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The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist's Case for the Existence of the Soul Hardcover – September 4, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-0060858834 ISBN-10: 0060858834 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; 1 edition (September 4, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060858834
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060858834
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #961,147 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Following C.S. Lewis's dictum that to 'see through' all things is the same as not to see, neuroscientist Beauregard and journalist O'Leary mount a sweeping critique of a trend in the pop science media to explain away religious experience as a brain artifact, pathology or evolutionary quirk. While sympathizing with the attraction such neurotheology holds, the authors warn against the temptation to force the complex varieties of human spirituality into simplistic categories that they argue are conceptually crude, culturally biased and often empirically untested. In recently published research using Carmelite nuns as subjects, Beauregard's group at the University of Montreal found specific areas of brain activation associated with contemplative prayer. But these patterns are quite distinct from those associated with hallucinations, autosuggestion or states of intense emotional arousal, resembling instead how the brain processes real experiences. Insisting that we have never entertained the idea of proving the existence of God, the authors concede that the results of our work are assumed to be a strike either for or against God and that on the whole, we [don't] mind. Never shrinking from controversy, and sometimes deliberately provoking it, this book serves as a lively introduction to a field where neuroscience, philosophy, and secular/spiritual cultural wars are unavoidably intermingled. (Sept.)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Neuroscientist Beauregard is no flighty New-Ager or Creationist but, he says, one of a minority of neuroscientists who don't adhere to strictly materialist interpretation of the human mind. He and his ilk believe that scientists who strive to explain the mind as an illusion created by the brain's chemical reactions ignore or vastly miscalculate the expanse of all that goes on in the universe. That is, it is too limiting to strictly confine the origin of all human thought to material or chemical interactions. In this complex tome, he describes the intricacy of his work and proposes that humans don't so much generate as transmit thoughts, and that by virtue of human ability to mentally interconnect with a higher consciousness, the actions of the mind become distinct and separate from, though observable by means of, the brain. He set out to prove his theory by studying a group of Carmelite nuns as they experienced God in prayer and meditation. Beauregard would be the first to note that, while his work doesn't ipso facto prove the existence of God, it does lend scientific credence to the existence of a higher or universal consciousness. Chavez, Donna

Customer Reviews

I found that I had to read it slowly, to be able to absorb the information, but it was captivating.
A Natalie
It is not entirely clear to me why a highly unique pattern of activation of many brain components is more appealing to Beauregard than a single "God spot."
W. Miller
The authors offer much material to challenge the reigning materialistic viewpoint of the scientific establishment.
New Age of Barbarism

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

184 of 241 people found the following review helpful By The Professor on September 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover
A rash of best selling books that attempt to use science to prove that materialism, such as Richard Dawkins' new book, have appeared on the market in the past few years. The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist's Case for the Existence of the Soul was written by a well qualified PhD level neuroscientist at the University of Montreal who attempts by use of laboratory experimental research to evaluate the claims of the nonmaterialist account of the living world. The coauthor is a journalist, insuring that the book is readable and assessable to the general public. The team was very successful in this work, to say the least. This book is a welcome response, based on scientific research, to the claims of materialists, the theory that life and the universe contains only matter and motion and nothing more. The idea commonly espoused by materialists that no soul, no mind, and no free will exists is effectively challenged by the peer reviewed empirical research reviewed in this book. The authors document that the nonmaterialists approach to the human mind has a long and fruitful tradition and much evidence behind it even today. The authors conclude that this worldview accounts for the evidence much better than the relatively new, and currently largely stagnate, materialist worldview. The materialist tradition not only attempts to explain everything by appealing to the motion of matter only, but has now moved far beyond this, discouraging researchers from even considering the possibility that matter and the four forces explains everything, and thereby limiting research by their straight jacket which stifles science. Science must research every area that may be fruitful, as well as some areas that may not at first appear fruitful.Read more ›
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24 of 30 people found the following review helpful By New Age of Barbarism on September 30, 2009
Format: Paperback
_The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist's Case for the Existence of the Soul_ (2007) by researchers Mario Beauregard and Denyse O'Leary provides a fascinating glimpse into the murky realm where science and mysticism meet by taking a deep look into current research in neuroscience. The authors offer an important understanding of the brain processes behind religious, mystical, and spiritual experiences in light of current research. In particular, the brain imaging done on Carmelite nuns at the University of Montreal provides for a fascinating study. The authors take account of much of this research arguing the case against a reductionist materialism and maintaining that the mind is non-material. The authors examine studies both in neuroscience and parapsychology which they believe offer evidence for their case. Such evidence cannot easily be dismissed by the materialist. The authors maintain that such studies do not prove the existence of God necessarily but do show that a mystical state of consciousness exists. Further, they argue against some of the interpretations of such studies and some of the theories to explain them.

The authors consider such issues as:

A Spiritual Neuroscience - arguing the case against the held assumption that evolution is a mindless series of events with no meaning, and instead maintaining that will, mind, self, and soul exist independently. The authors further maintain that man has a fundamental spiritual essence. The authors show the problems for evolutionary psychology as science arguing that the theory cannot be falsified.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Simon Manley on December 5, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
This book purports to be about the soul, but in fact contains almost nothing on the topic. There is a vast literature on the soul in philosophy and theology. These authors, however, seem to be completely unfamiliar with this body of thought.

Is our subjective consciousness an inevitable consequence of information processing in our brains, as the Australian philosopher, David Chalmers, proposes? Or is everything in the universe alive and conscious, as claimed by the nineteenth-century German panpsychists, Schopenhauer and Fechner? Or do we settle for an absolute dualism of mind and matter, the formulation of Descartes, reaching back to Plato and Aristotle in ancient Greece? And it information is the basis underlying quantum physics, as many physicists now believe, will information theory clarify our concept of the soul?

Instead of analysing these ideas with insights from neuroscience, these authors are content to highlight the incompleteness of our modern understanding of the brain. Their argument seems to be that, because neuroscience cannot explain everything about consciousness and mental functions, therefore the soul must be the cause of our awareness, our sense of will, of purpose and morality, etc. In theology, at the more mindless end of the spectrum, we often see an analogous argument: whatever science cannot explain is caused by God (the "god-of-the-gaps" idea). In any such framework, the mystical is driven back by each advance in scientific understanding. Surely the futility of this line of argument is self-evident.

These failings of the book are a tremendous pity, because there are interesting questions about our more abstract mental functions and how (or even if) they relate to the brain.
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