Religion and spirituality?
Shallow, childish insults are fine for liberal elitists, I suppose.
For the thoughtful among us I submit the following:
This guy has a very interesting theory. I am ordering his book.
He is a leader in BioTheology or NeuroTheology as others call it.
From his website:
For every physical characteristic that is universal to a species, there must exist some gene or set of genes responsible for the emergence of that particular trait. For example, the fact that all cats possess whiskers means that somewhere within a cat's chromosomes there must exist "whisker" genes. Of our own species, that all humans possess a nose in the middle of our face means that somewhere within our chromosomes there must exist "nose" genes that instruct our emerging bodies to develop one in that very place. It's not, for instance, as if a nose can develop anywhere on one's body, only by mere coincidence, it always ends up on our face. Apparently, humans are genetically "hard-wired" to develop in a very specific and particular way.
The same principle not only applies to universal physical traits, but to universal behaviors as well. Take, for instance, the fact that all honeybees construct their hives in the same hexagonal pattern. That all honeybee colonies, regardless of whether they've been exposed to any other, construct their hives in such an identical fashion means that they must be "hard-wired" to do so. It's not as if honeybees can build their hives any way they "desire," only by sheer coincidence all construct them in the same exact way. Apparently, honeybees are innately, that is, genetically "hard-wired" to construct their hives in this particular fashion. This would suggest that somewhere in the honeybees' brains there must exist a specific cluster of neurons that contain genetically inherited instructions which compel the bees to construct hexagonally shaped hives. The same principle holds true for anything from a peacock's instinct to display its feathers when exposed to an aroused peahen to a cat's instinct to groom itself. In essence, any behavior that is universal to any species is, more than likely, the consequence of a genetically inherited impulse or instinct. The above principle not only applies to honeybees, peacocks, or cats but to every life form, including our own. The fact, for instance, that every human culture - no matter how isolated - has communicated through language suggests that our species' linguistic capacities constitute a genetically inherited trait. Since our capacity for language represents a cognitive function, there must exist some very specific cluster of neurons within the brain from which our linguistic capacities are generated.
As we know such "linguistic" sites do exist in the human brain and include the Wernicke's area, Broca's area, and angular gyrus. Damage incurred to any one of these "language" specific sites will impair some very specific part of one's language capacities. What this clearly demonstrates is that our linguistic capacities are directly related to our neurophysiological makeup. Furthermore, this supports the notion that for every cross-cultural behavior our species exhibits there must exist a specific part of the brain from which that behavior is generated.
If it's true that this principle applies to all of our cross-cultural behaviors, should we not also apply it to spirituality? Every known culture from the dawn of our species has maintained a belief in some form of a "spiritual" reality. Wouldn't this suggest that human spirituality must represent an inherent characteristic of our species, that is, a genetically inherited trait? Furthermore, being that spirituality, just like language, represents a cognitive function, wouldn't this suggest that our "spiritual" instincts, just like our linguistic ones, must be generated from some very specific physical part within the brain? I informally refer to this site as the "God" part of the brain, a cluster of neurons from which spiritual cognitions, sensations, and behaviors are generated.
How else are we to explain the fact that all human cultures - no matter how isolated - have maintained a belief in some form of a spiritual/transcendental reality, in a god or gods, a soul, as well as an afterlife? How else are we to explain the fact that every human culture has built houses of worship through which to pray to such unseen forces? Or that every known culture has buried (or at least disposed of) its dead with a rite that anticipates sending the deceased person's "spiritual" component, or what we call a soul, onward to some next plane, or what we call an afterlife? Wouldn't the universality with which such perceptions and behaviors are exhibited among our species suggest that we might be "hard-wired" this way? How about the fact that every known culture has related undergoing what we refer to as spiritual experiences? Perhaps we are "hard-wired" to experience such sentiments as well. Just as all honeybees are compelled to construct hexagonally shaped hives, perhaps humans are compelled to perceive a spiritual reality...as a reflex, an instinct.
Essentially, what I'm suggesting is that humans are innately "hard-wired" to perceive a spiritual reality. We are "hard-wired" to believe in forces that transcend the limitations of this, our physical reality. Most controversial of all, if what I'm suggesting is true, it would imply that God is not necessarily something that exists "out there," beyond and independent of us, but rather as the product of an inherited perception, the manifestation of an evolutionary adaptation that exists within the human brain. And why would our species have evolved such a seemingly abstract trait? -In order to enable us to deal with our species' unique and otherwise debilitating awareness of death.
With the dawn of human intelligence, for the first time in the history of terrestrial life, an organism could point its powers of perception back upon its own being; it could recognize its own self as an object. For the first time, when an animal kneeled down to drink from the watering hole, it recognized its own reflection. Only humans possess the advanced capacity for self-awareness. Though, in many ways, this capacity has helped to make our species the most versatile and powerful creature on earth, it also represents the source of our greatest affliction. This is because once we became aware of the fact that we exist, we became equally aware of not just the possibility that one day we might not, but the certainty that one day we will not. With the advent of our species, with the emergence of self-conscious awareness, a life form became cognizant of the fact that it is going to die. All we had to do was to look around us to see that death was inevitable and inescapable. More terrifying yet, death could befall us at anytime. Any moment can be our last.
All life is "hard-wired" to avoid those things that represent a threat to its existence. When an animal gets too close to fire, for example, it reflexively pulls away. It is this negative stimulus, this experience we call pain, that prompts all forms of life to avoid such potential life threats. Pain, therefore, acts as nature's electric prod that incites us to avoid those things which may jeopardize our existence.
In the "higher" animals, most particularly among the mammals, threatening circumstances elicit a particular type of pain we refer to as anxiety. Anxiety constitutes a type of pain meant to prompt these "higher" order animals to avoid potentially hazardous circumstances. For example, a rabbit is cornered by a mountain lion. In such a situation, the rabbit is pumped with adrenaline, charged with the painful symptoms of anxiety, all meant to incite the rabbit to most effectively escape from the source of its discomfort, in this case the mountain lion. In its healthiest form, anxiety is meant to prompt an animal to avoid or escape a potentially hazardous experience. In humans, however, once we became aware of the fact that death was not only inescapable but that it could come at any moment, we were left in a state of constant mortal peril, a state of unceasing anxiety - much like rabbits perpetually cornered by a mountain lion from which there is no escape. With the emergence of self-awareness, humans became the dysfunctional animal, rendered helpless by an inherent and unceasing anxiety disorder. Unless nature could somehow relieve us of this debilitating awareness of death, it's possible our species might have soon become extinct. It was suddenly critical that our animal be modified in some way that would allow us to maintain self-conscious awareness, while enabling us to deal with our unique awareness of our own mortalities, of death.
Here lies the origin of humankind's spiritual function, an evolutionary adaptation that compels our species to believe that though our physical bodies will one day perish, our "spirits" or "souls" will persist for all eternity. Only once our species was instilled with this inherent (mis)perception that there is something more "out there," that we are immortal beings, were we able to survive our debilitating awareness of death.