Scientists investigate if atheists' brains are missing a ‘God Spot’

From The Toronto Globe and Mail, Apr. 7.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/technology/science/scientists-i...

(since this requires a news subscription, I am pasting excerpts with my commentary in bold)

This week, a U.S. appeals court rejected a lawsuit claiming that the use of the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance discriminated against atheists,
while a vandal in Detroit this week destroyed bus ads that said, “Don't believe
in God? You're not alone.”

And now, the brain scientists who have famously sought the wellspring of faith in the grey matter of nuns and monks are turning their attention to the other side. In the past two years, an international scientific
network has been formed to collect research on atheism. Pitzer College in Los
Angeles is expected to announce the first secular studies department in the
world this spring. Last December, social scientists gathered at the University
of Oxford for a conference on atheism – a rare academic event, according to one
of the organizers, Stephen Bullivant.  They were looking at the natural next challenge in
neurotheology: If religion or spiritual belief is the human default position,
how does atheism happen?


So the 'default position' is blind belief?  Maybe that would be better termed our 'primitive, ancestral mindset'.

The widespread idea that human brains have a special area that governs spiritual belief – a “God Spot” – has been disputed by scientists such as Jordan Grafman, a neuropsychologist at the National Institute of
Neurological Disorders and Stroke in Bethesda, Md.



Doing brain imagining on believers while they prayed and meditated, he found that the areas of the brain involved were the expected areas of memory and feeling; no special section was suddenly activated. “Maybe we are special in the eyes of God, but God didn't
place anything special in our brains – at least as far as we can see,” Dr.
Grafman says. Other studies have shown that beliefs about God, for or
against, originate in the same part of the brain. Only the interpretation of
information is different.


No kidding. Some people choose to think critically, others lack the ability entirely. 

Phil Zuckerman, a sociologist at Pitzer College who studies atheists, points to people in his research who report growing up in heavily Christian background, but always feeling that they were atheists – with the same conflicted emotions,
he suggests, as gay people have growing up.

Puh-lease.  Atheism is a choice arrived at through logical thought.  Sexual orientation is biologically based.  No one in their right mind would 'choose' to be gay.   More evidence that 'social scientist' is an oxymoron.

Are atheists smarter than people who believe in God?


Historically, atheism has been a position open mainly to educated, upper-class people – a segment of society with the resources and leisure time to ponder life's larger questions, as well as the freedom to break
with social norms. A study released in February using survey data and IQ tests
from British teenagers found that the teens with higher intelligence scores were
more likely to be atheists.

Todd Shackelford, an evolutionary psychologist at Florida Atlantic University, has reviewed 40 studies on religious and intelligence going back 100 years. He
says all but two of them suggested that more educated people tended to be less
religious.

No surprises there.

Is religion innate?  “There is a lot of evidence that religious beliefs flow very naturally from the way the mind is designed,” Dr. Shackelford says. It has long been believed, he says, that atheism is a harder position to maintain because it
goes against the natural instinct to want to attach some kind of meaning to
phenomena we can't explain. “Perhaps religion is natural, but not inevitable.”


As in a primitive tendency that can be reversed by logic and reason, perhaps?


Evolutionary psychologists also suggest that religion developed in order to establish moral codes and build community among human being.

Exactly.  Religion is free to evolve as a human social phenomenon - without ANY requirement that it be based on truth.

In any event, Dr. Zuckerman says, the research on atheism is just getting started. “We'll never fully understand religion until we can understand
secularity,” he observes. “There are intellectual questions needing to be
answered, because they have real-life, political consequences.”

You bet.  Like preventing a return to the dark ages if either Christians of Muslims ever succeeded in their goal of world domination.

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Replies to This Discussion

I for one am an Atheist and am pretty sure my G-spot is fully functional.

Oh wait, different G-spot.

So couldn't the lack of a God-Spot mean we've evolved?
Rather than looking at this on the individual level, I think we need to expand it to the level of memes (cultural replicators). In the book, "Breaking the Spell", Daniel Dennett defines memes as "elements of culture that are passed on by non-genetic means".

Information about secularism and atheism is more readily available to everybody on a global scale. It is being copied, being transmitted, and in competition with information about supernaturalism and theism. If we human beings remain rational and use our brains in reasonable, logical ways it seems that natural progress will eventually bring us in the direction of secularism, not spiritualism. But the timeline is hard to forecast! Humans are so unreasonable sometimes.
If indeed there is a god spot, and some are shown to lack it, and the lacking of a god spot is apparently a new mutation, then in a sense it would mean we are evolved, sort of. Evolution does not necessarily mean progress, it has nothing to do with direction or improving really, outside of improving your ability to survive long enough in your habitat to pass on your genes. As such, I don't think being an atheist gives us any advantage towards getting pregnant or impregnating a woman. Well, perhaps in some social circles,....hehe.
A few years ago I was a christian and now I'm atheist so there is no "god spot"
A few years ago I was a christian and now I'm atheist so there is no "god spot"

See, now the Fundies would jump all over that to say you definitely have a god spot; it's just broken and they need to fix it for you or 'save' you. The fix may include but isn't limited to...

- Strict censorship of your media interests

- Several hours a week attendance at their revival meets

- Tithing (the more you give the more likely your god-spot is to be fixed).

- Molesting your child.

- Molesting you.

- Burning you at the stake.
Perhaps the study should be renamed...Are believers missing " the rational spot."
Or is the god-spot inhibiting the rational-spot?
I find it interesting-- the innate sense of morality that the stereotypical Christian has, where things are simply because that's how they are. God is good, gay is bad, men and women have a role, marriage is sacred, etc etc etc. My mother is this way. Ha, you can tell what we most often talk about.

God spot doesn't make much sense, unless by "God spot" they mean "predisposition towards critical thinking"? I think when you've been raised believing something, it goes against the grain to say no. I think for a lot of us it takes events or ideas that completely stop us in our tracks; things don't add up and we can't ignore it anymore.
The god spot must be right near the problem hole and the solution chute, right above the lust mount. Of course good believers have a big god spot and a small lust mount. I guess ours is the other way round.
My problem hole is massive, but I don't appear to have a lust mount? Where did it go?!

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