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'God' in the Brain

Date: 12-04-06
Host: George Noory
Guests: Matthew Alper

Neuro-theologist Matthew Alper returned for a discussion on his theory about the genetic nature of spirituality and how humans are wired to believe in a "God" and spiritual realm. An atheist, he suggested the God part of the brain evolved as a "coping mechanism" through natural selection-- human survival was enhanced through belief in an afterlife.

Citing evidence for his argument, he noted the work of neuroscientist VS Ramachandran who discovered a connection between temporal lobe epilepsy and religious experience. Ramachandran even found that sometimes reading religious text to epileptics could trigger a seizure in them. Another study indicated that religious figures such as the Apostle Paul and Joan of Arc suffered from temporal lobe epilepsy, said Alper.

The tests of Michael Persinger using a "transcranial magnetic stimulator" showed that stimulation of the temporal lobe could bring on spiritual or religious experiences, Alper added. Further, he noted that a Univ. of Penn. study of Tibetan Monks during meditation/prayer showed blood flow changes in their brains, which could account for reduced anxiety and an increased feeling of transcendence.

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