Their Brains

I have been fiddling around in my own brain the question: how different is the mind of ‘the other’ than my own brain?  The ‘other’ refers to those on the far right of the political spectrum plus those who subscribe to the ‘fundamentalist’ religions.  Both of  ‘these people’ confound me and leave me perplexed.

Frequent commenter Steve gave this remark earlier today:

I read a science article recently that showed with MRI studies that people with strong religious beliefs use the same parts of their brain that interpret reality. What I mean is that their religion is as real to them as the sky is blue to any other observer.

Maybe that’s it!  It’s all about the ‘type’ of brain that we inherited. I ought to be thankful to my parents that mine turned out ‘normal.’  Normal in that religion is not ‘real’ to me.  I am not trapped in what I frequently refer to as the World of Delusion or the World of Religious Delusion, to be more exact.

I wonder if there exists as well a World of Political Delusion?  You know, those folks who dwell on that far right edge of politics- the ones who seem to believe that the ‘world’ ought to be a certain way, a certain mold.

Of course, often these two worlds merge. Wow!  What a hyper-warp. Take Minnesota Representative Michelle Bachman, for example. I think she typifies the joint merger of Religious and Political Delusion.  She is not alone because millions of [c]hristian fundamentalists also live lives under the delusion of far-right politics. God and politics all wrapped up in a warped bundle.

The Pew Forum sponsored a panel discussion last May on the topic How Our Brains are Wired for Belief. An abstract would read:

Some of the nation’s leading journalists gathered in Key West, Fla., in May 2008 for the Pew Forum’s biannual Faith Angle Conference on religion, politics and public life.

Recent advances in neuroscience and brain-imaging technology have offered researchers a look into the physiology of religious experiences. In observing Buddhist monks as they meditate, Franciscan nuns as they pray and Pentecostals as they speak in tongues, Dr. Andrew Newberg, a radiologist at the University of Pennsylvania, has found that measurable brain activity matches up with the religious experiences described by worshippers. The social, political and religious implications of these and other findings are just beginning to permeate the broader culture, according to New York Times columnist David Brooks, who has been tracking new developments in the field.

I think that this is what Steve was suggesting because the article uses brain scans as ‘evidence’ of their hypotheses.  The so-called liberal and conservative brain scans are also discussed.

The conclusion one might reach upon reading this article is that there exists in society [at least American society] differing brain types that respond much differently to religious and political ideas, beliefs and data. Thus, when one looks at Michelle Bachman, for example, or that severely homophobic fundamentalist [c]hristian, one can comfortably conclude that there are paranoid people both inside of and outside of mental wards.


6 thoughts on “Their Brains

  1. I like this idea. It would explain Mikeb’s question in his Climate Denial – Crock of the Week post.

    There is a reason that fundamentalist, guntoting, global warming deniers believe what they believe. They have a different view of reality. This is usually described as insanity. On the other hand, how could someone believe things such as “more guns, less crime”, deregulation of industry would yield good results, and that the wealth will trickle down if the rich are not taxed. It’s the world of Microdot’s Creeps Or Consequences post.

    These people are in a whole different universe!

  2. Seriously, I may have mentioned before that people react differently to things which confirm beliefs and those things that challenge the beliefs. You get a rush when your beliefs are confirmed. It’s actually painful to challenge your beliefs. Thus it is far more comforting to hear things which confirm your beliefs.

  3. There are many ways to reach the kind of “brain activity” which your researchers identify as religious states. I would really have to see the article and using the interpretation of David Brooks makes me wonder about the actual agenda of the article.
    Meditation and prayer are two related states I suppose, but with much different aims. The article talks about Buddhist monks and Catholic nuns.
    I know that much research has been done on the brain patterns of Buddhist monks. Christianity and Buddhism are radically different. Christianity teaches that the soul is immortal and there is an extensive well developed fantasy involving the after life…will you go to heaven or hell?
    Buddhism teaches that the ultimate state is non existence. There are different schools of Buddhism which all are variations on the theme.
    Perhaps that is why Buddhism can absorb so many influences and take on the character of the society it exists in.
    The outward rituals of Japanese Buddhism ar radically different from Thai Buddhism, or Tibetan Buddhism. Thai is especially fascinating as it borrows from Hindu mythology and Chinese Gods and also a healthy dose of pre Buddhist animism…lots of ghosts and demons lurking around, but these outward signs are show. The ultimate Thai expression is “It doesn’t matter”.
    I went way off the subject here, but my point is that we all are capable of reaching a state that could be registered by a brain activity monitor as prayer.
    Our brains are very powerful tools and meditation is a way of controlling that tool and finding out what it is really capable of. Meditation is beyond prayer as it is a tool for discovery. I don’t want to get “mystical” here because what is real is not mystical. We have the ability to know much of how the universe works, because it is encoded in our beings.

    I think a few posts ago, I spoke of autism and how it exhibited itself in savant behaviour. I referred to the story of Nikola Tesla and how the idea for Alternating Current seemed to appear to him as a fully formed concept when he was a young man in Serbia.

    I am quite fascinated with Buddhist meditation and find it is something that is quite beyond our definition of prayer.

    As far as evangelicals and conservatives, well, people will always opt for the easiest way out. Gun Freak logic stops at line…I got a gun so I can defend my family from some other guy who has a gun.
    Christianity seems to stop at , if I believe in the bible, and do what it says, I will go to heaven…too bad for those other folks, but they’re not like us.
    Conservative politics? Capital punishment? Torture? Human rights?
    Too fuckin complicated! Kill ’em all and let God sort ’em out!

  4. Hello Muddy,
    I too have been working on a posting examining Conservative mindsets as opposed the Liberal thinking mind. I think that I can elaborate the origins and differences. I hope all will visit and enjoy.

  5. Once again, gentlemen, your comments are enlightening.

    I’ve been fascinated by the human mind [as opposed to the brain, if there is a difference] for many decades now. Were I 20 years younger, I might have pursued a career in psychology. Fortunately for me, I know quite a few psychologists and folks in the mental health services, and i am able to glean their wisdom when we get together.

    The problem with that field of study, though, is that it must be terribly frustrating to understand what is going on in the mind of a patient, yet not be able to help the person change behaviors.

    The idea presented in the post above, however, seems to indicate that it may be very difficult indeed to move the patient into a new mindset – a new reality- when, in fact, the brain may be hard-wired to maintain the current path of behaviors.

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