Sunday, February 27, 2011

Brain Science Raises Troubling Questions

Recent advances in brain imaging technology has changed the game, so to speak, for religious leaders hailing from the East. "We now have scientific proof," one ordained Asian minister said, "that Eastern contemplative traditions are not religions. If what we do can be measured by neuroscience then it is fact... not belief."

Brain imaging shows that when people meditate their brains are active. This demonstrates that the brain is being used while they meditate.

This landmark discovery has led to some significant questions. The most prominent one: can other activities be measured and mapped on the brain as well?

One neuroscientist commented, "We're now curious if other activities are marshaled by neurological processes and if they are under the specific jurisdiction of the brain. For instance if I read the newspaper or if I pick up a plastic cup for a drink of water... is that activity governed by the brain and if so can we measure it just like we did with people meditating? I mean, are all human processes and actions governed by the brain?"

Another prominent brain scientist further stated, "Before this brain research on Asian monks was conducted most of us never questioned whether or not taking out the trash or eating macaroni was a matter of belief or if indeed we were actually doing something that involved the brain."

One religious studies major at the University of Chicago has presented even more troubling questions, "I mean can these machines show that when I look at something there's a part of my brain that is mapping the image? Or that my brain even plays any role in my sensory perception? Or in my thought processes? Because that'd be cool." When this college student's professors failed to respond the budding religious studies scholar further queried, "I mean if I were to pray, like a Catholic would pray not like the non-religious Buddhist prays, would that too show up in my brain scan? If I prayed to Jesus could it be shown that my brain was active while I was praying... that the brain was being used in prayer? If so does that mean that Catholicism isn't a religion either?"

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