Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Neuroscience and Religion

In the comedic documentary film, Religulous, Bill Maher interviews neuroscientist, Andrew Newberg.  There were at least two occasions on which Maher represents Newberg’s study as constituting a threat to religion, although we’re not given a chance to hear Newberg’s response. We might have otherwise learned that Newberg does not regard the fact that we can detect brain movements that are linked to certain religious experiences as implying anything about the reality of those experiences. The following is a quote from Newberg’s website:

“Our research indicates that our only way of comprehending God, asking questions about God, and experiencing God is through the brain. But whether or not God exists ‘out there’ is something that neuroscience cannot answer. For example, if we take a brain image of a person when she is looking at a picture, we will see various parts of the brain being activated, such as the visual cortex. But the brain image cannot tell us whether or not there actually is a picture ‘out there’ or whether the person is creating the picture in her own mind. To a certain degree, we all create our own sense of reality. Getting at what is really real is the tricky part.”