What Can Neuroscience Tell Us About Religious Consciousness? A Complex Adaptive Systems Framework for Understanding the Religious Brain
18 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2011 Last revised: 10 Aug 2011
Date Written: 2011
Neuro-theology (a science of religious experience) has deepened our understanding of the religious brain but the research inevitably runs into many of the classical philosophical problems associated with any study of human consciousness. One of these problems is what philosopher John Hick (2006) has called the hard problem of consciousness. If we are going to understand something about the causes and content of religious consciousness we must devise a framework that will adequately address the hard problem. This paper gives a brief overview of Sam Harris' and Andrew Newberg's research on the religious brain, as well as an introduction to the hard problem and concludes that the problem materializes because the question of consciousness is ill-posed by materialism and dualism. The paper concludes that a plural aspect conceptual framework known as Complex Adaptive Systems Theory (CAS) with its emphasis on dynamical emergence allows researchers to escape reductive materialism without resorting to dualism. Instead of turning to dualism or reductive materialism researchers can turn to complexity and emergence to frame studies in neuro-theology. Emergence provides a basis for a position promoted by Nancy Cartwright (2004) known as causal pluralism which is promising in helping to explain the complex relationships between the brain and the mind.
Keywords: neuro-theology, hard problem of consciousness, complex adaptive systems, emergence, causal pluralism
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