Is There a Religious Gene Term Paper

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Phantoms in the Brain

Based on the cases presented in the book, do you believe that we have specialized neural circuitry that exists solely to moderate religious experiences? What do you think this area is for? How do you explain the religiosity of those that have unusual activity in this area?

I don't not believe that the neural circuitry exists "solely" to moderate religious experiences. I think it is probable that the area of the brain that is responsible for religious sentiments probably has other duties as well. However, with an abnormally amplified neural circuitry in this region, I think it would be natural to have religious experiences. For example, if this region had anything to do with spirituality, and it was working overload, it would naturally go to the highest spiritual experience -- which is God.

It is easy to image a lower level of spiritual feelings that might not necessarily lead to God. For example, an individual might look at the starry night sky, view one of any number of mystical creatures that habitat the planet, or view the magnificence of nature in literally any of its forms and feel a sense of awe or wonder. Maybe a similar feeling could manifest just by pondering existence or the meaning of life. To me personally, I don't feel as if the experience has to necessarily be religious to be akin to a spiritual type feeling. However, at the same time, it is easy to see how extraordinarily strong spiritual feelings of any sort could be easily directed at whatever concept of God one might hold in their head -- which represents the highest form of spirituality. I think the Einstein quote at the very beginning of the chapter refers to something of a similar position; the "cosmic religious" feeling that is beyond dogma as the highest form of a spiritual manifestation.

It is very difficult to elucidate this {cosmic religious] feeling to anyone who is entirely without it. . . . The religious geniuses of all ages have been distinguished by this kind of religious feeling, which knows no dogma. . . . In my view, it is the most important function of art and science to awaken this feeling and keep it alive in those who are receptive to it.


2. Why do you think this area developed in the brain (why do we have it)? How do you reconcile this area's abilities with Darwin & Wallace's theory of natural selection? Do you believe it grants us some ability which makes us more likely to survive and pass on our genes? What ability would that be?

There is not a clear answer to why this area might have developed in the brain. Both Darwin and Wallace's theory of evolution are reasonable. Wallace's insight into the importance of culture in selection seems be a key distinction in the two theories and represents a superior explanation of selection in my opinion. Wallace also makes the distinction between potential intelligence and latent intelligence. Natural selection seems to have difficulty in explaining how potential intelligence in the brain evolved to such incredible capacities before such skills were ever actually needed in the human experience. I don't believe this paradox necessarily is a proof for God's intervention, but at the same time, it is a certainly plausible explanation and consistent with an intelligent designer who helped the process of natural selection along.

It is difficult to say what value the potential intelligence and a religious disposition might have had in a strictly materialistic perspective. Humans are very social creatures. Therefore, it could be the case that having a capacity for religion helped facilitate group cohesiveness in some manner and strengthen bonds within a community of early humans. But there also seems like there would be more efficient ways to create the same effect from an evolutionary perspective. For example, primates form close lifelong bonds without religion. Therefore, it doesn't seem like it would be a biological necessity for humans to evolve a religious capacity.

3. Do you believe that people with this unusual activity are more advanced than the average person? Do you believe they are closer to God in some way? What do you make of the statement that perhaps, "An instrument has been developed in advance of the needs of its possessor"? (p 191) Why do you think Ramachandran goes on to discuss savant syndromes in this chapter?

I do believe that people with this unusual brain activity are closer to God -- or at least their personal conception of God. I don't think the article explicitly makes any mention of this, but it is reasonable to believe that the same phenomenon happens to believers of different faiths. I think this is an interesting consideration. For example, if the God of the Bible is the one true God, and someone is having unusual religious experiences towards a different God, then we could assume their extraordinary beliefs are, at least in part, somewhat delusional. However, they would still be closer to their concept of God than someone with similar believes that occur on the normal range of emotional experiences. Ramachandran undoubtedly mentions the savant to point out the fact that there is a real possibility that some of these individuals are really closer to God. Some savants are great at art and some math; the author is suggesting that some could be better at religion and the GSR responses seem to indicate that these are authentic feelings.

4. Do you believe that a sense of connection with a…

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