Theistic presumption of a spiritually independent consciousness. He and his colleagues published their research in the peer-reviewed journal (Lancet, Dec. 2001). Not only did their research not find any weaknesses in the Theistic presumption; their findings severely weakened or ruled out all Materialistic presumptions that had been put forth such as anoxia in the brain, release of endomorphines, NMDA receptor blockage or medications given. Their findings also ruled out suspected psychological explanations as well; such as a coping mechanism brought on by the fear of imminent or fore-knowledge of NDE. They even had a patient in the NDE study who identified the exact nurse who took his dentures while he was in cardiac arrest. This is something only someone who was conscious of the operating room, even though he was physically , could have seen the nurse doing (Many NDE report floating above their bodies, observing the operating room from the ceiling, before going to another dimension). In other similar studies, cases in which was extracted at the time of the NDE did not support the anoxia or hypercarbia theories. It is also established that the administered to the patients, such as painkillers, appeared to inhibit and confuse rather than cause the NDE. The combination of all data from recent and retrospective research provides a large amount of evidence, which can no longer be ignored or explained away. The fact that clear, lucid experiences were reported during a time when the brain was proven to be devoid of activity (Aminoff et al., 1988, Clute and Levy 1990, de Vries et al., 1998), does not sit easily with the current scientific belief system of materialism. In another fascinating study (Kenneth Ring and Sharon Cooper, 1997) of thirty-one blind people who had a NDE, twenty-four of the blind people reported that they could see while they were out of their physical bodies. Many of them had been blind since birth. Likewise, many deaf people reported they were able to hear while they were having a NDE. So, in answer to the question: "Is consciousness a physically or spiritually-based phenomena?"; we can, with the assurance of scientific integrity backing us up, reply that consciousness is indeed a spiritual phenomena capable of living independently of the brain, once the brain ceases to function. Dr. Lommel illustrates in his paper that the real purpose of the brain is as a mediator of the physical world to the spiritual consciousness. He compares the brain to such things as a television, radio and cell phone, to illustrate the point. The point he is trying to make clear is this; the brain is not the end point of information. It is "only" a conveyor of information to and from the true end point, our spiritually-based consciousness which is independent of the physical brain and able to live past the of our brains. bornagain77
Excellent, If I have time I will grab your book! Kudos ~ hopefully it sells well and puts another dent into Materialism. jpark320

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