The ‘Australian’ newspaper today reports on research that our brains are wired for God. No less than 3 God Spots, hails the Australian. But, read on. Yes the researchers definitely found out that when a person thinks about God in one way or another, they are using their brain. Definitely. Yes, really, absolutely, definitely.
Of course, it was always possible we were using the left overs of yesterday’s lunch to think with. And, in fact, it is still possible that yesterday’s lunch provided some of the molecular building blocks for the neuropharmacology that made the fMRI light up.
But enough of teasing very serious researchers who went to a lot of trouble to get this information for us.
What deserves even more of a tease is that Leigh Dayton, the science reporter, actually thinks that “Scientists, philosophers and theologians have long argued about whether religious belief is a biological or a sociological phenomenon.” Well that statement, in regard to the function of the brain just isn’t meaningful. We just aren’t born with any higher thoughts hard-wired in our head. The idea wouldn’t make sense of the idea of a higher thought which is a flexible entity produced by learning and choices. I think it has long been clear that our brains have evolved to create a neo-cortex that responds to environmental exposures with great neural network building in the first 3 years and then incrementally lesser the older we get. Leigh then quotes good old Richard Dawkins theory of cultural viruses. Well that idea of Dawkins is just deliberately propagandic and has no science behind it at all. But somehow because Dawkins says it, it is okay. But if a member of the local coven said it, well science reporters would be all over the poor biologist. Probably be brough forward in front of the Modern media Inquisition, and exiled from ‘good’ society.
Ah, but if you don’t actually believe in God, what then of the God spot. Well it turns out that it is just part of the brain you use when you think of complex social relationships, language, and reasoning. So, if you reason to believe in God you can talk about it, read scripture, and even empathise with the concept of God. Of course, belief in God happens when a person is exposed to the notion, and perhaps doesn’t happen if the person is not exposed to the notion. It is not clear whether the person who is exposed to the notion of God in the negative, ie that there is no God, will be able to think about God, or read the scriptures, or talk to God, or not. But there I go again, having a tease.
In the end though, this information doesn’t improve our understanding of crucial questions such as, what is the mind? is there a soul? It doesn’t even improve our understanding of what is the best environmental stimulation for the human brain. Baha’u’llah taught mothers to pray and chant to the baby in the womb, and everyday of its childhood, to teach the child prayers; the teachings of Baha’u’llah including peace, caring, a virtuous life, and that work, arts, sciences, trades and solving complex problems is a service to God and humanity, that service is the whole point of life, to memorise the teachings of Baha’u’llah, to be humble before God, to reach mentally for the Unknowable through the concept of God, to fear God, not man, and so on. To inculcate into the human being and the human society such high-minded and socially disciplined concepts from the earliest age, is long been known to be the bedrock of a co-operative society. The Baha’i teachings probably does it better than a lot of educational models over the past millenium, and has been able to take on board any valuable new understanding from modern educational theory. Secular society is struggling seriously with the education of each generation. The Baha’i Faith will continue to ask people to look at the method taught in the Baha’i Faith, and little by little we will turn back the tide of desperation in the minds of people around the world.