Are We Hard-Wired for Religion?

The brain - no matter how it got there - does have this profound ability to engage in religious and spiritual experiences.

When we look at how the brain works it looks like the brain is able to very easily engage in religious and spiritual practices, ideas and experiences.  All the brain scan studies that we've done show that there are multiple parts of the brain that seem to get involved. 


So it really does look like the brain is easily capable of having these experiences.  Now exactly how that ability got into the brain is of course much more complex and both a philosophical and scientific question.  The scientists would say maybe it was through millions of years of evolution that because being religious or spiritual was an adaptive process it got incorporated into the biological mechanisms of the brain and there are certainly a lot of reasons to support that.

Of course if you're a religious individual it also makes sense that if there is a God up there and we're down here that we would have a brain that's capable of communicating to God, praying to God, doing the things that God needs us to do. Otherwise there would be this kind of fundamentally silly disconnect. 

We wouldn't be able to have any kind of interaction with God.  So it does look like the brain no matter how it got there does have this profound ability to engage in religious and spiritual experiences and that's part of why we've seen religion and spirituality be a part of human history since the very dawn of civilization.

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Related Articles

Scientists discover what caused the worst mass extinction ever

How a cataclysm worse than what killed the dinosaurs destroyed 90 percent of all life on Earth.

Credit: Ron Miller
Surprising Science

While the demise of the dinosaurs gets more attention as far as mass extinctions go, an even more disastrous event called "the Great Dying” or the “End-Permian Extinction” happened on Earth prior to that. Now scientists discovered how this cataclysm, which took place about 250 million years ago, managed to kill off more than 90 percent of all life on the planet.

Keep reading Show less

Why we're so self-critical of ourselves after meeting someone new

A new study discovers the “liking gap” — the difference between how we view others we’re meeting for the first time, and the way we think they’re seeing us.

New acquaintances probably like you more than you think. (Photo by Simone Joyner/Getty Images)
Surprising Science

We tend to be defensive socially. When we meet new people, we’re often concerned with how we’re coming off. Our anxiety causes us to be so concerned with the impression we’re creating that we fail to notice that the same is true of the other person as well. A new study led by Erica J. Boothby, published on September 5 in Psychological Science, reveals how people tend to like us more in first encounters than we’d ever suspect.

Keep reading Show less

NASA launches ICESat-2 into orbit to track ice changes in Antarctica and Greenland

Using advanced laser technology, scientists at NASA will track global changes in ice with greater accuracy.

Firing three pairs of laser beams 10,000 times per second, the ICESat-2 satellite will measure how long it takes for faint reflections to bounce back from ground and sea ice, allowing scientists to measure the thickness, elevation and extent of global ice
popular

Leaving from Vandenberg Air Force base in California this coming Saturday, at 8:46 a.m. ET, the Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite-2 — or, the "ICESat-2" — is perched atop a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket, and when it assumes its orbit, it will study ice layers at Earth's poles, using its only payload, the Advance Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS).

Keep reading Show less