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Wired for God?: The Biology of Spiritual Experience Paperback – April 15, 2010

4.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


I have enjoyed an extended argument with this book. Foster's passion and clarity help focus on the key issues concerning the nature of religious feeling in human life, demanding a quality of response from the reader that matches his own high standard of thought and exposition. Professor Chris Gosden, School of Archaeology, University of Oxford 'A look at the ultimately important questions of life that is itself wonderfully alive: you may not agree, but you will never be bored'. Iain McGilchrist 'In this tour of the weird and wacky in religion and spirituality, Charles Foster displays his gift for making science accessible and philosophy entertaining. He will amuse and irritate religious believers and non-believers in turn but won't let either group stray too far from the evidence. You may not agree with all of Foster's answers, but he is certainly asking good questions.' Justin Barrett 'Foster takes us on a most enjoyable journey through the drugs, dreams and profound experiences that lead people to believe in the existence of souls. Although I disagree profoundly with his conclusions Foster's exploration of why we are so incurably religious is both serious and entertaining.' Professor Susan Blackmore, author of Consciousness: An introduction Thoroughly researched and very well written...interesting, stimulating and challenging. Third Way

About the Author

Charles Foster is a writer, barrister and tutor in Medical Law and Ethics at the University of Oxford and sits as a part-time judge in the criminal and civil courts. He read veterinary medicine and law at the University of Cambridge and has written, edited or contributed to thirty books. His most recent book is THE SELFLESS GENE, which explores the creationism/evolution debate. He writes regularly for many publications.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd (April 15, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340964421
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340964422
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,982,089 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Rabbi Yonassan Gershom VINE VOICE on July 18, 2010
Format: Paperback
This book, like its excellent predecessor, The Selfless Gene: Living with God and Darwin, is a brilliant combination of careful scholarship and readability, plus a good dose of Foster's brand of sarcastic wit that I very much enjoy. He explores a variety of spiritual experiences and whether or not they are rooted in our own biology. Many phenomena, such as near-death experiences (NDEs), out-of-body experiences (OOBEs), ecstasy, visions, shamanic journeys, etc. can indeed be reproduced through chemical stimulation or other artificial means -- but are these "trips" REALLY the same as genuine spiritual experiences? Is God just a matter of an over-stimulated brain, or is there more to it? Are we genetically predestined to believe? Is there really a "God gene"? Were the prophets simply epileptics having delusions during their seizures? Is shamanism the root source of all religion? These and more are the kinds of questions that Foster explores with his fascinating combination of biology and theology.

In some cases, Foster seems to come down on the side of mere brain chemistry. OBEs, for example, can be reproduced pretty accurately with the veterinary anesthetic Ketamine. So, Foster states, "Unless one is to say that God lives in the fridge of your local veterinary surgeon, packaged up in 10 ml vials, you have real problem ascribing world-shattering religious significance to NDEs." (Which kinda makes me wonder what my cat experiences under anesthesia, but it doesn't negate the very positive experience of my own NDE many years ago, brought on by scarlet fever. If that was mere chemistry, it was also a life-changing event I still treasure.
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Format: Paperback
I was blown away by this latest outpouring from the pen of the polymathic Foster. How he manages to combine scholarship and readability is beyond me, but he succeeds marvellously in a crowded market. An amazing mix of ideas. Very witty, very sharp. Every idea is developed carefully, and there is a real sense of mission: to persuade the readership that life is to be seized with both hands. Not for the faint hearted, Foster sometimes lets his ascerbic wit get the better of him. Time and again he ups the tempo with a witty aside. Real science jumps out of every (other) page. Elegant prose which never gets bogged down. And due respect is paid to the views of others, provided they are sincerely held and rigorously thought-through. Don't assume that Foster is taking you on a straight path - this book lurches East, then swings West. It will infuriate you and amuse you in equal measure. To many, Foster is an anarchronism; a thinking Christian who refuses to follow a script. Yet he seems to be capable of prodding long-held ideas. Each book from Foster is a white-knuckle ride. Try him before he gets a day job!
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Format: Paperback
This masterly work forms an exciting sequel to The Selfless Gene: Living with God and Darwin. This time the veterinary barrister and archaeologist Charles Foster tackles the fascinatingly rich and baffling field of mystical experience in attempt to make sense of the kaleidoscope on offer and to distinguish the false from the bogus. Once again it's an intoxicating travelogue, propelling the reader on a journey that takes in a vast range of diverse phenomena - stigmata, near-death experiences, Upper Paleolithic cave drawings, psychotropic drugs, prayer, meditation, hypnosis, and Tantric sex - with particular reference to their correlation with brain activity. The magnificent prologue is an enticing gateway into the magical world explored in the main body of the book. Foster goes beyond the reductionist view that equates correlation with causation; he seeks to understand the underlying significance of an experience, rather than be satisfied with locating it in a particular region of the brain. The hunt is on for the unseen amygdala tickler. His range of reference, his trademark deployment of the extended metaphor and his acerbic, devastating wit make the book as pleasurable to read as it is eye-opening. A tour de force.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A fascinating read that mostly concludes there's a lot we don't know! Easy and engaging to read and author has a real sense of humour. Spiritual experience is indeed a mystery.
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