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Posted by on Mar 11, 2008

The Spiritual Brain – A Neuroscientist’s Case for the Existence of the Soul

The Spiritual Brain – A Neuroscientist’s Case for the Existence of the Soul

the-spiritual-brain-2.jpgHarper Collins

Neuroscientist Mario Beauregard, Ph.D. and journalist Denyse O’Leary have written a very detailed and easy to understand account of the debate about whether the mind is merely the result of the chemical action of billions of neurons or whether it is something non-material, something spiritual.

Their conclusion, not surprisingly, is that there is rational scientific evidence indicating that the mind, a faculty of the soul, is spiritual. The approach is painstakingly rational. The book begins by examining the most recent affirmations of the materialist approach. Currently, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon (Daniel Dennett), The God Delusion (Richard Dawkins), God is Not Great (Christopher Hitchens), and Letters to a Christian Nation (Sam Harris) are very popular anti-theistic books. There are conferences such as the Science Network’s “Beyond Belief” and the popular You-Tube Blasphemy Challenge. This materialist trend argues that science proves that there is nothing beyond the chemistry and physics of matter and energy.

Beauregard and O’Leary take these arguments apart very carefully in a scientifically rigorous manner and disprove them. More importantly, the book presents the results of Beauregard’s neuro-imaging studies of Carmelite nuns to actually document the neuronal activity associated with religious experience. Basically, religious states / mystical experiences (RSMEs according to the authors) are complex phenomena that involve many parts of the brain. They are not the result of genes or the by-product of certain parts of the brain. None of this proves the existence of God or of the soul. However, it does re-affirm the rationality and the moral dimensions of the choice of material versus spiritual explanations of religious experience.

This is a very good book for college students and educated members of the general public. An important book not only for the apologetics of faith in the post-modern world, The Spiritual Brain establishes the objective reality of religious states / mystical experiences (RSMEs) that are related to complex interpersonal transcendent encounters.

Tolle Lege.

1 Comment

  1. If you found this book intriguing, you will definitely enjoy reading My Stroke of Insight – a Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey” by Jill Bolte Taylor, and her talk on TED dot com about her stroke which is an 18 minute talk you Must Not Miss! (there’s a reason it’s been forwarded friend to friend millions of times!). When you read the book and see the TEDTalk, you’ll understand why this Harvard brain scientist was named Time Magazine 100 Most Influential People. Her unique experience, combined with her perspective as a neuroanatomist, and her sensitivity and awareness (not to mention beautiful writing style!) has produced something so powerful and so revolutionary that I think it’s going to become a transformational movement in itself. Oprah also did four interviews with her (that I was able to download on the Oprah website) that are also worth checking out. I am trying to share Dr Taylor’s story with as many people as I can because I truly believe if everyone saw it the world would be so much better and people would love one another and no longer fight.

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