In this edition of the Rational Faiths podcast Benjamin Knoll interviews Michael Ferguson on the neuroscience of religious experience. We cover a variety of topics including:
- A brief overview of Michael’s background with the fascinating field of brain science.
- A brief summary of some recent research on what is going on in our bodies when people “feel the Spirit.”
- Philosophical framings of naturalism, materialism, dualism, and monism.
- The foundations of Mormonism and how research in neuroscience may help us understand the Joseph Smith story, including the First Vision and the translation of the Book of Mormon.
- The implications for this research for the “mechanics” of spiritual experience and what we can learn from it.
At various points Benjamin plays the critic and asks whether this research means that all spiritual experiences are ultimately nothing more than neurons knocking into each other in our brains. Michael’s answers are fascinating.
RESOURCES DISCUSSED IN THE PODCAST:
- This is Your Brain on God | Michael Ferguson | TEDxSaltLakeCity – TEDx talk by Michael Ferguson
- The God Seed: Probing the Mystery of Spiritual Development by M. Catherine Thomas
- Fits,Trances, and Visions: experiencing religion and explaining experience from Wesley to James by Ann Taves
- Embracing Mind: The Common Ground of Science and Spirituality by B. Alan Wallace
- Navigating Mormon Faith Crisis: A Simple Developmental Map by Thomas Wirthlin McConkie
OTHER RESOURCES OF INTEREST:
- Sacred Knowledge: Psychedelics and Religious Experiences by William A. Richards
- Testimony, Spiritual Experiences, and Truth: A Careful Examination by bwv549
- How Our Brains are Wired for Belief – transcript from May 2008 Pew Forum’s biannual Faith Angle Conference on religion, politics and public life