GBH Second Sunday Meeting: Religion in the Brain

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Human beings search for meaning. Why? How? Human beings, as members of a social species, need capacities for social control. How? Why? These human behaviors require a brain; a brain requires a context to work in. What does this mean? Context isn’t just the physical environment. It includes the psychological environment. It also incorporates the products of brains-in-social-groups-over-time, that is, culture. Philosophy, literature, religion, morality, science….. How do these cultural products shape the brain/mind? How does the brain/mind shape them? This session invites participants to consider new ideas and arguments derived from the neurosciences.

Jane Holmes Bernstein is a neuropsychologist in Psychiatry at Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School whose primary professional role is training clinicians in developmental neuropsychology. Her developmental perspective views the evolutionary “end-state” of THE brain as the “start-state” for the development of an individual (THIS) brain, and emphasizes the interactions between organisms and their context in the shaping of brain over both evolutionary and developmental time. She is thus fascinated by two questions: how and why does the brain/mind support culture and its products? and how do culture and cultural products shape the brain/mind? As a humanist, her questions often focus on religion, morality, science.

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