Fingerprints of God: The Search for the Science of Spirituality [With Headphones]


From the award-winning NPR religion correspondent comes a fascinating investigation of how science is seeking to answer the question that has puzzled humanity for generations: Can science explain God?

Is spiritual experience real or a delusion? Are there realities that we can experience but not easily measure? Does your consciousness depend entirely on your brain, or does it extend beyond? In Fingerprints of God, award-winning journalist ...
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From the award-winning NPR religion correspondent comes a fascinating investigation of how science is seeking to answer the question that has puzzled humanity for generations: Can science explain God?

Is spiritual experience real or a delusion? Are there realities that we can experience but not easily measure? Does your consciousness depend entirely on your brain, or does it extend beyond? In Fingerprints of God, award-winning journalist Barbara Bradley Hagerty delves into the discoveries science is making about how faith and spirituality affect us physically and emotionally as it attempts to understand whether the ineffable place beyond this world can be rationally -even scientifically-explained.

Hagerty interviews some of the world's top scientists to describe what their groundbreaking research reveals about our human spiritual experience. From analyses of the brain functions of Buddhist monks and Carmelite nuns, to the possibilities of healing the sick through directed prayer, to what near-death experiences illuminate about the afterlife, Hagerty reaches beyond what we think we know to understand what happens to us when we believe in a higher power.

Paralleling the discoveries of science is Hagerty's own account of her spiritual evolution. Raised a Christian Scientist, she was a scrupulous adherent until a small moment as an adult triggered a revaluation of her beliefs, which in turn led her to a new way of thinking about God and faith.

An insightful examination of what science is learning about how and why we believe, Fingerprints of God is also a moving story of one person's search for a communion with a higher power and what she discovered onthat journey.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
In this moderate, thoughtful book, award-winning National Public Radio religion correspondent Barbara Bradley Hagerty writes about what recent scientific research reveals about human spiritual experiences. These studies are far-reaching, covering not only the mental activities of Buddhist monks and Carmelite nuns but also faith healing through directed prayer and near-death experiences. In interviews with several of the world's leading scientists, Hagerty probes what science can tell us and not tell us about faith and spirituality. Talking about the ineffable; a believer's honest search for truth.
Christine Rosen
In another writer's hands, much of the material in this book might have become fodder for ridicule…But throughout the book, one is struck by the humility Hagerty brings to her subject—something lacking in many contemporary debates over the meaning of faith and the existence of God—and her skepticism about the science offered up as proof of spiritual experience…Hagerty's engaging book poses a provocative challenge to anyone who has ever wondered where faith comes from, and what it can do for—and to—us.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

In her first book, National Public Radio correspondent Hagerty acts as a tour guide through the rocky terrain of scientists who study religious experience. Is there a so-called "God gene"? Why do some people have mystical experiences while others never see the so-called light? Right up front, Hagerty reveals that this is not an entirely objective exercise. As a Christian, she wants to understand her own mystical encounter with the divine and why she believes when others do not. Yet to each interview, whether with a world-renowned neuroscientist or a back-road mystic, she brings a suitably skeptical eye. Along the way, she manages to explain some pretty cutting-edge science-psychoneuroimmunology, anyone?-and unravel some people's pretty hard-to-comprehend religious experiences without sacrificing depth or complexity. Then, with equal aplomb, she dances off to peyote ceremonies, church services and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. The real beauty of this book lies in watching Hagerty gracefully balance her own trust in faith and science and, in the end, come down with one foot planted firmly in both. (May)

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Library Journal

Articles about research on spirituality and the brain are usually written from the point of view that religious experience can be understood from a purely scientific perspective. Hagerty's (religion correspondent, NPR) book does not have this naturalistic or materialistic tendency. Rather, as both a reporter and a religious person, she seeks insight on spirituality and science while being open to the possibility that spirituality may still have a transcendent component. The book is interesting to read because the author has interviewed many scientists as well as many people who attest to having mystical or near-death experiences. In a way, the reader feels like a participant in Hagerty's own encounter with the various pieces of information and evidence, struggling with her to make sense of it all. Highly recommended.
—John Jaeger

Kirkus Reviews
A deep spiritual quest from NPR religion correspondent Hagerty. After renouncing Christian Science, the stoic religious heritage of her New England upbringing, Hagerty remained a spiritual seeker. She writes that she experienced numinous episodes in which she physically felt the presence of something not of this world. The author's debut is an attempt to straddle two schools of thought: reductionist materialism (voiced in the extreme by Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens et al.), which denies the validity of natural phenomena yet to be explained; and organized religion (James Dobson, Pat Robertson et al.), which discourages serious inquiry into science's understanding of the brain, mind and consciousness. Hagerty offers neither church sermon nor secular argument. This is a serious journalist's courageous, ambitious investigation into what science says about "a spiritual world . . . that eludes physical sight and hearing and touch?" Hagerty weaves together interviews with scientists, psychologists, neurologists and dozens of people who share her metaphysical experience, including mystics, or "spiritual virtuosos." She also explores the so-called God gene, drug-induced vision quests, the neurochemistry of faith, out-of-body experiences and the psychological aftermath of near-death experiences. Ultimately, the book ends where it began, echoing psychologist and pragmatist William James, who said that science can't prove or disprove God. At best, science is agnostic. While this may be comforting for believers, Hagerty's conclusions may prove ordinary for dedicated students of science and philosophy. A commendable, witty attempt to ground spirituality in established fact that will providedeeper understanding to people of faith but few surprises for nonbelievers.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781615456826
  • Publisher: Findaway World
  • Publication date: 7/28/2009
  • Format: Other
  • Edition description: Playaway Edition
  • Product dimensions: 4.80 (w) x 8.70 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Barbara Bradley Hagerty is the award-winning religion correspondent for National Public Radio. She is the recipient of the Templeton-Cambridge Journalism Fellowship in Science and Religion, and a Knight Fellowship at Yale Law School. Before joining NPR, she was a reporter at The Christian Science Monitor for eleven years.
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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 Crossing the Stream 1

Ch. 2 The God Who Breaks and Enters 16

Ch. 3 The Biology of Belief 45

Ch. 4 The Triggers for God 63

Ch. 5 Hunting for the God Gene 81

Ch. 6 Isn't God a Trip? 104

Ch. 7 Searching for the God Spot 134

Ch. 8 Spiritual Virtuosos 164

Ch. 9 Out of My Body or out of My Mind? 192

Ch. 10 Are We Dead Yet? 216

Ch. 11 A New Name for God 243

Ch. 12 Paradigm Shifts 268

Acknowledgments 287

Notes 291

Index 313

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