T. Bethune-Leamen on Tue, 19 Jun 2001 22:09:18 +0200 (CEST)

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[Nettime-bold] Re: <nettime> Is the religious impulse a neuro-chemical condition?

what i want to know is why?!?!?! why are people separating the 2 things. or 
at least, why are they surprised by the this information. having 
neurological explanations for nirvana and spiritual experiences in no way 
devalues the spirituality of the experience.  it's one in the same.  of 
course anyone who believes in a god entity separate from us is going to have 
trouble with this. but you will never change these people's minds about 

just as god is equally as formidable if it is our creation as opposed to the 
other way around.  we are formidable as god, and even the creation of 
spiritual and religous systems that are our placebo for our strength within 
us, that for some reason some people can't acknowledge (or weren't allowed 
to acknowledge), well the history, culture and art created by religions and  
its self-help applications are amazing.  and if that's what we needed to get 
this far, so be it.  not that many religions weren't/aren't tyranical and 

the experiences are spiritual and neurological.  of course they are, how 
else would they manifest in us but to be created by us.

you can paint a painting of the universe but you can also 'reduce' it to a 
mathematical equation, they're both valid/real/whatever.

"Could the flash of wisdom that came over Siddhartha Gautama   the
Buddha  have been nothing more than his parietal lobe quieting down?
Could the voices that Moses and Mohammed heard on remote mountain tops
have been just a bunch of firing neurons   an illusion? Could
Jesus's conversations with God have been a mental delusion?"

Siddartha Gautama's revelations (and all those other people mentioned above) 
were not an illusion, they are experiences based in science, they would have 
been more of an illusion if they weren't.

I think it's more important that we find the parallels in different schools 
of thought as opposed to building arguments to discredit eachother.  they 
are just different languages from the same source.

Tara Bethune-Leamen

>From: "Paul D. Miller" <anansi1@mail.earthlink.net>
>Reply-To: "Paul D. Miller" <anansi1@mail.earthlink.net>
>To: nettime-l@bbs.thing.net
>Subject: <nettime> Is the religious impulse a neuro-chemical condition?
>Date: Tue, 19 Jun 2001 10:54:29 -0400
>A quick side-viewpoint on the genomics of the imagination....
>phenotype/genotype - the structures encoded  in the hardware of how
>we live in the world. Corpus delecti.... Again, the idea becomes a
>modification of the body in an environment conditioned by culture AND
>nature. Trace the routes that people use language to map onto
>neurochemistry. Prosthetic Realism meets Ali Babba and the 40
>Thieves... Who speaks through you? Genomics should be fun, and
>probably will be soon....
>Tracing the Synapses of Spirituality
>By Shankar Vedantam
>In Philadelphia, a researcher discovers areas of the brain that are
>activated during meditation. At two other universities in San Diego and
>North Carolina, doctors study how epilepsy and certain hallucinogenic
>drugs can produce religious epiphanies. And in Canada, a neuroscientist
>fits people with magnetized helmets that produce "spiritual" experiences
>for the secular.
>The work is part of a broad new effort by scientists around the world to
>better understand religious experiences, measure them, and even reproduce
>them. Using powerful brain imaging technology, researchers are exploring
>what mystics call nirvana, and what Christians describe as a state of
>grace. Scientists are asking whether spirituality can be explained in
>terms of neural networks, neurotransmitters and brain chemistry.
>What creates that transcendental feeling of being one with the universe?
>It could be the decreased activity in the brain's parietal lobe, which
>helps regulate the sense of self and physical orientation, research
>suggests. How does religion prompt divine feelings of love and compassion?
>Possibly because of changes in the frontal lobe, caused by heightened
>concentration during meditation.  Why do many people have a profound sense
>that religion has changed their lives? Perhaps because spiritual practices
>activate the temporal lobe, which weights experiences with personal
>"The brain is set up in such a way as to have spiritual experiences and
>religious experiences," said Andrew Newberg, a Philadelphia scientist who
>authored the book "Why God Won't Go Away." "Unless there is a fundamental
>change in the brain, religion and spirituality will be here for a very
>long time. The brain is predisposed to having those experiences and that
>is why so many people believe in God."
>The research may represent the bravest frontier of brain research.  But
>depending on your religious beliefs, it may also be the last straw. For
>while Newberg and other scientists say they are trying to bridge the gap
>between science and religion, many believers are offended by the notion
>that God is a creation of the human brain, rather than the other way
>"It reinforces atheistic assumptions and makes religion appear useless,"
>said Nancey Murphy, a professor of Christian philosophy at Fuller
>Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif. "If you can explain religious
>experience purely as a brain phenomenon, you don't need the assumption of
>the existence of God."
>Some scientists readily say the research proves there is no such thing as
>God. But many others argue that they are religious themselves, and that
>they are simply trying to understand how our minds produce a sense of
>Newberg, who was catapulted to center stage of the neuroscience-religion
>debate by his book and some recent experiments he conducted at the
>University of Pennsylvania with co-researcher Eugene D'Aquili, says he has
>a sense of his own spirituality, though he declined to say whether he
>believed in God because any answer would prompt people to question his
>agenda. "I'm really not trying to use science to prove that God exists or
>disprove God exists," he said.
>Newberg's experiment consisted of taking brain scans of Tibetan Buddhist
>meditators as they sat immersed in contemplation. After giving them time
>to sink into a deep meditative trance, he injected them with a radioactive
>dye. Patterns of the dye's residues in the brain were later converted into
>Newberg found that certain areas of the brain were altered during deep
>meditation. Predictably, these included areas in the front of the brain
>that are involved in concentration. But Newberg also found decreased
>activity in the parietal lobe, one of the parts of the brain that helps
>orient a person in three-dimensional space.
>"When people have spiritual experiences they feel they become one with the
>universe and lose their sense of self," he said. "We think that may be
>because of what is happening in that area  if you block that area
>you lose that boundary between the self and the rest of the world. In
>doing so you ultimately wind up in a universal state."
>Across the country, at the University of California in San Diego, other
>neuroscientists are studying why religious experiences seem to accompany
>epileptic seizures in some patients. At Duke University, psychiatrist Roy
>Mathew is studying hallucinogenic drugs that can produce mystical
>experiences and have long been used in certain religious traditions.
>Could the flash of wisdom that came over Siddhartha Gautama   the
>Buddha  have been nothing more than his parietal lobe quieting down?
>Could the voices that Moses and Mohammed heard on remote mountain tops
>have been just a bunch of firing neurons   an illusion? Could
>Jesus's conversations with God have been a mental delusion?
>Newberg won't go so far, but other proponents of the new brain science do.
>Michael Persinger, a professor of neuroscience at Laurentian University in
>Sudbury, Ontario, has been conducting experiments that fit a set of
>magnets to a helmet-like device.  Persinger runs what amounts to a weak
>electromagnetic signal around the skulls of volunteers.
>Four in five people, he said, report a "mystical experience, the feeling
>that there is a sentient being or entity standing behind or near" them.
>Some weep, some feel God has touched them, others become frightened and
>talk of demons and evil spirits.
>"That's in the laboratory," said Persinger. "They know they are in the
>laboratory. Can you imagine what would happen if that happened late at
>night in a pew or mosque or synagogue?"
>His research, said Persinger, showed that "religion is a property of the
>brain, only the brain and has little to do with what's out there."
>Those who believe the new science disproves the existence of God say they
>are holding up a mirror to society about the destructive power of
>religion. They say that religious wars, fanaticism and intolerance spring
>from dogmatic beliefs that particular gods and faiths are unique, rather
>than facets of universal brain chemistry.
>"It's irrational and dangerous when you see how religiosity affects us,"
>said Matthew Alper, author of "The God Part of the Brain," a book about
>the neuroscience of belief. "During times of prosperity, we are contented.
>During times of depression, we go to war. When there isn't enough food to
>go around, we break into our spiritual tribes and use our gods as
>justification to kill one another."
>While Persinger and Alper count themselves as atheists, many scientists
>studying the neurology of belief consider themselves deeply spiritual.
>James Austin, a neurologist, began practicing Zen meditation during a
>visit to Japan. After years of practice, he found himself having to
>re-evaluate what his professional background had taught him.
>"It was decided for me by the experiences I had while meditating,"  said
>Austin, author of the book "Zen and the Brain" and now a philosophy
>scholar at the University of Idaho. "Some of them were quickenings, one
>was a major internal absorption  an intense hyper-awareness, empty
>endless space that was blacker than black and soundless and vacant of any
>sense of my physical bodily self. I felt deep bliss. I realized that
>nothing in my training or experience had prepared me to help me understand
>what was going on in my brain. It was a wake-up call for a neurologist."
>Austin's spirituality doesn't involve a belief in God  it is more in
>line with practices associated with some streams of Hinduism and Buddhism.
>Both emphasize the importance of meditation and its power to make an
>individual loving and compassionate  most Buddhists are
>disinterested in whether God exists.
>But theologians say such practices don't describe most people's
>religiousness in either eastern or western traditions.
>"When these people talk of religious experience, they are talking of a
>meditative experience," said John Haught, a professor of theology at
>Georgetown University. "But religion is more than that. It involves
>commitments and suffering and struggle  it's not all meditative
>bliss. It also involves moments when you feel abandoned by God."
>"Religion is visiting widows and orphans," he said. "It is symbolism and
>myth and story and much richer things. They have isolated one small aspect
>of religious experience and they are identifying that with the whole of
>Belief and faith, argue believers, are larger than the sum of their brain
>parts: "The brain is the hardware through which religion is experienced,"
>said Daniel Batson, a University of Kansas psychologist who studies the
>effect of religion on people. "To say the brain produces religion is like
>saying a piano produces music."
>At the Fuller Theological Seminary's school of psychology, Warren Brown, a
>cognitive neuropsychologist, said, "Sitting where I'm sitting and dealing
>with experts in theology and Christian religious practice, I just look at
>what these people know about religiousness and think they are not very
>sophisticated. They are sophisticated neuroscientists, but they are not
>scholars in the area of what is involved in various forms of
>At the heart of the critique of the new brain research is what one
>theologian at St. Louis University called the "nothing-butism" of some
>scientists  the notion that all phenomena could be understood by
>reducing them to basic units that could be measured.
>"A kiss," said Michael McClymond, "is more than a mutually agreed-upon
>exchange of saliva, breath and germs."
>And finally, say believers, if God existed and created the universe,
>wouldn't it make sense that he would install machinery in our brains that
>would make it possible to have mystical experiences?
>"Neuroscientists are taking the viewpoints of physicists of the last
>century that everything is matter," said Mathew, the Duke psychiatrist. "I
>am open to the possibility that there is more to this than what meets the
>eye. I don't believe in the omnipotence of science or that we have a
>foolproof explanation." Port:status>OPEN wildstyle access:
>Paul D. Miller a.k.a. Dj Spooky that Subliminal Kid
>Music and Art 245w14th st #2RC NY NY 10011
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