The God Part of the Brain
Is the human brain "Wired" to believe in God?
Reviewed By Ed Sr.
I have just finished the book "The God Part of the Brain" by Matthew Alper and I can't recommend it enough to those of you that have found true freedom from religion, or to those of you who would like to find that freedom but don't know where to look.
Some of us have reached the point where we can see that all religions are manmade and, therefore, the beliefs of religions, based on humanly constructed, compiled and manipulated books, superstitions and tradition, every single one of them, have no hold on us any longer. We also see that these religions can no longer offer us a false hope in an imaginary, fictional, heavenly or earthly hereafter.
Is life therefore hopeless for us? If we can see no evidence of a caring, involved God, in spite of the seemingly almost universal acceptance and even worship of such a god by the majority of humanity, mindlessly in the face of so much evidence to the contrary, do we lose all hope and purpose in life? Read the book.
If we no longer have the hope that we will live forever, why keep going in this sad, dreary, seemingly purposeless life? Why not just kill ourselves and be done with it, if this is all there is? Read the book.
Can a person who does not fear the ultimate punishment of a "God" that subjects the believers to a life of fearful obedience and ritual, have morality and a sense of guilt? If so, where do they get this morality from, if not from "God?" Read the book.
Is moral behavior determined by "religion" or is it determined by our being "wired" to be positively drawn to behaviors that benefit "the group," while we are equally "wired" to be repulsed by behaviors that are perceived as destructive to the group? Read the book.
Is there a physical, chemical explanation for spiritual beliefs? Read the book.
Does religion make you feel guilty or does guilt make you turn to religion? Read the book.
Is "God" an absolute reality or just a coping mechanism installed in us to enable our species to survive our unique and otherwise debilitating awareness of death? Read the book.
Not all people can accept the idea that we may be hardwired to perceive a spiritual reality. As the book says: "..trying to convince someone who is "hardwired" to believe in a spiritual reality that no such thing exists may be as futile as trying to convince a schizophrenic that the pink elephant he sees prancing about the room is nothing more than the product of his perception. This is not to suggest that our spiritual perceptions represent the manifestation of any physical dysfunction, as is true with the schizophrenic. On the contrary, what I'm suggesting is that spiritual consciousness represents a normal and essential part of human cognition. But what if we could somehow get the schizophrenic to recognize that his visual hallucinations were nothing more than the products of erroneous perceptions? What if we could somehow teach him to reason through his delusions? Similarly, what if our entire species could come to recognize and to accept that our beliefs in a spiritual realm, a god, a soul, and an afterlife aren't representative of an actual "transcendental" reality but are rather the manifestations of internally generated misperceptions? What if we could recognize that all of our spiritual beliefs exist as nothing more than the consequence of neuropsychological reflex? Just as all planarians turn to the light, humankind turns to God. Just as all peacocks display their feathers when exposed to an aroused peahen, humans believe that, by virtue of their "souls," death is not final." Page 157 Read the book.
Alper goes on to use the example of an android that has been preprogrammed with memories of a fictitious past. When the android becomes aware of this programming he is no longer bound by that programming and can explore new possibilities in accordance with true reality. What if we, as humans, come to recognize that what we have regarded as spirituality is only a neurophysiological mechanism installed in our species' organic hardware? "Perhaps if we learned to regard human spirituality in such a way, we, too, could devise a whole new paradigm for ourselves, one through which we could redefine our own destinies based on our "truer" natures. Rather than having to be stuck in the same delusional framework nature forged in us, we could use this self-knowledge to reach toward something better, ........" Page 159 Read the book.
What if you look into a mirror through a lens that you didn't know was there? What if you thought you were seeing reality but what you saw was distorted by the lens?
"I believe that human spirituality represents such a lens, one that distorts our view of reality by making us perceive a spiritual element when, in actuality, no such thing exists. What if you were to become cognizant that this lens existed? What if you were to choose to push it aside, clearing our view of all such "spiritual" distortions, affording ourselves a much clearer, less obstructed view of reality? Sure it might be somewhat uncomfortable at first, even distressing, to have to readjust our perceptions of ourselves in such a fundamental way. But wouldn't we prefer to possess a more perfect view of reality than a distorted one? Shouldn't we prefer truth over deception?" Page 159 Read the book.
Is spiritual consciousness nature's white lie? Nature's lie enabled mankind to be relieved of the anxiety of our impending deaths. Nature was more concerned with our survival than with truth or realness. Read the book.
"As terrifying as the prospect of death might be, if such an organic theory of spirit and God happens to be correct, isn't it to our best interests to embrace the reality of the situation? Can anything really be gained by living in conscious denial of the truth? As is the case with any white lie, we are going to have to ask ourselves: would we prefer to live in contented ignorance or would we rather embrace the truth? How we choose to answer this, may very well represent one of the pivotal issues underlying the future of our species." Page 160 Read the book.
What do all people want out of life? Many who have written to this website have remarked that they are now searching for "happiness" in their lives, now that they have been freed from the bondage of religion. Well, what an amazing thing because this is what all humans are searching for. Aristotle said, over two thousand years ago, that all humans strive to achieve one thing before all else and that is the greatest amount of happiness in life. Whether or not there is a God does not affect our search for happiness. It is actually easier because you are no longer held down by superstitions and ritual and greedy, bloodsucking ministerial types.
How can you find happiness? The key to happiness is self-knowledge. If you know your strengths and weaknesses, you can adapt your weakness and turn it into a strength. You can make yourself more survivable and therefore more secure. The more secure you are, the less anxious you will feel. The less anxious you are the happier you will be. Read the book.
"The "God" Part of the Brain "
by Matthew Alper
TABLE OF CONTENTS
BOOK I: THEORY'S EVOLUTION
Chapter 1: Throwing Rocks At God
Chapter 2: What Is Science?
Chapter 3: A Very Brief History Of Time
Chapter 4: Kant
Chapter 5: God As Word
Chapter 6: Universal Behavioral Patterns
BOOK II: INTRO TO BIO-THEOLOGY
Chapter 1: The Spiritual Function
b) Universal Spiritual Beliefs And Practices
Chapter 2: The Rationale
a) Man's Awareness Of Death
b) The Pain Function
c) The Anxiety Function
d) When Awareness Of Death Meets The Anxiety Function
e) The Advent Of The Spiritual Function
Chapter 3: The Spiritual Experience
a) Origins Of The Spiritual Experience
b) The Ego Function
c) The Transcendental Function
Chapter 4: Drug-Induced God
Chapter 5: The Prayer Function
Chapter 6: Religious Conversion
Chapter 7: Why Are There Atheists?
Chapter 8: Near-Death Experiences
Chapter 9: The Guilt and Morality Functions
Chapter 10: The Logic Of God: A New Paradigm
Chapter 11: What, If Anything, Is To Be Gained From A Scientific
Interpretation Of Human Spirituality And God?
Addendum : Possible Experiments Which May Prove
The Existence Of A Spiritual Function
EXPLORE THE EVOLUTIONARY AND NEUROPHYSIOLOGICAL ORIGINS OF:
-Human Spiritual Consciousness
-The Healing Properties of Faith and Prayer
-Guilt and Sin
-Mathematical Consciousness and the
universal concepts of infinity and eternity
For every physical characteristic that is universal to a species there must exist a gene or set of genes responsible for the emergence of that particular trait. For instance, the fact that all cats possess whiskers means that somewhere within a cat's chromosomes there must exist "whisker" genes. Of our own species, that all humans possess a nose in the middle of our face means that somewhere within our chromosomes there must exist "nose" genes that instruct the developing fetus to develop one and in that very place. It's not as if the human nose could have developed anywhere on the body only, by sheer coincidence, it consistently ends up in the middle of our face. Apparently, humans are genetically "wired" to develop in this particular way.
The same principle applies not only to universal physical features but to universal behaviors as well. Take, for instance, the fact that all honeybees construct their hives in the same hexagonal pattern. That all honeybee colonies, regardless of whether they've had contact with any other, construct their hives in this identical fashion suggests that they are "hard-wired" to do so. It's not as if, for instance, honeybees can build their hives any way they "desire" and it's only by coincidence that they all construct them in the same exact way. Apparently, honeybees are instinctively, that is, genetically "hard-wired" to build their hives in this particular fashion. Moreover, this would suggest that somewhere in the honeybees' brains there exists a specific cluster of neurons that function to compel the bees to construct hexagonally shaped hives. The same principle holds true for anything from a peacock's instinct to display its feathers to a cat's to groom itself. In essence, any behavior that is universal to any species is, more than likely, the consequence of a genetically inherited series of reflexes or what we call instincts.
The above principle not only applies to honeybees, peacocks, or cats but to every life form, including our own. The fact, for instance, that every human culture - no matter how isolated - has communicated through a spoken language suggests that our species' linguistic abilities are genetically inherited. Since our capacity for language represents a cognitive function, there must exist a very specific cluster of neurons within the brain from which our linguistic capacities are generated. As neuroscience has evinced, such "language" sites do exist in the human brain and include the Wernicke's area, Broca's area and the angular gyrus. Damage incurred to any one of these language enabling sites will consequently impair some very specific language capacity, clearly demonstrating that our capacity for language is determined by our neurophysiology. Furthermore, this supports the notion that for all cross-cultural behaviors, there is a genetic component as well as a part of the brain from which that specific behavior is generated. If it's true that this principle applies to all of our cross-cultural behaviors, should we not also apply it to spirituality?
Humans: the musical animal, the mathematical animal, the emotional animal, is also the "spiritual" animal. In essence, every culture from the dawn of our species has maintained a belief in some form of a "spiritual" reality. Wouldn't this suggest that human spirituality must represent an inherent characteristic of our species, that is, a genetically inherited trait? Furthermore, being that spirituality, just like language, represents a cognitive function, wouldn't this suggest that our "spiritual" consciousness, just like linguistic, must be generated from some specific part within the brain? I informally refer to such a site as the "God" part of the brain, a cluster of neurons from which spiritual cognitions, sensations, and behaviors are generated. How else are we to explain the fact that all human cultures - no matter how isolated - have maintained a belief in some form of a spiritual/transcendental reality, in the concepts of a god, a soul, and an afterlife? How else are we to explain the fact that every human culture has built houses of worship through which to pray to unseen forces? Or that every culture has buried [disposed of] its dead with a rite that anticipates sending the deceased person's "spirit" or soul onward to some next or other plane, what we commonly refer to as an afterlife? Wouldn't the universality with which such perceptions and behaviors are exhibited among our species suggest we might be "hard-wired" this way? How about the fact that every known culture has related undergoing what we refer to a specific set of sensations we refer to as mystical or spiritual experiences?
Based on social, psychological, and anthropological confirmation as well as the latest genetic and neurophysiological research, The "God" Part of the Brain explores the apparent correlation between spirituality/religiosity and the human brain. Just as all honeybees are compelled to construct hexagonally shaped hives, perhaps humans are compelled to perceive a spiritual reality...as a reflex, an instinct. -And why would we have evolved such an instinct?
With the dawn of human intelligence, for the first time in the history of terrestrial life, an organism could point its powers of perception back upon its own being; it could recognize its own self as an object. For the first time, when an animal knelt down to drink from the watering hole, it recognized its own reflection. Only humans possess the advanced capacity for self-awareness. Though, in many ways, this capacity has helped to make our species the most versatile and powerful creature on earth, it also represents the source of our greatest affliction. This is because once we became aware of the fact that we exist, we became equally aware of the possibility that one day we might not...even moreso, that it's certain that one day we will not. With the advent of our species, with the emergence of self-conscious awareness, a life form became cognizant of the fact that it is going to die. All we had to do was to look around us to see that death was inevitable and inescapable. More terrifying yet, death could befall us at anytime. Any moment can be our last.
All life is "hard-wired" to avoid those things that represent a threat to its existence. When an animal gets too close to fire, for example, it reflexively pulls away. It is this negative stimulus, this experience we call pain, that prompts all forms of life to avoid such potential life threats. Pain, therefore, acts as nature's electric prod that incites us to avoid those things which may jeopardize our existence. Among those animals higher up on the phylogentic ladder, most particularly among the mammals, threatening circumstances elicit a particular type of pain we call anxiety. Anxiety constitutes a type of pain meant to prompt these "higher" order animals to avoid a potentially hazardous circumstance. For example, a rabbit is cornered by a mountain lion. In such a situation, the rabbit is pumped with adrenaline, charged with the painful symptoms of anxiety, all meant to incite the rabbit to most effectively escape from the source of its discomfort, in this case the mountain lion.
In its healthiest form, anxiety is meant to prompt an animal to avoid or escape a potentially hazardous situation. In humans, however, once we became aware of the fact that death was not only inescapable but that it could come at any moment, we were left in a state of constant mortal peril, a state of unceasing anxiety - much like rabbits perpetually cornered by a mountain lion from which there is no escape. With the emergence of self-awareness, humans became the dysfunctional animal, rendered helpless by an inherent and unceasing anxiety disorder, all due to our inherent awareness of death. Unless nature could somehow relieve us of this debilitating cognition, it's quite possible our species may have been headed for certain extinction. It was suddenly critical that our animal be modified in some way that would allow us to maintain self-conscious awareness while enabling us to deal with our unique awareness of our own mortalities.
Here lies the origin of humankind's spiritual function, an evolutionary adaptation that compels our species to believe that though our physical bodies will one day perish, our "spirits" or "souls" will persist for all eternity. Only once our species was instilled with this inherent (mis)perception that there is something more "out there," that we are immortal beings, were we able to survive our debilitating awareness of death. Here lies the origin of the "God" part of the brain.
Now that you understand the underlying premise of
THE "GOD" PART OF THE BRAIN:
I hope you will be inspired to read on...
"The "God" Part of the Brain "
by Matthew Alper
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