Volume > Issue > Did the Architecture of the Brain Create God?

Did the Architecture of the Brain Create God?


By Paul C. Fox | March 1998
Paul C. Fox, M.D., is a physician with a family practice in Blairsville, Pennsylvania.

Brace yourselves. To add to our burdens we shall soon have to face jubilant materialists claiming new “scientific proof” that God is merely a manifestation of human brain architecture. Such, at any rate, is the conclusion they are likely to draw from a recent experiment at a University of California at San Diego neurology laboratory.

According to the Los Angeles Times (Oct. 30, 1997), the researchers were studying people afflicted with temporal lobe epilepsy, a condition that can induce experiences of a highly mystical or “religious” character. The experiment was designed not to examine the causes of the disease but specifically to determine whether or not there is “a neural basis of religious expression.” The researchers found that in these patients there are specific areas of the temporal lobe that “strengthen their brain’s involuntary response to religious words.” The scientists have christened these active areas “the God Module.”

“The team” (which remains oddly anonymous in the L.A. Times report) was quick to assure the public that “these studies do not in any way negate the validity of religious experience or God.” Nevertheless, that did not stop the team from speculating as to why “such dedicated neural machinery…for religion may have evolved.” The only possibility reported in the Times article is that “the God Module” may be a mechanism “to encourage tribe loyalty or reinforce kinship ties or the stability of a closely knit clan.” The story quoted Craig Kinsley, a neurologist from Virginia: “There is the quandary of whether the mind created God or God created the mind. This is going to shake people up, but [any conclusion] is very premature.”

Very premature indeed — though one wonders why the only speculation reported is one that leaps across several intermediate steps to the possibly fictive nature of God. Perhaps the research team will continue to surround its speculations with careful disclaimers, but experience tells me that it will not be long before unbashful proponents of scientism will weigh in with dogmatic assertions that the God Module is an atavistic remnant of more primitive times — a sort of neurologic appendix — and that God is indeed a product of the mind.

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