> > So what can we do to counter this argument for the existence of gods
> > avoiding a belligerent backlash from baffled believers [Alliteration's
> > artful aid again!]? An alternative explanation which shows that these
> > sensations, or to use the word of the week, noŽtic experiences, are
> > generated internally, are explicable using purely physical processes and
> > not require any "god like action" would be a good preliminary step.
> Who's that going to convince? If you can identify a
> consistent pattern of
> neurological activity in mothers who feel love for their
> children and present an
> argument to the effect that this pattern of neuro activity
> arose by natural
> selection because it increased the likelihood that young
> humans would survive to
> reach sexual maturity, do you expect that a significant
> portion of the
> population would place any less value on a mother's love for
> her children. Do
> you think more than a tiny handful of people would consider
> a mother's sacrifice
> for the benefit of her children as being any less
I agree with KMO in that explaining the neurobiological basis of noetic experiences isn't going to cause any religious people to renounce their faith. The first thing that came to my mind is that poster behind Fox Mulder's desk, the one with a blown up photo of a UFO and the bold-lettered words, "I Want To Believe".
The information about the correlation between temporal lobe epilepsy and religious experiences reminded me of some explanations I have read about the experience of deja vu. Though it seems (often compellingly) that we have lived or dreamed this moment before, what actually happens is that something is going wrong in the associated neuronal activity such that the sensations of the current experience are being mistakenly rerouted through channels usually associated with recalling memories. It makes sense when you think about it.
However a lot of people would rather believe that deja vu is a mystical experience, that they are actually experiencing something previously predicted. That proves that they are psychic which is much nicer to believe than that they have aberrant brain activity. A scientific explanation will have little or no effect on these people (I suggest).
The question I have for KMO and TheHermit is what should people believe? I think I can predict TheHermit's answer: that they would be better off believing the truth about deja vu, namely that it is an illusion, nothing more. What says KMO (or anyone else that has an opinion)?