RSS

Category Archives: Science and Technology

Have scientists located religion’s “G-spot”?

Scientists believe they have found the "God spot" in the human brain.  They say religion is an adaptive part of our evolution.

Scientists believe they have found the "God spot" in the human brain, the part that "controls" religious experience. They say religion is an adaptive part of our evolution.

.

“When we have incomplete knowledge of the world around us, it offers us the opportunities to believe in God. When we don’t have a scientific explanation for something, we tend to rely on supernatural explanations,” said Professor Grafman, who believes in God. “Maybe obeying supernatural forces that we had no knowledge of made it easier for religious forms of belief to emerge.”

.

Some scientists believe they have pinpointed the brain’s “G-spots” – the pleasure centers relating  to religious experience and those that “control religious faith”.   They argue that these biological foundations for religious tendencies in humans are a product of human evolution – a necessary part of our survival.

The researchers said their findings support the idea that the brain has evolved to be sensitive to any form of belief that improves the chances of survival, which could explain why a belief in God and the supernatural became so widespread in human evolutionary history.

The article below highlights the results of a study published in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.   According to this study volunteers were asked to think about religious and moral issues, while scientists observed areas of the brain for neural activity associated with those thoughts.  What they discovered is that religious and moral beliefs activate the same areas of the brain.   These areas include portions of the frontal lobe (which is unique to humans among animals), as well as the temporal and parietal lobes.

No one knows exactly why these areas of the brain show increased activity with regard to religious and ethical issues, nor the reason why these same areas are active during moments of intense religious experience and perceived absorption into the Divine.  One scientist, Professor Grafman, points out:

“There is nothing unique about religious belief in these brain structures. Religion doesn’t have a ‘God spot’ as such, instead it’s embedded in a whole range of other belief systems in the brain that we use everyday”.

Indeed, our moral and ethical beliefs influence a wide-range of other core, fundamental beliefs that we hold, and consideration of the effects (both in this world and the next) of choices and actions undoubtedly has an affect, to some degree or another, on many interrelated belief systems.  This may explain why several areas of the brain are active upon such considerations and not just one.

Yet, if religious thinking is “embedded in a whole range of other belief systems” it would seem that there is some underlying cause or reason for that.   The first quote above suggests that the reason for this is that of ignorance seeking understanding, a  search for a scientific or even “supernatural” explanation for things we experience but can make no rational sense of.   This appears to be false on the face of it.

Often, science offers up a rational, methodical, observable answer for a phenomena, but those of religious inclinations may disregard the findings of science altogether.  For example, science posits the notion of evolution, which is, in part, based upon observable data.  Yet there is a large body of theologians who discount such theories because their religion tells them differently.  For them, it is a “matter of faith” that God created the world and the universe.   If religious inclinations are based upon biological processes attempting to make sense of and order the world rationally, then it begs the question, “Why do religious people, in the face of compelling, rational, observable, scientific data, reject those theories for something abstract, unobservable and non-empirical?”

I believe the reason for this lies in the nature of the religious experience – an important issue that the article below does not address.  One of the best texts regarding religious experiences is William James’, The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature.   Mr. James took an empirical look at the many types of religious experiences, observed the similarities among them, then showed the four characteristics these experiences share:

1.  Ineffability

2.  Noetic quality

3.  Transience

4.  Passivity

According to James, all truly religious experience are ineffable: they cannot or should not be put into written words.  This is because the experience is one of “other-worldliness” or “greater reality”, such that normal words and concepts cannot accurately portray what the experience was.   Religious experiences also contain a noetic quality, which means they impart some sort of wisdom or knowledge to the individual.  Although the experience itself is beyond words, the person believes they have gained some insight into themselves, the world, or society as a whole.  This knowledge is not empirical, but subjective.  Such experiences are also short-lived, but, nevertheless, so profound that the individual seeks to recapture the experience again and again.  In so doing, James adds that most realize the passivity of the experience – one cannot make it happen whenever desired.   The individual has no control over the experience.   It cannot be recreated in a lab, to be studied, monitored and recorded.

All this study below shows is that certain parts of the brain are active at certain times under certain conditions.  This does not point to a “God spot” or any such area of the brain, which is responsible for – that is, causative of – human beings’ inclination towards the Divine.   Since 95% of the world believes in one form of God or another, we are still left with the begging question, “Why?”  If this is merely a result of evolution or neural activity, why is the “God impulse” so widespread?  It strains reason to think that such beliefs are simply a result of physical processes in the brain – that religion and morality is simply a bi-product of thought – or that such profound, life-changing experiences are merely physical, chemical actions of our brain.

Furthermore, if religion is an adaptive belief system designed for survival, why does religious history abound with stories of individuals who died or were martyred because of their faith?

While I love science, sometimes scientists are a little short-sighted and have a hard time accepting data that cannot be empirically measured, quantified, recorded and cataloged.   The scientific method itself demands such qualities of a verifiable experience, which precludes non-empirical data such as that purported by spiritual people.   With respect to the Being of God and that of religious experiences, scientists almost always miss the mark in attempting to prove or disprove the existence of God according to such empirical methods.  Even scientists who believe in God and who seek to use science to find a physical connection between humans and God always fail to provide the proof they seek to show.

Proof for the existence or nonexistence of God is impossible and misses the point.

For the religious follower, one should seek the experience of God first, then all proofs are meaningless because the mind then knows God.   They argue that God can only be known directly, not through concepts and theorems, but through an open heart and mind.

I believe that the reason for this is that Spirit comes first, then the mind, … then the physical – of which the brain is part.  The physical world and perceptual sensation is an end-result of Spirit and Mind.  Perception is a product, not a source.

As such, pointing to the result/product itself (the physical world and perception) for substantiation of the cause (Spirit and Mind)  or in hope to understand the processes that gave rise to the result, is based upon error.    Utilizing a purely empirical scientific method to study the physical brain, thinking this will give us insight into the mind and Spirit, will not tell us anything beyond the constraints of physically perceivable phenomena and the range of “acceptable” answers we allow.  We have already framed the answer and results with our expectations, which themselves arise from the beliefs we hold.   Quantum physicists call this the “observer effect.”

Scientists do the same when they study physical phenomena to try to gain insight into the spiritual.   Their results are framed by the fundamental beliefs they hold.  These beliefs give rise to the accepted means of measurement, which further frames the results.

The limits of the scientific method are built in to frame the results in terms of what is accepted FIRST to be true.    For empirical scientists and atheists, the fundamental reality is the physical world of sense experience and perception, and it is taken as truth that studying physical phenomena can give greater understanding of our reality.  Religious believers, on the other hand, may believe that the spiritual world is ultimate reality, while the physical world is illusion.  This leads to entirely different schools of thought, which have been attempting to reconcile their opposing views for ages.

Theologians and scientists are still grappling with that conundrum, attempting to look to the brain for insight into the Spirit.  They will exhaust themselves, for they will find only what they expect to find, again and again, framed by the questions they ask and the expectations they have.   If they’re searching for the physical processes that “give rise to” religious belief, they’ll find the processes which appear to do so.  If they search for the source of physical processes to begin with, then an entirely different answer emerges.

.

**********************

.

Belief and the brain’s ‘God spot’

Scientists say they have located the parts of the brain that control religious faith. And the research proves, they contend, that belief in a higher power is an evolutionary asset that helps human survival. Steve Connor reports

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

A belief in God is deeply embedded in the human brain, which is programmed for religious experiences, according to a study that analyses why religion is a universal human feature that has encompassed all cultures throughout history.

Scientists searching for the neural “God spot”, which is supposed to control religious belief, believe that there is not just one but several areas of the brain that form the biological foundations of religious belief.

The researchers said their findings support the idea that the brain has evolved to be sensitive to any form of belief that improves the chances of survival, which could explain why a belief in God and the supernatural became so widespread in human evolutionary history.

“Religious belief and behaviour are a hallmark of human life, with no accepted animal equivalent, and found in all cultures,” said Professor Jordan Grafman, from the US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in Bethesda, near Washington. “Our results are unique in demonstrating that specific components of religious belief are mediated by well-known brain networks, and they support contemporary psychological theories that ground religious belief within evolutionary-adaptive cognitive functions.”

Scientists are divided on whether religious belief has a biological basis. Some evolutionary theorists have suggested that Darwinian natural selection may have put a premium on individuals if they were able to use religious belief to survive hardships that may have overwhelmed those with no religious convictions. Others have suggested that religious belief is a side effect of a wider trait in the human brain to search for coherent beliefs about the outside world. Religion and the belief in God, they argue, are just a manifestation of this intrinsic, biological phenomenon that makes the human brain so intelligent and adaptable.

The latest study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, involved analysing the brains of volunteers, who had been asked to think about religious and moral problems and questions. For the analysis, the researchers used a functional magnetic-resonance imaging machine, which can identify the most energetically-active regions of the brain.

They found that people of different religious persuasions and beliefs, as well as atheists, all tended to use the same electrical circuits in the brain to solve a perceived moral conundrum – and the same circuits were used when religiously-inclined people dealt with issues related to God.

The study found that several areas of the brain are involved in religious belief, one within the frontal lobes of the cortex – which are unique to humans – and another in the more evolutionary-ancient regions deeper inside the brain, which humans share with apes and other primates, Professor Grafman said.

“There is nothing unique about religious belief in these brain structures. Religion doesn’t have a ‘God spot’ as such, instead it’s embedded in a whole range of other belief systems in the brain that we use everyday,” Professor Grafman said.

The search for the God spot has in the past led scientists to many different regions of the brain. An early contender was the brain’s temporal lobe, a large section of the brain that sits over each ear, because temporal-lobe epileptics suffering seizures in these regions frequently report having intense religious experiences. One of the principal exponents of this idea was Vilayanur Ramachandran, from the University of California, San Diego, who asked several of his patients with temporal-lobe epilepsy to listen to a mixture of religious, sexual and neutral words while measuring their levels of arousal and emotional reactions. Religious words elicited an unusually high response in these patients.

This work was followed by a study where scientists tried to stimulate the temporal lobes with a rotating magnetic field produced by a “God helmet”. Michael Persinger, from Laurentian University in Ontario, found that he could artificially create the experience of religious feelings – the helmet’s wearer reports being in the presence of a spirit or having a profound feeling of cosmic bliss.

Dr Persinger said that about eight in every 10 volunteers report quasi-religious feelings when wearing his helmet. However, when Professor Richard Dawkins, an evolutionist and renowned atheist, wore it during the making of a BBC documentary, he famously failed to find God, saying that the helmet only affected his breathing and his limbs.

Other studies of people taking part in Buddhist meditation suggested the parietal lobes at the upper back region of the brain were involved in controlling religious belief, in particular the mystical elements that gave people a feeling of being on a higher plane during prayer.

Andrew Newberg, from the University of Pennsylvania, injected radioactive isotope into Buddhists at the point at which they achieved meditative nirvana. Using a special camera, he captured the distribution of the tracer in the brain, which led the researchers to identify the parietal lobes as playing a key role during this transcendental state.

Professor Grafman was more interested in how people coped with everyday moral and religious questions. He said that the latest study, published today, suggests the brain is inherently sensitive to believing in almost anything if there are grounds for doing so, but when there is a mystery about something, the same neural machinery is co-opted in the formulation of religious belief.

“When we have incomplete knowledge of the world around us, it offers us the opportunities to believe in God. When we don’t have a scientific explanation for something, we tend to rely on supernatural explanations,” said Professor Grafman, who believes in God. “Maybe obeying supernatural forces that we had no knowledge of made it easier for religious forms of belief to emerge.”

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/belief-and-the-brains–god-spot-1641022.html

.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

An Environmental Issue More Pressing Than Global Warming

Gas masks: freakish fashion trend of the future? The body burden our children are inheriting might make this an unavoidable accessory.

One of the main issues this blog addresses and one which I regularly speak to friends and family about is the human body burden. The phrase “body burden” refers to the condition of body toxicity that has resulted from the use of largely synthetic chemicals since the early 1900’s. Many of these chemicals are known carcinogens, neurotoxins, hormone disruptors, and wreak havoc on many systems within the body. The health effects range from common to severe, from headaches and mild gastrointestinal problems to cancer, permanent syndromes and even death.

Every human being on this planet shares in this body burden.

Because the previous statement is so important, I’ll repeat it again: Every human being on this planet shares in this body burden.

While I do not want people running around scared and paranoid about toxic chemicals in their body, I also do not encourage ignorance of real problems that confront us because of our collective actions as the human species. Body pollution is one of those serious concerns that should not be ignored. While many people suffer from unexplainable illnesses, the prevalence of cancer is rising, the development of new illnesses and syndromes is on the rise, and many are suffering from hormone imbalances, reproductive problems and mental disturbances, it behooves us as a species to understand that there are explainable causes to all of these.

One major contributor to our deterioration in health and the rise in preventable diseases (yes, preventable) is the presence of up to 700 toxic chemicals in our body and bloodstream.

According to studies released by the Environmental Working Group and the EPA, blood and tissue samples of several random American citizens revealed the shocking truth: all of us, whether or not we work around hazardous chemicals or live near facilities that handle toxins or release them into the atmosphere, are plagued by the presence of these toxins, many of which are bioaccumulative. This means that trace amounts, over time, build up within our bones, our organs and our tissues and produce significant systemic results, including cancer and death.

These chemicals are in the foods we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the toys we play with, the personal hygiene products we smear on our bodies, the cleaning products we use, the fragrances we douse ourselves with, and the items we use at our workplace. We live in a toxic atmosphere created by the technologies, manufacturing, and industrial endeavors of our species.

Most of this has occurred within the past 100 years and is reversible at this stage. The longer we wait, the more we pollute ourselves and our environment, the more difficult it becomes to reduce our exposure to these chemicals. Future generations will, therefore, have to suffer an even greater burden.

In fact, recent studies of umbilical cord blood in newborns revealed a shocking discovery: our babies are being born with this burden as well!

Research shows that many of these chemicals easily pass through the placenta and concentrate in the developing fetus. Can you imagine what these chemicals can do to such a vulnerable body and brain? While scientists and doctors remain baffled regarding the rise in autism, developmental disorders, mental conditions and other problems, the culprit could very well be the chemical cocktail we serve up on a daily basis in our homes, neighborhoods, schools, churches and workplaces.

Currently, there is a movie in production called 287, which tackles these important issues and will present them to the larger viewing audience. The producers want 287 to be “for your internal environment” what Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth was for the external environment. I have many reservations about Al Gore’s movie and his conclusions, but after spending much time researching the “body burden”, I believe this issue to be even more important than global warming.

According to the Environmental Working Group in 2005, children are born into this world with an average of 287 toxic chemicals in their system. 287 reasons for Americans and citizens of the world to take pause and grapple with this problem. It is not going away, it will not get better if we continue staying the course we are on to our own destruction. Fixing the problem means a radical, personal change on a collective level.

I encourage everyone to read more about our Body Burden at ewg.org. I ask that you help the producers of 287 with any support or assistance you can provide. Frequent the 287 The Movie blog here at WordPress. Find out your own personal Body Burden (this site may take a few moments to load). Use the personal hygiene products database to clean out your medicine cabinet and replace the products with healthier versions. Check back with Toxin Free Now as they develop their website to help you live healthier. Research the common chemical culprits that are widespread in our society. Stand up and fight the bureaucracies that are maintaining our current course. Talk to others about the burden we all share.

Many of these toxins can be removed by our personal and collective choices. As a consumer, you can make a large impact as many of the largest offenders are manufacturers of household cleaning products and personal hygiene products.

What are some things that have I done? It’s not much, but it’s what anyone can do:

Switched to an organic diet. My animals, too.

Eliminated all toxins from the foods I eat (mostly present in processed foods).

Changed and stopped using many personal hygiene products.

Stopped wearing fragrance.

Purify all of my water for drinking and cooking.

Switched household cleaners to “green” versions.

Educate others around me.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Scientists Identify Brain’s “Hate Circuit”

The following article describes how British researchers have “isolated” the brain’s “circuit” for hatred.

Researchers have discovered that the putamen and insular structures of the brain are activated when subjects view photos of someone they hate. I expect to see more on this in the coming months as pharmaceutical companies and scientists seek to develop drugs to control what is viewed by some agencies, such as the Anti-Defamation League, as a growing sense of hatred in the world.

Just imagine, a world without hate.

To me, that’s a scary proposition because I believe hatred is a normal human emotion that serves a purpose. Hatred can be vastly misguided, controlled and instilled by parents, teachers, religion and government, but it is, nonetheless, a natural response to the world when something is not right. Because love and hate are so interconnected, the eradication of one would lead to the destruction of the other.

Ironically, researchers also say that these same structures in the brain are activated with thoughts of romantic love.

God help us if scientists and geneticists learn to control and manipulate these central human emotions in more sophisticated ways. We have enough problems learning to love and control hatred with our own mind as it is with the current level of manipulation we have to endure. The introduction of pharmaceuticals to “fix” this problem will only exacerbate our inability to regulate our emotions even further, leading to a greater number of false feelings of love and compounded feelings of hatred and violence. I’m sure the powers-that-be would love nothing more than to create human “robots” that blindly love their system of control and hate those who do not conform.

If love seeks to alert us when things are right and good and hate seeks to alert us when things are wrong and bad, would we be able to tell the difference between the two if that area of our brain was controlled by external forces?

Now, wouldn’t that be an invaluable tool to the globalists as they install their one-world government?

Hatred and love originate not from the brain, but from beliefs.

In Brave New World, members of society are conditioned to hold the beliefs and values of the World State. Everyone is encouraged to consume the drug, Soma, a strong hallucinogen which, at small doses, makes everyone blissfully oblivious, and at large doses, acts to impart a false religious experience.

Scientists Identify Brain’s ‘Hate Circuit’

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 29 (HealthDay News) — British researchers say they’ve identified a “hate circuit” in the brain.

This hate circuit shares part of the brain associated with aggression, but is distinct from areas related to emotions such as fear, threat, and danger, said researchers Professor Semir Zeki and John Romaya, of University College London’s laboratory of neurobiology.

The study was published online Oct. 29 in the journal PLoS One.

“Hate is often considered to be an evil passion that should, in a better world, be tamed, controlled, and eradicated,” Zeki said in a journal news release. “Yet to the biologist, hate is a passion that is of equal interest to love. Like love, it is often seemingly irrational and can lead individuals to heroic and evil deeds. How can two opposite sentiments lead to the same behavior?”

In this study, 17 female and male volunteers underwent brain scans while they looked at photos of a person they hated, along with photos of a “neutral” person. Looking at images of hated people triggered activity in an area that includes structures in the cortex and in the sub-cortex as well as components that generate aggressive behavior and translate it into action.

The hate circuit also includes a part of the frontal cortex that’s believed to play a major role in predicting the actions of others, likely an important feature when a person is faced with someone they hate, the researchers said.

The sub-cortical activity of the hate circuit involves two structures called the putamen and insula. The putamen plays a role in the perception of contempt and disgust, and may be part of the motor system that’s mobilized to take action, the scientists said.

“Significantly, the putamen and insula are also both activated by romantic love. This is not surprising. The putamen could also be involved in the preparation of aggressive acts in a romantic context, as in situations when a rival presents a danger. Previous studies have suggested that the insula may be involved in responses to distressing stimuli, and the viewing of both a loved one and a hated face may contribute such a distressing signal,” Zeki said.

He added that activity in parts of the hate circuit matches the strength of the person’s declared intensity of hate, “thus allowing the subjective state of hate to be objectively quantified. This finding may have legal implications in criminal cases, for example.

Related:

Scientists prove it really is a thin line between love and hate – The Independent

 
1 Comment

Posted by on October 29, 2008 in Informational, Science and Technology

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,