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Explorations in Neuroscience, Psychology and ReligionReview - Explorations in Neuroscience, Psychology and Religion
by Kevin S. Seybold
Ashgate, 2007
Review by Paul A. Wagner, Ph.D.
Apr 1st 2008 (Volume 12, Issue 14)

There is no doubt an important need to bring together the study of neuroscience, the study of mind and religion. The Nobel Laureate in medicine Sir John Eccles use to share with me through personal correspondence his belief that the soul exists and is couples buttons on each and every neuron. This made people embodied souls through and through. Descartes thought the soul's point of contact with the body was the pituitary gland centered deep in the brain. In either case the abundance of neural tissue in the brain make it a key focus of understanding how thoughts, imaginings, the phenomenology of experience generally and souls and body can be brought together in one dynamic.

Andrew Newburg and others represent a spate of thinkers who write about the brain's evidently having neurological apparatus committed to prayer and similar mental experiences. Most of these writers are hesitant to go forward and make either a naturalistic argument for non-belief or a anti-naturalist argument for a more comprehensive view of human nature. Seybold is not of this ilk. His is a Christian account through and through but that makes it no less informative unless the reader is a bigot through and through.

This book is a somewhat uneven read. Some chapters are dynamite such as the one on brain science and one on evolutionary psychology. His chapters on psychology generally and on the philosophy of science while meant to be brief surveys lapse into glibness at times. This is a bit odd since Seybold is a professional psychologist and he clearly intends to take a stance on the philosophy of science. Evidently, Seybold sees evolutionary psychology as the greatest threat to overwhelming lay Christian readers with data and arguments leading to the denial of God, design and soulfulness. So he levels his attack at that branch of psychology especially. And he does a good job of it.

In his attack on evolutionary psychology and even to a lesser degree on neuroscience itself, Seybold utilizes the philosophic critique that when such sciences set out to discredit the idea of the soul they do so from a philosophical perspective no one need accept to do good science, namely, naturalism. Seybold argues there is much more to reality than what is permitted within the constraints of naturalistic reasoning. Seybold instead advocates a philosophic pluralism to the acquisition of knowledge. He starts with the idea that laying out what we want to know is a more productive first step than starting with a methodological prescription that constrains a priori what we might allow ourselves to come to know.

 Seybold concludes by arguing not only for scientific pluralism but for science and religion together to be seated at the table of the Great Conversation of Humankind at which all serious-minded people sit and share with others what we can about our understanding of all that is real around us. Anyone actually open to participating in the Conversation cannot help but be convinced that science and religion belong at the same table of open discourse and that each surprisingly informs the other as much as each reinforces the conclusions of the other. It is philosophy that separates disputants and not data or theology. This book is short and a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding read especially for those who want an update on the cutting edge of neuroscience and evolutionary psychology from a believer's perspective.

© 2008 Paul A. Wagner

Paul A. Wagner, Ph.D., Professor, Philosophy, School of Human Science and Humanities, and, Professional Ethics and Psychology, School of Education, University of Houston-Clear Lake, Wagner@uhcl.edu

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