Guest Post: Connection and Community – When Neuroscience Meets Christianity

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by BSK, freeimages

How can a Christian community partnered with social cognitive neuroscience dramatically affect someone’s life? Valerie had recently moved to our city for a job. She didn’t have any family in town and knew only a couple of co-workers. After a few weeks, she found herself growing depressed, and irritable. As a single girl, she thought she just needed a boyfriend and everything would be fine. After several more months of feeling depressed, she decided to visit a church. That decision was the beginning of a new life.

When I was an undergraduate neuroscience student, the field of social cognitive neuroscience was still in its infancy stages. I didn’t hear much about it in my coursework or research (something I definitely regret!). In the years following graduation I slowly began to learn more and more about the field and its relevance to everyday life. As I progressed through my seminary education, I had no idea how helpful and relevant it would be to me in my career. Continue reading

Faith and Neuroscience: Wisdom, Training, and the Numinous

B0010280 Healthy human brain from a young adult, tractography
Healthy human brain from a young adult © Alfred Anwander, MPI-CBS, Wellcome Images, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

What help can people of faith receive from neuroscience? This was the question that Revd Dr Alasdair Coles asked in his lecture at the Faraday Institute last week. Alasdair works at Addenbrookes hospital, Cambridge, both as a neurologist and as a hospital chaplain. He brought both these perspectives to his talk, which I will summarise here in my own words. Continue reading

Explaining, Not Explaining Away: Why the cognitive science of religion is good news for people of faith

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Pexels – Public Domain

Human beings tend to look after their families and friends, and at times we even show concern for complete strangers. Some of this care and compassion can be explained in terms of hormones. For example, Continue reading

Beauty in the Brain: Sleep, disease, and family life

anna-twitter-pictureAnna Goodman is a neuroscientist, amateur artist, mother, and pastor’s wife. In today’s podcast (transcript below), I wanted to find out how all of those elements connected together in her life. Is there beauty in the brain? What can we find out from studying neurological disease? What ways has Anna found to fit family life and career together, and how do both of those aspects of life complement her faith and role in the church? The result is a fascinating mixture involving Continue reading

Freewill and the Brain: Choices, Constraints, and Community

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Cropped from Two-dimensional brain. Copyright: Radu Jianu/Brown University

Have you ever had that slightly disturbing experience of arriving at work and realising that you have very little recollection of how you got there? The human brain contains around 100 billion nerve cells[1], each of which makes multiple connections. This biological hardware is used to integrate signals from our own bodies and surroundings, as well as our memories and predictions for the future. Most brain activity actually happens without our being aware of it – our consciousness only needs to get involved when the outcome is not determined. In other words, the more routine our actions become the less we need to think about it. Continue reading

The Problem of Pain: Brain imaging and religion

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Cortical neuron By GerryShaw (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
From sea slugs to humans, pain is one of the living world’s oldest and most shared experiences. Pain keeps us alive, and helps us avoid further hurt. To understand another person’s pain we have to make a guess based on what we can see, and our own experiences of being hurt. Is this child making a fuss or Continue reading

Interview: Purpose and Pleasure – Exploring Addiction Science

FreeImages.com/Dean Smith
FreeImages.com/Dean Smith

What is the interface between ideas of purpose of science, and in faith – or life in general? This was one of the main topics of conversation during my interview with Alan Gijsbers. I wanted to find out whether medical professionals have a similar sense of wonder or spirituality to some laboratory scientists. Although the challenges are very different in medicine, I found that Alan shared the same combination of curiosity, questioning, and connection with deeper issues that is so important for many other researchers. Continue reading