Study: People who believe in the supernatural must suppress the critical thinking part of their brain

According to a new study published in PLOS One, researchers examined how predisposition to religious thinking and logical thought clash since the parts of the brain responsible for logic are suppressed in order to entertain religious ideas.

“From what we understand about the brain, the leap of faith to belief in the supernatural amounts to pushing aside the critical/analytical way of thinking,” said lead author Tony Jack, professor of philosophy at Case Western Reserve.

“Of the seven studies which included measures of analytic thinking, all demonstrated a negative relationship with belief in the bivariate correlations.” the study says.

Found through the use of fMRI scans, previous research conducted by Jack and his fellow colleagues identified two networks of neurons that competed to let individuals interpret the world in either religious or scientific terms. According to Jack, the brain has an analytical network of neurons which triggers critical thinking and a social network which enables spiritual thinking. Those who participated in the scans were presented with a physical or ethical problem. The brain then appeared to boost activity in one of two networks while suppressing the other in order to solve the presented problem.

For the latest study, researchers conducted eight experiments involving 159 and 527 people. The purpose of the experiments was to compare the belief in God with measures of analytic thinking and moral concern. Each experiment found that both spiritual and empathetic concern were positively associated with frequent religious practice.

The study also points out that some of the brilliant scientist of our time were also spiritual people.

“Far from always conflicting with science, under the right circumstances religious belief may positively promote scientific creativity and insight,” said Jack. “Many of history’s most famous scientists were spiritual or religious. Those noted individuals were intellectually sophisticated enough to see that there is no need for religion and science to come into conflict.”

The study also revealed that those who managed to use both networks without suppression, are far better equipped to understand the world and better equipped for scientific discoveries.

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