Saturday, November 27, 2010

288: The Brain and Religion 3

A lot of people in the world believe that all kinds of revelations and apparitions are proof of the existence of supernatural beings or One supernatural being.

There may be another explanation for these phenomena. According to recent research, religiosity is dislocated and strung out along a neural network comprised of the frontal, parietal and temporal lobes of the brain.

Decreased parietal lobe activity, for example, has been linked to some religious experiences, while the decision-making and social aspects of religion seem to interplay in the frontal lobes.

It is the temporal lobes that have been the focus of significant recent interest for their connection between epilepsy and religious visions and conversion.

Epileptic seizures, and the brain chemistry at work between seizures, leads in some patients to a “gradual personality change which disposes them to mystical and religious thinking,” says neurologist Oliver Sacks in an interview with Big Think.

Especially this Temporal Lobe Epilepsy (TLE) appears to be even historically documented. In between seizures patients often suffer of the "Geschwind Syndrome" ,

named after Norman Geschwind, who published about a related behavioral complex. Norman Geschwind (1926–1984) can be considered the father of modern behavioral neurology in America.

There are 18 personality traits that define the syndrome: emotionality, euphoria, the idea to have a mission, strong moral feelings, deep religiosity, depression and some other,

but as you see well defined characteristics of the behavior of someone who had just an apparition and now tells us about his mission as a religious zealot.

It is known of Mohammed, that he had epileptic seizures since he was 6 years old, which were accompanied by religious experiences. In 610 Mohammed gets his first apparitions, in which he heard the voice of the archangel Gabriel.

Jeanne d'Arc, born in 1412 as a daughter of a French farmer died at the pyre in 1431 at the age of 19. Her life history, including her epileptic seizures, is meticulously documented by the Inquisition. When she was 13 she heard the voice of God for the first time.

Other names are Vincent van Gogh and Dostojevski, who showed the same epileptic behavior and accompanying religious experiences and hallucinations.

These temporal lobe epileptic seizures (TLE) last only 30 seconds to 2 minutes or so, tho the patient has no sense of time after the seizure. He may have the feeling that it lasted hours, like Mohammed told that he had visited the paradise.

These insights, that the brain generates religiosity, have lead to the belief, that by artificial stimulation of certain brain areas, especially the temporal lobes, you can provoke religiouslike experiences.

Dr. Michael Persinger (born June 26, 1945) is a cognitive neuroscience researcher and university professor. He has worked at Laurentian University, Canada since 1971.

He developed the socalled "God helmet". Inside the helmet are magnetic coils. You sit in a dark and sound-proof room, when the helmet is activated.

People then get all kinds of experiences: feeling a presence, seeing a light, seeing ancestors, even see Jesus, mainly depending on cultural and educational backgrounds.

Todd Murphy, a Behavioral Neuroscientist associated with Dr. Michael Persinger, even made a commercial version of the helmet, tho it is still an area of research with many unanswered questions and serious controversies.

So if you want to experience apparitions or revelations maybe such a device might be a nice present for Christmas.

Because of Thanksgiving Day there will be no class on Thursday. However, this does not mean that you are free. I strongly advise you to watch the interviews of Lionel Tiger and Oliver Sacks and read the article on URL

The Discussion

[13:20] herman Bergson: thank you....
[13:20] Ortwin Sveiss: Does this all also mean that people with certain brain disfunctions can´t have any religious feelings at all no matter how hard they try?
[13:20] herman Bergson: and let me answer Ortwins question...
[13:21] herman Bergson: A very important one....
[13:21] herman Bergson: In the first place you must keep in mind that like all human traits they are there or not
[13:21] herman Bergson: I mean...
[13:21] herman Bergson: all persons have length
[13:22] herman Bergson: but some are very short and others very tall and the majority is inbetween
[13:22] herman Bergson: We call that the Gauss distribution or curve...
[13:23] herman Bergson: So ..yes Ortwin..some people might be incapable of religious feelings..
[13:23] herman Bergson: And annecdote in this matter...
[13:23] BALDUR Joubert: i think that's wrong
[13:23] Florencio Flores: ooh man
[13:23] herman Bergson: Persinger tried the God Helmet on Richard Dawkins....
[13:23] herman Bergson: an outspoken atheist...writer of the God Delusion...
[13:24] herman Bergson: It had no effect whatsoever...Dawkins reported...
[13:24] BALDUR Joubert: consistant brain wiring
[13:24] herman Bergson: There are sociopates who are absolutely incapable of experiencing moral feelings...
[13:24] herman Bergson: same story....
[13:25] herman Bergson: so they become a serial killer for instance
[13:25] herman Bergson: merciless as it seems
[13:25] Gemma Cleanslate: i wonder how they would describe a religious experience that is shared at the same time by several like at Fatima
[13:25] BALDUR Joubert: don'zt tell us the god helmet is a miracle maker.. its more a toy in the name of science
[13:25] herman Bergson: Group hysteria, Gemma?
[13:25] Gemma Cleanslate: that is what i was thinking or hypnotism
[13:25] Bejiita Imako: ah
[13:26] herman Bergson: something like that....I guess
[13:26] Bejiita Imako: might be
[13:26] BALDUR Joubert: neurology is stiff full of guesses..
[13:26] herman Bergson: the God Helmet isn't a miracle maker at all Baldur...
[13:26] Chi Aho: Has the God Helmet been tried on other atheists?
[13:26] Gemma Cleanslate: no an experiment in what works in the brain
[13:27] herman Bergson: Yes there still is a lot to learn Baldur, but this is already an example of WHAT we have learnt
[13:27] herman Bergson: and this development will go on
[13:27] BALDUR Joubert: so what is experiment nothing more where you can study certain reactions.. but careful with conclusions pleas
[13:27] Chi Aho: a large number, other than Dawkins?
[13:27] Gemma Cleanslate: yes true
[13:27] herman Bergson: the conclusions are quite clear....we are our brain....
[13:28] BALDUR Joubert: i think we know as much about the brain right now as astronomers knew after Copernicus
[13:28] Gemma Cleanslate: but so much more to learn
[13:28] BALDUR Joubert: before Glalilei and Kepler
[13:28] herman Bergson: I cant make that evaluation Baldur...
[13:28] Florencio Flores: that's what i think
[13:28] Florencio Flores: brain is totally all
[13:28] BALDUR Joubert: why not herman
[13:28] Florencio Flores: it creates sensations, realities, everythin
[13:28] AristotleVon Doobie: very interesting but RL is pulling me away.....thanks Professor....good bye everyone :)
[13:29] Gemma Cleanslate: Bye, Bye ㋡
[13:29] Gemma Cleanslate: ari
[13:29] herman Bergson: Well Baldur if you take Copernicus as an example...
[13:29] BALDUR Joubert: bye ari
[13:29] Bejiita Imako: bye ari
[13:29] Beertje Beaumont: goodbye Ari
[13:29] Bejiita Imako: cu
[13:29] herman Bergson: His insights changed our worldview completely
[13:29] herman Bergson: and as I said in another lecture...
[13:29] herman Bergson: the neurological insights will be the 5th revolution
[13:30] BALDUR Joubert: yes.. so does brain neurology and all connected sciences. but with copernicus there was no knowledge how the system works
[13:30] herman Bergson: and change our worldview too completely
[13:30] BALDUR Joubert: just that there is a system different from what one thought
[13:30] herman Bergson: what is your point Baldur?
[13:31] BALDUR Joubert: that too many say too many things about brain functioning in a social-psychological context..
[13:31] Simargl Talaj: Is the lecture over? Are we in discussion deliberately or by mistake now?
[13:31] herman Bergson: Dont overlook the fundamental philosophical startingpoint of this project....
[13:32] herman Bergson: the starting point is that of materialism....
[13:32] BALDUR Joubert: right.. that's what i want to look at.. but neurologists should not enter the field of philosophy just like that
[13:32] Gemma Cleanslate: discussion simargi
[13:32] herman Bergson: That can not be avoided anymore Baldur...
[13:32] Gemma Cleanslate: oh but baldur they had to do that
[13:33] BALDUR Joubert: observing and studiying phenomena does not give al the aswers
[13:33] herman Bergson: Philosophy is not just some island
[13:33] herman Bergson: Oh nooooo
[13:33] herman Bergson: absolutely not...
[13:33] Gemma Cleanslate: they are finding evidence of how we think and what the brain does to effect that
[13:33] herman Bergson: But the evidence they have found on our inclination to believe in supernatural things...
[13:34] herman Bergson: and what consequence that has for Cartesian Dualism...
[13:34] BALDUR Joubert: yes.. but if you ask an honest neurologist he will tell you that what we know today is not even the tip of an iceberg
[13:34] herman Bergson: A real philosophical impact...
[13:34] BALDUR Joubert: so no hasty conclusions about religion please
[13:34] Simargl Talaj: An atheist, I have what I believe is religious feeling. Much is sacred to me, but not gods.
[13:34] herman Bergson: there are no hasty conclusion on religion here...
[13:34] Gemma Cleanslate: Herman has always tried to keep to the faith out of the class
[13:35] Gemma Cleanslate: it intrudes tho
[13:35] herman Bergson: all that we think there is is generated by our brain...
[13:35] Florencio Flores: yes i'm agree
[13:35] Florencio Flores: GOD and DEVIL is just a creation
[13:35] BALDUR Joubert: you said one thing cited -correctly.. when referring to culturaln and social basis
[13:35] herman Bergson: I think we have to a clarify distinction here....
[13:36] Florencio Flores: alltought if we want we can create another dimension world
[13:36] BALDUR Joubert: that is a basis for religious thought..
[13:36] herman Bergson: religion is a cultural phenomenon....
[13:36] BALDUR Joubert: we can't say our ancestors 50000 ago were all epilectics
[13:36] herman Bergson: and several times I have pointed at its function in the durvival process of evolution...
[13:36] Florencio Flores: i like to believe on machines and on future =)!!
[13:37] herman Bergson: a completely different debate is on the metaphysics behind some religious belief...
[13:37] Bejiita Imako: ㋡
[13:37] herman Bergson: that is for theologians...not for us
[13:37] BALDUR Joubert: survival- well might well be-- but certainly first of all of social importance
[13:37] Simargl Talaj: Our *experience* is still philosophical, not biological. We feel, think, as distinct from sensing movement of electrons and sodium ions over neuron membranes of the parietal.
[13:38] Simargl Talaj: So we still have philosophical things to discuss, even as biologists.
[13:38] BALDUR Joubert: you believe your thinking has nothing to do with neurons sim?
[13:38] Simargl Talaj: I know that it has everything to do with neurons.
[13:38] herman Bergson: Well simargl..if you mean that the concept of consciousness is a philosophicla problem...yes you are right...
[13:38] Chi Aho: I don't think Sim is saying that; he is cautioning against the pitfall of reductionism
[13:38] Simargl Talaj: But my experience is better described in words than in diagrams of electron potential.
[13:39] BALDUR Joubert: of course you are right about the 5th revolution herman..
[13:39] herman Bergson: despite all neurobiology....we are also conscious .....
[13:39] herman Bergson: and that is a hell of a philosophical problem...
[13:39] BALDUR Joubert: concious- needs neurons to be that
[13:39] herman Bergson: but we ill get to that much later in this project
[13:39] Simargl Talaj: re Geschwind --Well before Geschwind -- 1873 Religious Sentiment in Epileptics -- Howden
[13:40] herman Bergson: Well..a nice discussion.....
[13:40] Simargl Talaj: Interesting to me -- religious conversion in epileptics
[13:40] herman Bergson: the challenge is on the table....:-)
[13:40] BALDUR Joubert: i think already in the middle ages the church was sensible to the problem sim
[13:40] Simargl Talaj: Yes, Hildegarde
[13:41] BALDUR Joubert: smile
[13:41] Florencio Flores: o.O
[13:41] Florencio Flores: !!
[13:41] Simargl Talaj: Hildegard was willing to accept scientific contradiction of her interpretation of her own migraine or epileptic visions though
[13:41] herman Bergson: Ah you mean Hildegard von Bingen 1100
[13:41] Simargl Talaj: Yes sorry
[13:41] Simargl Talaj: trying to keep the word count down.
[13:42] herman Bergson: Yes she is an example ...she suffered of heavy headaches indeed
[13:42] herman Bergson: Well to get to a conclusion yet....religion is generated by the brain....
[13:43] BALDUR Joubert: none of this explains the origins of religion- brain wiring as herman said or cultural learning process
[13:43] Florencio Flores: i try to conquer the world =D!! hihihi
[13:43] Florencio Flores: o.O
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: no it doesnt
[13:43] Simargl Talaj: ah I think it helps explain origins of religion
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: but
[13:43] herman Bergson: and no ..not all ancestors were TLE need only one Mohammed and favorable conditions to get an islam for instance
[13:44] BALDUR Joubert: what was needed for the first burial rites
[13:44] herman Bergson: or one St. Paul.... who had epileptic seizures too
[13:44] herman Bergson: or a St. John....his apocalyptic stories are as if he was completely stoned all the time
[13:44] BALDUR Joubert: there were brains- physically the same who didn't do that
[13:45] Simargl Talaj: bah, John, Revelations. Bad mushrooms!!!!
[13:45] herman Bergson: that is an impossibility Baldur...
[13:45] herman Bergson: There are no two brains the same in this world...
[13:45] BALDUR Joubert: sim.. mushrooms may be.. but they do exist in writing
[13:45] herman Bergson: they show similarities yes...
[13:45] Simargl Talaj: non pathelogical neurobiology ....consciousness....has desires that are elucidated by the extremes in pathology.
[13:45] Florencio Flores: =)
[13:46] BALDUR Joubert: physically generally speaking yes herman.. not on the neuron-or below level
[13:46] Simargl Talaj: I think the epilepsy cases are useful, informative here.
[13:46] Gemma Cleanslate: There were also other hallucigenic herbs in the desert also
[13:46] Simargl Talaj: and "mad honey" but I think John was just an ass. Occam's razor.
[13:46] herman Bergson: Well Baldur...there are not only neurons..there is also the wiring of the brain that is created by education and culture...
[13:46] herman Bergson: to give you an example...
[13:47] BALDUR Joubert: smile.. well occam didn't live at the time
[13:47] herman Bergson: in Asian cultures there are also TLE patients...
[13:47] herman Bergson: they show similar behavior....but never one of them had an apparition of the Virgin Marie or Jesus
[13:47] Florencio Flores: you know Baldur inside the brain exist galaxies and energies of the universe
[13:48] Florencio Flores: you can create anything with the brain
[13:48] Florencio Flores: right proffesor?
[13:48] Simargl Talaj: not nuclear fusion I hope
[13:48] BALDUR Joubert: which confirms that religion as such is a cultural element learned by our brain
[13:48] herman Bergson: welll..even more....
[13:48] Simargl Talaj: because that could get messy.
[13:48] herman Bergson: we talk about the brain as if it were one object....
[13:48] herman Bergson: physically it is
[13:48] herman Bergson: but in its functioning it is way more complex....
[13:49] Florencio Flores: yes sensorial is other
[13:49] BALDUR Joubert: Flo you can't create everything.. you can't think of something where you have no reference to.. like the huavifhekj
[13:49] herman Bergson: Oh yes you can Baldur
[13:49] Florencio Flores: yes the brain is everythin
[13:49] herman Bergson: the huavifhekj is green....very small and lives under big rocks ^_^
[13:49] BALDUR Joubert: ok.. so what are you thinking about myx hua.... hermaqn
[13:50] BALDUR Joubert:
[13:50] Simargl Talaj: and yet Baldur when you write the word huavifhekj I immediately make up a concept for the word. A yellow fish, in fact. Within less than a second.
[13:50] Bejiita Imako: hehe
[13:50] BALDUR Joubert: so you are thinking abouit things you have a reference to..
[13:50] herman Bergson: No it lives under big rocks Simargl...I was first ^_^
[13:50] Simargl Talaj: hua is Chinese for yellow
[13:51] Bejiita Imako: haha
[13:51] Simargl Talaj: Ah, Herman, infidel! You are wrong. I must now oppress you.
[13:51] BALDUR Joubert: lol.. greeat
[13:51] herman Bergson: LOL....
[13:51] Bejiita Imako: lol
[13:51] Simargl Talaj: yelow! Heretic!
[13:51] Florencio Flores: yes i believe on brain is everything Baldur i create another reality
[13:51] Gemma Cleanslate: ♥ LOL ♥
[13:51] herman Bergson: Thank you all for this great discussion....
[13:51] BALDUR Joubert: all you do is invent -on the basis of what you know
[13:51] Gemma Cleanslate: ♥ Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!! ♥
[13:51] Bejiita Imako: NO ITS A RED MONSTER
[13:51] Bejiita Imako: hehe
[13:51] Simargl Talaj: Baldur, yes, of course
[13:51] Qwark Allen: ¸¸.☆´ ¯¨☆.¸¸`☆** **☆´ ¸¸.☆¨¯`☆ H E R MA N ☆´ ¯¨☆.¸¸`☆** **☆´ ¸¸.☆¨¯`
[13:51] Qwark Allen: thank you
[13:51] Gemma Cleanslate: no class Thursday
[13:51] herman Bergson: Will be continued!!!
[13:51] Gemma Cleanslate: see you next tuesday
[13:51] Guestboook van tipjar stand: Qwark Allen donated L$50. Thank you very much, it is much appreciated!
[13:51] Simargl Talaj throws Bejito to the lions!!
[13:51] herman Bergson: NO Gemma..but dont forget the homework
[13:51] Florencio Flores: here where i live people don't likes to believe on what i create because this gets you the truth
[13:51] Bejiita Imako: interesting as usual ㋡
[13:52] Bejiita Imako: tnx
[13:52] Gemma Cleanslate: yep bookmarked it
[13:52] Florencio Flores: true*
[13:52] Beertje Beaumont: Благослови тебя господь!
[13:52] Qwark Allen: ehheeh i try to read it to
[13:52] herman Bergson: Thank you all for your participation....
[13:52] herman Bergson: Class dismissed
[13:52] Bejiita Imako: \o/
[13:52] Bejiita Imako: || Hoooo!
[13:52] Bejiita Imako: / \
[13:52] Qwark Allen: was very interesting as alwyas
[13:52] BALDUR Joubert: smile.. thank you for your class herman.. exiting as usual:)
[13:52] herman Bergson: thank you Qwark...:-)
[13:52] Bejiita Imako: yeah
[13:52] Beertje Beaumont: До свидания.
[13:53] herman Bergson: Cool Beertje :-)
[13:53] Simargl Talaj: Thank you Herman.
[13:53] Beertje Beaumont: lol
[13:53] BALDUR Joubert: communication as another great moment for the brain bee
[13:53] Beertje Beaumont: Увидимся позднее.
[13:53] Beertje Beaumont: ok?
[13:53] Florencio Flores: the brain going to make history
[13:54] herman Bergson: I'll let you know Beertje
[13:54] Beertje Beaumont: :))
[13:54] Beertje Beaumont: goed
[13:54] herman Bergson: Yes it will Florencio
[13:54] Florencio Flores: =)
[13:55] Zinzi Serevi: bedankt Herman
[13:55] Zinzi Serevi: het was leuk er weer eens bij te zijn
[13:55] herman Bergson: was een genoegen Zinzi
[13:56] Ortwin Sveiss: bedankt , het was heel leerzaam
[13:56] Zinzi Serevi: ik ga naar huis
[13:56] Zinzi Serevi: blijf jij nog maar wat nakletsen
[13:56] Ortwin Sveiss: zo leer ik je ook nog eens van een minder scabreuze kant kennen
[13:56] herman Bergson: met wie
[13:56] Ortwin Sveiss: hahahahah
[13:57] Florencio Flores: herman thanks for great class and discussion
[13:57] Ortwin Sveiss: verkeerde vakje
[13:57] Florencio Flores: =)
[13:57] Florencio Flores: bye
[13:57] herman Bergson: glimlacht
[13:57] herman Bergson: Geniet van het SLeven Ortwin ^_^
[13:58] herman Bergson: mooi woord wel.....scabreus.....horje maar weinig

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