WHY GOD WON'T GO AWAY: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief

Andrew B. Newberg, Author, Eugene G. D'Aquili, Author, Vince Rause, Author WHY GOD WON'T GO AWAY: Brain Science and the Biology of $24.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-345-44033-4

The collaborative efforts of science writer Rause, radiologist Newberg and psychiatrist d'Aquili (Newberg's late colleague at the University of Pennsylvania) result in a murky and overspiritualized remix of what should be a compelling scientific investigation into the neurology of mystical experience. The book's best material is its summary of Newberg and d'Aquili's research using advanced imaging technologies to study brain activity during "peak" meditative states, which not only suggests a characteristic radiological profile but also uncovers some specific correlations between brain function and subjective religious experience. For example, in subjects who reported a feeling of infinite perspective and self-transcendence during meditation, the researchers identified decreased activity in the brain's "object association areas" where perceptions of the boundary between self and other are normally processed. The authors conclude that these experiences are the result of normal, healthy neurophysiology, not to be dismissed as pathological or random events—a point that believers and practitioners will doubtless appreciate. But the broader questions these results suggest—questions about the origins and significance of human religious behavior—lead the researchers quite out of their depth into a speculative rehash of Joseph Campbell, comparative religion and sociobiology. This culminates in a confused and confusing discussion of what it means to accept that religious experience is "neurologically real" or that spirituality "does us good." (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 03/26/2001
Release date: 04/01/2001
Genre: Religion
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