For some years now, scientists have been digging around (well, metaphorically speaking) in the human brain trying to find out why people connect with religion.
The latest news about this kind of research has come out of Auburn University. A researcher there found, as the press release about all this reports, that " brain interactions were different between religious and non-religious subjects."
But as you read that release, if you do, pay attention to this section of it: The researcher says his finding "supports the hypothesis that development of ToM (Theory of Mind) abilities in humans during evolution may have given rise to religion in human societies."
Notice the foundational assumption: Religion came out of the human brain. This seems to be the foundational assumption in nearly all, if not all, of this kind of research.
But what does religion itself say about its source? It points to a supernatural source, to divine revelation, to God. Does the human mind play a part in all of that? Oh, absolutely. But to say that all of religion is simply an invention of the human mind is to say that religion itself cannot be trusted to have an opinion different from that.
Revelation is hard to explain to people, including people of faith. But it is a core tenet of many religions.
So perhaps science should conduct useful research about how the brains of people who are religious may differ from those who aren't. But then perhaps science should acknowledge that it has no way of verifying whether what religious people call revelation is either possible or reliable. Science and religion have much to say to one another that is useful and helpful. But in some matters they would do well to be silent about the claims of the other.
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MORE RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM COMING
Tony Blair, former British prime minister, says the 21st Century will be marked by violence due to religious extremism. That's clearly already the case. The question is whether anyone can figure out how to defang this monster.