Monday, May 03, 2010

Believe it Or Not

Whom do you believe, and why?

The truth of the matter may be surprising - frightening, even. You may think to yourself "oh, it's just some particular pentecostals", and rest secure in the knowledge that no preacher is holding your on/off switch in his or her hand, oh no. But read the last few lines before you do that:

"It's not clear whether the results extend beyond religious leaders, but Schjødt speculates that brain regions may be deactivated in a similar way in response to doctors, parents and politicians."

You see? It could be anybody. Well, clearly not just anybody, but this effect may just be one manifestation of a multifarious menace. There's a warning to be had here, and while it's common-sense stuff I suppose it bears repeating that you shouldn't let someone get away with the appeal to authority...especially their own! At any rate, it's this last bit that's preventing me from reveling in this news as I might otherwise be inclined to. In some ways it's hardly a surprise; I know I've read before in New Scientist that the human brain is in some ways hard-wired for religion (or for religious experiences, or both?). But it's not just religion, is it? Religion is, after all, pushing buttons that were quite likely there long before there was any such thing as an organized church. We had ritual and superstition long before these were codified. Putting aside divine experiences and focusing on the social and cultural angle, what we're discovering about ourselves - what some people have long known about us - is that we're really quite easy to fool. Ask any illusionist, conjurer, con-man, cold reader...people are absolutely ready and willing to have the wool pulled over their eyes, and they'll even pay you to do it! Today's news? Not actually very bad for religion - oh, I'm sure there will be a fuss as this makes its way 'round the internet, but I don't think it's going to change anyone's mind about what they do or don't believe. Who is it bad for?

Well, that's obvious, isn't it?

Acknowledgements: First seen on Boing Boing, followed up at New Scientist, later seen at my new sidebar link: Blag Hag, recently of "Boobquake" fame (I actually first encountered her blog by chance perhaps a month or two before the whole "Boobquake" business, but I started reading it more during and thereafter, hence the link now). In the interests of being more fair to Ms. McCreight, I should mention that outside of her viral popularity she's an entertaining writer/blogger and a soon-to-be PhD student. My hat is off to this atheist in unfriendly territory.

1 comment:

Daydream Believer said...

I tried to comment, decided it was too long, and wrote a bit of a response in my latest post. Which is my underhanded way of making you read my blog again. Muahahahaha. Okay, so my evil laugh needs some work.

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