God's Brain

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Overview

In the fractious debate on the existence of God and the nature of religion, two distinguished authors radically alter the discussion. Taking a perspective rooted in evolutionary biology with a focus on brain science, the authors elucidate the perennial questions about religion: What is its purpose? How did it arise? What is its source? Why does every known culture have some form of it? Their answer is deceptively simple, yet at the same time highly complex: The brain creates religion and its varied concepts of ...

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Overview

In the fractious debate on the existence of God and the nature of religion, two distinguished authors radically alter the discussion. Taking a perspective rooted in evolutionary biology with a focus on brain science, the authors elucidate the perennial questions about religion: What is its purpose? How did it arise? What is its source? Why does every known culture have some form of it? Their answer is deceptively simple, yet at the same time highly complex: The brain creates religion and its varied concepts of God, and then in turn feeds on its creation to satisfy innate neurological and associated social needs.

Brain science reveals that humans and other primates alike are afflicted by unavoidable sources of stress that the authors describe as "brainpain." To cope with this affliction people seek to "brainsoothe." We humans use religion and its social structures to induce brainsoothing as a relief for innate anxiety. How we do this is the subject of this groundbreaking book.

In a concise, lively, accessible, and witty style, the authors combine zoom-lens vignettes of religious practices with discussions of the latest research on religion’s neurological effects on the brain. Among other topics, they consider religion’s role in providing positive socialization, its seeming obsession with regulating sex, creating an afterlife, how religion’s rules of behavior influence the law, the common biological scaffolding between nonhuman primates and humans and how this affects religion, a detailed look at brain chemistry and how it changes as a result of stress, and evidence that the palliative effects of religion on brain chemistry is not matched by nonreligious remedies.

Concluding with a checklist offering readers a means to compute their own "brainsoothe score," this fascinating book provides key insights into the complexities of our brain and the role of religion, perhaps its most remarkable creation.

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What People Are Saying

Melvin Konner
Recent, often bitter, debates have lacked a scientific take on religion that is not at the same time trying to destroy it. This lively, creative account helps fill that gap. It may even help you with your own trials of faith. (Melvin Konner, author of The Tangled Wing: Biological Constraints on the Human Spirit and the forthcoming The Evolution of Childhood: Relationships, Emotion, Mind)
Robin Fox
With economy, evidence and no little wit and elegance, Lionel Tiger and Michael McGuire look for the answer to religion's ubiquity and persistence in the only place possible: the human brain. To say more would be to give away their answer, and that would spoil a great read and a serious and informative argument. This is easily the best book on the nature of religion to appear for a long time. (Robin Fox, University Professor of Social Theory, Rutgers University)
R. Curtis Ellison
Tiger and McGuire have concocted an amazing and insightful look - based on sound science - into how the human brain 'seeks' religion. The book beautifully describes how belief, ritual, and socialization within a closed group work together to help humans survive the stresses of everyday life. (R. Curtis Ellison, MD, professor of Medicine & Public Health, Boston University School of Medicine)
Jay R. Feierman
If God's Brain sounds whimsically paradoxical, it is only because the authors believe that most people of faith have been looking for God in all the wrong places. The authors suggest that religious believers should look inward, rather than outward, to find God. The book is a well-written, easy to read, unique perspective on religion. Yes, God has a brain. The book will captivate all but the piously religious faint-of-heart. (Jay R. Feierman. Editor, The Biology of Religious Behavior: The Evolutionary Origins of Faith and Religion)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781616141646
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books
  • Publication date: 3/23/2010
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 788,339
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Lionel Tiger (New York, NY) is the bestselling author of Men in Groups, The Imperial Animal (with Robin Fox), The Pursuit of Pleasure, Optimism: The Biology of Hope, and The Decline of Males. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Rolling Stone, Harvard Business Review, and Brain and Behavioral Science. He is the Charles Darwin Professor of Anthropology at Rutgers University.

Michael McGuire, MD (Cottonwood, CA), is the author or editor of ten books, including Believing: The Neuroscience of Fantasies, Fears, and Convictions and Darwinian Psychiatry (with A. Troisi). He is the president of the Biomedical Research Foundation, director of the Bradshaw Foundation and the Gruter Institute of Law and Behavior, and a trustee of the International Society of Human Ethology. Formerly, he was a professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the University of California at Los Angeles and editor of Ethology and Sociobiology.

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Table of Contents

Preface 7

Acknowledgments 9

1 And What an Amazing, If Improbable, Story It Is 11

2 You Need Both a Zoom Lens and a Microscope to See Religion 21

3 Adventures of the Soul 45

4 Faith in Sex 69

5 Religion as Law and the Denial of Biology 83

6 Is Religion Monkey Business? 101

7 My Brain. Your Liturgy. Our State of Grace 123

8 The Elephant in the Chapel Is in Your Skull 143

9 Puzzles, Answers, and More Puzzles 165

10 And What's Your Brainsoothe Score? 183

11 Rather a Beginning, Not a Conclusion 193

Endnotes 217

Index 239

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    It answers a central questions of existence--what is the purpose of religion

    Two brilliant authors, one an acclaimed anthropologist and the other a renowned neuropsychiatrist, investigate why 80% of the world's population have some form of religion. It answers the atheists by showing how the brain is wired to believe.

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