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Medicine

Brain Surgery Linked To Sensation of Spirituality 380

Posted by timothy
from the applied-psychology dept.
the3stars writes "'Removing part of the brain can induce inner peace, according to researchers from Italy. Their study provides the strongest evidence to date that spiritual thinking arises in, or is limited by, specific brain areas. This raises a number of interesting issues about spirituality, among them whether or not people can be born with a strong propensity towards spirituality and also whether it can be acquired through head trauma." One critic's quoted response: "It's important to recognize that the whole study is based on changes in one self-report measure, which is a coarse measure that includes some strange items."
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Brain Surgery Linked To Sensation of Spirituality

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  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday February 11, 2010 @05:31PM (#31105280)

    Yeah, you can make someone a lot happier with a lobotomy too. And stupid people who don't *use* their brains are often amused by the human equivalent of shiny keys (aka "reality television"). And people who drug themselves into a brainless stupor are are often in a complete euphoria (even a rat-infested, filthy trailer becomes paradise with just a little dab of meth).

    But the rest of us, stuck with all of our fully-functional brains, are forced to sometimes contemplate serious matters that aren't so happy. Sure, we sometimes get depressed. But humanity probably wouldn't make much scientific, intellectual, or cultural progress if everyone was walking around every day drugged-up and lobotomized, with stupid goddamn grins on their faces.

  • Flamebait (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @05:33PM (#31105298) Journal

    So, this is proof that religious people aren't using their whole brain then?

    To be less inflammatory, this doesn't really change anything. For a religious person, they would accept that God created the brain in such a way that makes the spiritual experience possible. Why would there not be a physical substrate for that experience?

  • by Hatta (162192) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @05:36PM (#31105366) Journal

    It's not quite so simple. Remember that Newton was highly religious. It would be hard to describe him as not having a fully functional brain.

  • Re:The church (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Vendetta (85883) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @05:40PM (#31105434)
    Hasn't it always?
  • by JerryLove (1158461) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @05:43PM (#31105480)

    Why would that be hard to do? Geniuses often have brain abnormalities leading to schitzophrenia, paranoia, depression, or autism. Why would religion be any different?

    Also, it would be a mistake to confuse tendancies with hard-fast rules. That a part of the brain affects congnative decisions doesn't remove the role of cognition.

  • What conflict? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Matey-O (518004) <michaeljohnmiller@mSPAMsSPAMnSPAM.com> on Thursday February 11, 2010 @05:49PM (#31105590) Homepage Journal

    You are a thing. A Marvelous machine. If you are poked and prodded we can illicit love, hunger, fear...why NOT spirituality? It does not make the phenomena any less real, you've just figured out how to manipulate the machine to do it on command.

  • Re:Flamebait (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) * on Thursday February 11, 2010 @05:52PM (#31105634) Homepage Journal
    It's possible for theists to become atheists and vice-versa. Born-again Christians, after all, are among the most rabid religious fanboys.

    It's not a predisposition to religion so much as it is predisposition to zeal.
  • by mellon85 (1723140) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @05:59PM (#31105754)
    at the time of newton if you were a declared atheist, you would have gone into serious serious problems, falling apples and math would have been your last concern
  • Re:Flamebait (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CorporateSuit (1319461) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @06:05PM (#31105868)

    Plus it would help with the prejudice that religious people have against atheists.

    Take a look at the comments for this article, keeping in mind that the article points out that its definition of "Spirituality" is neurologically different from "Religious" and let me know what the atheist club looks like.

  • by HTH NE1 (675604) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @06:10PM (#31105948)

    or do you realize [God] is there and strive to live differently as a result?

    Sometimes living differently isn't better, especially for those around you.

    Put another way: don't make me strive to live differently; you wouldn't like me when I live differently.

    I profess nothing more than what Jesus did: Love everyone even if they hate you.

    Have you tried professing it without name-dropping Jesus?

  • Re:Flamebait (Score:5, Insightful)

    by IorDMUX (870522) <mark.zimmerman3@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Thursday February 11, 2010 @06:14PM (#31105996) Homepage

    So, this is proof that religious people aren't using their whole brain then?

    You keep using that word.

    I do not think it means what you think it means.

  • by SleazyRidr (1563649) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @06:17PM (#31106034)

    You must consider the times in which he lived. Other people have mentioned that not being Christian was rather dangerous, but I think it's even simpler than that.

    Newton was on the search for truth. He was also quite interested in the occult. He didn't know where the truth lay, so he searched everywhere until he found it.

    Of course, now we can stand on his shoulders and see further than he did but no-one should forget that he was the one laying the foundations for what we take for granted today.

  • by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @06:18PM (#31106050)

    Again. No universal definition of "spiritual" exists. An australian abo, a Buddhist, or a Muslim Sufi all see it differently.

    I, and probably most of the people on Digg or Reddit, don't hate religious people OR Christians. I suspect that they DO hate it when small groups of "spiritual people" of sect X decide to legislate political matters based on unprovable, mythologically based views of the world. This affects everyone directly and has provably cause great harm to gays, jews, puritans and anabaptists.

    Whether the universe was created by an omniscient superbeing(s) or not, does it matter? None of them have shown up this morning offering to help me with anything, any more than I would show up at an anthill 100 miles north and offer to help ant number 3432. Besides, if they DO exist, all bets are off. They can effect your memory and make you believe anything they want.

    Spirituality can well be a "feeling." There's no commonly accepted criterion. Many of my spiritual moments have include "feelings."

  • Re:What conflict? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by HeckRuler (1369601) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @06:20PM (#31106070)
    Agreed.
    Simply because we've found the switch to turn it on doesn't lessen it's meaning. It puts a damper on the whole mind-body-soul trifecta, but that's been a wash for a while now. People are a sub-set of animals, your mind exists as a configuration of your brain, and those warm fuzzies you get from spiritual enlightenment will one day be regulated with a drug. The original purpose and meaning of spiritual enlightenment remains, just without the mysticism. Kind of like sex after it was discovered that it makes babies.

    Of course, I'm a little worried about the day that religious nuts can literally over dose on god.
  • by cyphercell (843398) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @06:24PM (#31106126) Homepage Journal

    I can see you're frustrated, I also agree that this thread is a bit more bold than usual, but do you realize you just sunk to their level?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 11, 2010 @06:25PM (#31106154)

    This assumes that the Bible is the word of God. We have only men's word that it is, and what lowlifes they are. If only God would swing by every couple thousand years to refresh our memories but, of course, that will never happen, will it.

  • by copponex (13876) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @06:48PM (#31106462) Homepage

    (sorry, but he does exist and only a fool would attempt to "prove" otherwise)

    Alright, I'll accept that he exists. Now, what does he want? When does he want it? How do you know this? Why should I trust your hearsay over the hearsay of others?

    The existence of God is the beginning of your problems, not the end. Now you have to prove that he approves of you, and the only thing separating you from a lunatic on the street is hygiene, and the willingness to keep your unfounded beliefs to yourself, at least for most of the time.

    Unless we all want to be assaulted with the crackpot theories of every personal delusion, from believing you're a reincarnated Roman Emperor to believing that a burning bush just talked to you, or that ants can talk, or that the Infinite and All Knowing God is terrified of menstruating women and big penises, I'd say why don't you keep your beliefs to yourself. Only a fool is really convinced that he knows the will of God better than another.

    Ezekiel 23:19
    Yet she multiplied her whoredoms, in calling to remembrance the days of her youth, wherein she had played the harlot in the land of Egypt. For she doted upon their paramours, whose flesh is as the flesh of asses, and whose issue is like the issue of horses.

    The Cow 2:222
    They question thee (O Muhammad) concerning menstruation. Say: It is an illness, so let women alone at such times and go not in unto them till they are cleansed. And when they have purified themselves, then go in unto them as Allah hath enjoined upon you. Truly Allah loveth those who turn unto Him, and loveth those who have a care for cleanness.

  • by copponex (13876) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @07:04PM (#31106682) Homepage

    Of course, I'm a little worried about the day that religious nuts can literally over dose on god.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=STFT0C5Hu8M [youtube.com]
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2STDH14aJVk [youtube.com]
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjMRgT5o-Ig [youtube.com]

  • by Labcoat Samurai (1517479) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @07:12PM (#31106814)

    Finally I'd like to conclude that spirituality is not a "feeling". I don't wake up one day and say I feel more spiritual than another day. Spirituality is your relationship with God. Do you dismiss God and go about your way, or do you realize he is there and strive to live differently as a result?

    It absolutely is a feeling. People don't arrive at faith in god through logic. They may employ post hoc rationalization to obfuscate the issue and try to convince themselves and others that they did, but "realizing God is there" is a spiritual feeling, not an intellectual deduction.

    I'm reminded of the study in skeptic magazine that, to paraphrase, found that people who believed in god tended to claim that they arrived at their belief in rational ways, but that they think others arrived at their faith through feelings and a desire for comfort and a sense of purpose. I thought that was interesting. It indicates that people recognize feelings as a big motivator for belief in god, but that they are also uncomfortable with admitting to being anything less than perfectly rational. Your denial of spirituality being a feeling coupled with your focus on god defining your life and how you should live it indicates to me that you're the kind of person who needs that comfort and purpose from an outside source, but is uncomfortable admitting to it.

  • by Labcoat Samurai (1517479) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @07:19PM (#31106924)

    Since a majority of humans believe a creator, or some entity/force outside of humanity(essentially, the spirituality this study links to), then I would tend to believe that the minority is missing something.

    Excellent! So in theory, all we have to do to make something true is convince a majority of humans that it is true! I think the easiest way to do this is to kill people who disagree with you. Before long, you'll have a majority, and you can change the fundamental nature of the universe!

  • Re:Flamebait (Score:2, Insightful)

    by cjb658 (1235986) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @07:20PM (#31106936) Journal

    So, this is proof that religious people aren't using their whole brain then?

    It would explain Mac users...

  • by wealthychef (584778) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @07:22PM (#31106958)
    Why do you think that happiness is the same as stupidity? In my experience, many people go from blissful ignorance (childhood) to unhappy ignorance (teenagers) to arrogant unhappiness (young adulthood) to resignation (midlife crisis) to mature joy. Some people skip various steps and there are others possible, of course. I'm just saying your view is extremely narrow and not particularly accurate. There are many very intelligent people who live very happy lives, laughing and loving their lives. Just because you are serene and have deep inner peace and happiness doesn't mean you never cry or don't get upset.
  • by wealthychef (584778) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @07:26PM (#31107032)
    just achieve the same effects through gin, not religion.
    Alcohol does not give you the same effect as deep spiritual practice, at least for most people. I'm assuming you are not referring to the card game here. And religion is not the same as spirituality. You sir sound like you might be ignorant of a very important and beneficial part of life. I say this as an atheist.
  • by gd2shoe (747932) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @07:36PM (#31107182) Journal
    Newton would have been branded a heretic, but only because he had non-mainstream beliefs about the trinity. He was deeply religious. (I thought it was in a Nova program on Hulu, but I can't find it now.)
  • by dissy (172727) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @09:19PM (#31108300)

    Wow.

    While I do not look for opportunities to attack people who do not believe in God, I have had enough of this shit.

    So you don't look for such opportunities, yet are making one right now.

    Just because people believe in God(sorry, but he does exist and only a fool would attempt to "prove" otherwise), it does not mean they have an "altered mental status".

    Are you sure? What is 'altered' to you? Just different from what you believe?

    What you feel you believe does not change reality.
    When doctors poke a piece of brain and consistently get the same reaction, it doesn't at all matter what you 'feel'. Either you agree with reality and are called 'right', or you state that what is happening in front of your eyes is not actually happening, and people call you 'wrong' (Among other bad names no doubt)

    This sounds like someone's attempt to demean a group of people.

    Well, sorry you read it that way, but it is not. "Action A gets reaction B" is all it is attempting to say.
    And really not even that, only that in their very small sample and crude methods this can be inferred but is not enough to be considered 'proof'

    Far from demeaning anyone, they are stating the results of a freaking survey!
    Would you prefer they LIE about what their subjects told them to say?

    What if I decided to go out and prove that homosexuality was from brain trauma? I will guarantee that people would ask for my head on a plate.

    Actually almost every church in America would be behind you 110% and even help you try to prove that.

    Since a majority of humans believe a creator, or some entity/force outside of humanity(essentially, the spirituality this study links to), then I would tend to believe that the minority is missing something.

    Well, the majority of humans also felt slavery was perfectly OK. Guess the majority is right.

    Another majority of people felt before that a specific minority shouldn't even exist, and began rounding them up for mass extinctions. You feel that is OK too since the majority must be right?

    Most people also thought the sun orbits the earth. Guess since the majority thinks it, reality will bend to make it true.

    As you admit to being one of those types who feels the mob is always correct no matter if they actually are or not, that says way more about you than if you believe in a god or not.
    You are a horrible human being, and it has nothing to do with your belief in god, but how little you care about your fellow man.

    Now go ahead and mod this as the flame it is (Because just like you, I've had enough of this shit as well)

  • by Albinoman (584294) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @09:44PM (#31108482)

    Newton was also known for his work in alchemy. He enjoyed his share of share of toxins (like mercury). Don't get me wrong, Newton was sheer brilliance. I'm able to be taught calculus, but to make that leap intuitively is absolutely amazing. That doesn't mean he wasn't damaged.

    I saw a video by Neil deGrasse Tyson called "God of the Gaps" [youtube.com], highly recommended. He points out that even the most incredibly brilliant people invoke God add the edge of their intelligence. For Newton, he managed to come out with incredible breakthroughs in motion, energy, gravitation, and math. But when Newton couldn't mathematically balance the "6 planets" in stable orbits, he decides it must be God. He quits trying to understand and explore it after that, as do a great many intelligent people in history. The disturbing thing is that it means that that once "God" is accepted as an answer, they are either unable or unwilling to explore that subject further. God is the antithesis of discovery.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @10:10PM (#31108658) Homepage

    Back in those days, to be taken seriously at all, one had to claim strong religious affiliation and belief. Hell, even today a person cannot become president of the U.S. without being Christian and attending a particular church. (Yeah, I know Jefferson was supposedly an atheist or agnostic, but some of his most famous quotes contain references to god which is kind of my point. He may have been atheist, but had to speak of god to people would accept him.)

    And we all know what happens to people who cross the church... not good.

  • by tftp (111690) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @10:12PM (#31108672) Homepage

    He even published some religious writings along with his scientific work.

    Let me rephrase it. Newton's scientific work included religion, since it was an integral part of the world at his time.

  • by Jade_Wayfarer (1741180) on Friday February 12, 2010 @07:22AM (#31111292)
    I agree with you absolutely. It's always puzzled me, how often people mix and confuse terms and definitions - 'spirituality' and' religion', 'religion' and 'catholicism', 'catholicism' and 'bat-shit crazy orthodoxal cults', piling them all together. By the way, 'agnostics' are, by original definition, spiritualists too - but 'agnosticism' and 'atheism' are mixed so badly, that now it sounds ridiculous.

    I am, personally, do believe that science and scientists will someday recover and reclaim 'spiritualism' from all fanatics - religious and atheist alike. Putting emotions aside and calmly trying to understand 'how it all works' - that's what scientists do. And many great scientists of their time weren't atheists - from Newton and Leibniz to Bohr and Pauli. Quite contrary, their deep and clear understanding of nature's underlying mechanics lead them to aesthetic fascination with it's simplicity and beauty, which makes them much more spiritual people then some 'TV preachers'. If we knew more about their personalities, not only about their theories, maybe today we wouldn't spend so much time on such meaningless 'holywars'... joining our strengths in bashing Microsoft and RIAA, how it should be )
  • by Nyder (754090) on Friday February 12, 2010 @07:48AM (#31111392) Journal

    While I do not look for opportunities to attack people who do not believe in God, I have had enough of this shit. Just because people believe in God(sorry, but he does exist and only a fool would attempt to "prove" otherwise), it does not mean they have an "altered mental status". This sounds like someone's attempt to demean a group of people. What if I decided to go out and prove that homosexuality was from brain trauma? I will guarantee that people would ask for my head on a plate.

    Since a majority of humans believe a creator, or some entity/force outside of humanity(essentially, the spirituality this study links to), then I would tend to believe that the minority is missing something.

    I know this is flamebait, but it makes me think.

    I don't believe in god. not the christian idea, or the jewish, or the arabs, nor the indians, nor any culture diety. Why? Because of human history. Man has been the same since the dawn of time. We lie, we deceive, we abuse power, and best yet, we lie to ourselves. For whatever reasons the various religons started, they all were created by man to give their life some sort of meaning.

    Basicly, i would call the the "leap of faith" that religious peeps usually make.

    Maybe thats what seperates me, the non believer over you, the believer. I can't make that leap. My mind stubbornly refuses to allow myself to believe in stories as, well, evidence that some greater power exists.

    It's possible I'm a minority, with some sort of mental damage to my brain that doesn't allow me to believe what you do. Wait, i got that wrong. Sorry, my bad. I forgot, it's you religious peeps that apparently have the damage.

    lol, i kid, really i do.

    To add to the fun, i'm going to throw out something you won't live. evolution. ya, i know, it's a sin or something to even think that. but here's how it is. Religions are destroying the world. Religons have proven time and time again to cause wars, hatred, and forced beliefs on other cultures. And while you don't want to admit it, religons are losing their place in the mindsets of humans. I can't make the "leap of faith" because my brain has evolved past the point that it needs to accept such ideas to have some self worth.

    I don't have to live my life for some reward when I die. I am more then happy accepting that when I die, that's it. It does not scare me, nor does it motivate me to live my life in any paticular way. I choose to be a nice person because I like how it makes me feel. I think for myself. I follow what I want. And guess what? It works.

    Truth is, your scared to live on your own. Scared to think on your own, scared to consider that there is no point to life, other then living it. No greater power, no plan, nothing laid out with someone in charge knowing all and seeing all. Not sure why that is so scary, but whatever, I guess we all have our fears (i'm a bit afraid of heights, but I don't let it stop me), and guess our own ways of dealing with them.

    My question is, how come I am tolerant of you, yet you aren't tolerant of me?

  • Re:Flamebait (Score:3, Insightful)

    by alexo (9335) on Friday February 12, 2010 @05:07PM (#31119078) Journal

    For starters, by definition, an atheist must grant that that their belief "that there is no God" is not based on scientific principle.

    you seem to be confusing atheism with anti-theism.

    Similarly to the difference between immoral (not moral) and amoral (unrelated to morals), atheism is not "a belief that there is no god", it is "a lack of belief that there is a god" (plural included).

    Atheism is the faith that you will not stand accountable for your actions.

    That's a crock of hope and change.

    Atheism is the belief that the choice of your actions, and therefore the responsibility for them, is ultimately yours.

    The morally dead will choose atheism.

    Tell me, who is the more "moral" person, the one who chooses morality because they fear a punishment or expect a reward from an ultimate authority, or the one that does so just because they feel that it is the right thing to do?

    The baby-killing, wife-cheating, porn-addicted, sociopathic, sexual-experimenting person will choose atheism

    And yet the atrocities committed in the name of religion vastly outnumber those committed in the name of atheism (or anti-theism).

  • Re:Flamebait (Score:3, Insightful)

    by npsimons (32752) * on Saturday February 13, 2010 @04:30PM (#31129600) Homepage Journal

    In theory, this is true. In practice, it is not. If I dare to call myself a "free-thinking, religious individual" then 95% of atheists will roll their eyes and offer up some ridiculous strawman, as if on command.

    Then I will say, "these people do not speak for me; I do NOT consider them to be rational freethinkers." Do you have the have the same integrity to speak against those who identify themselves as religious and spew forth hate?

    For starters, by definition, an atheist must grant that that their belief "that there is no God" is not based on scientific principle.

    Strawman: "atheism" = "a" (without) + "theism" (belief in a deity). Atheism is not a belief; it is a lack of belief; they are NOT the same. There is no faith in atheism, by definition.

    The morally dead will choose atheism. The baby-killing, wife-cheating, porn-addicted, sociopathic, sexual-experimenting person will choose atheism as an attempt to escape their guilt.

    Fuck. IHBT. Too bad that research shows exactly the opposite of what you claim (that is, those most likely to engage in sick sadistic, baby-killing, wife-cheating, sociopathic tendencies are the religious).

"A mind is a terrible thing to have leaking out your ears." -- The League of Sadistic Telepaths

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