Discussing the issue of science versus religion may be considered a no-no on the dinner table, but a recent study reaffirmed the notion that opposing world views are all in the brain.
A research paper recently published in the journal PLOS ONE asserts that the age-old conflict between faith and reason can be explained by the structure of the human brain.
A previous neurological study using functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, showed evidence that the human brain has separate neural networks for critical thinking and social behavior.
The idea of conflict between the two neural networks is known as the opposing domains hypothesis. According to this hypothesis, the two networks often have tensions between each other as one network may try to dominate the other.
It is assumed that in situations that critical thinking is necessary, the social or empathetic network is suppressed. Conversely, situations that require empathy and personal connections will suppress the critical thinking or analytical network.
Religious beliefs are products of social and cultural interactions, which require the empathetic network of the brain more than the analytical network.
The researchers, led by Anthony Ian Jack, conducted a series of eight experiments. They grouped volunteers as either religious or non-religious.
Those who were identified as religious tended to be of higher moral concern compared to the non-religious. Those who are identified as non-religious or less religious tended to have stronger analytical skills.
However, the researchers pointed out that intelligence does not necessarily have direct positive correlation with non-religiosity. The study only sought to support the idea of separate neurological networks in the brain.
Meanwhile, a previous survey among 275 natural and social scientists from 21 elite universities and research institutions in the United States revealed that only a minority of the scientists interviewed believe that there is constant conflict between science and religion.
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