God: deity or a cluster of neurons? You be the judge.
January 16, 2002 8:15 PM   Subscribe

I read something very similar to this last year. I'm looking for it, but it said that consciousness is like radio waves. When in the "body" of a physical radio, radio waves make music, words, sounds, etc... But outside of the radio the waves still exist, just in a different form that is very different.

University of Arizona professor Gary Schwartz says essentially the same thing with "the human brain is wired to receive signals from what he calls a "Grand Organizing Design," or G.O.D. "

It's cool by me. Although I can see where Fundamentalists might have a problem with this paradigm shift.
posted by stevis at 8:38 PM on January 16, 2002

God: deity or a cluster of neurons? You be the judge.

More choices please.

We've gone over Persinger's work before. This looks like a double to me. Anyhow, here's my take from before.
posted by skallas at 8:56 PM on January 16, 2002

The "G.O.D. spot" stuff is pseudoscience at best, and, what's more is a really embarassing way to deal with faith -- the whole thing manages to cheapen religion and science all at once.
posted by malphigian at 9:03 PM on January 16, 2002

I skimmed the article, but here's my take...

They sell electronic belts that use energy pulses to stimulate your stomach muscles into contracting and relaxing, duplicating the effects and sensations of doing a situp. Does that lead you to conclude that situps don't really exist?
posted by tomorama at 9:05 PM on January 16, 2002

As a Catholic, i've learned that if one takes certain passages of the Bible, anything can be proven...This is also true of science. Do certain things that cause a reaction, and that somehow seems to solve one of life's biggest mysteries. I got the idea from this article that praying causes ceratin stimulases in the brain, and i ask: what, exactly is wrong witht this? When i experiece God (say, through prayer), i do have a different feeling, so it is reasonable to believe that weird stuff would happen in my brain to reflect that. Heck, maybe those stimules IS a reaction to God?
posted by jmd82 at 9:12 PM on January 16, 2002

Don't waste neurons arguing about this stuff.
posted by pracowity at 9:21 PM on January 16, 2002

Out here in New York, I see G.O.D. quite often. :)
posted by riffola at 9:27 PM on January 16, 2002

No clue why the html messed up like that. I had the link properly typed out.
posted by riffola at 9:29 PM on January 16, 2002

Thou art God.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:35 PM on January 16, 2002

Nova had an episode on some of the work of one Vilayanur Ramachandran, which included a study of a "young man with temporal lobe epilepsy who has seizures and hallucinations that produce profound spiritual feelings".

The jist of it was, the guy was overcome by feelings of immense religious profundity because of his seizures. (There are a bunch more web pages on Ramachandran's work, as one obvious Google query reveals.)
posted by mattpfeff at 9:43 PM on January 16, 2002

posted by y2karl at 9:48 PM on January 16, 2002

Ramachandran's idea on the epileptic feller is that instead of the usual most-significant perceptions (i.e., face of mother, oneself, lover, etc.) being run through a certain part of the brain, everything he saw was going through here, & so he was attributing immense import all willy-nilly. He decided then that he was god.
posted by EngineBeak at 10:09 PM on January 16, 2002

Speaking as someone who was a converted Atheist, why does it matter where our spirituality stems from?

If you don't believe in the prescribed God and this belief gives you a benefit in the way of rational thought and lifestyle, good for you.
If you do believe in God and it gives you hope and guidance in your life, good for you as well.

Heaven (or similar ideas) is most certainly a symbol for inner-peace and tranquility.

Notice: This is not intended as a troll. I simply want to gain some insights pertaining to my own inner debate.
posted by ttrendel at 10:45 PM on January 16, 2002

Heaven (or similar ideas) is most certainly a symbol for inner-peace and tranquility.
Ttendel- then, do you believe in life after death, as most Christians percieve it to be (or whatever your religion is), which generaly equates to people's definitiion of heaven? I (and everyone i know) have always percieved heaven to be eternal happiness in one's life after death- it appears that you percieve it to be something that can be obtained here on Earth? One can certainly obtain inner-peace and tranquility here on Earth, but those earthly experiences pale in comparison to what one would experience in heaven. Though I enjoy talking about this kind of stuff, it would be helpful to know more to comment on your statement without making too many (false?) pressumptions.
posted by jmd82 at 10:57 PM on January 16, 2002


This is also true of science. Do certain things that cause a reaction, and that somehow seems to solve one of life's biggest mysteries.

no, jmd. even were a study conducted in which a so-called mystery of life was concluded to now be understood, studies must be conducted several times to support the accuracy of the data as per the scientific method. oh, sure: scientists can and do make up stuff. but they can be called out on their falsehoods (and hence the necessity of the scientific method).

the media occasionally reports a study in which something noteworthy is concluded -- just today, for example, it was reported a study demonstrated that "Family meals are good for mental health." this study would need to be repeated several times, and even then, you could not prove that family meals are in fact good for mental health: you could only bolster your evidence (for or against).

the thing about the scientific method is that it can't be well-used to prove something; its best use is to either support your claims or disprove another's.

Heck, maybe those stimules IS a reaction to God?

maybe. i would accept that religious behavior has its roots in the chemistry of the brain; heck, something has to make you feel spiritual, and it's got to be something that works with your body. i just don't know how i could begin to support an argument that it is a reaction to god one way or the other.
posted by moz at 11:12 PM on January 16, 2002

It depends on how you interprut that behavior in the chemistry of the brain. What i mean, is in my mind, is raises the question: Is it the thought of prayer that causes a change in chemisty, or is it a reaction to God. You said as much, and there is no way, save your own beliefs, to say one way or another. ok, i'm not saying anything useful now so moving on...
posted by jmd82 at 11:26 PM on January 16, 2002

Thanks for your response jmd.

To clarify, I was raised as a Methodist and became an Atheist at 17.

My idea of heaven is rather muddled. I have a hard time believing that the righteous are transported to a magical paradise when they die.

On the other hand, I believe that the Bible needs to be interpreted as Aesop's Fables are. They teach a lesson to inner tranquility and understanding.
Do i know which are historical or factual accounts or fables? No. This is largely left open to interpretation.

The 'fable' idea is the one which I believe in currently.

I really would rather avoid thread hi-jacking (probably too late), but if you wish to discuss this matter more (and I'm rather interested), please e-mail me. I'm just an idiot looking for answers that make sense to me (as we all are), and would love to hear alternate opinions and inputs.
posted by ttrendel at 11:29 PM on January 16, 2002

Damn. I just realized that that last post sounded exactly like old-school Miguel.
posted by ttrendel at 11:38 PM on January 16, 2002

This is nothing new. During brain surgery it was previously discovered how to trigger near-death experiences (perceptions of a tunnel of light, meeting god, floating above the body, etc. - the experience varied by person and culture) by stimulating a part of the brain. The thought was it was a trigger that activates when the body is shutting down to make the experience easier to take. It's amazing the biological mechanisms the body uses to fight to stay alive or cope with the inevitable. I especially like how a pregnant woman's body will attempt to give birth prematurely when the body is shutting down preparing to die.

Hey, if researchers have a device you can strap to your head to give you a spiritual experience... won't that be like the next new drug?
posted by fleener at 3:40 AM on January 17, 2002

why can't it be both/and instead of either/or?
posted by bunnyfire at 4:15 AM on January 17, 2002

Hey, if researchers have a device you can strap to your head to give you a spiritual experience... won't that be like the next new drug?

On Wings Of Song - Thomas M. Disch

Thomas M. Disch's "On Wings of Song," ... is equally hard to classify in terms of genre and flawed in an entirely different way. The setting is North America sometime in the future. Politically and economically, things seem to be going downhill, but in between crises, people can still assure themselves that they are living in "normal" times. What upsets them most is the invention of a "flight apparatus," which permits certain people to set free their nonmaterial essence -- personality? soul? -- and go gallivanting around the universe invisibly while their bodies are maintained in a vegetative state back home. Having access to a flight apparatus does not guarantee flight; to leave your body, you must be able to lose yourself -- literally -- in song, any song, so long as you sing it (in the old phrase) from the heart. Some cut loose the first time they try; others achieve "escape velocity" after much practice; still others, such as Daniel Weinreb, Mr. Disch's protagonist, keep trying and failing.

Gerald Jonas

New York Times
posted by y2karl at 4:56 AM on January 17, 2002

Not God, you silly geese, VALIS

It's all about Dick.
posted by Dagobert at 7:07 AM on January 17, 2002


in other words, i really like stevis radio analogy and, like most the posters here see little correlation between the how and why

Persinger: we're going to answer it by measurement and understanding the areas of the brain that generate the experience and the patterns that experimentally produce it in the laboratory

no. understanding the electro-chemical process of mystical experiences (and as John Haught says in the article religion is more than mysticism) may give some clues as to their source, but it really tells us nothing about the goddess. does understanding evolution shed light on the spark of life?
posted by danOstuporStar at 8:20 AM on January 17, 2002

Not the intensity but the duration of high feelings makes high men.

posted by y2karl at 12:02 AM on January 18, 2002

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