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Gods Brain [Hardcover]

Lionel Tiger , Michael McGuire
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

15 July 2010
The debate about the existence of God and the nature of religion has been raging for centuries, but now, in the age of science, man can truly begin to understand. Taking a perspective rooted in evolutionary biology with a focus on brain science, Gods Brain - written by two highly distinguished scholars attempts to explore some of the perennial questions about religion: What is its purpose? How did it arise? What is its source? Why does every known culture have some form of it? Their answer is deceptively simple, yet at the same time highly complex: science has revealed that humans and other primates alike are afflicted by unavoidable sources of stress, or brainpain. To cope with this affliction people seek to brainsoothe. Humans use religion and its social structures to induce brainsoothing as a relief for our innate anxiety. In a concise, lively, and accessible style, this volume provides unrivalled insights into the complexities of our brain and the role of religion, perhaps its most remarkable creation.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus (15 July 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616141646
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616141646
  • Product Dimensions: 23.9 x 16 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,051,807 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"Recent, often bitter, debates have lacked a scientific take on religion that is not at the same time trying to destroy it. This lively, creative account helps fill that gap. It may even help you with your own trials of faith" --MELVIN KONNER, author of The Tangled Wing: Biological Constraints on the Human Spirit and the forthcoming The Evolution of Childhood: Relationships, Emotion, Mind.

"With economy, evidence and no little wit and elegance, Lionel Tiger and Michael McGuire look for the answer to religion's ubiquity and persistence in the only place possible: the human brain. To say more would be to give away their answer, and that would spoil a great read and a serious and informative argument. This is easily the best book on the nature of religion to appear for a long time." --ROBIN FOX, University Professor of Social Theory, Rutgers University

"If God's Brain sounds whimsically paradoxical, it is only because the authors believe that most people of faith have been looking for God in all the wrong places. The authors suggest that religious believers should look inward, rather than outward, to find God. The book is a well-written, easy to read, unique perspective on religion. Yes, God has a brain. The book will captivate all but the piously religious faint-of-heart."
--JAY R. FEIERMAN. Editor, The Biology of Religious Behavior: The Evolutionary Origins of Faith and Religion.

About the Author

Lionel Tiger is the Charles Darwin Professor of Anthropology at Rutgers University. He is also a bestselling author and successful journalist. Michael McGuire is the president of the Biomedical Research Foundation and a former professor of psychiatry and biobehavioural sciences at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful and intelligent 27 May 2014
By foxmum
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A fantastic book: Insightful, intelligent and even funny! Also, it was surprisingly respectful of religion and religious belief. Should be required reading for any RE class.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A new look on an old matter 15 Nov 2010
Format:Hardcover
If you are looking for a book that discusses religion but you think you already had your share from the pro and the against camps' "preaching to the choir" arguments, this one is the right choice. The authors are drawing attention on many aspects of religion as its functions in an individual believer's life. The overall function for the authors is 'brainsoothe', as they put it. But while getting there, they pick interesting points, many of which we see in everyday life without paying attention. God's Brain is not leaving the domains of the scientific method at - almost - any point, hence saving the reader from the trouble of eliminating speculations from facts. It is definitely an interesting read.

Still, there are a few minus points: The authors make an unneccessary effort for political correctness, although on rare accasions. In this regard, one might find intriguing their attempt to discuss their scientific arguments with Karl Marx! Also the book is obviously written before some recent scientific advancements so you may notice they say we might be interbreds of Homo Sapiens and Neanderthal, while it is a proven scientific fact since May 2010 that we are. But certainly this one could also be in the authors' credit for their educated guessing.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Brain soothing as opium for the masses 18 April 2010
By Roland
Format:Hardcover
As there is no description and no other review I will do this review more detailed.

In the introduction and first chapter the authors having some shot's at the new atheists who want to get rid of religious superstition, without understanding the biological and neuroscience basis of religion they are fighting. Unfortunately this book is not providing the answers I was hoping to get, when an anthropologist and neuroscientist are joining their experience to write on the interesting topic.

The book continues in chapter 2 the different facets of religion, a very unstructured brainstorming, throwing around all kind of thoughts at random (a mix of different religious dogmas, devotion, terrorism).

Chapter 3 is providing 3 examples of religious experiences/practices : a childhood indoctrinated male, losing his faith as young man resulting in conflict with the law, until he is back on track `reborn Christian' and find fulfillment in his religious community live. Example 2 is the diary of a young woman in 1870 who seeks help and consolation in her prayers from God during a journey to the Wild West. The next case is of a Jewish family in Germany in the 1930s-40s converting to Catholicism to survive, migrate to New York after WW2 and joining back to their Jewish faith whereas the indoctrinated child stays a Catholic. Quintessence from the authors : religion is no delusion.

Chapter 4 is about `faith in sex', well we know that religion is keen to control the reproduction for Christians to be `fruitful and multiply' to get more followers of Jesus and therefore provide strict rules about sexual practices. What has this to do with "God's brain", how conflicting desires clash with religious rules in the brain etc... is not explained.
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Amazon.com: 3.5 out of 5 stars  15 reviews
28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars couldn't finish it 5 May 2010
By C. P. Anderson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I hate to write reviews for books I haven't finished, but I felt I had to for this one - if for nothing else, than as a warning to others.

The book sounds promising enough. I like to think of it as Dawkins' Dilemma. In other words, for those of us who are firm believers in evolution, what do we make of the possibility that our brains may have evolved for belief? I'll bet there's tons of fascinating research out there that support that assertion.

Unfortunately, we don't get that here. What we get instead is stream-of-consciousness musings that go all over the place. The writers' style is particularly frustrating - wordy, repetitive, vague, abstract, trying so hard to be clever. As a former writing teacher, I'm reminded of my students who didn't have much to say or had no clue what they wanted to say, but bravely dove in anyway.

Here's an example:

"Descriptive numbers are capacious enough - they go on forever, after all, from here to infinity - to accommodate the range and reach of religion, and they can seem evenhanded and fair. However, individual religions may seem odd and even bizarre to some or many outsiders, and their benefits and activities are hardly consistent from place to place and time to time. But their overwhelming numbers and rich ubiquity underline the normality in practice. We're dealing with a phenomenon as diffuse as oxygen and seemingly as imperative."

And all to introduce that there are about 4,200 religions in the world.

Try The Faith Instinct: How Religion Evolved and Why It Endures instead.
13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars God's Brain 23 Mar 2010
By Peter Rehak - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The authors explain in a clear and entertaining way how the human brain is wired for religion. We may have always known that religion can bring comfort but Tiger and McGuire give a scientific basis to the brain's "safety valve." Religion is in the news almost daily and this book helps understand peoples' attachment and motivation for seeking explanations in a high being. The brain is wired that way. Food for thought even for an atheist.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars God's Brain 2 April 2010
By Lynn Fairbanks - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Tiger & McGuire have written an engaging and thought-provoking book that helps to explain why we have religion. To a rational person, the details of immaculate conception, anachronistic food rules and pearly gates seem fantastical. Yet this book shows clearly and convincingly how such beliefs help people cope with the stresses and strains of ordinary life. The concept of "brainsoothing" is a compelling one, and is supported by evidence that the rituals, social interactions and beliefs of modern religions actually affect the brain in positive ways. I like the fact that this is not a science vs. religion book, but one that uses science to understand the value of religion in people's lives. I also like the idea of a "brainsoothe" score to help make us aware of differences in how we respond to daily frustrations, with lots of ideas in the book on how to improve our score.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Great premise, but terribly written and very weak on substance 14 Sep 2010
By A. Mulligan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I was hoping for some interesting insights from this book, but what I found instead were mostly senseless ramblings interspersed with random and annoying attempts at cuteness. I'm so glad I borrowed it from the library instead of buying it. This book was written in a very odd style with far too many conjunctions, and desperately needed a competent editor. I would read and re-read entire passages, only to scratch my head and think, "Well, that sounded pretty (or intelligent, or important), but what did it say?" It reminded me of how I feel when someone who has had a little too much to drink monopolizes the conversation and goes on and on about something, yet makes no sense.

Take the very last paragraph, for example. "If God is a creation of the brain, then God's brain is our brain. There is then no lower authority to be found than the operations and impact of our brains and the process of brainsoothing. We named the brain as the source of infinity. This is surely appropriate since it was our commitment to that brain that caused ambitious humans to call ourselves sapiens. And, by and large, that we are, give or take... " Huh?

I am left with the distinct impression that the authors were in the habit of splitting a few bottles of wine (or worse) before sitting down to write. Perhaps I should have done the same when I sat down to read.
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Is the Supernatural Only Natural? 23 May 2010
By J. C. W. West - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
"What if it is discovered that the source and essence of [religious] identity results not from theological commitment and texts but form operations of the brain? that religion is a product of neurophysiological engagement?" This from an op ed piece in the Wall Street Journal 27 March 2010 by Lionel Tiger, which intrigued me so much I ordered the book. After all, what more confirmation of the doctrine of predestination than a demonstration that the creator and preserver of mankind, who designed the DNA double helix of each of us, hard wired us to believe or to not believe in His existence? How intriguing. We have read population studies of Alzheimers where brain autopsies resulted in valuable information. How promising to have such a study on the correlation of religious belief to physiology on the macro or micro level -- maybe a blip or lack thereof on our DNA printout.

No such luck. Tiger and McGuire have put together a piece of fluff constructed by what looks like the result of daydreaming and googling. You or I could have done a better job as juniors in a college psychology or sociology course, given the financial incentive. Tiger and McGuire start out with a simplistic question: "[W]hat factual phenomenon except perhaps slips of ancient holy paper underlies and animates one of the most influential and durable of human endeavors? We've an answer. Shivers in the moist tissue of the brain confect cathedrals." (11) But do they identify the shivers? Or even look into the physiological causes of the shivers? Nah!

"Our proposal is that all religions differ but all share two destinies: they are the product of the human brain. They endure because of the product -- religion -- on brain function." (11) "Religion pleases the brain's sweet tooth." (129) So they feed the reader profound science such as, "positive, complimentary, and affirming messages not only are peasurable, but they also have salutary and stress-reducing affects on the brain. They brainsoothe." (132) This last technical term is always in italics, because its discovery is an important scientific breakthrough. They say, "We have responded to the worlds of religion and belief in a useful and equable manner. . . .Our obedience has been to the law of parsimony." (215) Not at all! Lenin was parsimonious when he said, "Religion is the opiate of the people." T & McG have generated page after page of anecdotes and googology, but have said nothing of consequence. I wasted not only the cost of the book, but a couple of hours' time in reading through it, looking in vain for information on a correlation between brain biochemistry or physiology and religious belief.
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