The conflict between religion and science has always existed throughout history, from readings in the pantheons of Ancient Greece to discussions on internet forums. A new study indicates that the origin of this shock begins as a conflict between two mechanisms in the brain.
The researchers came to this conclusion through eight studies with different questionnaires and thought experiments. Each contained between 159 and 527 adults and the results of those who believed in a god or some universal spirit were compared with the results of those without religious beliefs. Researchers from Case Western Reserve University and the Babson Institute recently published their findings in PLOS One.
The study found that people with religious or spiritual beliefs suppressed the part of the brain that is used for analytical thinking, thus triggering empathic thinking. Similarly, those without religious beliefs showed that they suppressed their empathic thinking to give way to analytical thinking.”When there is a question of faith, from an analytical point of view it can seem absurd,” said Tony Jack, who led the study, at a news conference. “But, based on what we know about the brain, that leap of faith to believe in the supernatural is enough to put aside critical/analytical thinking that helps us achieve greater social and emotional insight.”Balancing these two mechanisms is quite difficult as they are continually working to suppress each other, according to the study.
However, the researchers say that none of these ways of thinking have the answer to the million dollar question; our own nature has allowed us to explore our experiences using the two thought patterns.
Jack added, “Religion has no place in telling us about the physical structure of the world; that’s what science is for. Science should give us ethical reasoning, but it cannot determine what is ethical or tell us how to build and live our lives. “
Furthermore, they argue that science and religion do not always have to be seen as two polar opposites. As the study points out, many of the world’s most famous scientists have religious or spiritual beliefs.
The authors concluded by stating that understanding the interaction between analytical and empathic thinking can enrich them.
“Far from always being a conflict for science, religious beliefs, under precise circumstances, can promote scientific perspective and creativity,” concluded Jack.