Time posted an interesting article, What Your Brain Looks Like on Faith, last week. Sam Harris, author of the best-seller The End of Faith, and doctoral student in neurology at UCLA, has published a new study of how the brain responds to faith questions. Interestingly, there is little difference between how the human brain processes objective data (2+2=4) and faith data (the existence of God). Both kinds of data are ultimately processed by the locales of the brain that deal with emotions or taste and odor.
Here’s a quote —
“It [the study] suggests that within the brain pan, at least, the distinction between objective and subjective is not so clear-cut. Although more complex assertions may get analyzed in so-called “higher” areas of the brain, all seem to get their final stamp of “belief” or disbelief in “primitive” locales traditionally associated with emotions or taste and odor. Even “2 + 2 = 4,” on some level, is a question of taste. Thus, the statement “that just doesn’t smell right to me” may be more literal than we thought.” — Time, What Your Brain Looks Like on Faith, 12/14/07.
The implications for outreach and evangelism are astounding. This might be why people don’t always respond to “facts” or an argument from apologetics or other “proofs” of the Christian faith. Faith resides deep within our psyches, and our responses are more intuitive and less rational.
The study also might confirm the notion that faith is more caught than taught. Which should give us some clues about how we go about doing church. More studies are going to be done in this area, and it will be interesting to see those results. But this study is consistent with my experience — people believe for reasons that are more than rational. Yet we in evangelical circles particularly continue to focus on “propositonal” statements and approaches. If faith resides more in our heart than in our head, what approaches might be more valid? What do you think?