NeuroscienceNews.com’s Erik Driscoll reports (Feb. 15) that National Geographic contacted Neuroscience News to invite participation in a virtual roundtable discussion to help promote an upcoming episode of Brain Games, called The God Brain, premiering Sunday, February 21, at 9 pm ET on the National Geographic Channel.
The Neuroscience news team was asked by National Geographic, “Is belief in God innate in our brains, as if it were installed by some divine programmer? Or is spirituality a more complex evolving adaptation that has both helped and harmed us as a species?”
Driscoll writes, “I take the position that a belief in God, gods, souls or spirits is not innate in our brains, nor was anything installed by some divine programmer, or being. I will entertain the idea that our brains can believe concepts with very little, and sometimes no proof at all. Sometimes merely a suggestion is enough to form a belief. There doesn’t seem to be any reason to blame any one religion, or credit one being with the belief systems that may or may not be in species’ nervous systems…”
The upcoming Brain Games episode touches on questions about spirituality, neurotheology and belief in God and briefly covers the psychological phenomenon known as pareidolia. The term may sound unfamiliar, but you may indeed have experienced it. If you have ever looked at the Moon and spotted two eyes, a nose and a mouth, that’s pareidolia.
According to the World English Dictionary, pareidolia is “the imagined perception of a pattern or meaning where it does not actually exist”. It’s picking a face out of a knotted tree trunk or finding zoo animals in the clouds. You may have even seen or read about a religious visage being captured in a tortilla.
An equally intriguing, though not directly related phenomenon occurs for the accomplished vocabulary. Some readers can see full words in conglomerations of letters with proper spelling out of place – arguably different from pareidolia because the scrambled letters actually come from real words.
As long as the length of the word is unchanged and the first and last letters are in the right place, the brain will automatically re-order the confined letters and present your conscious mind with the proper spelling. Thus, the brain computer allows you to read the following sentence without confusion:
I cdnoult blveiee taht I cluoud aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdaenig.
If the brain is similarly given the start and end concepts of conception and death, does it have a predefined center? Why do most people report asking the perennial question, “Who am I?” In fact, this question is not only the subject of metacognitive thinking in adulthood. Lifespan developmentalists research this question as it is seen in adolescents searching for their unique identities.
Driscoll writes, “It doesn’t take a religious person to think they see something familiar in an unlikely place.”
Is science lagging behind spiritualists on this question of a pre-filled god void? Many religions have already declared that life itself is proof that there is a God and that life is connected to the god entity. So, do you think belief in god was installed by a divine programmer? Watch the February 21 broadcast for some good brain fodder on this question.