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jgraz Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-01-09 03:32 PM
Original message
Wow... Scientists image religious belief inside the brain

Finding the fear and love of God inside the brain


Scientists have long mused about the evolutionary significance of religion and its place in the brain. New research shows that the behaviors and beliefs we associate with religion may be associated with variability in specific neuroanatomical features.

Why do some embrace religion and others reject it outright? For a long time, scientists have been trying to answer this question by probing the neural roots of religion. Until fairly recently, many thought the answer lay in a "God-spot"a small region of the brain that has been linked to the mystical experiences associated with faith.

Thanks in large part to the growing sophistication of brain-scanning techniques, which let neuroscientists peer into the brains inner workings, that concept has largely been rendered moot; there is now widespread agreement that religious behaviors are modulated by well-defined neural pathways. Indeed, several studies have indicated that the feelings of joy, doubt, and self-reflection that are evoked by intense religious experiences can be correlated with specific patterns of brain activation. Earlier this year, a group of researchers led by the National Institute on Agings Dimitrios Kapogiannis identified several of the cognitive mechanisms and brain circuits that seem to be engaged during the processing of religious belief.

Their findings showed that, far from being an inscrutable phenomenon, religion could in fact be experimentally addressed and that its emergence may have been driven by changes in the neural capacity for language, logical reasoning, and other evolutionarily significant processes. In a follow-up study, the same group investigated whether the expression of religious beliefs could be tied to variability in the brain's architecture. Their results, which reveal that differences in regional cortical volumes correlate with key aspects of religiosity, were reported in PLoS ONE.


http://arstechnica.com/science/news/2009/10/finding-the...



This is not only fascinating as a new discovery, but it will also be interesting to see how our new creationist head of NIH deals with this ongoing study.

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thunder rising Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-01-09 03:35 PM
Response to Original message
1. Oh I get it, the bigger the spot the smaller the brain?
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ki83760 Donating Member (50 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-02-09 11:31 PM
Response to Reply #1
31. Probably, LOL
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Gman2 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-01-09 03:45 PM
Response to Original message
2. This is my best proof of God. It is ingrained. in our DNA.
Sure, most of the stories are concocted. Sure, there is a lot of folklore. Sure, it seems that God is a spoof of a fertile mind. It is just as easy to imagine, that it is there for a reason. Yeah, most of it is fear of death. Early family exp. Even still. Doesnt affect my interpretation of the earth, or biology/evolution etc.
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jgraz Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-01-09 03:57 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. Belief in astrology, evil spirits and numerology is also ingrained in our DNA.
Does that mean that they are true as well?
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Gman2 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-01-09 04:16 PM
Response to Reply #3
4. Prove it! That numerology and astrology are DNA!
Edited on Thu Oct-01-09 04:18 PM by Gman2
In fact, numerology came from Judaism. Astrology has been the Savior story in stars since before we can tell.
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jgraz Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-01-09 04:50 PM
Response to Reply #4
8. Let me rephrase: the researchers are measuring the brain's belief in magic
God is just one part of magical thinking. That doesn't make God true, anymore than a three-year-old's belief that he controls the universe is true.
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Gman2 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-01-09 04:54 PM
Response to Reply #8
9. That's why I call it my BEST proof of God. It still deals with faith.
Always will. Certainly doesnt preclude God.
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jgraz Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-01-09 05:00 PM
Response to Reply #9
10. It's tied for BEST with all other proofs of God.
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Gman2 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-01-09 05:29 PM
Response to Reply #10
12. Not a chance. All the others are easy ot explain otherwise.
Until the inner dialogue of God, all the others are better explained by evolution, sans, GOD.
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jgraz Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-01-09 08:41 PM
Response to Reply #12
17. This is easy to explain for science. But it destroys most western doctrines of faith
If God is writing belief into our genes, that pretty much eliminates the concept of free will.
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Gman2 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-01-09 08:49 PM
Response to Reply #17
18. As in Zen Buddhism, freedomis escape from ego, no matter who says it!
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roguevalley Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-02-09 01:31 AM
Response to Reply #17
27. belief doesn't preclude free will.
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roguevalley Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-02-09 01:28 AM
Response to Reply #8
26. in your opinion. tell me about black matter and such. I hear what
Edited on Fri Oct-02-09 01:29 AM by roguevalley
we thought was HARD FACT is just so much shit now because of new research. No one truly knows anything.
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jgraz Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-02-09 11:33 AM
Response to Reply #26
29. You have a very poor understanding of science
First, it's *dark* matter, not black matter. And the new discoveries are actually affecting the concept of dark *energy* (a much more nebulous hypothesis). And we didn't think it was HARD FACT, we had *evidence* for it. And we had cosmological *theories* that fit that evidence. And when new evidence came in, we changed the theories.


Now tell me. What new evidence could come in to make you change your belief about the existence of God?

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Warpy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-01-09 04:17 PM
Response to Reply #2
5. Maybe in yours
but it seems a significant percentage of us didn't get that particular bit of DNA.

Belief and lack of belief are both hard wired, IMO, and if they get around to studying the same neural pathways in atheists, they'll find that out.
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FiveGoodMen Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-01-09 05:14 PM
Response to Reply #5
11. "Belief and lack of belief are both hard wired" -- I don't think so
When I was young, I was a Baptist and I believed.

Over decades, logic swayed me to the notion that christianity and religion in general were false.

Now I don't believe.

Same brain.
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Warpy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-01-09 05:52 PM
Response to Reply #11
14. You just didn't get the gene either
Young folks believe because they were brought up to.

People without the belief gene never experience anyone else at the other end of the prayer line and start to doubt.

Some still go through the motions for the social support system, some don't.

Believers, though, do experience someone else at the other end of the prayer line. That's what this research is really all about.
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FiveGoodMen Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-01-09 06:34 PM
Response to Reply #14
15. Well, if you're right, then nothing short of genocide will ever free us from the chains of religion
So I hope you're wrong.
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Warpy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-01-09 07:04 PM
Response to Reply #15
16. I'm not sure I want to free us from the chains of religion
Restoring the boundary between church and state and taxing the churches that try to make their dogma into civil law would be adequate. Really.

I've seen those chains provide a great deal of comfort to people under stress.

I just can't buy it and I'm too honest to pretend that I do.
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Odin2005 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-01-09 10:11 PM
Response to Reply #5
22. See my response to the OP, Warpy!
:)
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BR_Parkway Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-01-09 04:40 PM
Response to Original message
6. And this paragraph describes the break between real Christians and KKKristians to a T
"They also found a pronounced negative correlation between the cortical volume of the left precuneus, an area involved in empathy and emotional response, and fear of God's anger. Those who felt a stronger connection with God, and thus were better able to relate God to their selves, had larger precuneus volumes and tended to be the most devout practitioners. Individuals with smaller volumes who did not form strong emotional bonds with God typically prayed out of a sense of fear, rather than out of a sense conviction or love."

I wonder if the other major religions have a similar split - those who act from love and empathy vs those who act from fear of the divine
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Gman2 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-01-09 04:45 PM
Response to Reply #6
7. I hope those only FEAR GOD types dont mind finding out, they were designated foul vessels.
Meant for the fire.
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struggle4progress Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-01-09 05:38 PM
Response to Original message
13. You really abuse language by denouncing Francis Collins as a "creationist":
he oversaw the Human Genome Project and managed to get himself elected to the National Academy of Sciences"

"Creationist" usually means a yahoo who -- being unable distinguish between scientific and religious beliefs -- rejects evolution as a scientific theory and chooses some religious description of origins as a substitute. It is true that Collins, as a person, has certain religious convictions, but there is no evidence that he, as a scientist, confuses science with religion or allows his religious beliefs to contaminate the integrity of his scientific work
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jgraz Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-01-09 08:53 PM
Response to Reply #13
19. The term is accurate
Go look at his website, biologos.org. He may not be a Young Earth Creationist, but he still insists that he's found evidence of God directing human development. That lumps him right in with the rest of the crazies.
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struggle4progress Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-01-09 09:42 PM
Response to Reply #19
20. Your description of Collins' views seems extremely careless: I don't think you can
really exhibit any scientific fact that Collins ignores or contradicts as a result of his religious convictions. In particular, Collins accepts current scientific thinking about the age of the universe and earth, as well as the evidence for evolution. As has long been standard among scientists who are Christian, Collins, of course, explicitly rejects Biblical literalism: this is nothing new, since one can find anti-literalists even in the early Christian era

Collins does take the view that his religious beliefs are not inconsistent with science, including his belief in a G-d who actually acts in history, and he further takes the view that his religious beliefs can be synthesized with his scientific knowledge, without injuring either. The later view, of course, requires a certain philosophical stance, which is not singularly committed to a scientific worldview: science itself, as an intellectual enterprise requiring natural explanations for natural phenomena, obviously cannot speak in any sense at all of G-d or miracles, since clearly neither qualifies as "natural" -- but nothing prevents a competent person, with intellectual integrity, from doing excellent scientific work while simultaneously holding the view that there may be more to life than can be discovered by careful measurement and calculation. That Collins himself has done such excellent scientific work, according the estimation of his peers, is established by his election to the National Academy, an election which would have been entirely impossible if there had been any reason to think his religious beliefs affected his scientific conclusions





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jgraz Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-01-09 11:07 PM
Response to Reply #20
23. Read his comments on altruism
He actually says that there is no evidence that altruism has an evolutionary origin (i.e. it must be God). This is a shocking level of intellectual dishonesty for someone allegedly trained in biology. Evolutionary biologists have been advancing credible theories of altruism for almost a century.

Collins is simply another "God of the Gaps" creationist -- and not a very good one. The fact that he's got better P.R. doesn't change the ridiculousness of his beliefs.
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struggle4progress Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-01-09 11:27 PM
Response to Reply #23
24. Perhaps your own insistence on ideological purity leads you to misrepresent Collins' views,
Edited on Thu Oct-01-09 11:28 PM by struggle4progress
because what I find at the website does not closely resemble your caricatures:

" ... Sociobiology and evolutionary models can account for some elements of altruism, but radical altruism poses additional challenges ..." http://biologos.org/questions/evolution-of-morality /

"... Mathematical models developed by theorists like Martin Nowak have established that natural selection can produce genes for altruism, but the radical self sacrifice of great saints like Mother Theresa of Calcutta seems to go beyond what the models can account for. A completely natural account of our origins may be insufficient to explain present observations of human behavior ..." http://biologos.org/questions/god-of-the-gaps /

As another example, the website actually seems to argue against "G-d of the gaps" theorizing:

" ... the danger of using a .. gaps argument for .. action or existence .. is that it lacks the foresight of future scientific discoveries. With the continuing advancement of science, .. gaps explanations often get replaced by natural mechanisms. Therefore, when such arguments are used as apologetic tools, scientific research can unnecessarily be placed at odds with belief ..." http://biologos.org/questions/god-of-the-gaps /
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jgraz Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-01-09 11:33 PM
Response to Reply #24
25. I'd just prefer people to not be charlatans and/or hypocrites.
Check out this video with Bill Maher http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fyWYpdCpF6M

This isn't about ideology, it's about science. The problem is that Collins doesn't seem to understand that.
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Odin2005 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-01-09 10:09 PM
Response to Original message
21. Religious belief is a projection of human social reality onto the physical world.
Belief in a "personal god" is little different that the animist in a traditional society invoking "the spirits in the rocks" or whatever. It is a socially acceptable very mild form of psychosis according to a book I have read called the Imprinted Brain: How Genes set the Balance between Autism and Psychosis. According to the book the same cognitive structures that work in social cognition also are the basis of religious belief and superstition. When this social cognition is overdeveloped it leads to Schizophrenia and related mental illnesses.

Interestingly, the book also says that autistics are just the opposite, we have trouble comprehending the notion of a personal deity, at least in the same way non-autistics do, because we have deficits in social cognition. Autistics that do believe in a "god" tend to conceive of that god as more of a "cosmic force" of "first principle" than a person. That certainly explains why I think the notion of a "personal god" makes no sense to me.
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bananas Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-02-09 10:40 AM
Response to Original message
28. People are reading too much into this.
Edited on Fri Oct-02-09 11:06 AM by bananas
In the paper, the authors caution:
This study is correlational; therefore, it does not imply causality.
Moreover, it was performed in adults. Subjects may have been
predisposed to follow specific patterns of religious behavior by
their individual brain development or their religious behavior may
have contributed to volume changes of certain brain areas.

http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fj...


You can find similar studies for religion, language, math, and music ability.
Someone listening to their native language will have a different fmri than someone listening to a language they don't understand.
Mathematicians and musicians will have different fmri's than non-mathematicians and non-musicians.

Here's a recent article about how these studies are being misinterpreted:
Everything Has a Neurobiological Correlate
By John M Grohol PsyD
September 24, 2009

I hate to beat the drum of obviousness, but everything we think, feel or do has a neurobiological correlate.

If you run for 20 miles, most of us are going to be out of breath and heave air in and out of our lungs as they try and supply enough oxygen to our body. If you just found out you have to give a presentation to an audience of 4,000 people and giving presentations isnt your livelihood, chances are youre going to feel your palms go clammy and you may begin to sweat. If you feel intense anger or rage at another person, I bet Ill be able to measure your blood pressure hit the roof. Even just listening to music impacts our brains functioning (see Koelsch, 2005 for a nice summary of this).

So why is it news that when we hook someone who has a mental disorder like depression, schizophrenia or ADHD to electrodes, or take a brain scan with fMRI or PET imaging, were surprised to find peoples brains with these disorders look and function differently than peoples brains without these conditions?

Yet thats exactly whats hailed as ground-breaking science here in this Washington Post article published earlier this week about a study looking at the brains of 53 people with attention deficit disorder (ADHD) compared to a group of healthy control subjects using PET brain imaging technology.

<snip>


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ki83760 Donating Member (50 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-02-09 11:31 PM
Response to Original message
30. what will they think of next?
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