The very structure of the human brain has something to do with god, religion and spirituality, Dr.Andrew Newberg, a US neuroscientist, says after a study of brains of people belonging to different religions.
The frontal lobe, the area right behind our foreheads, helps us focus our attention in prayer and meditation.
AdvertisementThe parietal lobe, located near the backs of our skulls, is the seat of our sensory information. Newberg says it's involved in that feeling of becoming part of something greater than oneself.
The limbic system, nestled deep in the center, regulates our emotions and is responsible for feelings of awe and joy. Newberg calls religion the great equalizer and points out that similar areas of the brain are affected during prayer and meditation. Newberg suggests that these brain scans may provide proof that our brains are built to believe in God. He says there may be universal features of the human mind that actually make it easier for us to believe in a higher power.
After spending his early medical career studying how the brain works in neurological and psychiatric conditions such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, depression and anxiety, Dr. Newberg took that brain-scanning technology and turned it toward the spiritual. His specialization is called neurotheology.
Franciscan nuns, Tibetan Buddhists, and Pentecostal Christians in religious ecstasy were among those studied by Dr.Newberg and his team at the University of Pennsylvania. "When we think of religious and spiritual beliefs and practices, we see a tremendous similarity across practices and across traditions," Newberg says.
Some nuns and other believers champion the Pennsylvania brain scans as proof of an innate, physical conduit between human beings and God.
According to them, it would only make sense that God would give humans a way to communicate with the Almighty through their brain functions.
But others say the brain scans are proof that the emotions attached to religion and God are nothing more than manifestations of brain circuitry.
Scott Atran, an anthropologist does not think that that religion and spirituality is an innate quality hardwired by God in the human brain. Rather religion is a mere byproduct of evolution and Darwinian adaptation, he asserts.
"Just like we're not hardwired for boats, but humans in all cultures make boats in pretty much the same way, Atran explains. "Now, that's a result both of the way the brain works and of the needs of the world, and of trying to traverse a liquid medium and so I think religion is very much like that."
Or one may take the so-called palmistry as another example. The creases found on the palms are a mere byproduct of human beings working with hands - stretching back to the ages of striking the first fires, hunting the first prey to building early shelter.
Thus though the palm lines are coincidentally formed by eons of evolution and survival, cultures around the world try to find meaning in them through different forms of palm reading, Atran notes.
Today, scientific images can track our thoughts on God all right, but the question why we think of God in the first place remains unsolved.