May 29, 2024

NEJM, the brain and God

Has leading medical journal endorsed theory that religion is a neurological artefact?
Has the New England Journal of Medicine, one of the world’s leading medical journals, endorsed the theory that God is all in the brain? In a brief overview of neurological research into religious experience, featured as one of the journal’s weekly "Perspectives", Dr Solomon Snyder, of Johns Hopkins Medical School, highlights two 2007 books which argue that religion is basically a neurological artefact. In one, The Accidental Mind: how brain evolution has given us love, memory, dreams and God, DJ Linden attributes religious ideation such as the notion of a loving personal God to "the confabulations that persons with split brains arrive at in order to make sense of incompatible data encountered by the two separated hemispheres".

In the other, The Soul in the Brain: the cerebral basis of language, art, and belief, British epileptologist Michael Trimble attributes the idea of God to disturbances in the temporal lobe. Dr Snyder appears to feel that novel brain imaging techniques may someday make it possible to identify the area of the brain which is responsible for God and religious feelings. It is interesting that he failed to refer to another 2007 book, The Spiritual Brain: a neuroscientist’s case for the existence of the soul, by Mario Beauregard, which took quite a different tack. ~ NEJM, Jan 3