Victoria NeuroNotes

Something To Think About

54 Comments

One Brain — Two Hemispheres:  One Half Atheist and One Half Theist

Split-brain is a lay term to describe the result when the corpus callosum connecting the two hemispheres of the brain is severed to some degree. It is an association of symptoms produced by disruption of or interference with the connection between the hemispheres of the brain.

A question was asked:

Do you believe in God?


Neurologist V.S. Ramachandran is Director of the Center for Brain and Cognition and Distinguished Professor with the Psychology Department and Neurosciences Program at the University of California, San Diego, and Adjunct Professor of Biology at the Salk Institute. In this short clip, he explains the case of split-brain patients with one hemisphere without a belief in God, and the other hemisphere with a belief in God.  The 2 minute clip was extracted from the Beyond Belief Conference in 2006.  Dr. Ramachandran states that this finding should have sent a tsunami to the theological community, but barely produced a ripple.  He further states that it raises all kinds of theological questions:

If this person dies — what happens?  Does one hemisphere go to hell and the other hemisphere go to heaven?  😉

Lofty questions about the mind are fascinating to ask.  Philosophers have been asking them for three millennia both in India where I am from and here in the West – but it is only in the brain that we can eventually hope to find the answers.  ~Vilayanur S. Ramachandran


If you’re interested, here’s the full “Beyond Belief” lecture from The Science Network.  Fascinating!

Next post — Neuroscience Explanations for ‘Spiritual’ Experiences  — Part 2

 

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Author: NeuroNotes

Victoria predominately blogs about religion, and the brain's role in religious type experiences.

54 thoughts on “Something To Think About

  1. Excellent post. Thanks for posting it. I’d love to hear the BS apologists would spin on this. It’s easier to always have answers when lies are excepted as infallible truths.

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    • Thank you, J. I must tell you that with the abundant amount of information available to us at our fingertips in this day and age, it astounds me that so many people still hold on to archaic belief systems. AND that they are so easily willing to just take anyone at their word. Is it any wonder why charlatans and snake oil salesmen of the cloth are, for the most part, living a life of comfort at the expense of those who have put their trust in their ‘word’ and ‘knowledge’. They take advantage of people and know (based on history) that humans have the propensity to be gullible.

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      • Not only is information right at folks finger tips, it’s proudly and pompously ignored. Americans in particular wear ignorance and stupidity on their chests like badges of honor. “Look how friggin’ proud I am of being ignorant! It’s my right to be stupid and not learn. Deal with it and vote for me!” Oh, it’s fine to use Jeff when replying since you know my name. Easier too. I thought inspiredbythedivine one was funny so I used it never thinking I’d meet so many folks to chat with.

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        • Thanks Jeff, just wanted to make sure it was cool to write your full name.

          I think about myself and how gullible I was. How trusting I was. And how vested I was as a believer. But there comes a time when we put away childish things. Hell, even the bible says that. The biggest obstacle I ran into with clergy was “don’t question authority”. I know why, now. Well, I broke the spell over myself. And for someone who was fully vested (not a cultural Christian), if I can do it, so can others. But perhaps you are right. They simply don’t want to know. They are happy with status quo. But there is so much more wonderment as a non-believer. So much more appreciation for life. We only get once chance at this — so live every moment as though it were our last, as they say.

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          • You are absolutely correct. So much more wonder in life when we open our minds to learning. “Don’t question authority” means question the person saying not to, but it is SO hard to learn that not only is it OK to question it, it’s necessary for growth to take place. Fear tactics are used to keep the faithful in line. The epiphany of bliss that awaits us once we see how foolish and damaging it is to not question ridiculous crap like religious dogma, is wondrously liberating. I think of Ken Ham, and others like him, and his Creationist bullshit when I say how prideful people are in their ignorance of reality, prideful and spiteful of reality. By all means, if some group of idiots want to live n a dream world, let em. But to elevate that status, provide it tax exempt status, and allow it to bleed into society like a parasitic rat, is NOT OK. It’s harmful. Mommy and Daddy must step in and send the kiddies to their rooms with their fairy tale book while they make grown up, rational decisions for the good of the WHOLE household. To not do this, is akin to self generated genocide of our race. It is time to put aside childish belief as the divine standard by which we live and are governed. And like you said, even the bible says that.

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  2. Classic. But i’m confused, was he describing actual experiments with humans?

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  3. “If this person dies — what happens? Does one hemisphere go to hell and the other hemisphere go to heaven?”

    Thanks for this Victoria – always love starting my day with laughter and this one really cracked me up! I can’t remember where I saw it now but I remember seeing a video on this “split brain” phenomenon but it didn’t bring up this theological question.

    After I calmed down from the laughter I realized that funny as it is, it really is a perfectly valid question. Of course God knows everything and has all the answers so no need for worrying about it. 😉

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    • Hehe — I have a huge grin on my face, Howie. I’m glad you got a kick out of this.

      “Of course God knows everything and has all the answers so no need for worrying about it.”

      Hahah — I had the exact same thought that apologist would think or say this. 😈

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  4. If this person dies — what happens? Does one hemisphere go to hell and the other hemisphere go to heaven?

    I can’t wait for the answers to this question!

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  5. Oooh, makes me wonder if part of my brain could be following a religion I’m unaware of, an isolated area I’ve not come across yet. Christians will just argue that one away saying the god God knows what’s in everyone’s heart (because they think thinking takes place there). 🙂

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    • Yeah — I guess god God knows which hemisphere has been naughty and which has been nice? Our two hemispheres have completely different personalities. In people where their hemispheres have been severed, for what ever reason, such as to prevent abnormal electrical activity from going over to the other hemisphere, there were all kinds of bazaar behaviors. A husband trying to hit his wife with his left hand (left side of the brain controls the right side of the body) all the while his left hand (right side of the brain controls the left side of the body) tries to defend her.

      Same thing with someone who was trying to light up a cigarette with one hand while the other hand tried to stop it. So, there are many questions that need to be answered regarding ‘morality’ and belief. This all shows us, Violet, that these archaic ‘holy’ books who claim that the words and teachings are the god God’s words and teachings, didn’t know squat about the brain and apparently neither did their god God.

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  6. Hey Viiiiii, Bang on…. or should I say nailed it???? :)))) hugggg

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  7. So, it all really is “in your head” then, Victoria? 🙂

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  8. ” … with the abundant amount of information available to us at our fingertips in this day and age, it astounds me that so many people still hold on to archaic belief systems.”

    Oh come now, Victoria. How can you be astounded? You do remember, don’t you, how you were cautioned (threatened) to stay away from anything that wasn’t in the bible?

    Besides, it’s so much easier to take what the preacher/Sunday School teacher says than to do research on your own.

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    • I hear ya Nan. It’s quite true that believers are indoctrinated to use ‘holy’ writ as the final truth and to not lean on their own understanding, or that their god’s ways are higher than our ways, yada, yada, yada. . But there are a lot of believers who do research, such as in debates — and their need to believe neurologically blinds them in seeing the massive data. Brain scans show that when you have a vested love for a child/children, and/or lover/spouse, neural circuity associated with critical social assessment and negative emotions deactivates. Part of their brain literally goes offline.

      Still — we managed to do it, so I say others can, too.

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    • I should note that it would also apply to a vested love for a god, and a beloved pet/pets. They get rewarded, neurochemically. These types of attachment activate regions in the brain’s reward system that coincide with areas rich in oxytocin, vasopressin and dopamine receptors.

      Yes, it’s true. Love is really blind. 😉

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  9. I got stuck reading all your interesting and well researched articles and realised today I’ve never even commented on this post. hahahah
    Guess my brain got split in quite a few parts Victoria! 😆
    Interesting video and fascinating that the brain would react like that.

    Saw this funny video – nothing to do with split brain though but I know you’ll love it – if you haven’t seen it yet. 😆

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  10. This song may be about partying, but I see it as an atheist anthem. Keep swinging from that chandelier, Victoria. Live like tomorrow doesn’t exist, enjoying all that today brings you!

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    • Charity, I was in the middle of reading your email, when I got this comment notification. You always find the best music. The symbolism in this is incredible. The freedom; the nakedness. Do you know that it is not unusual for me to dance naked in my room alone with iPod in tow? I suppose it’s symbolic to swinging from a chandelier. I feel young, naked, and free since I left Christianity 😀

      Yes, this is my new atheist anthem. Have added it to my favs on YouTube. I will dance naked to it when I load it to my iPod.

      Thank you for bringing a huge smile to my face. ❤

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    • Btw, Charity — the pervs started spamming me after I wrote about nakedness. LOL

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      • Glad you like it, dear. As soon as I heard the song and saw the video, I knew I HAD to share it with you. I needed to include someone in my appreciation of Sia and I knew you would be that person.

        Here’s a lyrical video. Happy mother’s day to you and to EVERY man. woman and child who gives all that he or she can. May we all truly live out our lives in all the best.

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  11. Hi Victoria,

    I watched a debate this week about the afterlife that might interest you. Have you heard of Steve Novella? Every time I heard him say fMRI or amygdala guess who I thought of? 😉

    It’s a little long, but there are parts that might interest you. Here it is:

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    • Howie, my friend, thank you for the debate video. I just finished watching it. John Zande told me about the upcoming debate a couple of days ago but when I learned that Eben Alexander and Raymond Moody were arguing for it, my stomach turned. Alexander has little integrity, in my opinion, and I base that on his past — getting fired from hospitals due to unethical behavior (In two of those lawsuits, Alexander appears to have altered or falsified medical records to cover his incompetence.) This was before his illness. He apologized and blamed his lack of integrity on sleep deprivation and stress. So what he’s saying is that anyone who is sleep deprived and stressed is suspect of being unethical and lacking integrity. Basically what he’s saying is that every physician in the medical community should not be trusted.

      He also misquoted Carl Sagan. He has a book to sell. He has bills to pay because of malpractice lawsuits. Of course he’s going to argue in favor. He can’t be objective, and he certainly wasn’t in this debate. He was the worse person to argue for this case. Moody stated that he was going to argue “not from the realm of science but from the faculties of logic and reason”, which included critical thinking. WTF? Critical thinking should always include science. Both seem clueless as to what critical thinking actually entails. I was embarrassed for both of them as I listened to their side of the argument.

      So with that said, I’m going to write a post on this debate, on NDE’s, and include my own personal encounter with a near-death experience that happened in the late 90’s. I have read about NDE’s extensively and hopefully, objectively. Based on countless hours studying about the brain, about culture, having a background in neurotechnology, and my own NDE experience, I concur with Novella and Carroll.

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      • You are exactly right on the Carl Sagan thing. I happen to own “The Demon-Haunted World” and after the debate I looked on page 302 and it is incredibly clear that Eben Alexander twisted Sagan’s words way out of context. It doesn’t make Alexander look good at all.

        When I wrote a “heads up” post on my blog about the then upcoming debate the other day I was encouraged by several to write a review post so I’ll be writing a post about the debate as well. But I know nothing about NDE’s, so I am very much looking forward to reading your upcoming post. I have a real interest in the subject. Needless to say the second part of Carl Sagan’s book title “Science As a Candle in the Dark” is exactly what we need to shed light on supernatural and pseudoscientific claims. Whether it’s Carl Sagan, Steve Novella, Daniel Dennet, Michael Shermer, Joe Nickel, or Benjamin Radford more people are making it clear that this is what we need. I believe it’s part of why we see in the polls that more people are moving away from religion. Obviously there are other reasons, but a big one is that people are seeing that it just doesn’t seem to be measuring up to scientific investigations.

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        • Howie, I consider myself fairly open-minded. If there is evidence, I’m not going to ignore it. But to date, I’ve not seen any significant evidence, and I believe that because I had the experience myself that my voice is important, too. I cannot, in good conscience, exploit death anxiety. Sure, I wanted to believe in heaven or an after life of pure bliss, joy and love. Who wouldn’t? I was even a Christian at the time I had this experience. But after nearly 15 years of researching this, and hoping that it was true, there is simply no evidence. There are way too many variables to take into consideration. I can now produce these experiences via neurotechnology.

          IMO, people are marketing death anxiety, and that leaves a stench in my nostrils.

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  12. Landed on your site via variouspontifications.com. It has some really interesting and thought provoking articles (well, the two I read so far;)). I used to be a psychologist and took quite a few courses in the field of neuropsychology as I was studying, so articles like these bring back quite a lot of the amazement I felt back then…
    Also:
    “Does one hemisphere go to hell and the other hemisphere go to heaven?”…Has got to be one of the smartest questions asked to theists;)

    Like

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