Re: Religion is probably a good thing

From: J. R. Molloy (
Date: Thu Oct 25 2001 - 16:42:49 MDT

From: "Brian Atkins" <>
> Up until this general part of history at least. I was watching some PBS
> last night, and they were doing a piece on the guy who originally made
> the claims about a "God spot" in the brain (only, he says the media mis-
> reported his comments... that's another story). There was also a long
> interview with a guy who suffers from temporal lobe epilepsy who after
> having a seizure would find himself in an extreme "joy mode" where anything
> he looked at or thought about would seem to be imbued with extreme meaning
> and beauty.

The PBS show was called "Secrets of The Mind" [ie, brain], and the guy who
theorized the "g" spot in the brain is Dr. V. S. Ramachandran, an imminent and
brilliant neuroscience researcher.
"God and the Temporal
Lobes of the Brain"
A neurophysiologist born in India, Ramachandran feels that many of the
findings of modern neurophysiology can be interpreted as helping to teach the
ancient Hindu lesson of "maya," or illusion. That is, he says, what we learn
is that while the world itself may be real enough, our own individual sense of
being a "self" that is in some way aloof from that "creation" is an illusion.
Several object lessons were presented to this effect.

> So if the brain has built in hardware for creating these feelings, which
> tend to produce religion in societies (and we can see why epileptic
> "prophets" in olden times would be exactly the people expected to write
> stuff like the Bible and other religious documents), it must have evolved
> for a reason.

Then again, it may just be a defect, with no "reason" at all.

> People with this hardware are more likely to survive and
> reproduce.

On the contrary, people with this hardware are more likely to establish
religious monasteries, become monks and priests, and never have children.

> Societies of these people are more likely to outcompete other
> groups of people who don't have it.

Just the opposite, because these people object to competition, and emphasize

> Perhaps it allows these groups of
> people to "stop worrying" and get on with work that might help them
> survive?

Well, from the looks of it, their cathedrals, mosques, temples, pyramids and
other such edifices seem to take an inordinate amount of resources, and
prevent them getting on with productive work.

> Or is religion just a fluke- the brain hardware only seems to
> generate feelings of deep meaning and "joy", perhaps feeling attached
> to your surroundings and people helped those people and societies do
> better, and later on those feelings got interpreted by individuals to
> be significant- boom, you get religions.

Bingo! When you take schizophrenics seriously, you can get into all sorts of
paranoid delusionary theories and belief systems.

> You have to ask yourself- if people didn't have these feelings, would
> (for instance) the USA have grown quite as fast and well as it has?
> Would the world have otherwise developed a bit more slowly without these
> "positive outlook" individuals?

According to Ramachandran, if people didn't have these feelings, they would
have more direct and accurate perception of reality. But you're right -- if
people didn't have these feelings, then it would not have seemed so urgent for
the American pioneers to leave Europe and other parts of the world to escape
from them. These "positive outlook" individuals are, of course, responsible
for much of the development of modern mythology and LSD psychedelia in the US.
But that more entropic than extropic.

--- --- --- --- ---

Useless hypotheses, etc.:
 consciousness, phlogiston, philosophy, vitalism, mind, free will, qualia,
analog computing, cultural relativism, GAC, Cyc, Eliza, cryonics, individual
uniqueness, ego, human values, scientific relinquishment

We move into a better future in proportion as science displaces superstition.

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