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At Mind Matters News: Is brain science helping us understand our belief in God?


To the extent that materialist researchers are still looking for a God switch in the brain, no, it doesn’t:

Michael Ferguson is a neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School. He grew up as a Mormon and was quite religious. But, he reports, his beliefs have changed. That’s probably fairly common at Harvard –- there is a pervasive and palpable bias against serious religious beliefs in many of our leading universities.

Nonetheless, Ferguson thought,

“As a scientist, I can’t help but wonder what it is about these types of [religious] experiences that made them feel so rich and so profound. – Emma Yasinski, “Religion on the Brain” at the Scientist (Jul 13, 2021). The paper covered requires a subscription.”

An obvious answer would be that religious experiences are rich and profound because they are true. There’s nothing like communion with God to enrich and deepen life. Ferguson seems not to have considered this explanation, but instead seeks answers through neuroscience. The result is predictable:

“In June, Ferguson and his team published a study in Biological Psychiatry showing that brain lesions that connect to the periaqueductal gray (PAG), an area deep in the brain involved in processes such as pain modulation, fear conditioning, and altruism, seem to be associated with religiosity and spirituality. – Emma Yasinski, “Religion on the Brain” at the Scientist (Jul 13, 2021)”

Ferguson is careful to emphasize that he is not trying to disprove the reality of religious experience:

Michael Egnor, “Is brain science helping us understand our belief in God?” at Mind Matters News (August 30, 2021)

Oh no. For sure, why would anyone think that? 😉

Takehome: Egnor: The best way to understand religious experience is to have one. Researchers who are looking for a way around that problem don’t produce useful research.

You may also wish to read:

Researchers: Prolonged meditation alters the brain. The changes were detected mainly in the frontal and parietal lobes. Andrew Newburg and colleagues found changes in brain functional.


Why a budding neuroscience student is skeptical of brain scans After reading her perceptive essay about the problems in fMRI imaging in neuroscience, I’m sad that a gifted student has doubts about a career in the field. Neuroscience badly needs skeptics to show how unreliable technology, biased handling of data, and materialism’s conceptual mess frustrate science.

“Is brain science helping us understand our belief in God?” Well, if it is, I'm sure it can also help us understand our belief in and commitment to abiogenesis, naturalism, and atheism. In fact, it should also be able to help us understand all of our "beliefs". In reality, they are not really beliefs, but just the thoughts that random processes in our brain create and make us think we believe. tjguy

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