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Document Details :

Title: Onze Vader, die in de hersenen zijt...?
Subtitle: Godsdienstfilosofische bemerkingen bij de neurotheologie
Author(s): JUSTAERT, Kristien
Journal: Bijdragen
Volume: 69    Issue: 1   Date: 2008   
Pages: 70-96
DOI: 10.2143/BIJ.69.1.2028874

Abstract :
Neurotheology is a rather young scientific discipline that investigates the common biological basis of religion in our brain. Because neurotheologians do not fear to draw theological conclusions from their scientific research results, the phenomenon of neurotheology can be an interesting focus of the widespread dialogue between science and religion. The first part of this article is dedicated to a detailed presentation of the project of neurotheology. I discuss the research results of Eugene d’Aquili and Andrew Newberg, pioneers of the neurotheological discipline, who discovered that, during a ‘religious experience’, a certain part of the brain receives less blood so that the distinction between the self and its environment drops. The result is that the test subject feels united with the cosmos. Neurotheologians thus assert that all religions arise from this capacity of the brain to transcend the ‘I’. In the second part of this article, I formulate some severe critiques on the project of eurotheology from a strict scientific perspective, but also from an anthropological and theological point of view. The core of the problem, I argue, is situated in the kind of connection that is made between a scientific observation and a phenomenological (religious) experience. By calling the brain the basis of any religious experience, d’Aquili and Newberg develop what we can call a ‘theologized neurology’. In a third, more tentative part, I suggest another way in which we can relate neurology and theology without domesticating or reducing the transcendent, by thoroughly examining the meaning of the research results of the neurosciences in a more philosophical reflection.