Books by Brights
Brain & Belief:
An Exploration of the Human Soul
Author: John J. McGraw
Certainly, a greater part of the battle against supernaturalism is ignorance. Let’s face it, there are a lot more Christian missionaries crawling the planet espousing an archaic worldview than there are ambassadors of science helping the emerging cultures to discard their fear of the unknown. In Brain & Belief, the lynchpin of all supernatural religious doctrine—the idea of the soul—is taken head on in the hopes of educating people against ideas that have become, frankly, dangerous.
The first part of the book chronologically traces the history of the soul from its basis in prehistoric thought to its canonical placement at the center of Western theological traditions, the second part of the book—in jarring contrast—outlines the developments in neuroscience and psychopharmacology that put traditional ideas about the soul to the test, and the final section of the book illustrates the ramifications of this intersection between the old and the new, the consequences of that perennial clash between science and religion. In the introduction, McGraw writes:
Why bring up the debate about the human soul once again? If thousands of years of careful thinkers could not resolve the arguments, why should we expect anything more? We can now expect better answers—or at least better arguments—because science has provided us with new tools and new information about this all-important matter.
From the visionary art of the prehistoric caves at Chauvet and Lascaux to the latest findings from The Salk Institute in La Jolla, McGraw deftly weaves history and science in an effort to understand the meaning, significance, and future of this all-important concept, crucial to so many religious traditions. From prehistory to postmodernity, Brain & Belief seeks to understand humankind's obsession with life, death, and the afterlife.
Some of the topics are:
The Soul of Plato—a survey of this critical thinker’s ideas about the soul which have become the very core of Western doctrine / Of Neurons and Neurostransmitters—a presentation of contemporary neuroscience and its understanding of how the brain works to create consciousness / Psychoactivity—a thorough chapter on the significance of psychoactive drugs in human history / Contingency, the sting of death / Narcissism and the Reality Principle—an analysis of narcissism as one of the driving forces behind belief in an immortal soul / After Life?—a fascinating exploration of the conceptions of life after death / The Mechanics of Belief and Disbelief
About the Author
John J. McGraw, a native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, was educated in Catholic schools, at Phillips Exeter Academy, and at Stanford University. In 1998 he graduated from Stanford with degrees in psychology, philosophy & religious studies. He has worked for the last four years at the University of California, San Diego as a medical researcher.