| March 27, 2001
Is the Concept
of God Hard-Wired into Our Brain?
Study Finds Intriguing Link Between 'Mystical'
In Meditation and Physical Response in the Brain
Despite a science grown
so powerful that researchers "hear" the echo
of the Big Bang -- despite technology profound enough
to create microscopic machines that mimic a living cell
-- human beings continue to be comforted and guided
by the thought of God.
Why? Why does the concept of an over-arching reality
remain so consistent in a species of animals with an
evolved intelligence piercing enough to harness an atom,
transplant a heart, and conceptualize string theory?
Andrew B. Newberg, MD, Assistant Professor of Radiology
at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine,
has spent 10 years examining this question -- not from
the viewpoint of philosophy, but from the perspective
of a radiologist using a SPECT (single photon emission
computed tomography) camera, which measures brain activity.
With his research partner, Eugene D'Aquili, PhD, of
Penn's Department of Psychiatry, Newberg has been studying
the brains of mystics and meditators.
What they've found is that intense contemplation alters
the brain in a specific manner. And that change is associated
with an experience of reality that feels more authentic
to an individual involved in meditation than the experiences
of his daily life.
"In other words, mystical experience is biologically,
observably, and scientifically real," Newberg says.
He and D'Aquili have published their findings in a book
written for the general reading public, entitled Why
God Won't Go Away. It will be published by Ballantine
Books on Sunday, April 1, and it promises to be a major
book for 2001. In 1999, the two Penn researchers collaborated
on The Mystical Mind: Probing the Biology of Religious
Experience, a book on the same subject for the scientific
Newberg will be spending much of April on a national
book tour, but he will try to accommodate journalists
wishing to interview him throughout the spring. D'Aquili
died before the book was completed.
Newberg may also be reached directly at the email address: