Faith Integration: Neuroscience and Religion
The intersection between neuroscience and religion is a controversial topic because of the abstract ideas associated with religion and the absolute scientific nature of neuroscience. The aim of this paper is to look at the shared aspects between neuroscience and religion and looking at biblical justice issues from the lens of religion. The main focus of this paper is to show that neuroscience and religion intersect more than they differ.
How Neuroscience and Religion Relate
The study neuroscience and its intersection with religion is a rather new research topic and most articles argue that neuroscience is important in the understand of religious ideologies. Klemm (2017) argues that there is intersection between neuroscience and religion and if it is approached properly they can empower the understanding of each other. He found that incorporating religion in the teaching of neuroscience had a positive impact in learning and understanding the material. Sayadmansour (2014) found that “The brain, especially the right hemisphere, has the ability to perceive holistic concepts such that we perceive and understand wholeness in things rather than particular details” (para. 6). The right hemisphere is important because religion is abstract concept that can only be understood holistically. The source also looks at the mathematical concrete function of the left hemisphere and argues that this is why specific numbers are used throughout the religious texts.
The use of both hemispheres while engaging in learning has been shown to support Klemm’s findings. Klemm (2017) also argues that neuroscience and religion are related because they both share themes such as the: desire to help others, know and value the nature of creation and life, respect for the body and brain, learn and grow in understanding of ourselves and others, know the basis for human agency and self-control, overcome personal weakness and limitations, minimise mental anguish, despair, and depression, nurture the self and others, promote mental calm, rest, and rejuvenation, prevent and cure maladaptive ideas and compulsions, heal broken minds and spirit, live healthy, actualised, and happy lives” (p. 7).
The ideologically intersection is also demonstrated in the work done by Oomen (2003). Oomen used the ideology of determinism and free will, in regards to religion, to demonstrate a parallel to neuroscience. The parallel for neuroscience was identified as the science self-organizing systems when compared to neural networks. These broad ideological parallels seemed to come from a religious and theological understanding and then applying that to neuroscience.
Whereas other views come from a scientific view on neuroscience and relating it to religion. Comings (2010) found that religious understanding and interpretation is processed through the temporal lobes. This idea is supported by Schjoedt (2009) which used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during different types of prayer formal (common prayers used during a church service) and personalized prayer (private). The study’s findings support Comings idea for the localization of neural activity within the temporal lobes. Using this data of localization Comings (2010) used SPECT imaging of schizophrenics with religious delusions and found increased activity of the left temporal lobe and decreased activity of the left occipital lobe (p. 482). The source further examined temporal lobe epilepsy and found that this had an impact on a person religiosity. Applying this information to biblical figures Comings (2010) highlighted a study by Altschuler (2002). Where he proposed Ezekiel possessed some of the characteristics of the 4-H syndrome placing him as the oldest known case of TLE dating to approximately 2,600 years ago” (p.482). Additionally, Comings (2010) highlighted a study done by Persinger (2002) that found that if electrical current is added to the right temporal lobe the patient would report that they could feel the spirit. (p.484)
Biblical Justice/ Religious Implications
Using biblical teachings as a societal guide when it come to neuroscience questions are raised such as in the following scenario: What if a mentally ill patient needs treatment, but does not have insurance, should the exams be performed regardless of the ability to pay? This is a question that could have multiple answers depending on the viewpoint. The biblical answer would be yes because those who have the ability to help should help for the greater good. Looking at this situation from the viewpoint of the organization that can treat the patient they have a lot invested in it such as equipment and staff, and they cannot operate for free. So a solution would be for those in that persons community to step up and help. Another way to look at this scenario from a biblical justice standpoint is that those who have the ability to treat and care for others in this case the hospital should offer the services based on a percentage of what the patients can pay. The only way this option would be possible is if those who sold the technology and/or the schools educated the people staff operated at the same discount based on the amount the organization or people could pay. In other words the entire society would have to operate according to an altruistic principal. Where everyone only takes what they need and leaves any extra for those who do not have enough.