Hallucinations and The Phantom God: What Neuroscience Reveals (October 2022)

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doubtingthomas
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Hallucinations and The Phantom God: What Neuroscience Reveals (October 2022)

Post by doubtingthomas »

Some reviews here

"Now I understand what was happening in my brain when I experienced the vivid parental 'presence of God' that gave me goosebumps and brought me to tears. In The Phantom God, John Wathey supports his brilliant hypothesis with facts and enjoyably clear explanation. This is science writing at its best."

– Dan Barker, co-president of Freedom from Religion Foundation, and author of Godless and Free Will Explained, among others

“This deeply engaging and challenging book relates some of the most puzzling aspects of religion to a broad range of empirical research on the brain — including case studies of brain pathology, hallucinations, and lateralization — and reveals surprising evidence of shared underlying neural mechanisms. Concluding that an innate neural model can explain many religious phenomena, Wathey offers thoughtful research suggestions for further testing his ideas. In sum, a masterful work that deserves close attention.”

—David M. Wulff, Professor of Psychology Emeritus, Wheaton College (MA), and author of Psychology of Religion: Classic and Contemporar

https://www.amazon.com/Phantom-God-Neur ... 1633888061
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Re: Hallucinations and The Phantom God: What Neuroscience Reveals (October 2022)

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Wathey argues that the feeling of God’s presence is spawned by innate neural circuitry, similar to the mechanism that compels an infant to cry out for its mother. In an adult, this circuitry can be activated under conditions that mimic the extreme desperation and helplessness of infancy, generating the compelling illusion of the presence of a loving, powerful, and all-knowing savior. When seen from this perspective, the illusion also appears remarkably like one that has long been familiar to neurologists: the phantom limb of the amputee, spawned by the expectation of the patient’s brain that the missing limb should still be there.

Including a primer on the basic concepts and terminology of neuroscience, The Phantom God details the neural mechanisms behind the illusions and emotions of spiritual experience.
It appears a large portion of Daniel’s upcoming book has been cut off at the the pass.
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Re: Hallucinations and The Phantom God: What Neuroscience Reveals (October 2022)

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Well, I wouldn't get too excited. I looked at the author's web page in which he explains his credentials by describing his education and experience. Assuming he's honest there, which I have no reason to doubt, he is by no means an ignorant idiot. He does indeed have relevant academic background. But for the past while he has just been a lone wolf researcher, not any kind of spokesperson for a large research community with decades of solid results on this particular topic.

To me that says that he can't really be reporting any kind of major new discoveries. He might have found or be reporting a few interesting observations or hypotheses. And he probably is doing a decent job of explaining a lot of general neuroscience stuff that has been well known to experts for many years. It may very well be a very good book. It's just not actually going to be any kind of game-changing book on this topic.

Suppose it's true that the brain has some kind of hard-wired reactions to feel some kind of loving cosmic presence, under some circumstances, sometimes. It's at any rate plausible. It's not as though that automatically means that such perceptions are illusions, however. Every experience that any human ever has is some kind of evolved neurological mechanism. If you see the sun rise, that's because your brain has evolved to give you that sensation under those circumstances. The sunrise is not an illusion, though. The sky really does brighten. The sun really is there.

Just because it's all in your brain doesn't mean that it isn't also a somewhat accurate representation of something real outside your brain.

On the other hand, of course, it could be only in your brain. Just because the subjective experience is vivid doesn't mean that it's an accurate perception of anything objectively real. And if anybody is convinced that God is real and really loves them, just because they had an intense emotional experience to that effect at some point, then neurology may bring uncomfortable news.

It won't really be new news, however. I've seen quite a lot of religious advice, going back hundreds of years, warning that emotional experiences can be deceiving and that one should not base all one's faith upon them. The possibility that our subjective experiences can be illusory was recognised long before this new book.
What if fire is only the first of a million such things?
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Re: Hallucinations and The Phantom God: What Neuroscience Reveals (October 2022)

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I think determining what is and what may not be religious experience is a difficulty for this sort of study. I hear of a pretty wide variety of things which might be considered. I do not remember having the sort of ,being overwhelmed by love sort of experience. I remember being challenged in experience I found more compelling toward faith. I am aware that though such experience is not proof of God it is fundamental to my faith. I consider that the challenge is worth it even if in the end it is a distillation of my mental processes in conjunction with a communities process.

Ok I believe that community process includes God.

As Physics Guy points out religious guides have long long pointed out the uncertainty of emotional experience.
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Re: Hallucinations and The Phantom God: What Neuroscience Reveals (October 2022)

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Physics Guy wrote:
Thu Apr 28, 2022 6:01 pm
Suppose it's true that the brain has some kind of hard-wired reactions to feel some kind of loving cosmic presence, under some circumstances, sometimes. It's at any rate plausible. It's not as though that automatically means that such perceptions are illusions, however. Every experience that any human ever has is some kind of evolved neurological mechanism. If you see the sun rise, that's because your brain has evolved to give you that sensation under those circumstances. The sunrise is not an illusion, though. The sky really does brighten. The sun really is there.

Just because it's all in your brain doesn't mean that it isn't also a somewhat accurate representation of something real outside your brain.

On the other hand, of course, it could be only in your brain. Just because the subjective experience is vivid doesn't mean that it's an accurate perception of anything objectively real. And if anybody is convinced that God is real and really loves them, just because they had an intense emotional experience to that effect at some point, then neurology may bring uncomfortable news.

It won't really be new news, however. I've seen quite a lot of religious advice, going back hundreds of years, warning that emotional experiences can be deceiving and that one should not base all one's faith upon them. The possibility that our subjective experiences can be illusory was recognised long before this new book.
Well put. This looks like an interesting read, but for some time it has seemed to me that knowing why and how the body works as it does is quite a different thing from answering the question of whether there are divine things in the cosmos or not.
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Re: Hallucinations and The Phantom God: What Neuroscience Reveals (October 2022)

Post by Res Ipsa »

Physics Guy wrote:
Thu Apr 28, 2022 6:01 pm
Well, I wouldn't get too excited. I looked at the author's web page in which he explains his credentials by describing his education and experience. Assuming he's honest there, which I have no reason to doubt, he is by no means an ignorant idiot. He does indeed have relevant academic background. But for the past while he has just been a lone wolf researcher, not any kind of spokesperson for a large research community with decades of solid results on this particular topic.

To me that says that he can't really be reporting any kind of major new discoveries. He might have found or be reporting a few interesting observations or hypotheses. And he probably is doing a decent job of explaining a lot of general neuroscience stuff that has been well known to experts for many years. It may very well be a very good book. It's just not actually going to be any kind of game-changing book on this topic.

Suppose it's true that the brain has some kind of hard-wired reactions to feel some kind of loving cosmic presence, under some circumstances, sometimes. It's at any rate plausible. It's not as though that automatically means that such perceptions are illusions, however. Every experience that any human ever has is some kind of evolved neurological mechanism. If you see the sun rise, that's because your brain has evolved to give you that sensation under those circumstances. The sunrise is not an illusion, though. The sky really does brighten. The sun really is there.

Just because it's all in your brain doesn't mean that it isn't also a somewhat accurate representation of something real outside your brain.

On the other hand, of course, it could be only in your brain. Just because the subjective experience is vivid doesn't mean that it's an accurate perception of anything objectively real. And if anybody is convinced that God is real and really loves them, just because they had an intense emotional experience to that effect at some point, then neurology may bring uncomfortable news.

It won't really be new news, however. I've seen quite a lot of religious advice, going back hundreds of years, warning that emotional experiences can be deceiving and that one should not base all one's faith upon them. The possibility that our subjective experiences can be illusory was recognised long before this new book.
Sounds like a fair appraisal. He is trained in neuroscience, but he's specialized in protein folding for quite a while now, working for his own small company. It's hard to predict how representative of mainstream neuroscience the book will be until it's published. That we're seeing this in a book written for lay people rather than in the peer reviewed literature heightens my skepticism, but I guess we'll see.
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Re: Hallucinations and The Phantom God: What Neuroscience Reveals (October 2022)

Post by doubtingthomas »

Physics Guy wrote:
Thu Apr 28, 2022 6:01 pm
Suppose it's true that the brain has some kind of hard-wired reactions to feel some kind of loving cosmic presence, under some circumstances, sometimes. It's at any rate plausible. It's not as though that automatically means that such perceptions are illusions, however.
True, but all we need a good hypothesis to doubt the existence of divine revelations and cosmic love.
Res Ipsa wrote:
Thu Apr 28, 2022 6:54 pm
That we're seeing this in a book written for lay people rather than in the peer reviewed literature heightens my skepticism, but I guess we'll see.
Yes, we'll have to wait. I think Wathey is going to talk about Mormon experiences in his new book.
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Re: Hallucinations and The Phantom God: What Neuroscience Reveals (October 2022)

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Philo Sofee wrote:
Wed May 04, 2022 4:02 am
I would like to know your opinion.
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Re: Hallucinations and The Phantom God: What Neuroscience Reveals (October 2022)

Post by Analytics »

doubtingthomas wrote:
Thu Apr 28, 2022 4:18 am
Some reviews here...
I can't comment on a book I haven't read, but I will recommend a book on a closely related topic:

Who's in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain by Michael Gazzaniga

Who's in Charge is an amazing book by a superlatively qualified scientist to talk about the subject. I was surprised with how detailed and robust the science actually is about the relationships between different parts of the brain, how we think, how we feel, and, how we subjectively interact with the world. The hypothesis that there is a "ghost in the machine" is completely decimated.

With that as a background, whether spiritual feelings are "the direct perception by the brain of some supernatural realm" seems pretty obvious.
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Re: Hallucinations and The Phantom God: What Neuroscience Reveals (October 2022)

Post by Physics Guy »

Depends what you mean by “direct”, I think. It’s clearly not an additional sense that is distinct from sight and touch as they are distinct from each other. It could be a form of perception like face recognition, though, or distinguishing words in your native language from background noise.
What if fire is only the first of a million such things?
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