The 80Beats blog at Discover magazine has a nice little round-up of ‘neurotheology’ news – that is, research into finding the part of the brain responsible for religious experiences. Reading one part made me think just how off-track some researchers are:
Some researchers have hypothesized that religious beliefs are a byproduct of the neural networks used in theory of mind, suggesting that humans first evolved to imagine what other people are feeling, even people who aren’t present — and from there it was a short step to positing supernatural beings
This “positing” of supernatural beings, and variations on the theme (e.g. ‘people want to believe that something is in control of life, and so posit a supernatural being to cool their anxiety’) seem like instances of trying to be too intellectual, and ignoring an obvious fact: that people *see* and *talk to* supernatural beings. They have since the beginning of recorded history, and probably before. We can argue as to whether they are creations of the mind, or objectively real (or on the spectrum between), but there is no ‘positing’ required. Perhaps for left-brained researchers who don’t have the ability to interact with the ‘other’, but not for a large amount of people.
One day, orthodox science might realise how they’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater when they casually dismiss ‘alien contact’, near-death experiences and so-on. There’s some seriously interesting discoveries to be made in there, but instead we get psychological analysis of why humans need to ‘posit’ a supernatural being. I find it odd really.