Neuroscience Trying to be God!

Neuroscientist, Kathleen Taylor, argues that religious fundamentalism is an illness for which there will eventually be a cure as it can be explained neurologically. Well, that is fine with me because “they” are “them” and I love it anytime I can “them” anyone! But, alas and alack, I happen to know that Taylor and her ilk also argue that spirituality itself can be explained in terms of neurology and the mythical “god spot” in the brain and therefore she has me in her sights also. (

However, I thoroughly appreciate the neurological research and find that it actually deepens my faith. Yes, I do feel that my spiritual imagery and even the impulse itself has a neurological component. Everything that I “know” and “feel” has a neurological component and even these very words that I write, even the motivation to write them, even this “meta-cognition” being employed has a neurological dimension. This knowledge keeps me from retreating to the perspective of my youth when I felt that objectivity was possible and leaves me with the simple mystery of life and of my own human experience. And it leaves me with the conviction, foolish perhaps, that what I feel and think are important are worth “tossing out there.” Now what happens when they are “tossed out there” is beyond me and is not even my business. As T.S. Eliot said, “We offer our deeds to oblivion” in that we do not know what their outcome will be.

The dilemma for neuroscience research is that it often fails to overlook the obvious—beneath the realm of neurochemistry and “science” lays absolutely nothing. I like to use the philosopher’s term “nothingness” or a primordial void that lies at the root of our existence. I like to call it “Nothingness” or even better, “No-thingness.” And when anyone deigns to venture into that domain of human experience, he/she is pretty close to entering the realm of the “spiritual” for there is where we meet “Otherness” to which some of us assign the term “God,” or “Source” or “Ground of Being” or “I am that I am”, the latter also translated as “the Being One.” But, when we get there…if ever…the only thing we get for the “effort” is the simple knowledge of our being which I like to term “Being.” We have “am-ness” and that is it. And Eliot termed this experience “a condition of complete simplicity, costing not less than everything.” And, it has been my experience that awareness of this “simplicity” grants me a tad more humility than I was born with, allowing me to seek for inclusiveness with others, including those that disagree with me. “Where is our common interest?” I like to ask and it is always there in some finite respect and Ultimately there in that we are all simple Be-ings, “strutting and fretting our hour upon the stage” and prone to taking ourselves too seriously.

This nebulous approach to spirituality is strangely akin to quantum physics. And, in the realm of scientific research, there are individuals who do seek to find common ground between science, religion, and other approaches to life. For, they realize that “science”, like religion, is merely one approach to the incredible Mystery of life that we are all caught up in from which we cannot escape. We can attempt to “explain it” and therefore have the smug belief that it “makes sense” but history teaches us that the “absolute truth” of any particular era….the “god”…always ends up in the dustbin. Science, religion, literature are only a means to an end and not an end in themselves. Or as the Buddhists like to say, “The finger pointing to the moon is not the moon.”



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