Tuesday, April 20, 2010

From the Left: The Beer-ief Engine

Stick electrodes on your skull (or wear a special skullcap) and add electrical current and, if the electrodes stimulate the right temporal lobe sufficiently, you experience something commonly described as "spiritual."  The early mystics and madmen who saw visions and heard voices often suffered from what was later discovered to have been temporal lobe epilepsy, a naturally-occurring manifestation of the same phenomenon.  From Hughlings Jackson, to pioneering Montreal neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield, all the way to more recent work by Laurentian University's Michael Persinger, there is mounting and undeniable evidence that our brains are set up to convince us that there is a greater power "out there."  We are seemingly hardwired to have feelings and experiences that we perceive to be divine or spiritual - call them god if you must.  Evolution has built us that way.  Under the right conditions, modern neuro-theology proclaims, even I might experience artificially induced spirituality in a manner indistinguishable from the most ardent believer or visionary seer.  Could it be that I too could be made to believe?  Yes!  I believe ... I'll have a beer!