The Spiritual Brain

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I tried. I really, honestly, sincerely tried. I've been struggling with this book, The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist's Case for the Existence of the Soul(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll), by Mario Beauregard and Denyse O'Leary, for the past week and a half, and I've finally decided it's not worth the effort. It's just about completely unreadable.

This is not a positive review by any stretch of the imagination, I'm afraid — it's a very poorly written book, which reaches unsupportable conclusions by ridiculous contortions of logic. It is also not about evolution, although it does have a connection: one of the authors, Denyse O'Leary, is one of the faint and flickering luminaries of the Intelligent Design movement, and the premise that the mind has a natural cause is one of the targets of anti-materialist creationism.

Continue reading "The Spiritual Brain" (on Pharyngula)

15 Comments

You may find this of interest Dr. Meyers

http://www.nderf.org/vonlommel_skep[…]response.htm

as well this may be interesting for you:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_Storm

How is a response by Pim van Lommel to Schermer going to rescue a book written by these two authors? No scientist is denying Near Death Experiences… The issue is how to explain them. As PZ explains, the books is poorly written with unsupported conclusions, which may explain why you may like it.

So Bond, feel free to correct anytime, your conflations of methodological and philosophical materialism.

Remember that as a Christian we represent our faith and as such our ignorance reflects on our faith as well.

Are you up for it? Or is your faith lacking?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_Storm

Uh, so some atheist gets peritonitis, suffers horrible hallucinations, then has a hallucination of being saved by Jesus, and is so mentally deranged by the experience that he becomes a pastor. So what?

How is a response by Pim van Lommel to Schermer going to rescue a book written by these two authors? No scientist is denying Near Death Experiences… The issue is how to explain them.

Um, did you actually read what van Lommel wrote? He claims that people having NDE’s have “no electric activity of the cortex of the brain”, and that “The current concept in medical science states that consciousness is the product of the brain. This concept, however, has never been scientifically proven.” These are certainly not claims that “no scientist is denying”.

Oh, and “Also an increase in cerebral blood flow is observed during such a non-material activity like thinking” – are you a scientist who doesn’t deny that that thinking is “non-material”? If you accept what PvL writes, such as “Could our brain be compared with the TV set that electromagnetic waves (photons) receives and transforms into image and sound, as well as with the TV camera that image and sound transforms into electromagnetic waves (photons)?” then he does “rescue” Beauregard and O’Leary, since they have virtually the same position.

I’ve commented at length on my blog about this, but I’ll say here that the thing that disturbed me most about the book (I’ve managed to get through about 4 chapters) is the tone. There is so much ire it is off-putting.

I also find it ironic that she sees how others deny evidence because of things they have been told, but cannot see how this applies to ID (p.42).

I confess that my review is much less colorful than the one on Pharyngula, in spite of the fact that mine incorporates a Bloodhound Gang video. :)

http://exploringourmatrix.blogspot.[…]l-brain.html

The book “The Spiritual Brain” by Mario Beauregard & Denyse O’Leary correctly acknolwedges the existence of an amazing experience – what William james referred to as “the mystical experience” in “Varieties of Religious Experience”. This experience, which resembles virtually nothing else in the realm of human experience, has been almost entirely ignored by the scientific community. And when it is acknowledged, it is often described as just an aberration, a confusion of the neurons.

It is my belief that this experience is fully worthy of scientific investigation – but by competent scientists.

It is extremely unfortunate that such a book, which had the potential to deal with this phenomenon scientifically, is a crashing failure. This is largely because the authors apply no scientific scruples whatsoever and instead exploit their opportunity to reach a wide audience by falsely claiming that their “science” (what is in fact pseudoscience) “proves” the existence of a higher power (read “God”) and the human soul.

Actually, the book does no such thing. It is a jumble of apparently scientific data (neurological data from Carmelite nuns) and utterly unfounded conclusions.

————————————————

Science per se is, as far as anyone knows, entirely unable to even demonstrate the existence of conscious awareness in humans (since conscious awareness, despite being ubiquitous in the life of everyone not in a coma, cannot be as yet measured, and perhaps this will ever be the case).

But that is no excuse for a book that pretends to be scientific but is instead a shameful attempt for the authors to pretend to have proven their religious beliefs.

The silver lining is that no serious scientist will ever waste a moment taking seriously anything either of these authors ever write again, should they choose to do so (heaven forfend!).

With no due respect to the posts on this page, but did anyone actually read the book?

“This is largely because the authors apply no scientific scruples whatsoever and instead exploit their opportunity to reach a wide audience by falsely claiming that their “science” (what is in fact pseudoscience) “proves” the existence of a higher power (read “God”) and the human soul.”

Really, WTF are you reading? Nowhere in the book do they claim to prove anything about the existence of a higher power or soul; in fact, they go out of their way to make this point several times. This book is about critiquing the current stance of materialists that claim their is no valid ontology but a materialistic worldview. To that end, it effectively and insightfully shows the inadequecy of materialism to explain the fullness of human experience, particularly related to RSME’s. It makes the case that a non-materialist view better embraces the reality of conscious experience, but it does not claim to have “proof” of such. It is logial, well-written, fair, and overly cautious NOT to make any definitive claims that this research in any sense proves anything other than this valid result: what happens in the brain during mystical experiences is far more complex than that hypothesized by certain materlialist hellbent on reducing all human consciousness to “nothng but ___’ –fill in the blank.

As for the supposed ire, sorry, but as one Amazon.com reviewer pointed out, compared to the seething anger of such authors as Dawkins and Hitchens, that is quite an ironic critique. Personally, I found no ire whatsoever, just a rational, honest analysis of the theories and opinions held by others. When the 2 ton gorilla in the lab is materialism, it sometimes does take a little extra effort to clear the room of the stench.

As for lack of evidence, if any of the posters here actually want to qualify that as “lack of evidence that does not challenge my materialist worldview and does not make me uncomfortable”, then maybe you would be close to the truth. There indeed is real empirical evidence for a non-mterialist worldview–PSI, NDE, and RSME’s are just few. But again, it is met with the ignorance that accompanies those that wear blinders in their life so as not to see beyond rationalism to the full vision of human wisdom.

Wake up! You are so much more than you THINK you are!

If you found this book intriguing, you will definitely enjoy reading My Stroke of Insight - a Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey” by Jill Bolte Taylor, and her talk on TED dot com about her stroke which is an 18 minute talk you Must Not Miss! (there’s a reason it’s been forwarded friend to friend millions of times!). When you read the book and see the TEDTalk, you’ll understand why this Harvard brain scientist was named Time Magazine 100 Most Influential People. Her unique experience, combined with her perspective as a neuroanatomist, and her sensitivity and awareness (not to mention beautiful writing style!) has produced something so powerful and so revolutionary that I think it’s going to become a transformational movement in itself. Oprah also did four interviews with her (that I was able to download on the Oprah website) that are also worth checking out. I am trying to share Dr Taylor’s story with as many people as I can because I truly believe if everyone saw it the world would be so much better and people would love one another and no longer fight.

Isn’t it interesting that Materialists attack the authors, how the book was written, and other ad hominem remarks but fail to offer any evidence to the contrary on the findings or offer explanations that better explain the facts.

Maybe because the authors never bothered to present any findings or facts to begin with?

david stallworth said:

Isn’t it interesting that Materialists attack the authors, how the book was written, and other ad hominem remarks but fail to offer any evidence to the contrary on the findings or offer explanations that better explain the facts.

Maybe you should read the book without a materialist bias and you would see that the evidence shouts for the presence of a spirit.

Stanton said:

Maybe because the authors never bothered to present any findings or facts to begin with?

david stallworth said:

Isn’t it interesting that Materialists attack the authors, how the book was written, and other ad hominem remarks but fail to offer any evidence to the contrary on the findings or offer explanations that better explain the facts.

How will accusing me of “materialist bias” make me surrender to your point of view when the “evidence for the presence of a spirit” as presented in the book is nothing but platitude-sounding apologetics?

david stallworth said:

Maybe you should read the book without a materialist bias and you would see that the evidence shouts for the presence of a spirit.

Stanton said:

Maybe because the authors never bothered to present any findings or facts to begin with?

david stallworth said:

Isn’t it interesting that Materialists attack the authors, how the book was written, and other ad hominem remarks but fail to offer any evidence to the contrary on the findings or offer explanations that better explain the facts.

i just finished reading these two books. both authors have experienced the so called ‘ cosmic consciousness ‘. dr.jill taylor seems to be right on the track to say that this occurs due to the malfunction of left brain and dominance of right brain. this thesis is easier to test out than the claim by dr. beauregard that the experiencer has ‘ contact an objectively real ‘force’ that exists outside themselves ‘(p.290,spiritual brain). whenever you mention something outside of body, materialists just fret out! i really wish some neuroscientists will take up this topic and research on it. the implications are going to be far reaching for us humankind.

Maria said:

If you found this book intriguing, you will definitely enjoy reading My Stroke of Insight - a Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey” by Jill Bolte Taylor, and her talk on TED dot com about her stroke which is an 18 minute talk you Must Not Miss! (there’s a reason it’s been forwarded friend to friend millions of times!). When you read the book and see the TEDTalk, you’ll understand why this Harvard brain scientist was named Time Magazine 100 Most Influential People. Her unique experience, combined with her perspective as a neuroanatomist, and her sensitivity and awareness (not to mention beautiful writing style!) has produced something so powerful and so revolutionary that I think it’s going to become a transformational movement in itself. Oprah also did four interviews with her (that I was able to download on the Oprah website) that are also worth checking out. I am trying to share Dr Taylor’s story with as many people as I can because I truly believe if everyone saw it the world would be so much better and people would love one another and no longer fight.

Did anyone bother to access the extensively cited notes in the back of the book? Many are from peer-reviewed journals and other reliable sources. I suppose not.

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This page contains a single entry by PZ Myers published on October 2, 2007 9:40 PM.

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