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The Neuroscience Correlates of Religious Faith and Practice NI Inter-Faith Forum.

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Presentation on theme: "The Neuroscience Correlates of Religious Faith and Practice NI Inter-Faith Forum."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Neuroscience Correlates of Religious Faith and Practice NI Inter-Faith Forum

2 OutlineDefinitionsChallenges Neuroscience Research Tools CorrelatesConclusions Further Questions

3 Religion A particular system of faith and worship, giving rise to religious practice and religious experience.

4 Faith Belief that does not rest on logical truth or material evidence Religious faith – belief in a transcendent reality, a religious teacher, a set of teachings or a supreme being

5 Neuroscience The multidisciplinary study of the nervous system, aimed at understanding the biological basis of behaviour and the cause and effect of disease.

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7  Neuroscience  Mathematics Genes -> Proteins -> Synapses -> Cells -> Social Science Physics Circuits -> Systems -> Nervous System -> Behaviour Anthropology AstronomyPhilosophy ChemistryTheology

8 Genes to Behaviour Adult human brain has ≈ 100 billion neurons ≈ 100 billion glial cells ≈ 100 billion glial cells ≈ no. Synapses for “typical” neuron 1,000 – 10,000 ≈ no. Synapses for “typical” neuron 1,000 – 10,000

9 Challenges Expectations Expectations Limitation of Techniques Limitation of Techniques Scientific v Theological Language Scientific v Theological Language

10 Neuroscience Research Tools Genetics Genetics Hallucinogenic Drugs Hallucinogenic Drugs Neurological Disorders Neurological Disorders Magnetic Brain Stimulation Magnetic Brain Stimulation Neuroimaging Neuroimaging Cognitive, Behavioural and Evolutionary Psychology Cognitive, Behavioural and Evolutionary Psychology

11 Nature 55, 23 Oct, 2008

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14 Normal Brain & Alzheimer Brain

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16 The Neural Correlates of Religious and Nonreligious Belief Sam Harris, Jonas T. Kaplan, Ashley Curiel, Susan Y. Bookheimer, Marco Iacoboni, Mark S. Cohen Conclusions/Significance While religious and nonreligious thinking differentially engage broad regions of the frontal, parietal, and medial temporal lobes, the difference between belief and disbelief appears to be content-independent.

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20 The measurement of regional cerebral blood flow during glossolalia: A preliminary SPECT study Andrew B. Newberg, Nancy A. Wintering, Donna Morgan, Mark R. Waldman Glossolalia (or “speaking in tongues”) is an unusual mental state that has great personal and religious meaning. Glossolalia is experienced as a normal and expected behavior in religious prayer groups in which the individual appears to be speaking in an incomprehensible language. This is the first functional neuroimaging study to demonstrate changes in cerebral activity during glossolalia. The frontal lobes, parietal lobes, and left caudate were most affected.

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22 1 – Religious cognitive and experiential phenomena are not unique brain events, but involve patterns of brain activation found in other forms of human cognition and subjective experience 2 – Religious cognitive and experiential phenomena do not engage a single brain area, but activate a network of areas 3 – Different religious activities activate different brain networks Conclusions

23 1 – Can religious life be reduced to nothing but the physical? 2 – Is religion a product of biological or cultural evolution? 3 – What about those humans who do not have or have lost their biological framework for religious faith? 4 – Is it possible scientifically to explain some religious practices? 5 – Is it right to subject transcendental experiences to scientific scrutiny? Further Questions

24 Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But, while joined by many bonds, which one precedes and brings forth the other is not easy to discern. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion I.I.I John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion I.I.I


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