The Believing Brain: Evolution, Neuroscience, and the Spiritual Instinct

God, they say, is in the details. But could God also be in our frontal lobes? Every culture from the dawn of humankind has imagined planes of existence beyond the reach of our senses, spiritual domains that shape our Earthly experiences. Why do beliefs of the fantastic hold such powerful sway over our species? Is there something in our evolutionary history that points to an answer? Does neuroscience hold the key? Straddling the gap between science and religion, Brian Greene is joined by renowned neuroscientists, anthropologists, and evolutionary biologists, to explore one of the most profound mysteries of our existence.

PARTICIPANTS: Lisa Barrett, Barbara J. King, Zoran Josipovic, Steven Pinker

MODERATOR: Brian Greene


This program is part of the BIG IDEAS SERIES, made possible with support from the JOHN TEMPLETON FOUNDATION.

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0:00 – Introduction
01:05 – Overview of religious beliefs
12:15 – Panelist intros
14:27 – Panelists share personal religious beliefs
18:28 – Broadening our views of belief
19:15 – Do other animals have a sense of spirituality?
20:50 – What is evolutionary psychology?
27:51 – Are humans wired for belief?
32:36 – Is there evidence of an internal predilection of religious belief?
37:46 – Searching for the origin of religious belief
45:21 – Is there an adaptive value of religious belief?
49:31 – Advantages of religious belief relating to the nervous system
55:24 – Why has religion persisted for so long?
1:00:30 – Religion as an emotional response vs a social mechanism
1:08:20 – The future of the role of religion
1:14:15 – What would aliens think of our religious beliefs?

– Produced by John Plummer
– Associate Produced by Laura Dattaro
– Opening media created by Josh Zimmerman
– Music provided by APM
– Additional images and footage provided by: Getty Images, Shutterstock, Videoblocks

This program was recorded live at the 2018 World Science Festival and has been edited and condensed for YouTube.

Category: News
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