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Bering in Mind

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God may work in mysterious ways–but cognitive science is getting a handle on them

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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Author’s note: The following excerpt is the Introduction to my new book, The Belief Instinct: The Psychology of Souls, Destiny and the Meaning of Life.

God came from an egg. At least, that’s how He came to me. Don’t get me wrong, it was a very fancy egg. More specifically, it was an ersatz Fabergé egg decorated with colorful scenes from the Orient. Now about two dozen years before the episode I’m about to describe, somewhere in continental Europe, this particular egg was shunted through the vent of an irritable hen, pierced with a needle and drained of its yolk, and held in the palm of a nimble artist who, for hours upon hours, painstakingly hand-painted it with elaborate images of a stereotypical Asian society. The artist, who specialized in such kitsch materials, then sold the egg along with similar wares to a local vendor, who placed it carefully in the front window of a side-street souvenir shop. Here it eventually caught the eye of a young German girl, who coveted it, purchased it, and after some time admiring it in her apartment against the backdrop of the Black Forest, wrapped it in layers of tissue paper, placed it in her purse, said a prayer for its safe transport, and took it on a transatlantic journey to a middle-class American neighborhood where she was to live with her new military husband. There, in the family room of her modest new home, on a bookshelf crammed with romance novels and knickknacks from her earlier life, she found a cozy little nook for the egg and propped it up on a miniature display stand. A year or so later she bore a son, Peter, who later befriended the boy across the street, who suffered me as a tagalong little brother, the boy who, one aimless summer afternoon, would enter the German woman’s family room, see the egg, become transfixed by this curiosity, and crush it accidentally in his seven-year-old hand.

The incident unobserved, I hastily put the fractured artifact back in its place, turned it at an angle so that its wound would be least noticeable, and, to this day, acted as though nothing had ever happened. Well, almost. A week later, I overheard Peter telling my brother that the crime had been discovered. His mother had a few theories about how her beloved egg had been irreparably damaged, he said—one being a very accurate and embarrassing deduction involving, of all people, me. When confronted with this scenario—through first insinuation and then full-blown accusations—and wary of the stern German matriarch’s wrath, I denied my guilt summarily. Then, to get them off my back, I did the unthinkable. I swore to God that I hadn’t done it.

Let’s put this in perspective. Somewhere on a quiet cul-de-sac, a second-grader secretly cracks a flashy egg owned by a woman who’s a little too infatuated with it to begin with, tells nobody for fear of being punished, and finally invokes God as a false witness to his egged innocence. It’s not exactly the crime of the century. But from my point of view, at that moment in time, the act was commensurate with the very worst of offenses against another human being. That I would dare to bring God into it only to protect myself was so unconscionable that the matter was never spoken of again.

Meanwhile, for weeks afterward, I had trouble sleeping and I lost my appetite; when I got a nasty splinter a few days later, I thought it was God’s wrath. I nearly offered up an unbidden confession to my parents. I was like a loathsome dog whimpering at God’s feet. Do with me as you will, I thought to myself; I’ve done wrong.

Such an overwhelming fear of a vindictive, disappointed God certainly wasn’t something that my parents had ever taught me. Of course, many parents do teach their children such things. If you’ve ever seen Jesus Camp (2006), a rather disturbing documentary about evangelically reared children in the American heartland, or if you’ve read Sam Harris’s The End of Faith (2004), you’ll know what I mean. But my family didn’t even own a copy of the Bible, and I doubt if I had ever even heard the word "sin" uttered before. The only serious religious talk I ever heard was when my mother—who as a girl was once held down by exuberant Catholic children sifting through her hair for the rudimentary devil horns their parents told them all Jews have—tried to vaccinate me against all things evangelical by explaining how silly Christians’ beliefs were. But even she was just a "secular Jew," and my father, at best, a shoulder-shrugging Lutheran. Years later, when I was a teenager, my mother would be diagnosed with cancer, and then, too, I had the immediate sense that I had fallen out of favor with God. It felt as if my mother’s plight were somehow related to the shenanigans I’d been up to (nothing worse than most teenagers, I’m sure, but also certainly nothing to commit indelibly to print). The feeling that I had a bad essence welled up inside me; God was singling me out for special punishment.

The thing is, I would never have admitted to having these thoughts at the time. In fact, I didn’t even believe in God. I realized there was a logical biological explanation for the fact that my mother was dying. And if you had even alluded to the possibility that my mom’s ailing health was caused by some secret moral offense on my part or hers, you would have forced my intellectual gag reflex. I would probably have dismissed you as one of those people she had warned me about. In fact, I shook off the "God must really hate me" mentality as soon as it registered in my rational consciousness. But there’s also no mistaking that it was there in my mind and, for a few bizarre moments, it was clear as a whistle.

It was around that time that God struck me as being curiously similar to the Mafia, offering us “protection” and promising not to hurt us (or kill us) as long as we pay up in moral currency. But unlike a hammer to the shin or a baseball bat to the back of the head, God’s brand of punishment, at least here on earth, is distinctively symbolic, coming in the form of a limitless array of cruel vagaries thoughtfully designed for us, such as a splinter in our hands, our stocks tumbling into the financial abyss, a tumor in our brains, our ex-wives on the prowl for another man, an earthquake under our feet, and so on. For believers, the possibilities are endless.

Now, years later, one of the key motivators still driving the academic curiosity that fuels my career as an atheistic psychological scientist who studies religion is my own seemingly instinctual fear of being punished by God, and thinking about God more generally. I wanted to know where in the world these ideas were coming from. Could it really be possible that they were innate? Is there perhaps something like a "belief instinct"?

In the chapters that follow, we will be exploring this question of the innateness of God beliefs, in addition to many related beliefs, such as souls, the afterlife, destiny, and meaning. You’re probably already well versed in the man in the street’s explanations for why people gravitate toward God in times of trouble. Almost all such stories are need-based accounts concerning human emotional well-being. For example, if I were to pose the question "Why do most people believe in God?" to my best friend from high school, or my Aunt Betty Sue in Georgia, or the pet store owner in my small village here in Northern Ireland, their responses would undoubtedly go something like this: "Well, that’s easy. It’s because people need . . . [fill in the blank here: to feel like there’s something bigger out there; to have a sense of purpose in their lives; to take comfort in religion; to reduce uncertainty; something to believe in]."

I don’t think these types of answers are entirely intellectually bankrupt actually, but I do think they just beg the question. They’re perfectly circular, leaving us scratching our heads over why we need to feel like there’s something bigger out there or to have a sense of purpose and so on to begin with. Do other animals have these same existential needs? And, if not, why don’t they? When looked at objectively, our behaviors in this domain are quite strange, at least from a cross-species, evolutionary perspective. As the Spanish author Miguel de Unamuno wrote,

The gorilla, the chimpanzee, the orangutan, and their kind, must look upon man as a feeble and infirm animal, whose strange custom it is to store up his dead. Wherefore?

Back when I was in graduate school, I spent several years conducting psychological research with chimpanzees. Our small group of seven study animals was housed in a very large, very sterile, and very boring biomedical facility, where hundreds of other great apes—our closest living relatives—were being warehoused for invasive testing purposes under pharmaceutical contracts. I saw too many scenes of these animals in distress, unsettling images that I try not to revisit these days. But it occurred to me that if humans were in comparably hopeless conditions as these chimpanzees, certainly the question of God—particularly, what God could possibly be thinking by allowing such cruel travesties—would be on a lot of people’s minds.

So what exactly is it that can account for that instantaneous bolus of "why" questioning secreted by our human brains in response to pain and misfortune, a question that implies a breach of some unspoken moral contract between ourselves, as individuals, and God? We might convince ourselves that it is misleading to ask such questions, that God "isn’t like that" or even that there is no God, but this is only in answer to the knee-jerk question arising in the first place.

To help us understand why our minds gravitate toward God in the wake of misfortune (as well as fortune), we will be drawing primarily from recent findings in the cognitive sciences. Investigators in the cognitive science of religion argue that religious thinking, like any other type of thinking, is something done by a brain that is occasionally prone to making mistakes. Superstitious thinking, such as seeing causal relations where none in fact exist, is portrayed as the product of an imperfectly evolved brain. Perhaps it’s understandable, then, that all but a handful of scholars in this area regard religion as an accidental byproduct of our mental evolution. Specifically, religious thought is usually portrayed by scholars as having no particular adaptive biological function in itself, but instead it’s viewed as a leftover of other psychological adaptations (sort of like male nipples being a useless leftover of the default human body plan). God is a happenstance muddle of other evolved mental parts. This is the position taken by the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, for example, in The God Delusion (2006):

I am one of an increasing number of biologists who see religion as a byproduct of something else. Perhaps the feature we are interested in (religion in this case) doesn’t have a direct survival value of its own, but is a byproduct of something else that does . . . [Religious] behavior may be a misfiring, an unfortunate byproduct of an underlying psychological propensity which in other circumstances is, or once was, useful.

Evolutionary by-product theorists, however, may have been a bit hasty in dismissing the possibility that religion—and especially, the idea of a watchful, knowing, reactive God—uniquely helped our ancestors survive and reproduce. If so, then just as with any other evolved adaptation, we would expect concepts about supernatural agents such as God to have solved, or at least to have meaningfully addressed, a particular adaptive problem in the evolutionary past. And, indeed, after first examining the mechanics of belief, we’ll eventually explore in this book the possibility that God (and others like Him) evolved in human minds as an "adaptive illusion," one that directly helped our ancestors solve the unique problem of human gossip.

With the evolution of language, the importance of behavioral inhibition became paramount for our ancestors because absent third parties could now find out about their behaviors days, even weeks, after an event. If they failed to bridle their selfish passions in the face of temptation, and if there was even a single human witness to their antisocial actions, our ancestors’ reputations—and hence their reproductive interests—were foolishly gambled away. The private perception of being intelligently designed, monitored, and known about by a God who actively punished and rewarded our intentions and behaviors would have helped stomp out the frequency and intensity of our ancestors’ immoral hiccups and would have been strongly favored by natural selection. God and other supernatural agents like Him needn’t actually exist to have caused such desired gene-salvaging effects, but—just as they do today—the mental biases we’ll be examining certainly gave our ancestors reason to think that they did.

One of the important, often unspoken, implications of the new cognitive science of religion is the possibility that we’ve been going about studying the God question completely wrong for a very long time. Perhaps the question of God’s existence is one that is more for psychologists than for philosophers, physicists, or even theologians. Put the scripture aside. Just as the scientist who studies the basic cognitive mechanisms of language acquisition isn’t especially concerned with the particular narrative plot in children’s bedtime stories, the cognitive scientist of religion isn’t much concerned about the details of the fantastic fables buried in religious texts. Instead, in picking apart the psychological bones of belief, we’re going to focus on some existential basics. Perceiving the supernatural isn’t magic, but something patently organic: a function of the brain.

I should warn you: I’ve always had trouble biting my tongue, and we’re going to address head-on some of life’s biggest questions. Is there really a God who cares about you? Is there really a special reason that you are here? Will your soul live on after you die? Or, alternatively, are God, souls, and destiny simply a set of seductive cognitive illusions, one that can be accounted for by the unusual evolution of the human brain? It seems Nature may have had a few tricks up her sleeve to ensure that we would fall hook, line, and sinker for these spectacular ruses.

Ultimately, of course, you must decide for yourself whether the subjective psychological effects created by your evolved cognitive biases reflect an objective reality, perhaps as evidence that God designed your mind to be so receptive to Him. Or, just maybe, you will come to acknowledge that, like the rest of us, you are a hopeless pawn in one of natural selection’s most successful hoaxes ever—and smile at the sheer ingenuity involved in pulling it off, at the very thought of such mindless cleverness. One can still enjoy the illusion of God, after all, without believing Him to be real.

Either way, our first order of business is to determine what kind of mind it takes to think about God’s mind in the first place, and one crucial factor—indeed, perhaps the only essential one—is the ability to think about other minds at all.

So, onward we go.

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  1. 1. sonoran 11:41 am 01/27/2011

    Interesting article. Since so much of the human brain is devoted to parsing social interactions, and since the foundational social interaction for us all is the parental interaction, it’s not so suprising that we might extend that parental heirarchy another level and imagine God(s).

    That there might be adaptive benefits to having a super parent to guide us and look over us, and the adaptive benefit of having our culture co-opt this to deeply imprint shared cultural mores is a facinating idea.

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  2. 2. rwood33 2:00 pm 01/27/2011

    One thing that is not brought out is the CS Lewis argument. The fact that we thirst is indicative that there is water. The fact that we hunger indicates the existence of food. We don’t tend to crave things that don’t exist. Perhaps an innate need for God is just one more sign of His existence.

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  3. 3. OneEye 2:11 pm 01/27/2011

    Poor Jesse Bering. Who could read his accounts of his early God-fearing nature and not feel a sense of compassion – even pity? Worse yet, to have such deep urgings of the soul and to have to find some way to discount them in order to avoid actually serving them – or God! As a fundamental Christian (who once was an atheist), my heart goes out to Dr. Bering and the torture and anguish of soul he experiences as he seeks to avoid and disprove God’s existence.

    Unfortunately, THIS attempt by an atheistic psychologist to disparage the God-longing is no more effective than any of the others. In order to make his case, he will have to be able to show that rakes and rapscallions are less likely to breed than moral, upstanding citizens – a thesis which is certainly false.

    Further, there is already within the human mind the imaginative capacity of anticipating the disfavor of other human beings, altogether apart from the questions of theology ("What would Papa say?"). No "God illusion" is necessary to explain the human social conscience.

    Yet further, there will prove to be scant evidence that a social conscience is particularly helpful to humans, either individually or collectively – and especially not one as strong as the human perception of God.

    My heart goes out to you, Dr. Bering: You continue to try to make a dollar out of, at best, forty-five cents. But I know what it’s like. I feel ya, homey!

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  4. 4. JamesDavis 4:20 pm 01/27/2011

    Jesse always have excellent articles that make you think and enjoy the process. My family was never religious, I am half American Indian, but they did believe in a higher conscious or power that we yet cannot understand and probably never will until we can travel the Universe at the speed of thought. When I was very young, about 4 or 5 years-old, I use to go out away from everyone, stand on top of our dog house and talk to the power of the universe. Did I get answers to my questions…yes, I did but not when they were trivial or the answer was obvious, and it made me feel good inside and special. I didn’t talk to the Universe like that again for about three decades, but when I did, that same voice that sounded like four people speaking in harmony answered. I don’t know if I believe in God, as everyone around me believes, but I do believe that the Universe is alive and everything – to the last atom – is paid attention to when it is necessary. I don’t know what answered my questions, since I was alone, and I know I was alone – not even the dog was there, but I could actually hear a voice in my mind that sounded like four people speaking at once in harmony and only one to four words were used that became more complex (understandable) when the the event actually happened. Some people would probably say that I have an imbalance in my neurotransmitters and some would tell me that it was angels talking to me. I don’t care what it was; I know it made me feel good and I think that is what a belief in anything is supposed to do…if it doesn’t, then don’t believe in it.

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  5. 5. blindboy 4:42 pm 01/27/2011

    I think this is less interesting than Jesse Bering’s usual territory, he seems much more comfortable with the natural as opposed to the supernatural. In dealing with the evolution of religious belief, in this piece, he seems to think that all religions are essentially similar to the Abrahamic set of Islam, Judaism and Christianity; monotheistic,moralistic and judgemental. I doubt if a child from a Buddhist tradition would have quite the same responses and I am certain that one from an animist traditions would not.

    The best evolutionary explanation of religious belief I have encountered is that it is advantageous to ascribe agency to events. For example it is advantageous to instantaneously interpret a rustle in the undergrowth as a predator rather than the wind. Given human behaviour this would be particularly true in human, or proto-human, groups. This tendency then extrapolates to all unexplained phenomena.
    Part of the evidence for this is provided, I believe, by the "god of the gaps". Any history of religion demonstrates that religious belief, almost always, extends to whatever natural phenomena are not understood.

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  6. 6. c.harvey 5:15 pm 01/27/2011

    blindboy: I disagree. Bering is in his element here, there’s no question about that. I gather in fact from the reviews that this is his area of academic specialization. I have not read the book but Bering is a clever boy and may well have addressed your issues about agency and god of the gaps. And what does CS Lewis have to do with anything.

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  7. 7. openeyes999 7:33 pm 01/27/2011

    While evolutionary biology is the most well-evidence theory in science, evolutionary psychology is highly speculative and should be taken with a HUGE grain of salt. If I had to speculate (which is mostly what evolutionary psychologists do), I’d say people came up with god(s) as a byproduct of the human desire to understand the world before science existed, and also the human desire not to cease to exist.

    Many still cling to the god delusion, primarily for the latter reason and for cultural reasons. This is sad, because at least some of religion can be disproven. For instance, decades of neuroscience prove that the idea of a metaphysical soul that exists after death is false, and that all thoughts, memories, emotions, and states of mind are physical and biological in nature. (otherwise, why would a person’s personality change when a tumor presses on part of their brain?)

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  8. 8. Centaurus-A 8:33 pm 01/27/2011

    This is an interesting piece and quite different from any approach to the question I’ve seen. Having said that I am getting more pessimistic about the communication between "scientists" and the general public. There’s a severe disconnect. I thought perhaps that it was ignorance on the part of my co-religionists, but now I see that the ignorance lies with people who are supposed to be educated as well. It’s a serious problem. And it has affected debate on everything from Global warming to questions about God’s existence.

    Anyhow, getting back to this, once again I say to the educated "scientist" (or I should some scientists and many wanna be’s) listen to me: not all evidence is scientific evidence. Much of historical knowledge permeates the evidence that is not experimental. You can be a good technician able to do lab tests but that is not what evolutionary science bases their evidence on. You cannot do experiments of things that are in the distant past. We can try and recreate it forensically but this is not the same as an experiment. Evolutionary science is a historical science. So "God of the gaps" is not even relevant: paleontologists don’t even know for sure.

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  9. 9. Centaurus-A 8:41 pm 01/27/2011

    No one has proven anything of the sort! To say that neuroscience has disproven the concept of God is complete nonsense. Findings in neuroscience does not even claim this. They just claim that certain areas of the brain deal with thoughts about God not that this is evidence there is no God. Why is it sad that for cultural reasons to believe in God? This is what I mean by delusion. It isn’t the fault of people who hold the belief in God that is at fault here. It is the so-called educated like you. It is not sad it is a fact.
    It is a fact you must deal with, and if scientists and like minded people don’t more and more of the public will tune science out. That is sad.

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  10. 10. Razausman 12:25 am 01/28/2011

    I think one of the greatest motivations for the biological evolution of God is the "who dares wins" syndrome. Essentially you can increase your odds for a favorable outcome by taking risk. That risk requires in many instances a leap of faith. This could lead to a more focused consciousness by the actions of dopamine and its receptors + other neurotransmitters, which could aid in survival (also leading to addictive attributes like visions, heightened self and corresponding diseases like schizophrenia).
    There would be other factors like reconciliation of loss etc but the survival based argument could have the most weight in the evolutionary process.

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  11. 11. E-boy 2:00 am 01/28/2011

    Possibly, or it could just be an indication that the human brain is adapted to see patterns even where none exist and to imbue agency even where none exists. Why? Because the ability to see agency in others is a major leap forward in our capacity to survive in social world. In the same environment detecting potentially significant patterns is so important to individual survival that erring on the side of caution is a no brainer.

    Or it could just be that every rock, stick, and river has a spirit. Animism is common in primitive socieities for the above cited reasons and I don’t see you arguing for it’s validity.

    Having said that, I do appreciate the fact that you didn’t go on an anti-science tirade. Science has nothing to say about the existence or non-existence of an all powerful diety or diety’s. It’s outside the scope of the falsifiable, and therefore not something scientists persue (It’s worth noting a great many scientists espouse faith of one variety or another). Faith, or the apparent need for it in humans is something that can be studied though and one does not need to appeal to the mystical to explain it. The very fact that it manifests in so very many ways (with certain common themes) is worthy of study. When one considers all the good and bad religious belief has brought to this world, it seems to me it’s an area of study that’s long overdue.

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  12. 12. parichag 9:59 am 01/28/2011

    Assumptions, assuptions. God is an evolutionary construct able to give advantage. All people who believe are uneducated. God is a delusion. History proves there is no god. Science proves that god is a lie. History has debunked religious memory. I’m sorry but all of these ideas speak to a belief system about the god of science to "prove" everything. Science has it’s own prophets and "gods" who ponitificate their beliefs with assumptions based on their own presuppositions. Science is biased because it is made up of people who interpret their findings from their world view. I’m not saying all science is bunk, but those areas that interpret past history have also been proven wrong and had to re invent their findings. Just keep an open mind and then you’ll see that their things that are past finding out, like God.

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  13. 13. OneEye 10:52 am 01/28/2011

    openeyes999: The existence of God and of the human soul are settled facts established by many lines of evidence, both observational and theoretical. Your worldview is in need of a broadening. Check out, to begin with, the Thomistic arguments ( which, as much as they have been assailed by atheistic arguers, have remained essentially untouched and solid for over 500 years. Likewise, the existence of consciousness and rational thought are impossible unless the human nature incorporates a supernatural aspect (see, e.g., C.S. Lewis’s argument on this in Miracles

    In answer to the question, If consciousness, rationality, and the foundation of personality are essentially supernatural, why do physical changes in the brain affect these things, the correct answer is because a human is not three distinct parts but rather three inter-related parts. Just as a damaged computer will execute a good program in a crippled way, so will a damaged human brain evince an true supernatural essence in a crippled way.

    There are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamed of in your narrow, naturalistic philosophy. Open your eyes!

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  14. 14. ravettb 1:12 pm 01/29/2011

    Of course this is an ultimately unresolvable question; theists keep retreating and abstracting, and that has no endpoint. However, it’s interesting to think about responses such as #2 & 3 above, and juxtapose them with the history of concepts of deities, and note how those people seem illiterate in that regard. In addition, one explanation of our belief in deities has been somewhat neglected in current evol-psych literature: the existential one, i.e., the need for meaning. There are many examples (e.g., #3) of people who found both meaning and a lessening of anxiety in this belief, and data indicate that religious people tend to be happier. To put it crudely, Marx hit the nail on the head, and there are quotes from most major religious tracts supporting this. The difficulty is making this concrete in terms of evolution: just what is "existential anxiety" and how does it affect, e.g., reproductive success?

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  15. 15. Slugg 3:38 pm 01/29/2011

    [I am an older man claiming no useful expertise.]

    Mr. Bering: It seems to me after a couple of close readings that you hold religious believers in some contempt. If I am wrong about that, I apologize.

    However, if I am right… Why publicize the fact?

    I observe that such an attitude from a communicator generally will cause a controversy in and of itself… which in this particular instance has occurred… and I fear the ensuing debate has obscured IMO your most important point:

    There reportedly IS a physical site we’ve detected deep in all our brains where human religious and paranormal impulses appear to be processed.

    [With apologies to Professors Heisenberg, Bohr, Feinman et. al., for the liberties taken above with their insights :) BTW...

    Elsewhere I have read that direct electrical stimulation of this area of the brain during surgery apparently caused a vivid out-of-body sensation in the subject. Fascinating! ]

    But I digress…

    In conclusion I ask: Is it reasonable to assume that this piece of our flesh has been immune from evolution?

    FWIW, I choose to assume nothing mortal is exempt from nature’s laws… which makes the natural-selection aspects of this debate most interesting for me.

    YMMV. :)

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  16. 16. sillofthedoor 8:31 am 01/30/2011

    I find it funny that evolutionary biologists, like Dawkins, cannot see a role in god as a projection of that particular cultures(and an individuals for that matter) concept of perfection which serves as a focus for the evolution of human consciousness (the idea of god evolves too, creating a new further direction to consciousness).

    Meanwhile fundamentalist religious people, can’t accept evolution as a theory thereby inhibiting the natural evolutionary process they are engaged in by being religious, demanding their god stays the same.

    Crazy world.

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  17. 17. socratus 10:57 am 01/30/2011

    Where does the information come from?
    What is the material basis of Quantum Consciousness ?
    Will Physics explain Consciousness?
    Once upon a time, 20 billions of years ago, all matter
    (all elementary particles and all quarks and
    their girlfriends- antiparticles and antiquarks,
    all kinds of waves: electromagnetic, gravitational,
    muons… gluons field ….. etc.) – were assembled in a “single point”.
    It means that all information also was assembled in a "single point".
    And then there was " big bang " and all information flew to bits
    in different sides.
    Suppose , that every bits of a "single point", every particle
    of a "single point" is the owner of some information.
    Then there are two possibilities:
    a) every particle has the own information and after 20 billions years
    they accidentally united and created everything including a man.
    The aim of it is to observe all accidental possibilities.
    b) in the beginning every particle has zero information .
    Question :" How does zero information further arrive to a
    very high informational level ? "
    We know, there is no information transfer
    without energy transfer. More correct : there is no quant
    information transfer without quant energy transfer.
    And the electron has the least electric charge.
    It means it has some quant of the least information.
    What can electron do with this information?
    Let us look the Mendeleev / Moseley periodic table.
    We can see at first, that electron does, it interacts with proton
    and creates atom of hydrogen. This is simplest design,
    which was created by electron.
    And we can see how this information grows and reaches
    high informational level. And the most complex design,
    which was created by electron is the Man.
    The Man is alive essence. Animals, birds, fish are alive essences.
    And an atom? And atom is also alive design.
    The free atom of hydrogen can live about 1000 seconds.
    And someone a long time ago has already said, that if to give
    suffices time to atom of hydrogen, he would turn into Man.
    Maybe it is better not to search about "dark, virtual particles "
    but to understand what the electron is,
    because even now nobody knows what electron is.
    Was I mistaken? No.
    Because according to Pauli Exclusion Principle
    only one single electron can be in the atom.
    This electron reanimates the atom.
    This electron manages the atom.
    If the atom contains more than one electron
    (for example – two), this atom represents " Siamese twins".
    Save us, the Great God, of having such atoms, such cells.
    And therefore the human brain has only one electron.
    Each of us has an Electron, but we do not know it.
    As the `Bhagavad Gita’ says:
    Fools deride Me when I descend in the human form.
    They do not know My transcendental nature and
    My supreme dominion over all that be.
    / Chapter 9. Text 11./
    Why does only electron have quant of information?
    Maybe does proton also have quant of information?
    No. Single proton has no quant of information.
    Because information can be transferred only by
    electromagnetic fields. And we don’t have a theory
    about protono-magnetic fields.
    In my opinion the Electron is quant of information.
    Once upon a time, in the beginning, there was
    one "single point " accidentally.
    Then it has accidentally blown up:
    Big Bang " has taken place accidentally. (?)
    It was the reason of accidental ( ?) creation of some thousands
    kinds of elementary particles and their girlfriends – antiparticles.
    Then atom of hydrogen was formed accidentally. (?)
    Then complex atom was formed accidentally. (?)
    Then stars were formed accidentally. (?)
    Then the Planet the Earth was formed accidentally. (?)
    Then the fauna was formed accidentally. (?)
    Then the animal kingdom was formed accidentally. (?)
    Then the man was created accidentally. (?)
    And this man can accidentally think logically. (?)
    But of course, unfortunately, not always.
    Someone wrote that the chances for the universe to expand,
    for the atom to exist, for the earth to bear life and for humanity
    to find place is as little as on to a number so big that it would
    require 244 zeros to write it down.
    Many years ago man has accustomed some wild
    animals (wolf, horse, cat, bull , etc.)
    and has made them domestic ones.
    But the man understands badly the four-footed friends.
    In 1897 J. J. Thomson discovered new particle – electron.
    Gradually man has accustomed electron to work for him.
    But the man does not understand what an electron is.
    By my peasant logic at first it is better to understand
    the closest thing (for example an photon /electron) and
    then to study the far away space and particles
    (for example dark, quark, meson, boson. . . . etc particles).
    ============ . .
    You know, it would be sufficient to really understand the electron.
    / Albert Einstein./
    Tell me what an electron is and I’ll then tell you everything.
    / Somebody./
    " The electron that can be told is not the true electron."
    / David Harrison /
    ` Where did the information go?
    The laws of physics dictate that information, like energy,
    cannot be destroyed, which means it must go somewhere.’
    / Book ` The big questions’ by Michael Brooks.
    Page 195-196./
    Best wishes.
    Israel Sadovnik. Socratus.

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  18. 18. Pazuzu 11:51 am 02/1/2011

    Give me a break, rwood33.

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  19. 19. Pazuzu 12:10 pm 02/1/2011

    This looks like a very interesting book and is hereby added to my reading list — which is, unfortunately, longer than I could possible have time for.

    However, the part about "the importance of behavioral inhibition" looks like a just-so story. How did the leopard get its spots? We’re free to cook up stories that sound plausible, but there aren’t any way to subject them to an empirical test.

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  20. 20. anilb 12:23 pm 02/2/2011

    As a corollary to that; the hunger is felt by hungry, the one who doesn’t have food, thirst is felt by thirsty, the one who doesn’t have water, and god-lust is felt by who doesn’t have god. Hence, the atheists, who do not crave for god, are the ones who are in abundance of it as opposed to the religious.

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  21. 21. anilb 12:24 pm 02/2/2011

    As a corollary to that; the hunger is felt by hungry, the one who doesn’t have food, thirst is felt by thirsty, the one who doesn’t have water, and god-lust is felt by who doesn’t have god. Hence, the atheists, who do not crave for god, are the ones who are in abundance of it as opposed to the religious.

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  22. 22. bobandpat 4:53 pm 02/2/2011

    Lets see here. The author wants to address the question of why people believe in God. But he quickly degrades the question to whether or not there is a God. It isn’t necessary to decide whether or not there is a God to take up why most people believe in a god. It get into belief in God and whether or not there is basis for it in science, you must first define what you mean by God. I for one believe in God, but I don’t believe the same things as everyone else. The author seems to think if he can’t figure it out, it aint so. All that proves is that he is not God.

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  23. 23. Jan Jitso 5:05 am 02/3/2011

    A lot of words, for many to much to read. In science the First Cause is totally unknown, like Job’s remark on wisdom hidden in an unaccessible dimension. In religion this First Cause is called God and more is maintained that It is friendly towards humans. It is called a He because of the inherent intelligence.

    In the Old Testament the Israelites were to be servants of God. A servant wants salary and has to obey the Master strictly. The gospel of John starts with referring to Creation: No human eyes were present to watch and then a good technical descripiton is to tell that a far but mighty king spoke a word and things happened accordingly a thousand miles away. The New Testament means new Initiative from Outside, new treaty in which status of man is raised from servant to child. A child sits at the table with the father and has some access to his wallet. But it must be educated and therefore has to experience good and bad. This is what we understand since Darwin: not only physical but also spiritual evolution is going on and necessary in order not to become robots or zombies. The Messiah was the first such child, not a Greek half-deity as Rome teaches, and born as a child (poetic language) while all others need rebirth. The king James Bible gives bad translation. Jews and moslims teach God is One and forgives for nothing in return, except an honest heart. Popes who want power prefer trinity. It is said that in the Old Testament era the First Big Commandment was valid, while the Messiah brought the Second Big One.

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  24. 24. TruthHound 4:02 am 02/28/2011

    Hmm, personally no craving for God, so does that prove non existence by this line of reasoning?
    “Believers” tend to vilify atheist or non believers simply because we don’t buy their made up stories.
    Moral values and love are routinely claimed as their exclusive traits. Bering is obviously interested in understanding this curiosity from a scientific point of view. I too find it fascinating that well adapted and intelligent people just decide they have a higher insight and each has his own story! Just because you don’t understand something does not mean it has a supernatural explanation. How many examples of debunked myths do we need? History is full of them… You guys want to argue by reason while your whole theory is based on faith and faith is devoid of reason, that’s why we call it faith.
    Imagine there is no God and consider how the world would work then… yea, you’re right!…Exactly the way it does now!

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