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Which came first: Religion or the brain?

In the fractious debate on the existence of God and the nature of religion, two distinguished scientists radically alter the discussion. Taking a perspective rooted in evolutionary biology with a focus on brain science, in GOD'S BRAIN (Prometheus Books, $25) renowned anthropologist Lionel Tiger and pioneering neuroscientist Michael McGuire elucidate perennial questions about religion: What is its purpose? How did it arise? What is its source? And why does every known culture have some form of it?

Their answer is deceptively simple, yet at the same time highly complex: The brain creates religion and its varied concepts of God, and in turn feeds on its creation to satisfy innate neurological and associated social needs.

"Tiger and McGuire have concocted an amazing and insightful lookbased on sound scienceinto how the human brain seeks religion," says R. Curtis Ellison, MD, professor of medicine and public health, Boston University School of Medicine. "Their book beautifully describes how belief, ritual, and socialization within a closed group work together to help humans survive the stresses of everyday life."

Brain science reveals that humans and other primates alike are afflicted by unavoidable sources of stress that the authors describe as "brainpain." To cope with this affliction, people seek to "brainsoothe." In GOD'S BRAIN, Tiger and McGuire look at how humans use religion and its social structures to induce "brainsoothing" as a relief for innate anxiety.

Among other topics, they consider religion's role in providing positive socialization, its seeming obsession with regulating sex, creating an afterlife, how religion's rules of behavior influence the law, the common biological scaffolding between nonhuman primates and humans and how this affects religion, a detailed look at brain chemistry and how it changes as a result of stress, and evidence that the palliative effects of religion on brain chemistry is not matched by nonreligious remedies.

Robin Fox, university professor of social theory at Rutgers University says, "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. Aserious and informative argument."

GOD'S BRAIN is "a scientific take on religion that is not at the same time trying to destroy it" adds Melvin Konner, author of The Tangled Wing: Biological Constraints on the Human Spirit. The thesis provides key insights into the complexities of our brain and the role of religion, perhaps the brain's most remarkable creation.


Contact: Jill Maxick
Prometheus Books

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