A study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences discusses the brain's God-center, the region that seems to be responsible for feelings of the numinous and the sanctified -- why would evolution create a God-lobe? Is religion the by-product of biology?
Grafman started by interviewing 26 people of varying religious sentiments, breaking down their beliefs into three psychological categories: God's perceived level of involvement in the world, God's perceived emotions, and religious knowledge gained through doctrine or experience. Then they submitted statements based on these categories to 40 people hooked to fMRI machines.
Statements based on God's involvement – such as "God protects one's life" or "Life has no higher purpose" – provoked activity in brain regions associated with understanding intent. Statements of God's emotions – such as "God is forgiving" or "the afterlife will be punishing" – stimulated regions responsible for classifying emotions and relating observed actions to oneself. Knowledge-based statements, such as "a source of creation exists" or "religions provide moral guidance," activated linguistic processing centers.
Taken together, the neurological states evoked by the questions are known to cognitive scientists as the Theory of Mind: They underlie our understanding that other people have minds, thoughts and feelings.
The advantages of a Theory of Mind are clear. People who lack one are considered developmentally challenged, even disabled. Anthropologist Scott Atran, a proponent of the byproduct hypothesis, has suggested that it let our ancestors quickly distinguish between friends and enemies. And once humans were able to imagine someone who wasn't physically present, supernatural beliefs soon followed.
University of Zurich researchers used transcranial magnetic stimulation, a noninvasive method of inhibiting activity in parts of the brain, to “turn off” people’s ability to control their impulses. They focused on the temporoparietal junction, an area of the brain thought to play an important role in moral decisions, empathy, and other social interactions. They hope […]
Are you jonesing for a dose of optimism and possibility? In the mood to contemplate the cosmos? Want to experience a musical message for extraterrestrials the way it was meant to be played? The Voyager Golden Record: 40th Anniversary Edition, a project I launched with Timothy Daly and Lawrence Azerrad, is a lavish vinyl box […]
In Rich do not rise early: spatio-temporal patterns in the mobility networks of different socio-economic classes, a group of transportation engineers analyze an open data-set about the commutes of people in the Colombian cities of Medellín and Manizales, concluding that the rich and the poor commute the furthest distances, but that the rich have much […]
This Python Mega Course will help you learn to code by teaching you to build 10 real-world apps that each highlight a unique use of Python.Job prospects for coders are still growing steadily—and with Python being one of the most popular coding languages out there today, it’s important for job seekers to demonstrate a widespread understanding of the […]
The Atmos R2 may be bigger than the brand’s previously-released vapes, but we argue that in this case it’s definitely a good thing. A bigger heating chamber means more room for packing it full. And the bigger battery means longer, more fulfilling vape sessions. In fact, you can use the Atmos R2 for up to about 25 […]
These days, there is huge demand for ethical hackers. Companies pay these professionals to identify and remedy security holes in their networks before malicious hackers find and exploit them. What’s great about this is that if you love hacking or think you may love hacking, you can do it for a living and not as […]