November 15, 2006

This Post is Old!

The post you are reading is years old and may not represent my current views. I started blogging around the time I first began to study philosophy, age 17. In my view, the point of philosophy is to expose our beliefs to rational scrutiny so we can revise them and get better beliefs that are more likely to be true. That's what I've been up to all these years, and this blog has been part of that process. For my latest thoughts, please see the front page.

Neurological Study of Glossolalia

An article in the Penn Almanac reports a neurological study on glossolalia (speaking in tongues). The researchers reported that brain activity observed while subjects speak in tongues suggest that they "are not in control of the usual language centers during this activity, which is consistent with their description of a lack of intentional control." The researcher went on to say "These findings could be interpreted as the subject�s sense of self being taken over by something else. We, scientifically, assume it�s being taken over by another part of the brain, but we couldn�t see, in this imaging study, where this took place. We believe this is the first scientific imaging study evaluating changes in cerebral activity�looking at what actually happens to the brain�when someone is speaking in tongues. This study also showed a number of other changes in the brain, including those areas involved in emotions and establishing our sense of self."

I tend to be skeptical of these sorts of studies, partially because I don't think God likes to be put "under the microscope," as it were (compare Deuteronomy 6:16), but I thought this one was particularly interesting. Also rather humorous are the article's last words: "future studies will be needed to confirm these findings in an attempt to demystify this religious phenomenon." Good luck demystifying mystical experience!

Posted by Kenny at November 15, 2006 4:19 PM
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All that this shows is that what's going on is not controlled by the brain's language center. That's consistent with its being language but controlled by another intelligent agent, but it's also consistent with its simply not being language at all. It doesn't leave us very far from what we already knew. No one who describes these experiences will say that they are consciously speaking a language they understand. So why would we expect the language center of the brain to be activated? The study then shows exactly nothing except a confirmation that these are not what no one thought they were.

Posted by: Jeremy Pierce at November 16, 2006 8:51 AM

I'm not sure, but it seems to me that the study shows that there is something more complicated than the subject intentionally making up random sounds going on, but perhaps I am not reading it correctly.

Posted by: Kenny at November 16, 2006 10:27 AM

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