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Science Matters

Religion on the Brain

Saturday, November 4, 2006

As a result of advances in brain imaging technology, researchers are learning more about how different areas of the brain function based on their respective neural activity. In 1997, scientists discovered a particular area of the brain associated with intense religious experience, named by the popular media as the "God Spot". Neuroscientists claim that this discovery neither reduces religion to a brain function, nor does it prove that our brains are designed to receive the divine. However, it has inspired an emerging field of cognitive neuroscience that seeks to break new ground in the dialogue between science and religion. In our first Science Matters program of the year, a neurologist presented the latest findings in brain research about the neural processing of religious thought and experience. In light of this research, panelists discussed how we reconcile these different aspects of our brain in our understanding of the world. Are humans genetically hard-wired for critical thinking and religious spirituality, and what are the implications for the compatibility of science and faith in the human experience? Can we believe in science and still have faith?

Panel Discussion:

Four featured panelists offered different perspectives on the relation between faith and science. Panelists included: (click name for bio)

Conan Nolan—moderator

Reporter, NBC4

Vilayanur S. Ramachandran, M.D., Ph.D

Director, Center for Brain and Cognition, University of California, San Diego
Professor, Department of Psychology, University of California, San Diego
Adjunct Professor, Salk Institute

Joan Roughgarden, Ph.D.

Professor of Biological Sciences, Stanford University

Warren Brown, Ph.D.

Director of the Travis Research Institute and Professor of Psychology, Graduate School of Psychology, Fuller Theological Seminary

Michael Shermer, Ph.D.

Executive Director, Skeptics Society
Resources for Further Reading

Articles on the web *

* You may be required to watch a short advertisement to read these articles.

Books by our panelists

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