The science of religion | Where angels no longer fear to tread | Economist.com: "Science and religion have often been at loggerheads. Now the former has decided to resolve the problem by trying to explain the existence of the latter"Yeah but can the latter explain the former? How about "Goddidit"? God creates the scientist who questions the existence of God, or the atheist who doesn't believe God exists at all. So, why did God do it? Why did He/She/It allow a creature openly defiant of Him/Her/It to come into existence? Why allow the circle to be broken?
Religion can't explain science, not to any particular level of satisfaction. But science, meanwhile, is out to explain religion, and it's been doing it for the past 6 months.
Are the scientists studying you right now? Can you feel their cold data-collecting hands at the nape of your neck? No? Well no one can feel intercessory prayer either, so it's just as well.
“Explaining Religion”, as the project is known, is the largest-ever scientific study of the subject. It began last September, will run for three years, and involves scholars from 14 universities and a range of disciplines from psychology to economics. And it is merely the latest manifestation of a growing tendency for science to poke its nose into the God business.Recent fMRI data has shown that people who are expert liars...that is, they do it all the time...have many more neuronal connections than your average Joe. It's like they can think of an answer...a lie...to your request for a date without giving it a second thought - literally. I wonder if the same can be said for believers? Are they really professional liars? These scientific studies may just find the answer.
Dr Azari was expecting to see activity in the limbic systems of the Christians when they recited the psalm. Previous research had suggested that this part of the brain (which regulates emotion) is an important centre of religious activity. In fact what happened was increased activity in three areas of the frontal and parietal cortex, some of which are better known for their involvement in rational thought.But don't throw out the frontal and parietal cortex with the bath water...at least not just yet. To the faithful, God is a fact just like gravity is a fact. The bible and its interpreters provide all the references needed to support this fact, just like scientists need to cite sources when supporting their work. You can call it deceit or you can call it truth, but the stage is set for inculcating God into the mind and God, then, becomes another rational thought. It's especially effective when the mind is blank and receptive. A baby will do. People will believe in God just like we know there's someone named Chen in China. These are the thoughts that don't need evidence to support them...they're just facts of life.
So maybe that's where the real problem lies. Nobody believes Chen created the world, life, and all that jazz, so we don't go out looking for evidence of his existence. Nothing is competing for Chen's spot in our parietal cortex. But God's seat in that quivering gray mass of jelly is at risk of being upset by science. You know, the relatively new kid on the block? Science, all of a sudden, seems more rational than God because Science seeks to answer questions all the while acknowledging that it doesn't know everything. You can't say that with God. God is the end all, be all of everything. And just like our universe isn't really expanding into anything, there is no creator of God (though I would challenge you to provide a good explanation for this, complete with equations). When you're humble, it's easy to say that you don't know everything. But when you're faithful, you allow yourself to know some things without question and without proof. You know you have a soul and that there's a heaven and you're just part of God's plan. You know things that you can't possibly know because you've never seen the evidence, you've never been shown the proof, and you may never escape your belief to experience the true beauty of the world around you.
But one day, your children will. Or their children.
Will the scientists find a vast network of liars neurons in believers? Probably not. Their creativity goes only as far as the bible will allow. In fact, I doubt we will find anything of significance from these studies, except for the cases of people who are extremely religious, by which I mean crazy religious. Their brain wave patterns would probably not be distinguishable from your average loon. The normalcy of the data will only serve to egg religion on. My guess is that the only tangible fodder for studying religion will be found in the arena of social and cultural evolution. But that's a subject for another post.