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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*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