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Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

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Today's Big Idea: The Science of Religion

The Big Idea for Sunday, June 03, 2012

Belief is not as invisible as we might think. Neuroscientist Andrew Newberg has scanned the brains of nuns, monks, and fundamentalist Christians during prayer and other transcendent religious moments. He's invited Pentocostal preachers into his lab to speak in tongues (which is when he found out that his lab assistant also possessed the power of glossalalia). Whether God exists or not, the human brain certainly seems to be "wired" to engage in mystical relationships with the cosmos.

Even Daniel Dennett, known alongside Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and the late Christopher Hitchens as one of the "Four Horsemen of Atheism" has his spiritual moments -- but only in the blandest sense of the word. The secular benefits of spiritual practice are clear. "Of course we can change our brains through meditation," he says. He speculates that it's similar to sleep in that it can restore balance, get rid of tension and calm the system so that it can confront the world anew. 

 

Perspectives

  1. 1 Is The Human Brain Hardwired for God?
    Megan Erickson Think Tank
  2. 2 Daniel Dennett Discusses Secular Spirituality
    Daniel Dennett
  3. 3 Buddhism as a “Science of the Mind”
    Jason Gots Think Tank
  4. 4 What Faith and Science Share
    Rebecca Newberger Goldstein
 

Today's Big Idea: The Scien...

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