Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Do religious experinces shrink part of the brain?

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Two new studies suggest this may be true. The first article is published in Scientific American and is by Anderw Newberg, [1]author of Why God Wont Go Away. [2] Newberg is a pioneer in the field of studying the brain to understand the result of religious thinking. The research is by Amy Owen at Duke University. "The study, published March 30 in PLoS One, showed greater atrophy in the hippocampus in individuals who identify with specific religious groups as well as those with no religious affiliation. It is a surprising result, given that many prior studies have shown religion to have potentially beneficial effects on brain function, anxiety, and depression."

 The Owen study used MRI to measure volume of the hippocampus, in the limbic system. This structure is involved in memory as well as emotion. Sample size inckluded 268 men and women, 58 and over, who suffered depression and were taken from a sample of elderly studied for depression. The study only looked at religious involvement and divided the group into those who were born again  and who had life changing religious experiences. "The results showed significantly greater hippocampal atrophy in individuals reporting a life-changing religious experience. In addition, they found significantly greater hippocampal atrophy among born-again Protestants, Catholics, and those with no religious affiliation, compared with Protestants not identifying as born-again.."

 The Theory proposed by the authors is based upon the idea that those involved in struggle over their beliefs are involved in higher levels of stress. Stress results in shrinkage of the hippocampus. Such conflicts release a stress hormone. Newberg, elucidates upon the theroy in stating that

  There is evidence that members of religious groups who are persecuted or in the minority might have markedly greater stress and anxiety as they try to navigate their own society. Other times, a person might perceive God to be punishing them and therefore have significant stress in the face of their religious struggle. Others experience religious struggle because of conflicting ideas with their religious tradition or their family. Even very positive, life-changing experiences might be difficult to incorporate into the individual’s prevailing religious belief system and this can also lead to stress and anxiety.
Newberg is less than enthusiastic about the findings, points out several flaws in the study, such as small sample size.

Thus, Owen and her colleagues certainly pose a plausible hypothesis. They also cite some of the limitations of their findings, such as the small sample size. More importantly, the causal relationship between brain findings and religion is difficult to clearly establish. Is it possible, for example, that those people with smaller hippocampal volumes are more likely to have specific religious attributes, drawing the causal arrow in the other direction? Further, it might be that the factors leading up to the life-changing events are important and not just the experience itself. Since brain atrophy reflects everything that happens to a person up to that point, one cannot definitively conclude that the most intense experience was in fact the thing that resulted in brain atrophy. So there are many potential factors that could lead to the reported results. (It is also somewhat problematic that stress itself did not correlate with hippocampal volumes since this was one of the potential hypotheses proposed by the authors and thus, appears to undercut the conclusions.) One might ask whether it is possible that people who are more religious suffer greater inherent stress, but that their religion actually helps to protect them somewhat. Religion is frequently cited as an important coping mechanism for dealing with stress.
This new study is intriguing and important. It makes us think more about the complexity of the relationship between religion and the brain. This field of scholarship, referred to as neurotheology, can greatly advance our understanding of religion, spirituality, and the brain. Continued studies of both the acute and chronic effects of religion on the brain will be highly valuable. For now, we can be certain that religion affects the brain--we just are not certain how.

 There are more devastating criticisms to be made. First of all, the sample is taken from a study that was done on elderly and depression. Thus while people may have had a valid life changing experience at some point in the past, they were now depressed. That might either cause or indicate stress and would shrink the hippicamus. It masks the ability to determine the causal relationship between religious experience and shrinkage. Experiences do run low. In Wuthnow study the experience faded after one year.[3] While Maslow speaks of some effects lasting a life time, there are those who need a renewed experience (and renewal is possible). More importantly, we are not told what constitutes "life changing religious experience." We don't know if the M scale was used or if some comparable scale was in sue, or were these experiences just subjectively judged as "religious" and "life changing" because they resulted in a conversion.[4] So again they can't even prove they are talking about the kind of religious experiences that are associated with the most dramatic effects. Moreover, the article alludes several times to "Many studies have shown positive effects of religion and spirituality on mental health, but there are also plenty of examples of negative impacts." We are not told if the negatives are related to the actual experience or to some intervening variable such as persecution. Or even if they are among those with mystical experience or if that's the pile where any conversion is considered life changing.

 The important point to to made is religious experience is so consistently positive and good that even clinicians in institutions encourage their patents to seek it for therapeutic effects.[5] Wuthnow and Nobel both found numerious positive results (negative results--which were about stress and anxiety--were short term). [6][7]


*Say their lives are more meaningful,
*think about meaning and purpose
*Know what purpose of life is
Meditate more
*Score higher on self-rated personal talents and capabilities
*Less likely to value material possessions, high pay, job security, fame, and having lots of friends
*Greater value on work for social change, solving social problems, helping needy
*Reflective, inner-directed, self-aware, self-confident life style


*Experience more productive of psychological health than illness
*Less authoritarian and dogmatic
*More assertive, imaginative, self-sufficient
*intelligent, relaxed
*High ego strength,
*relationships, symbolization, values,
*integration, allocentrism,
*psychological maturity,
*self-acceptance, self-worth,
*autonomy, authenticity, need for solitude,
*increased love and compassion [8]

 This is just the tip of the iceberg. There's a huge body of empirical research going back 50 years demonstrating the positive effects of these experiences it's not logical assume they damage your brain. For years I've searched for examples of detrimental or pathological effects that resulted in transformation (dramatic postiive change for the better). It doesn't happen that way. No form of brain damage results of a really over all better life.

 The Second study is in Science Daily "Selective Brain Damage Modulates Human Spirituality, Rsearch Reveals," (Feb. 11, 2010).[9]  There is no "by" line to the story, it just points to "cell press." So it's by a staff writer for a popular publication specializing in scinece news. The actual research is by Dr. Cosimo Urgesi from the University of Udine in Italy, in February 11 issue of the journal Neuron. This is not too impressive. It leads off with an ideological statment that is little more than pledging allegence ot materialism:

Although it is well established that all behaviors and experiences, spiritual or otherwise, must originate in the brain, true empirical exploration of the neural underpinnings of spirituality has been challenging. However, recent advances in neuroscience have started to make the complex mental processes associated with religion and spirituality more accessible."Neuroimaging studies have linked activity within a large network in the brain that connects the frontal, parietal, and temporal cortexes with spiritual experiences, but information on the causative link between such a network and spirituality is lacking," explains lead study author, Dr. Cosimo Urgesi from the University of Udine in Italy.
In other words theoretically we assume that there's nothing more to spirituality than brain chemistry but it's been real hard to prove it. This study focuses on the phenomenon known as "self transcendence" (ST) as a measure of spirituality. Changes in ST among patience who had been treated for brain cancer so they changed the changes in ST made by brain lesions. The nature of ST was charted by scores obtained before and after on a test. Self transcendence is the sense of one's own unqieness as a person and one's place in relation to the rest of reality. The results are surprising:

The group found that selective damage to the left and right posterior parietal regions induced a specific increase in ST. "Our symptom-lesion mapping study is the first demonstration of a causative link between brain functioning and ST," offers Dr. Urgesi. "Damage to posterior parietal areas induced unusually fast changes of a stable personality dimension related to transcendental self-referential awareness. Thus, dysfunctional parietal neural activity may underpin altered spiritual and religious attitudes and behaviors."
 I would have expected the opposite. Make a lesion and it reduces ST but actually makes it stronger. So they are assuming that ST is the result of damage to the brain rather damage merely impairing it. That's grossly ideological because they are actually saying that our sense of self, the individuality that makes us who we are, the thing that gives us a sense of nobility and makes us human is a mistake, the result of brain damage. This fits with the trans human movement. People who now seek to be robots and who actually disregard their own human rights. That's just clearly wrong. All the positive steps we've taken as humanity since the Renaissance have come as a result of having a concept of self transcendence. If this finding is true than all of civilization is a huge mistake. Every postie step we have taken, including the development of brain science the understanding of neurology is a big accident not just an accident but a travesty, the result of brain damage. Doesn't imply that in some sense are true "design" if we can call it that would be to retard our sense of who we are to keep us from growing as people. Thus making the discipline of psycholgoy into a crime. So it undermines the very sciences that aruge for the finding. Of cousre the original research doesn't say if it's talking about positive or negative aspects associated with ST. Leading me to conclude this may just be a biased telling of the result, conditioned by ideological need.


 [1] Andrew Newberg, "Religious Experiences Shrink Part of the Brain." Scientific American, May 31, 2011. on line copy: accessed 7/31/13

 [2]______________ and  Eugene D'Aquili Why God Wont Go Away:Brain Science and The Biology of Belief. New York: Balantine Books, 2002.

 [3] Robert Wuthnow, "Peak Experiences: Some Empirical Tests." Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 18 (3),  1978. 59-75.

 [4] Metarock, "The M Scale and Universal Nature of Mystical Experience." The Religious A prori
website, accessed 7/31/13.

see also Ralph Hood Jr. “The Common Core Thesis in the Study of Mysticism.” In Where God and Science Meet: How Brain and Evolutionary Studies Alter Our Understanding of Religion.  Patrick Mcnamara ed. West Port CT: Prager Publications, 2006, 119-235.
 [5]Lorraine S. Allman, et al. "Psychotherapists Attitudes Toward Clients Reporting Mystical Experiences." Psychotherapy, Vol 29, no 4, (Winter, 1992), 564-669, 564. on line copy
 accessed 7/31/13.
[6] Robert Wuthnow, Ibid.
[7] Kathleen D. Noble,  ``Psychological Health and the Experience of Transcendence.'' The Counseling Psychologist, 15 (4), 1987, 601-614.
[8] findings of Wuthnow and noble summarized by the council on spiritual Practices, "State of Unitive Conscoiusness Research Summary. website URL:
Accessed 7/22/08
[9] Science Daily "Selective Brain Damage Modulates Human Spirituality, Research Reveals," (Feb. 11, 2010).

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Come post with me

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I have a great message board community, Doxa forums. It's a totally unique community becuase we no trolls, we have no BS yammering, no bickering. I just don't allow trolls. We do have free speech, we have good serious discussion. We are all friends. We have intelligent atheists (Yes! I told it was rare) and intelligent Christians.

Now input is welcome. It's gotten down the same few people and need new ideas and new voices. We will welcome atheists as well as Chrsitians or anyone else. Please come and see:

Doxa forums.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Challenge: Describe the Gospel using no Standard Christian Langauge

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This is not an indication that I actually think we should abandon talking about God. Nor does it mean that I'm giving up Chrsitain doctrine of any kind. It might be a useful exercise. I think Dave had a good point that Christian language has become stigmatized. What do you think of when I say "Jesus love you and a plan for your life?" I think of you think "ho hum." Dave put up a  challenge at a chruch he attends sometimes he told me about it. I said Ok I'm going to try it. It's just an experiment. To describe the Gospel with no standard Christian words about God or Jesus or being saved or anything. Here's Dave's thinking:

"Dave" on peaceful turmoil blog

Why Western Christians Need "no God."

What do you think of when someone mentioned the God of the Bible?

A fickle sky deity worshiped by a collection of allied city states from Bronze age Palestine that merged to become the ancient nation of Israel? Perhaps an image of an old white haired sovereign on a celestial throne?

Perhaps you think instead of socially conservative religious leaders and their political allies and the things they say in the name of God. Or various injustices of history committed in the name of God.

If you do think of such things, you are far from alone. But like my unsolicited advice to Western convert Buddhists (1), one can ask what may be obscured by such reactions.

This kind of reaction is something many Christians seem to be at a loss over. Here is one take on that loss.

All human knowledge and experience is mediated through and embedded within symbols and analogies, especially in the shape of metaphors. Knowledge and experience is also mediated by and has embedded within it moral (how things are/how things ought to be) and emotional content. This is all woven together into narratives or stories at the level of individuals, communities, and societies.

We are more likely to trust someone whose narrative has a structure and interpretation lines up with our own in key ways, or with whom we have more intimate social and emotional connections. Its reciprocal. If I trust you, I trust your worldview. If I trust your worldview, I trust you.

Religion offers, among others things, a communal response to the spiritual impulse (seeking connection and purpose through integration into higher orders of structure and meaning) rooted in an existential narrative (a story about why we exist). This narrative takes the forms of myth, a story connecting an ahistorical origin of a people ("Long ago..." "Before the world began...") to a moral vision of the contemporary world -- how the world is, ought to be, and will be.

In many contemporary, industrial, post-Enlightenment societies the symbols and images associated with Christianity, its mythology, and its ritual institutions have become problematic.

For those with little knowledge of the religion itself or of its theology and history, the symbols, images, and references to Biblical and non-Biblical stories of faith hold little meaning except for their association with the most visible aspects of Christianity such as televangelism, homophobic and sexist political tirades, and the sex abuse scandals.

For those with limited but intense exposure, such as people who grew up in a socially conservative and fundamentalist evangelical form of Christianity and abandoned it as ignorant, deceptive, or intolerant, the moral/emotional association with the symbols, images, and stories can be downright toxic.

Then there is the fact that some symbols and images and allusions to Biblical stories are so ubiquitous that the over-exposure dilutes anyone but the loudest/most visible interpretations, feeding into and reinforcing the views already described. Add in that this does not come with the widespread and developed sense of cultural literacy needed to make sense of or engage these ubiquitous elements the social smog surrounding Christianity becomes even thicker.

So is Christianity doomed? What can the Church try that it hasn't pursued already? Jump below the break to find out. (read more of Dave's essay)

 Dave is an anthropologist. That explains it right? Here goes:

The nature of this religion thing is to discover and understand the basic problem or set of problems at the hart of being human. Human life is fraught with a problematic nature but it seems like the general brunt of our problems go back to the basis of being human. We are moral, we have a sort time then we are gone. While we are at it we are prevented form enjoying it not so much because we are too weak to get what we want but becuase we can enjoy what we have since we are wrestles and board and always worried.

 Humans come to different ideas about the nature of the problem: imbalance with nature, sin that separates us form some sort of ultimate power, our relation to the stars or to higher powers, the size of our brains, or whatever. Yet the point is we all come to some idea that that there is a problem in "the human condition." A lot of it is grounded in human nature; greed, seeking power, violent nature, narrow minds. We seek a vantage point which can make sense of it it all and give us a way to overcome the constraints. Many find that sense of vantage point in the ultimate transfomrative experience. Studies show that such experience is effective in eliminating our depression, fear of death, sense of want or sense of meaninglessness.

These sorts of issues are not dwelt upon in our society today as they were several years ago. In the 60s it was considered all important to find a sens of identity, today that sense is ready made in the social class, ownership  of possessions and knowledge of technology. I still think that if we scratch the surface those issue are just beneath.

The sense of transformation is mediated through narrative and ritual. This is where the specifics of the Christian tradition come into it.  But before getting into that (which has to be spoken in standard Chrsitain parlance) we still need to cover certain ground, the nature of the transformation. Transformative effects can be found in many traditions but in the Christian tradition it's very specific. Of cousre transformation is related to what Paul Tillich called "the object of ultimate concern." This is exactly what it sounds like the thing we care about the most. It's not a material possession. We can't say our motorcycle is the object of ultimate concern even if that's where we put our focus. Obviously the ultimate concern is death, or perhaps eternal life. Tillich also links this sense with Being itself. That is to say the aspect of being that is eternal and necessary and that produces or creates all the contingent temporary aspects.

The transformative effect comes from a particular attention to the eternal necessary aspect of being. That particular relationship to the eternal necessary aspect of being is one of a realization of dependence upon that aspect, and a conscoiusness awareness of the sense of love connected to the consciousness of that aspect. This sense of love fosters commitment on our part; commitment to goodness and to values associated with such positive aspects of being.

At this point it's all been pretty veg and general. I think the price we pay for an economy language that shucks off baggage and tired images is that it become general and veg. That's not necessarily a failure of the experiment. It may not be possible to speak without standard phrases and not be veg and general. From this point one must introduce the concept of God and the Bible and Jesus if one's discourse is to verge into specificity.

 How did I do?

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Going on Vacation

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Sorry do this but I'm going on vacation. I have ran kind of dray. I've been doing this steadily since I moved into this house. that was five years ago and that was last real break I've had from doing it. I will be gone for about 3 weeks or so. Maybe more. I'll be back. don't stop following.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Atheism's Assualt on all forms of Knowledge

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 Jerry A. Coyne* is on the war path against all forms of thought that are not science.On his blog, "Why Evolution is True," he defends scientism as the only from of knowledge. He doesn't defend science but "scienTISM." The thing about that is that term has always been used to refer to an phony exaggeration in the confidence one places in scinece. It's always meant a sort legalistic worship of science. Apparently those adjectives accurately describe Coyne's feelings about the subject. For him there's only one form of knowledge. He goes after Eric MacDonald who is actually opposing religious obstacles to the right to die. He runs a sight called Choice of Dying. Whatever his site is about he makes the satement oppossing scientism:

 I won’t go into the detail of the arguments (or non-arguments) presented in this thread. That was not the focus of my concern, which remains even when everything said here has been said. Certainly, for example, to say that Mozart is a greater composer than Hummel requires evidence, and the people who would be the best judge of what constitutes evidence in this case would not be scientists, but experts in music, composition, direction, performance, and appreciation. I don’t think that a study of the structure of music as related to brain structure or response would tell us very much. I may be quite wrong about this, but I think there is more going on here than simply those things discoverable by science. And that is precisely my problem with what I am here calling “scientism.” It is, basically, a “faith” position, since it is not in fact based, and cannot, in the nature of the case, be based on empirical evidence, for it is, essentially, a meta-claim about such evidence, and the belief that only those beliefs based on the kind of evidence in question constitute knowledge.

 This is too much for Coyne. He summarizes MacDonald's battle plan thusly:

 As I pointed out in the first part of my critique, these pieces espoused three themes: the failures of New Atheism, especially its inability to replace what religion gives people; the dangers of scientism, which Eric apparently sees as a pervasive and destructive attitude; and the fact that there are Ways of Knowing other than science.  Yesterday I analyzed—and disagreed with—Eric’s claim that New Atheism is an abject failure because it a). criticizes simplistic caricatures of religion rather than serious theological thought, and b). tears down religion without replacing the essential human needs that religion meets. This morning I’ll address “other ways of knowing.”

 MacDonald is saying that experiential forms of knowing are required and are valid forms of knowledge in their own right apart form the formal scientific collection of data. You can't really know music just by  knowing a lot of technical data about sound waves, without actually hearing the music. That's not good enough for Coyne. He complies a short list of forms of knowledge MacDonald says require other froms of knowing than just scinece and it includes:

  • Aesthetic judgments
  • Moral judgments
  • Law
  • History
 He points out that science is not a collection of people with Ph.Ds or a body of results but a method. In the broader sense that method invovles evidence that can be deduced systematically and can be tested by others. "Evidence that cannot be tested and confirmed by others is not reliable evidence: it falls into the purview of things like religious revelations, which many theologians do see as “evidence.” He asserts that construing scinece broadly one can include things like auto mechanics and plumbing. Well of course he fails to distinguish between using scientific methods or approach and applying them to problems rather actually doing science; something has to be said about science as inquiry. It's not just a pragmatic tool fo re-roofing your house it's about actually learning for the sake of knowledge itself. It has has something to do with knowledge about the workings of natural world not the workings of anything, so the workings of impressionists painters are excluded. If we make he definition too board in encompass everything then it's not even meaningful to distinguish bewteen science and not science. Of cousre he actually knew something about theology he would know that some aspects of it can be appraoch through replicable methods that yield evidence which can be checked by others, such as textual criticism.

 Then there's no reason why theology should produce that kind of knowledge. The purpose of theology is not mirror scinece. It's to answer problems and understand developments in religious tradition. the first thing scientistic types always do when they see anything about other forms of knowledge is hold up to scinece and assume that their purpose must be to imitate scinece. For them that's all life is about, science, its not about experiencing things its about collecting data. This gimmick of reducing everything to science is followed by Coyne until he incorporates all of the "other forms" into scinece. History and archeology, he argues, test hypotheses so they are scinece."Archaeologists and historians often act as scientists when trying to determine truth about the past. Indeed, that is the only way they can be credible.."

He does acknowledge that aesthetic and moral judgements are not in the same category (not scinece) because they can't be verified determined objectively. A set of criteria that might render a judgement true in that sense is nevertheless set up subjectively. But not only are they not reduced to scinece but they are not true either. So he reduced truth to that which suits the scientific method. He repudiates moral thinking on the same ground because it can't be given the official stamp of scinece (even though as we have seen there are schools of thought that think they are doing that). He accepts Math and philosophy as uses of logic that are "almost scientific." So he makes a small niche for something that is not scientific per se (no replicable, no empirical data). It's still on the basis of being able to discern an objective basis through the use of logic, making it an alley of science (he doesn't use that phrase). He says,"I think philosophy and mathematics are “ways of understanding”, and come close to science in that one can demonstrate truths within an accepted system of logic."

Literature she shuns because it tells us nothing external until scinece is use (again scinece in the loosest sense of anything that's not subjective) to confirm it. By that way of thinknig then psychology is out. Psychology ceases to be scientific. Of course individual judgement is out.

He reduces all to naturalism:

What I argue, then, is that anything that is claimed to exist in our universe can be verified only with the methods of science, broadly construed. I don’t see that Eric has convincingly demonstrated that there are real and objective moral and aesthetic judgments that can be demonstrated by “evidence.”  How can you test your claim that Mozart is better than Hummel by checking it against the real world? All you can find out is that many people think that Mozart is better than Hummel. But others may dissent, and who can prove them wrong? How can you prove someone wrong who says that it’s immoral to abort babies after the first trimester?
 Mozart vs. Hummel was MacDonald's example of a time when you listen to the music rather than gather data. He totally glosses over the meat of the point and reduces everything to data collection. There is no experience;  experience of the world doesn't give us truth, truth is nothing more than the simulacra that results from having put data through the process of replication. We are not getting reality, he's divorced truth from reality. Just as he's divorced music from listening. Of cousre he assume it has to be subjective, there can't ever be any kind of subjective value, which is no wonder he's just eliminated the arts completely. Then concepts like personal enlightenment wouldn't even appear on his radar. Whole traditions like Buddhism and some forms of Christianity and other oriental religions will just be left out and even confiscated,consigned to the nether world of "the subjective" and the 'not truth' because they seek the kind of verification he can control. Finding what people think about Mozart based upon actually hearing his music is good enough. After he's eliminated the concept of inter-subjectivity, but why should it be when it is verifiable? We have a sense of checking the subjective machinations of each others world views by comparing notes on the subjective. That all carefully designed to steer us into avenues scientists control and ordinary people can't have access to. His final statement says it all:

Finally, although this isn’t Eric’s aim, much of the “other ways of knowing” palaver is used to advance the “truth claims” of religion. But I hardly need to add that I don’t think religion is a way of knowing anything about the real world. That’s simply a truism, for our understanding of any divinities, transcendent beings, or “moral truths” derived from faith alone has not advanced one iota since the ancient Greeks. Hell, after millennia of apologetic and “proofs” of God, we don’t even know whether there is a god, much less one god or many, or what said gods are like or want us to do.
 Holy question begging Batman, so that's what it's all about? The exclusion of subjective ideas is carefully controlled to get rid of religion. Of course he's already got the ideology down, he's already opposed to religion before the deliberations even start. Everything he says in that paragraph is propaganda. It's all based upon the refusal to learn theology. He says other ways of knowing (which are just palaver) can just be ruled out because they support religion. Don't' show me the evidence, it might not concur with what I want to hear. That religion is not a way to know anything is clearly propaganda BS. First of all it's a way to know spiritual things and religious thing.s For that that "likes it" that's a good thing. Of course It's not for those who are predisposed to think of it as "the enemy." The idea that faith has not advanced, that's a matter of ignorance. the 20th was one of the most amazingly progressive times for theology. Theology made huge advances in the last century. I doubt Coyne would understand any of it as advancement because he can't control it and it doesn't advance the robot mind control ideas of atheism and reductionism and scientific.

One of the most amazing advances of the last century, in terms of religious knowledge, was the M scale, Hood's measurement study instrument or understanding the validity of mystical experience. That actually gives us a handle on empirical evdience for the existence of God, through the universal arguemnt made possible by the M scale (see the link). Speaking of that there's an interesting possibility by observing how Coyne reduces everything that can produce any kind of tangible results to scinece. Not only does that lose the distinction between science and not scinece but it also means that we can extend the same connection to religious belief and include it in the same way. Not does the M scale make this possible but also arguments like fine tuning that employ scientific data. He says we don't know if there's a good. I know there is. We have rational warrant for belief becuase we have wealth of argument and data to back them up. More importantly by employing the same strategy he does we can reduce everything to ethology. science becomes theology through the M scale and fine tuning data, God on the brain evidence, and that backs up the warrant for belief. It's can't be used with an atheist assumption since it's no part of theology. It becomes theological by the same token that all those other forms of knowing become scientific. The mediating principle that incorporates them is provide data backing the co-determinate.

The co-determinate is Schleiermacher's concept of an aspect of the naturalistic dimension of human experience that telegraphs the divine in human experience, such as the presence of God in the sense of the numinous. This fits with Tillich's concept of the correlation whereby doctrines of the faith are lined up with data from human behavior and experience. In other words do people in fact experience this presence and what does it do for them when the do? Just like a finger print this aspect is always there to  mark the presence of the other, as the print marks the presence of the finger though it is absent. In do doing, by the same logic that Coyne uses, we can make theology science and scinece theology.

*Jerry A. Coyne, Ph.D is a Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago and a member of both the Committee on Genetics and the Committee on Evolutionary Biology.