This question will be coming to you soon: “When a brain surgeon sticks an electric probe in your angular gyrus (within the inferior parietal lobe) you will have an out-of-body experience…soooo…is that God?, or just a probe in your head?” Put another way, “if ‘God experiences’ can be duplicated neurologically, where does that leave God?” Smart kids are already asking something like this (probably in the form of “How do you know God isn’t just something we invented in our heads?”) All kids will eventually get around to it. So what are you going to say youth worker, parent, pastor, mentor, teacher?
This is one simple example of why Christians need to be learning about what is coming out of the brain sciences these days.
Brain researchers are defining what it means to be human in magnificent and insightful ways. Christians run the risk of appearing to be pre-Copernican Neanderthals (Copernicus was the monk who said the earth revolves around the sun-not the other way around…it didn’t go well for him with the religious leaders of the day…even if he was right.) living in ignorance of how the sciences are changing our perceptions of ourselves and everything around us. Unless we engage brain science discoveries we’ll either end up appearing foolish, or the inevitable backlash against these new insights will make Christians look ignorant…as well as foolish.
If Christians found Copernicus or Darwin (many Christians still live in denial of his work) hard to fathom, swallow, or engage; brain studies bring it to a whole new level. For whereas Copernicus changed our understanding of our place in the solar system, and Darwin changed our understanding of how (not why) we came to be, brain studies could change our very definition of ourselves. In the past this has been the realm of philosophers, theologians, and religious doctrine. It could be superseded by researchers and the machines that are looking into our brains while they are working.
I’ve outlined the danger of not engaging these insights, but the upside of engaging them represents a truly incredible opportunity. In this blog I’ll be writing weekly about the upside. Christians can learn at the molecular level how God makes and sustains us, AND we can enter a conversation that often reaffirms the wisdom of Christian Scripture, tradition and practices.
What will not go away is the ongoing research and the implications of the research for human growth, development, learning, spiritual formation and community. Stay tuned!