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God's Brain Hardcover – March 23, 2010
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"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 (1930-2016), was the author or editor of ten books, including Believing: The Neuroscience of Fantasies, Fears, and Convictions and Darwinian Psychiatry (with A. Troisi). He was 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 had been a professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the University of California at Los Angeles and editor of Ethology and Sociobiology.
Top customer reviews
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.
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.
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. It buttresses the points made by Ridley and Poundstone and raises the question of just where "religious" doxology really comes from in the first place.
2) For books relating to the morphology of origins of beginning, I would recommend:
RELIGION EXPLAINED by Pascal Boyer. Boyer's book shows how all religous figures share the important qualities of human like thinking and a concern for imparting strategies for acquiring human like strategical information.
XENOPHANES OF COLOPHON. Twenty five centuries ago, Xenophanes, poet and philosopher wrote: "If horses and oxen had Gods, they would have horse and ox Gods."
If you're really interested in this stuff, please focus your reading on books that won't waste your time like God's Brain and instead focus on ones like the ones I just listed.