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God's Brain Hardcover – March 23, 2010

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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.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (March 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616141646
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616141646
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.8 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #925,282 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 39 people found the following review helpful By C. P. Anderson on May 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover
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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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Steve Reina VINE VOICE on July 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover
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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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A. Mulligan on September 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover
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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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Peter Rehak on March 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover
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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