Faith Smells Bad?

In news on January 11, 2008 at 5:29 pm

An article recently appeared in Time titled, “My Nose, My Brain, My Faith“. The article mentions some research being done with the attempt of showing that faith may be reasoned within the mind in the same way certain statements cause us to react either positively or negatively when we hear them or certain smells cause us to react in a certain way when we smell them. So, when we hear the statement “torture is good” there is a certain part of our brain that reacts negatively and the statement “2+2=4” causes a different part of the brain to react positively. The part of our brain that reacts negatively “helps process fear, disgust and reactions to bad smells,” while the part of our brain that reacts positively “is thought to play a role in judgment, memory, fear and, according to one study, soft-drink preferences.”

The researcher admits that his study cannot prove or disprove the existence of God but it may be able to show that faith is simply a matter of preference. They are setting out to show that when we hear the statement “God is dead” it is not the judgment area of our brain that reacts, but it is rather the preference area that reacts. In other words, we don’t really believe the statement is true or false, we simply don’t like the way it sounds, it leaves a bad taste in our mouths.

I am still working out my thoughts on this but it is kind of interesting. If this research proves to be true, that our brains do actually process faith as a sense rather than as a true/false judgment, would this be such a bad thing? Certainly one could make the argument that if our faith is just simply a feeling and not something we believe is true then faith is not something absolutely true but it is more of a preference. “You can have your faith in God and I can have mine in myself, just like you prefer hamburgers and I prefer chicken.” From this argument you would then have to say that morals are a matter of preference, “you believe torture is wrong, I believe it is ok,” and now you are knee-deep in postmodern thought and reasoning. But this seems to be a stretch, just by showing that one area of the brain is reacting to preference you haven’t shown that it is the only area reacting. In other words, just by proving that something isn’t an apple you don’t necessarily prove it to be an orange. Also, the next step in research would have to set out to show why this particular area of the brain reacts to preference. Why is it that we like or dislike chocolate, why is it that we believe it’s wrong to steal from the elderly?

Interesting things to think about. The Word tells us that faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). It doesn’t seem to be something we can measure with an MRI…


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