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God's Brain [Kindle Edition]

Lionel Tiger , Michael McGuire
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $25.00
Kindle Price: $11.99
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Book Description

In the fractious debate on the existence of God and the nature of religion, two distinguished authors radically alter the discussion. Taking a perspective rooted in evolutionary biology with a focus on brain science, the authors elucidate the perennial questions about religion: What is its purpose? How did it arise? What is its source? Why does every known culture have some form of it? Their answer is deceptively simple, yet at the same time highly complex: The brain creates religion and its varied concepts of God, and then in turn feeds on its creation to satisfy innate neurological and associated social needs.

Brain science reveals that humans and other primates alike are afflicted by unavoidable sources of stress that the authors describe as "brainpain." To cope with this affliction people seek to "brainsoothe." We humans use religion and its social structures to induce brainsoothing as a relief for innate anxiety. How we do this is the subject of this groundbreaking book.

In a concise, lively, accessible, and witty style, the authors combine zoom-lens vignettes of religious practices with discussions of the latest research on religion’s neurological effects on the brain. Among other topics, they consider religion’s role in providing positive socialization, its seeming obsession with regulating sex, creating an afterlife, how religion’s rules of behavior influence the law, the common biological scaffolding between nonhuman primates and humans and how this affects religion, a detailed look at brain chemistry and how it changes as a result of stress, and evidence that the palliative effects of religion on brain chemistry is not matched by nonreligious remedies.

Concluding with a checklist offering readers a means to compute their own "brainsoothe score," this fascinating book provides key insights into the complexities of our brain and the role of religion, perhaps its most remarkable creation.

Editorial Reviews


"Recent, often bitter, debates have lacked a scientific take on religion that is not at the same time trying to destroy it. This lively, creative account helps fill that gap. It may even help you with your own trials of faith" --MELVIN KONNER, author of The Tangled Wing: Biological Constraints on the Human Spirit and the forthcoming The Evolution of Childhood: Relationships, Emotion, Mind.

"With economy, evidence and no little wit and elegance, Lionel Tiger and Michael McGuire look for the answer to religion's ubiquity and persistence in the only place possible: the human brain. To say more would be to give away their answer, and that would spoil a great read and a serious and informative argument. This is easily the best book on the nature of religion to appear for a long time." --ROBIN FOX, University Professor of Social Theory, Rutgers University

"Tiger and McGuire have concocted an amazing and insightful look - based on sound science - into how the human brain 'seeks' religion. The book beautifully describes how belief, ritual, and socialization within a closed group work together to help humans survive the stresses of everyday life." --R. CURTIS ELLISON, MD, professor of Medicine & Public Health, Boston University School of Medicine

"If God's Brain sounds whimsically paradoxical, it is only because the authors believe that most people of faith have been looking for God in all the wrong places. The authors suggest that religious believers should look inward, rather than outward, to find God. The book is a well-written, easy to read, unique perspective on religion. Yes, God has a brain. The book will captivate all but the piously religious faint-of-heart." --JAY R. FEIERMAN. Editor, The Biology of Religious Behavior: The Evolutionary Origins of Faith and Religion.

About the Author

Lionel Tiger (New York, NY) is the bestselling author of Men in Groups, The Imperial Animal (with Robin Fox), The Pursuit of Pleasure, Optimism: The Biology of Hope, and The Decline of Males. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Rolling Stone, Harvard Business Review, and Brain and Behavioral Science. He is the Charles Darwin Professor of Anthropology at Rutgers University.

Michael McGuire, MD (Cottonwood, CA), is the author or editor of ten books, including Believing: The Neuroscience of Fantasies, Fears, and Convictions and Darwinian Psychiatry (with A. Troisi). He is the president of the Biomedical Research Foundation, director of the Bradshaw Foundation and the Gruter Institute of Law and Behavior, and a trustee of the International Society of Human Ethology. Formerly, he was a professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the University of California at Los Angeles and editor of Ethology and Sociobiology.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1718 KB
  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (March 2, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #928,732 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars
3.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars couldn't finish it May 5, 2010
I hate to write reviews for books I haven't finished, but I felt I had to for this one - if for nothing else, than as a warning to others.

The book sounds promising enough. I like to think of it as Dawkins' Dilemma. In other words, for those of us who are firm believers in evolution, what do we make of the possibility that our brains may have evolved for belief? I'll bet there's tons of fascinating research out there that support that assertion.

Unfortunately, we don't get that here. What we get instead is stream-of-consciousness musings that go all over the place. The writers' style is particularly frustrating - wordy, repetitive, vague, abstract, trying so hard to be clever. As a former writing teacher, I'm reminded of my students who didn't have much to say or had no clue what they wanted to say, but bravely dove in anyway.

Here's an example:

"Descriptive numbers are capacious enough - they go on forever, after all, from here to infinity - to accommodate the range and reach of religion, and they can seem evenhanded and fair. However, individual religions may seem odd and even bizarre to some or many outsiders, and their benefits and activities are hardly consistent from place to place and time to time. But their overwhelming numbers and rich ubiquity underline the normality in practice. We're dealing with a phenomenon as diffuse as oxygen and seemingly as imperative."

And all to introduce that there are about 4,200 religions in the world.

Try The Faith Instinct: How Religion Evolved and Why It Endures instead.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not recommended. See these other titles instead July 14, 2010
This book bites the big one. It's nothing more than a rambling scread.

If you really want to understand the science of neuroreligious studies, I would offer the following insights and book recommendations:


Neuroreligious studies essentially divides religion into two discernable areas:

1) A study of what gives rise to the doxologies of religion. In this regard, all religions are verbatim similar when they discuss the moral stuff that one should do...i.e. doing unto others as you would have done unto you, teaching the children well, giving generously etc.

2) The morphology of myths of origin. In this regard, though religions may seem different in terms of their myths of beginning in reality, their founding characters all share a human like concern for imparting stragetically important information that matters to humans.


1) For the evolution of religious doxology I would recommend:

ONENESS by Jeffrey Moses because it shows the verbatim similarity of religions in laying out essential moral rules (i.e. do unto others).

ORIGINS OF VIRTUE by Matt Ridley. Ridley is a genetistic par excellente. His book tells why humans value cooperation and virtue as a matter of genetic imperative.

THE PRISONER'S DILEMNA by William Poundstone. Poundstone simply discusses game theory which posits that cooperation is actually a selfish virtue in that it most economically enhances the prospects of success.

EVOLUTION OF COOPERATION by Robert Axelrod. Axelrod did a computer simulation which showed the power of the golden rule even in an environment occupied only by computer programs.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars God's Brain March 22, 2010
The authors explain in a clear and entertaining way how the human brain is wired for religion. We may have always known that religion can bring comfort but Tiger and McGuire give a scientific basis to the brain's "safety valve." Religion is in the news almost daily and this book helps understand peoples' attachment and motivation for seeking explanations in a high being. The brain is wired that way. Food for thought even for an atheist.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
I was hoping for some interesting insights from this book, but what I found instead were mostly senseless ramblings interspersed with random and annoying attempts at cuteness. I'm so glad I borrowed it from the library instead of buying it. This book was written in a very odd style with far too many conjunctions, and desperately needed a competent editor. I would read and re-read entire passages, only to scratch my head and think, "Well, that sounded pretty (or intelligent, or important), but what did it say?" It reminded me of how I feel when someone who has had a little too much to drink monopolizes the conversation and goes on and on about something, yet makes no sense.

Take the very last paragraph, for example. "If God is a creation of the brain, then God's brain is our brain. There is then no lower authority to be found than the operations and impact of our brains and the process of brainsoothing. We named the brain as the source of infinity. This is surely appropriate since it was our commitment to that brain that caused ambitious humans to call ourselves sapiens. And, by and large, that we are, give or take... " Huh?

I am left with the distinct impression that the authors were in the habit of splitting a few bottles of wine (or worse) before sitting down to write. Perhaps I should have done the same when I sat down to read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars beats around the bush
A little long winded to get to the concept, but still relly good.
Published 6 months ago by antowan batts
2.0 out of 5 stars Thin, overpriced, lack of critical thinking depth
When books of just over 200 pages, little bitter than paperback dimensions, have list prices of $25, publishers and booksellers have no reason to throw hissy fits. Read more
Published on September 10, 2010 by S. J. Snyder
4.0 out of 5 stars God's Brain
Naturally a difficult book to read but well worth the effort for those who seek reasons for the strange habits of the mind. Read more
Published on July 12, 2010 by Damon de L
2.0 out of 5 stars Is the Supernatural Only Natural?
"What if it is discovered that the source and essence of [religious] identity results not from theological commitment and texts but form operations of the brain? Read more
Published on May 23, 2010 by J. C. W. West
5.0 out of 5 stars A Balanced and Enlightened Discussion of the Evolutionary Origins of...
Lionel Tiger and Michael McQuire have provided a carefully balanced presentation of the evidence for the evolution of religion. Read more
Published on May 18, 2010 by R. Hugh Cunningham
5.0 out of 5 stars A satisfying discussion linking brain science to religious belief
Two authors radically change the typical discussion of the existence of God and the nature of religion, considering the purpose and needs of religion, its source, and why every... Read more
Published on May 14, 2010 by Midwest Book Review
5.0 out of 5 stars God's Brain
Over the past ten years a series of books have claimed that people with serious religious affiliations are mentally deranged. Read more
Published on May 6, 2010 by Nancy Brown
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought Provoking and Helpful
I heard Buckminster Fuller talk shortly before he died. When he said that our greatest danger was from religion, at the same time President Reagan was declaring the Soviet Union... Read more
Published on April 21, 2010 by Michael Cogan
5.0 out of 5 stars Brainsoothing
A fascinating discourse on how religion is to the brain as jogging is to the legs. Refreshing and readable.
Published on April 17, 2010 by Alexander C. Sanger
5.0 out of 5 stars God's Brain
Tiger & McGuire have written an engaging and thought-provoking book that helps to explain why we have religion. Read more
Published on April 1, 2010 by Lynn Fairbanks
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