Beliefs profoundly affect people’s lives, but their cognitive and neural…

For those looking for documentation closer to the original research of the brain damage/brain retardation associated with those involved in “fundamentalism” – as opposed to a secondary reference describing the research, I provide the following.

I acknowledge that secondary references lack the same credibility as documentation nearer the primary source. Therefore, for more serious Christian apologetics, providing documentation nearer the primary source is a critical part of the process for both credibility and integrity.

Associating brain process/function with belief structures is simply a new and open area – and one that can be critical for quality Christian apologetics.

Here is the key introductory paragraph –

Beliefs profoundly affect people’s lives, but their cognitive and neural pathways are poorly understood. Although previous research has identified the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) as critical to representing religious beliefs, the means by which vmPFC enables religious belief is uncertain. We hypothesized that the vmPFC represents diverse religious beliefs and that a vmPFC lesion would be associated with religious fundamentalism, or the narrowing ofreligious beliefs. To test this prediction, we assessed religious adherence with a widely-used religious fundamentalism scale in a large sample of 119 patients with penetrating traumatic brain injury (pTBI).

[https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5500821/](https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5500821/)

Beliefs profoundly affect people’s lives, but their cognitive and neural pathways are poorly understood. Although previous research has identified the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) as critical to representing religious beliefs, the means by which …

3 comments on Beliefs profoundly affect people’s lives, but their cognitive and neural…

  1. This is a really good example of a popular article not understanding what the actual science study is saying.

    This article does NOT make the claim that having fundamentalist views is the result of brain damage, nor are they claiming that all fundamentalist are brain damaged. They are claiming that people with brain lesions who have fundamentalist views tend to be very inflexible in their thinking.

    What they do NOT claim is that being inflexible in your thinking means you probably have brain lesions.

    Which is kind of logical. I’m betting that people with brain lesions who adopt any ideological views, be they fundamentalist, progressive, or mystical, would tend to have the same results: lack of mental flexibility.

    Note a key conclusion:

    “Cognitive flexibility and openness are by no means the sole predictors of religious fundamentalism. We found that PFC lesions along with cognitive flexibility and openness explain less than 20% of the variation in fundamentalism scores. Therefore, these factors are only a few out of a number of other factors that play a role in modulating adherence of religious beliefs. Other key factors contributing to the formation of fundamentalist beliefs can range from genetic predispositions related to cognition to a host of peer and other social influences.”

    And

    “We do not propose that religious people are generally cognitively inflexible. Religious belief is the product of multiple and coordinated functional activities across the brain. Our study indicates that one of the functions that support the maintenance of religious conviction is the suppression of belief revision.”

    They did note several studies which found a negative correlation between religious views and intelligence, but again, those are in general. Since there are plenty of examples of extremely intelligent people who hold very strong religious views, that’s more of a generality than a predictor.

    In any event, this study does NOT support your claim that there is a connection between brain damage/retardation and fundamentalist beliefs.

    You really should read these more carefully before you present them as evidence for your prejudice.

  2. Seems a flawed conclusion. Individuals with damage tended toward more fundamentalist responses. At best, what that demonstrates is that individuals with damage tended toward more fundamentalist responses. To then extrapolate that in reverse, that fundamentalist are brain damaged, as the popular articles about the study do is not founded. In fact, the limitations listed by the authors are overlooked, not unlike the initial Kinsey reports that used “opportunist sampling” and used a substantial number of incarcerated males, a very particular population, which skewed initial findings compared to later analysis of his data that took this into consideration.

    I quote their findings and comment after.

    “The authors point out that previous studies on intellect and fundamentalism have contradictory findings, thus no full conclusion can be made. Yet popular reporting of the experiment omit this objectivity. The present findings contribute a piece to what is becoming an increasingly complex depiction of religious beliefs that will occupy investigators for many decades because of its historically key contribution to human social behavior. In summary, we found that adherence to fundamentalist religious doctrine is partly mediated by diminished flexible conceptual thinking and reduced openness and that the key cortical region supporting the representation of diverse religious belief as well as flexible conceptual thinking is the dlPFC.”

    First, they rightly indicate that this is a piece of a large and lengthy question, a point that popular articles omit. Second, their conclusion the brain damage conditions affected religious beliefs MUST be taken in light of their limited population, that of veterans with injuries, as well as limitations to the scans that were possible. To extrapolate much beyond this is beyond the scope of their own claims. Yet popular presentations of the finding use eye-grabbing headlines that fundamentalism is linked with brain damage – read that fundamentalist are brain damaged.

    There is a lot of science in the research. There is little to none in the way the research has been reported. (And yes, I have encountered it before seeing it in this forum.)

    So in brief, this is a tempest in a teapot or much ado about nothing.

  3. So Greg, do you think fundamentalists are either retarded or brain damaged? I suppose if they were right thinking and intelligent they would be what? Unbelievers?

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