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Psychologising and Neurologising about Religion Facts, Fallacies and the Future.

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Presentation on theme: "Psychologising and Neurologising about Religion Facts, Fallacies and the Future."— Presentation transcript:

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2 Psychologising and Neurologising about Religion Facts, Fallacies and the Future

3 "…men go out and gaze in astonishment at... the stars in their courses. But they pay no attention to themselves". I'm not now investigating the tracts of the heavens or measuring the distance of the stars... I am investigating myself, my memory, my mind." "What then am I my God? What is my nature?” St. Augustine’s Confessions.

4 "What we are studying is not the stars in the universe but the stars within ourselves, our own nature" Sir Martin Evans 2007 Nobel laureate BBC Today Programme on December 31, 2007

5 Robert Boyle “Viewed his theological interests and his work in natural philosophy as forming a seamless whole and constantly used results from the one to enlighten matters in the other” Macintosh J.T. and Anstey P., 2007

6 “..fundamental changes in our view of the human brain cannot but have profound effects on our view of ourselves and the world” David Hubel, Scientific American, "The idea that man has a disembodied soul is as unnecessary as the old idea that there was a Life Force. This is in head-on contradiction to the religious beliefs of billions of human beings alive today. How will such a radical change be received? " Francis Crick, The Astonishing Hypothesis, 1994 “…what is arguably the major cultural question of our times: can the humanistic and even religious view of human nature be reconciled with science?” John Horgan, “In the fullness of time educated people will believe there is no soul independent of the body, and hence no life after death.” Francis Crick. The New York Times, April 13th "After the Double Helix: Unravelling the Mysteries of the State of Being"

7 Lead Article : Nature 14th of June 2007 “ With deference to the sensibilities of religious people, the idea that man was created in the image of God can surely be put aside” "Scientific theories of human nature may be discomforting or unsatisfying, but they are not illegitimate."

8 WHAT ARE THE MAIN CONTOURS OF THE CONTEMPORARY SCIENTIFIC LANDSCAPE?

9 Neuropsychology-the product of converging streams The cognitive revolution experimental psychology brain imaging techniques

10 Archives of Neurology, 2003 The case of the Virginia schoolteacher.

11 “Change the mind and you change the brain” : effects of cognitive–behavior therapy on the neural correlates of spider phobia Vincent Paquette et al., NeuroImage, 18 (2003)

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14 "The distinction between diseases of "brain"and "mind", between "neurological" problems and "psychological” or "psychiatric" ones, is an unfortunate cultural inheritance that permeates society and medicine. It reflects a basic ignorance of the relation between brain and mind.” Antonio Damasio, Descartes Error,1994. We should talk of psychiatric illness or disorders rather than of mental illnesses, and if we do continue to refer to ‘mental’ and ‘physical’ illnesses, we should preface both with ‘so-called’, to remind ourselves and our audience that these are archaic and deeply misleading terms. R. Kendell, B.J. Psychiatry. June 2001

15 We may regard mental activity and correlated brain activity as inner and outer aspects of one complex set of events that together constitute conscious human agency. Interdependence characterised by an irreducible intrinsic duality without dualism of substance.

16 Robert Boyle “Viewed his theological interests and his work in natural philosophy as forming a seamless whole and constantly used results from the one to enlighten matters in the other” Macintosh J.T. and Anstey P., 2007

17 TENSION AT THE SEAMS ?

18 “ The theologians of the early church began to use ideas from Greek philosophy, and the conception of immaterial and immortal soul found its way into Christian thinking and has tended to stay there ever since.” Leslie Stevenson, Ten Theories of Human Nature, 4th Edition, 2004

19 “the question of how the transcendental soul acted upon the physical body became replaced by the question of how the immaterial mind could arise out of fleshly matter. It still remains a central question for the science of mind”. Kenan Malik, Man, Beast and Zombie, 2000

20 " In the fullness of time educated people will believe there is no soul independent of the body, and hence no life after death." Francis Crick. The New York Times, April 13th "After the Double Helix: Unravelling the Mysteries of the State of Being"

21 Should we continue, then, to speak of 'souls' at all? I see no problem with the word in principle (as Lewis Carroll suggested, you can use words however you like as long as you pay them extra on Thursdays); you can say 'soul', as long as you are committed to meaning by that ‘a whole human being living in the presence of God’ Soul-language, within a Christian context, is a shorthand for telling a story of that sort, a story about the way in which human beings as wholes are irreducibly open to God. It is not, within Christian theology, a shorthand for a story in which a partitioned human being has a soul in one compartment, a body in another, and quite possibly all sorts of other bits and pieces equally divided up. We can then continue to use the word ‘soul’ with fully Christian meaning; but we should be careful, because the language has had a chequered history, and may betray us. N.T.Wright (2000)

22 ...in the absence of "soul", what is it that makes us authentically human? To speak in more traditional terms, what does it mean any longer to affirm that we are bearers of "the divine image". Joel Green, 2004

23 ......to be in the image of God is at once to be created as a particular kind of being - a person - and to be called to realise a certain destiny. Colin Gunton, The Promise of Trinitarian Theology, 2nd edition, T. and T. Clark, 1997

24 Whatever therefore is to be said about the human cannot be confined to general statements about humanity apart from God. It cannot be said apart from the discovery that in Jesus Christ we see who we are and we also see God for us. The answer to the question about who we are is finally eschatological, where tears are no longer part of the human reality, where joy is the order of eternity, and where our transience disappears in the disappearance of death. We cannot see that yet. But we do see Jesus. That will have to do. I think it is enough”. Patrick Miller, Professor of Old Testament. Princeton University, 2004

25 What about ‘the spiritual dimension’?

26 Times 2 April 16 th 2006

27 2007

28 A New trend - “Neurotheology”

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31 "a rest to his mind, a cheerer of his spirits, a diverter of sadness, a calmer of unquiet thoughts, a moderator of passions, a procurer of contentedness…" Isaak Walton. The Compleat Angler.

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35 The Elusive God-Spot The temporal lobe is considered "the God module”, the part of the brain that connects with the transcendent. Willoughby Britton, 2004 Hypereligiosity may stem from increased activity in the medial prefrontal cortex of the brain... my theory is that the medial prefrontal cortex plays the role of the conductor of an orchestra in religiosity" Osamu Muramoto, 2004

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37 Robert Boyle “Viewed his theological interests and his work in natural philosophy as forming a seamless whole and constantly used results from the one to enlighten matters in the other” Macintosh J.T. and Anstey P., 2007

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39 The Elusive God Spot Are We Hard-Wired to Seek God? All that may be new here is an analysis that finds in the human brain a mirror of all these imagines Dei - all these images of God - and thus may suggest further ways of comprehending them. Carol Albright and James Ashbrook

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41 The image is not located in any of these but in our human vocation, given and enabled by God, to relate to God as God's partner in covenant. To join in companionship with the human family and in relation to the whole cosmos in ways that reflect the covenant love of God. This is realised and modelled supremely in Jesus Christ. Joel Green, 2004

42 "Neuroscience is now the largest area of biomedical research, and new breakthroughs in the field are likely to dominate the 21st century. The major Neuroscience Prize will salute outstanding achievements and encourage further developments in a discipline with infinite potential." Press release, 25th April 2004, Peter Gruber Foundation to Give Annual International Prize in Neuroscience

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48 Sensitivity to Face View

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52 The imago Dei as the capacity for moral behaviour and moral agency.... herein does very much consist that image of God wherein he made man...viz. in those faculties and principles of nature, whereby he is capable of moral agency. Jonathan Edwards "Aiding others at the cost or risk to oneself is widespread in the animal kingdom" Frans de Waal The fact that the human moral sense goes so far back in evolutionary history that other species show signs of it, plants morality firmly near the centre of our much maligned nature.’ (de Waal,1996)

53 Even if animals other than ourselves act in ways tantamount to moral behaviour, their behaviour does not necessarily rest on deliberations of the kind we engage in.It is hard to believe that animals weigh their own interests against the rights of others, that they develop a vision of the greater good of society, or that they feel lifelong guilt about something they should not have done' (de Waal,1996)

54 "It is dangerous to show a man too clearly how much he resembles the beast, without at the same time showing him his greatness, it is also dangerous to allow him too clear vision of his greatness without his baseness. It is even more dangerous to leave him in ignorance of both.” Blaise Pascal, 17th century "From the beginning philosophers have agonised over the question of what makes a human, is there a difference in kind or merely a difference in degree between ourselves and other animals? Direct comparisons between people and animals are often seen as demeaning, even offensive” Frans de Waal,1996

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57 Special European Union Report European citizens deliver proposals on brain sciences "The citizens panels from nine European countries had come together to share their recommendations for the future of brain science marking the end of what is thought to have been the largest ever public consultation on science". The Psychologist March 2006

58 THE TIMES Dec. 8 th BRAIN TRAINER:A FIVE DAY WORKOUT TO EXPAND YOUR MIND Dec. 15 th Autism may involve “ATYPICAL NEURONAL DEVELOPMENT FROM THE EARLIEST STAGE SHOWING THAT IT IS NOT A REACTION TO PARENTAL BEHAVIOUR” GERMAN SCENTISTS CLAIM TO HAVE FOUND THE GENE LINKED TO SERIAL STUPIDITY, report in Science THE PINEAL GLAND “ MAY HOLD THE KEY TO THE HUMAN SOUL” report from the National Taiwan University Science Editor reports on “ PEACE GENE IN OUR TIME?”

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60 "from a neuroscientific perspective, it is now unnecessary to postulate a second, metaphysical entity, such as a soul or spirit, to account for human capacities and distinctives. Joel Green, 2004 "if the immortality of the soul and, hence, dualism are essential to Christian thought, then the church should be bracing for an encounter with science far overshadowing debates about creation and evolution." Lawson Stone, 2004

61 "The idea that man has a disembodied soul is as unnecessary as the old idea that there was a Life Force. This is in head-on contradiction to the religious beliefs of billions of human beings alive today. How will such a radical change be received? " Francis Crick, The Astonishing Hypothesis, 1994

62 O’Craven and Kanwisher Next slide shows activity when faces or houses are seen or imagined.

63 Telling whether someone is imagining faces or places: raw fMRI signal 1 subject

64 % signal change in Fusiform Face Area % signal change in Parahippocampal Place Area

65 Theories which depict experience and its neural basis as inseparable aspects of a single process may hold out the greatest promise. But we do not have any clear understanding of how a single process could have two such different aspects. Making sense of their relationship may require us to rethink the nature of matter, mind, or both. Adam Zeman, Consciousness, a user's guide, Yale University Press 2002 p.341.

66 “..I believe …an understanding of how the brain gives rise to the mind …will require a change at least as radical as relativity theory, the introduction of electromagnetic fields into physics-or the original scientific revolution itself..” Science and the Mind –Body Problem Thomas Nagel 2006


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