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Atheism, Religion and Truth – Naskar’s message to Atheists

A smart person speaks out the truth. A wise person doesn’t care about speaking it out, as much as he or she cares about utilizing that truth in the society, in a way that brings most progress, in a way that brings most human development. And that’s the purpose atheism should have.

The focus of atheism should be on rational thinking, not on disbelief in God.

This is a message from the celebrated Neuroscientist and Humanist Abhijit Naskar, to all the conscientious atheists in the world, on how to take humanity in the path of collective progress.

Further Reading:

In Search of Divinity: Journey to the Kingdom of Conscience

 

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Neurochemical Origin of Afterlife

Today I’ll be taking you in the afterlife. Don’t worry, nobody needs to die to do that. Basically if you die, there is nothing more to experience for your soul. Because the moment your brain stops functioning, your soul ceases to exist. And it is so, because the soul is the expression of a functional brain.

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A lot of people apparently have visited heaven, as in afterlife, and apparently they have come back. That’s the claim made by many people. And the quantity of such claims is just too much to simply ignore. So, let’s not ignore, and try to unravel the truth underneath such claims.

The very first thing that you need to know is that putting aside the small portion of the claims made simply to draw attention, most of these claims are actually made based on actual experiences. Which means as far as the subject who’s making the claim is concerned, his or her encounter of heaven did indeed take place. So, to him or her, it is a real experience, as real as your experience of me talking to you right at this moment. And in fact, in most cases, that afterlife reality actually seems more real to the person than usual reality.

Now first lets look at the origin of this idea of afterlife – the idea of heaven or hell. The idea of an afterlife was created by the imagination of our ancient ancestors who lived in tribes and had way little intellectual capacity. And further this idea fueled in people’s actual encounter of an afterlife. Our ancestors simply could not comprehend the sudden immobility of a walking and talking human being. They had to come up with some sort explanation for the so-called death, which they could not comprehend whatsoever. So, their brain concocted the belief, that there is apparently a soul that runs the body – a life-force, and when the body becomes aged and unsuitable for the soul to function, it simply pops out of the body and goes to either a better place, such as heaven or a horrible place such as hell, based on the person’s deeds.

These ancient ideas have been passed on through generations, and in the process the minds of these people have been conditioned to believe genuinely that when they die, they’d go to another realm, unlike earth. So, one way or another, their minds expect it to actually happen to them when the time comes. They anticipate it, either consciously or subconsciously. Hence, there are people who claim that during a life threatening situation they actually have gone to haven and come back. And over time these claims have increased exponentially. And that’s because of the amazing advancement that we have made in modern medicine. Before when people used to face death, they didn’t come back so much to life, because we were yet to develop techniques to bring them back.

Let me give you an example, a simple one but a revolutionary one. It is the revolution brought by the development of what we the people in medical profession call a Defibrillator. It is a simple device, but often times, the availability of this simple device can determine whether a human being will live again or stay dead forever. If somebody’s heart stops beating for whatever reason, electrical impulses from the a defibrillator can jolt the heart back to life. The same can be done with an Epi-Pen. In this kind of situations where a person apparently faces death, after coming back to life, that person reports that he or she went to heaven while his or her body had been lying dead.

So what’s really happening here? Do these person really go to heaven? Well, in their subjective reality, the experience manifests as more real than the usual reality. And that is why it is almost impossible for them to defy it as anything but the truth. Which means, even though they did not actually budge even a little from their mortal body, the experience of visiting heaven did manifest in their mind as an actual lively experience.

These experiences occur often when a person faces a life and death situation – a situation that has to do with a peerless amount of stress. I have discussed this matter in detail in my book “Autobiography of God: Biopsy of A Cognitive Reality”. When people face death, in that extreme stress the brain releases a special neurochemical which happens to be more powerful in terms of its hallucinogenic properties than LSD. This chemical is called DMT or Dimethyltryptamine.

When your brain releases substantial amounts of DMT in times of utter distress such as a near death event, your mind goes into an altered state – a state of profound hallucinations where your deepest desires or darkest fears manifest as reality. And this reality seems so damn real that it does not matter whether you are an academic, a medical doctor, a scientist, or a lay person. It is so damn real that anybody would easily hail it as a real experience in heaven or in some cases hell, depending on the person’s internal knacks and desires.

Consciousness is the product of electrochemical signalling in the neurons of your brain. So when the brain stops functioning fully, your consciousness, or to a broader aspect, your mind ceases to exist with its unique individualistic qualities. It’s like the soothing flow of water. It is only water as long as its internal realm of two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen, remains intact. If you break that structure which we call H20, it ceases to be water. Likewise a soul remains a soul, as longs as its neural structures remain intact. If you mess with those structures, then the entire personality of the soul may get radically altered. So, to think even further, if those neural structures inside your head stop working, then the soul ceases to exist forever. So, as long as you have a functional brain, you exist, and the moment that brain dies you die.

So, hard as it may sound to some, there is no heaven, or hell. And that is more reason that we need to pay attention to this life. Because one life is all you’ve got. Make the most out of it. Live that one life with your friends, family and neighbors. After all, the true value of life lies in living with our fellow human beings, while caring about each other, nourishing each other, growing with each other. And that’s called being human.

 

(Simultaneously published on Goodreads.)

Further Reading

Abhijit Naskar, 2016, Autobiography of God: Biopsy of A Cognitive Reality

Rise of Neurotheology: The Science that studies God and religion

What happens when science and religion meet? Well – for starters you get a Scientist named Abhijit Naskar, that’s me. But jokes apart – when science and religion meet we get a field of human understanding that belongs to the domain of science as much as it belongs to the domain of religion. And that field is called “Neurotheology” – which is a communion of science and religion. It is the only field of science that actually has to do with religion as much as it has to do with science.

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But why? Why do we need Neurotheology? We need Neurotheology because it is the only field of rational thinking that attempts to understand the roots of religion, religiousness and god without a predominate urge to refute and undermine religion all together. And we do it based on empiricism, not mere optimism, even though optimism is there in us, aiding in out research.

The first criterion for doing research into the tangible earthly roots of religion, is that you need to be free from obvious religious biases – you cannot do such study with a predominant detestation of religion or a radical obedience to faith. For example, if you are to study the neuropsychology of racial biases then you cannot expect to do so with a predominately explicit attitude of racism. So to study racism you need to be not a racist. And to study religion at a molecular level you need to be neutral in terms of religious biases.

In Neurotheology we scientists study the roots of God and its associated religious sentiments in the human mind. And here by God, I mean the God or the Gods that humans worship. We are not trying to understand whether there is an actual Supreme Divine force out there that’s running the universe. Even if that God does exist, it has nothing to do with life on earth. The Gods that humans worship, like Jehovah, Allah, Krishna, Rama and all others, are creation of the human mind itself. And we Neuroscientists in the field of Neurotheology attempt to understand the roots of these Gods of the human world, and as for the Supreme Divine Entity running the universe, I’d rather leave that to the Physicists to find out. That’s their expertise. Which means that if the majority of the physicists come to me and tell me – “Hey Naskar, you know what, we just discovered that the universe is not run by a Supreme Divine Entity”. I would most graciously accept their consensus, because I know that they must have done their research on the issue quite rigorously and then they have come to the conclusion that there is no actual God. That’s called trusting the expert in the field.

If you truly want to know about the universe you need to seek answer from a physicist, not from a biologist or a celebrity. Likewise if you want to know about life you need to seek answer from a biologist, not from a physicist or a celebrity. Also if you want to know whether Global Warming is real, you need to ask a climatologist, not a president or any of his white supremacist pals. Ask the expert, if you seek real answer, not just an answer you feel comfortable with. Although in today’s society we see a behavior quite contrary to this. We see anti-intellectualism. And that may not be dangerous, but it surely is unprogressive.

I am Neuroscientist, which means, I can tell you about your mind, your emotions, your thoughts and your behaviors, but I may not be able to fix your water supply at home, when it’s not working. For that you’d need a plumber. The plumber is the expert in fixing your water supply. The electrician is the expert in fixing the electrical wiring of your home. A Neuroscientist, a psychologist, or a psychiatrist is the expert in fixing the wiring of your mind. Every work needs expertise. One expert cannot boast about being an expert in various fields. It is possible, but in rare occasions.

So the work that we Neuroscientists do in Neurotheology is to study the gods of the society. And we have come a long way in this path. We have discovered facts that would appear to the radical believer as nothing but blasphemy. But the point is, we are civilized beings today. We no longer are medieval idiots who used burn and slaughter innocent lives for holding different belief system. So I am sorry to say, the idea of blasphemy has no place in today’s society – no wait, actually, I am not sorry at all. It’s them who should feel sorry, for being barbarians still while endorsing primitive ideas of blasphemy, apostasy and all sorts of evil. These terms can no longer hold any value to the civilized conscientious human.

Now to get back to the topic at hand, which is Neurotheology – it is quite gloriously a newly emerged field of scientific endeavor. In this context, let me bring up an excerpt from my book In Search of Divinity: Journey to The Kingdom of Conscience.

“Through the newly emerged field of Neurotheology, Scientists such as Andrew Newberg, Michael Persinger, myself and a few others have already taken the first step from the side of Science, to diminish the gap between Science and Religion. Now it is time for Religion to do the same. And the moment any religion does that, the eternal battle between Science and Religion would slowly start to disperse.”

In the brief journey so far in this field, we have understood a lot about the neurological roots of religious and spiritual sentiments of the human mind. We have even analyzed closely the transcendental experiences of the past that gave rise to the religions of the world. And as we keep moving forward in this field with an unbiased look at religion and God, we will discover various new elements of the human mind that may contribute to the sentiment of religiousness and spirituality. And they will allow us to understand the human mind in a better way. And when we understand the mind better, we can develop techniques to deal with its issues in more effective ways.

 

(Simultaneously published on Goodreads.)

Further Reading:

Abhijit Naskar, 2016, What is Mind?
Abhijit Naskar, 2016, In Search of Divinity: Journey to the kingdom of conscience

Why I am not Atheist

I say things – things that would most gloriously make me appear as an atheist to people, such as – “God is a human creation” – “scriptures come from humans” – “forget the gods and pay attention to humans”. However I never hail myself as atheist, and you never hear me saying out loud that I am an atheist. And it is because one simple reason, I hate discrimination, I hate bigotry and I hate creating walls. I don’t want to create a wall between me and all the peace loving people in the world who are just happy with their religiousness and they are not trying to impose on anybody’s else’s beliefs. Now, these are the people are I work for, just like I work for all other humans who want progress, who want the world to be a better place, if not for us, at least for our children. That’s why I don’t call myself an atheist.

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Because when you put a label on yourself, that label comes along with a log of psychological baggage. And in most cases you may not be aware of these correlated psychological elements, but those who listen to you may do. So in their brain they would draw an image of your personality. And they will give that image qualities based on their subjective understanding of the label that you imposed on yourself. Like when you say you are an atheist, usually the religious population of the planet would very easily deem you to be against all of their religiousness – religiousness that is a part of their identity. And you cannot take away that identity – if you try, then there would be no difference between you and the religious fundamentalism.

And though I am not anti-religion, I am anti-fundamentalism. Fundamentalists do not make up the whole religious population on earth. As a scientist, as an educator, of course I am against indoctrinating children, I am against teaching them biblical stories as factual truth, I am against prayer given more attention than actual human contribution in the society. Still I am not against religion, because of those people who identify themselves as religious but do not take their scriptures literally and have the brain capacity to think which part of those books are good and which are not. And this process of taking the good things from the scriptures and ignoring the primitive ones, happens in most of the religious psyches of the world quite unconsciously.

I am not an atheist, because of these peace-loving religious people who are simply good people and they accept people from different religious orientation as equal. And no, not all religious people go around their neighborhood screaming the exclusive superiority of their religion and God over all others. They love their religion, but they don’t make a fuss over it, like the fundamentalists do. Religion is simply a part of their cultural identity, nothing more – it is fostered as a supremacist ideology only in the head of the fundamentalists. The fundamentalists are the enemy because they are driven by the elementary primitive notion of their religion being superior to all others, and hence other people are lesser humans. Fundamentalism is the enemy, not religion. In fact, fundamentalism is an enemy of religion itself, because in a progressive civilized society religion means realization of your inner divinity, not meek obedience to books of the dead people.

I am a scientist, and as such one of my core purposes is to understand the truth behind various phenomena of the universe with as much accuracy as possible And one of those phenomena is religion. And in order to understand it with as less subjective biases as possible, I must refrain from being called either “religious” or “atheist”. Now that’s the scientific reason for me to not hail myself as either atheist or religious. And as for the humane reason, which is more appealing to me as a human being, it is that the only label I go with is “human” – because that’s the label I received from Mother Nature. And that’s the label that makes me a part of human lives in human society, regardless of religion, regardless of race, regardless of gender and regardless of sexual orientation. The label of human is beyond race, beyond religion, beyond gender and beyond sexual orientation.

 

(Simultaneously published on Goodreads.)

Further Reading

Abhijit Naskar, 2017, Principia Humanitas

Abhijit Naskar, 2017, Illusion of Religion: A Treatise on Religious Fundamentalism

5 things to know about God – Ep 3 NNN

Episode 3 of Nature, Naskar & Neurons, where Abhijit Naskar sheds light on the idea of God and elucidates its rise in the human mind as an evolutionary mechanism.

Subscribe to Nature Naskar Neurons for more great content.

Nature, Naskar & Neurons is also available as podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Tunein and other platforms.

 

Further Reading
Abhijit Naskar, 2016, Autobiography of God: Biopsy of A Cognitive Reality

Real Nature of God

God – Allah – Jehovah – Brahman – all these mere man-made verbal expressions become bleak and dismal upon the attainment of the actual experience. Once the lotus of your inner divinity gets full-blown and you reach the mental state where all the religious giants of human history experienced the all-encompassing sense of godliness, the exuberance of the human mind turns infinite. Awakening into that state makes all the perceptual limitations of the mind disappear, just like a bucket of muddy water turns crystal-clear once poured into the ocean.

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To put it simply, the transcendental state sets the human mind free. In this extraordinary state of mind, the usual finite domain of consciousness transforms into a subjective, infinite, universal, all-pervading consciousness. This mental state is what we can quite literally call the Kingdom of God. Clinically I have termed this state of mind in my book What is Mind? as Absolute Unitary Qualia.

The experience itself is encoded in the neurological circuits of the human brain. However, this specific functional expression of the neurons does not occur in the usual state of mind. It requires specific internal and external stimuli to trigger the manifestation of the God state in the human mind.

Various neural activities collectively construct the vividly divine internal environment of the Kingdom of God. It involves various internal biological factors. However, the most important question of this century that rises from the study of the psychology of religion, is that whether the God state is a delusional state of the mind.

Despite the fact that a few radical atheist psychologists have put forward the suggestion that religious faith or simply any kind of faith upon God may turn out to be mere delusion, we neuroscientists who actually investigate the molecular underpinnings of all things religious and spiritual, have empirically proven otherwise.

The argument against faith is all based upon the rigorous analysis of the scriptures, and not upon the objective observation of the actual individual sensation of faith. Historical experiences of the Kingdom of God gave rise to all the scriptures in the world, but the scriptures themselves don’t account for the actual globally prevalent psychological element of faith or divinity in the human mind.

Faith is a natural evolutionary trait of the human mind, selected by Mother Nature as an internal coping-mechanism.

Now let’s first distinguish what is the difference between faith and the mental state of God. Faith is simply a natural sensation of the mind, quite like love, which is seen in most of the human population. On the other hand, the God state is the actual subjective experience of encountering God, quite literally. Hence, this subjective experience occurs only in the fraction of the human population, due to various stimuli.

Moreover, the manifestation of the God Dimension in the human mind requires specific internal and external environment. In short, there are a few kinds of stimuli that evoke such transcendental state where a person simply has an inexplicable encounter with God, unlike the everyday personal sense of faith. This encounter manifests at different intensities based on the kind of the stimulus, and more importantly, majority of the modern day God state experiences tend to be lethal, due to their pathological origin.

This means, pathology can indeed cause experiences of the Kingdom of God, but not all God state experiences are caused by pathology. They can also occur due to disturbance in the geomagnetic field of our planet, consumption of psychedelics, excruciatingly extreme level of stress during a near-death situation, or ultimately through a natural and healthy procedure of meditation.

Now let’s shed some light on the shady domain of the Kingdom of God or to speak clinically, the Absolute Unitary Qualia. So, the very first question that may rise in the mind of a rational human being, is – what is this God state? Is it some kind of extraterrestrial dimension?

To answer these questions, we need to resort to two different perspectives. From a subjective point of view, i.e. from the point of view of a person who’s actually experiencing the God state, it is indeed an extraterrestrial dimension which the ancient cultures termed as the Kingdom of God. Now from an objective point of view, i.e. from the point of view of a scientist who analyzes subject’s experience of the God state, it is an exceptional state of the human mind, attained in specific internal and external conditions.

Basically, it is an earthly experience, which manifests in an unearthly manner. It appears to be devoid of the mortal limitations of the human life. And especially due to its unearthly and quite heavenly characteristics, it is deemed in many early human civilizations as the Abode of the Lord Almighty.

Unlike the usual sensation of divinity in the general population, the God state is an actual experiential encounter with the pre-dominant mental picture of an Almighty Being. I termed it as Absolute Unitary Qualia because of its unifying nature, that puts forward a sensation of oneness between human and the God or the Universe.

Here is a common expression of experiencing the Absolute Unitary Qualia or the God state:

“The experience took hold of me with such power that it seemed to go through my whole soul, so it seemed as if God was praying in, with, and for me.”

Now in order to understand the underlying biology of the Kingdom of God, let’s start with a basic understanding of the anatomy of the soul.

Until the advancement in the field of Neuroscience, there have been a lot of mystical confusions surrounding the ancient notions of mind, body, and soul, in both the philosophical and scientific societies. Unfortunately, the confusion still prevails to a great extent in the general population. And to clear this air of mystery, a lot of scientific literatures have been published. So, I’ll not go into the detail analysis of these ideas.

All these confusions are based on ignorance. However, far from the confusions, let’s have a basic scientific perception on the idea of mind, body and soul. For ages, due to lack of insight into the biological basis of life, the ancient notion of soul being the driving force behind mind and body, has remained dominant in the general human psyche.

There has always been an irresistible desire in humans to see ourselves somehow above nature and our biological body. And this primordially innate desire has given rise to varied doctrines and philosophies of dualism, which inadvertently implied a mystical distinction between our biological body and the supernatural realm. Thus, the mystical idea of a soul has survived through ages.

The primitive human notion about the soul has been that, the soul bestows a person with his or her unique personality. This is more or less the universal perception of the soul. And if that so, then soul and mind are basically one and the same thing, because the modern understanding of the human psychology reveals that the mind is the collective expression of various mental elements such as emotions, ambitions, ideologies, sentiments etc. All these mental elements define a person’s personality traits. Therefore, soul is only the primordial equivalent of the mind.

Having diminished the confusing primeval separation between mind and soul, let’s move on and get acquainted with the fundamental building blocks of the mind/soul.

It all begins in the tiny cells of the brain which we call neurons. Neurons are the fundamental building blocks of the mind/soul. Bring a bunch of live neurons together and from them would rise a rudimentary mental feature. Bring enough of such different features together, by interconnecting their individual networks of neurons and collectively they’ll form the mind/soul.

Now imagine a hundred billion of such neurons creating a magnificent network, which gives rise to your lavishly colored mental life. Neuron is to mind, what DNA is to life. Now, let’s look at the connection between mind and life. While being an essential part of life, mind is what enables life to maneuver in this world. And consciousness is a quintessential part of mind which makes life aware of its environment. Now, given the context of the article, one might wonder, where does God fit into all this?

There is nothing mystical about it actually. It is pretty simple – mind is a part of life – consciousness is a part of mind – God is a part of consciousness. And as mentioned earlier, the God part of the consciousness is attainable only through certain stimuli. It may seem demeaning to the vanity of some individuals, but like all elements of the mind, God and all its correlated sensations of divinity are the majestic creations of the brain.

 

(This Article was originally published on Goodreads, under the title “Neural Kingdom of God.”)

Further Reading
Abhijit Naskar, 2016, Autobiography of God: Biopsy of A Cognitive Reality
Abhijit Naskar, 2016, What is Mind?
Abhijit Naskar, 2016, In Search of Divinity: Journey to The Kingdom of Conscience

Biology of Belief

Have you ever wondered, why do we believe what we believe? Why some humans are religious, some spiritual, some extremists, some agnostics and some others atheists? What is it that makes various human beings perceive different things at different moral, logical and spiritual level? What makes us so different in terms of beliefs and dis-beliefs? And why is it so hard for humans to embrace each other’s beliefs? And the ultimate question is, does our belief actually allow us to connect with the reality? Does it have any significance in the human biology?

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In this article we are about to embark on an enlightening journey of belief, biology and philosophy. And in the end we shall discover how imperative it is to sometimes acknowledge each other’s beliefs and accept people the way they are, because one’s beliefs are not merely a matter of ideology or intuitions, rather it is a rudimentary need of the human mind. And for a truly cheerful and productive human life one’s belief should be in perfect harmony with Science & Philosophy.

So, let’s begin with a simple yet quintessential question of human life – what is belief?

To quote from my book Autobiography of God: Biopsy of A Cognitive Reality 

“Belief is the brain’s natural self-maintenance mechanism.” It enables a person function properly in daily life, without worrying about the true nature of reality. Belief is exclusively a matter of personal domain. It has nothing to do with reality. And conflict occurs when a person tries to impose his or her beliefs onto others.

The human brain is quite selfish. Its first concern is the satisfaction of its owner. The common human brain of the masses doesn’t care about the truth of the universe. It doesn’t care about scientific enlightenment. It doesn’t care about reasoning. The only thing it cares about is survival. And in order to survive it does everything in its capacity to keep a person bound inside a tiny circle of beliefs and fantasies. And every time another person tries to break that circle by refuting the beliefs and talking about Science, the brain kicks into self defense mode. Now it shall do everything to sustain the beliefs and fight every incoming argument with a blind eye. This is because one’s beliefs no matter how magical or mystical or unscientific they sound, help the person get through the daily struggles of life.

In short, belief is a common element of human life the purpose of which is self-preservation. Even we scientists often pursue a hunch based on our beliefs. The only difference is that we cannot call that hunch Science, until we actually prove it through rigorous experimentation. There was a time, when Evolution was a hunch or rather a hypothesis in the minds of a few naturalists. Hence we received the famous book of biology “On the Origin of Species by means of natural selection” by Charles Darwin. Then we started to look for more evidence to back up the theory. And over time we gathered a pile of anthropological and genetic evidence, enough to include the Theory of Evolution as an incontrovertible fact of science.

Now let’s talk about supernatural beliefs. The whole world is filled with various unearthly and supernatural beliefs, such as demons, advanced ancient civilization, extraterrestrial intervention in ancient human society etc. All these fantasies are the products of the brain’s myth-making mechanism. And in fact, it is very easy for the brain to fall prey to these fantastic illusory ideas and conspiracy theories. This is because your brain has an innate attraction towards everything that by definition belongs to a domain, that is apparently “beyond human understanding”. Your brain has an affinity towards all those conspiracy theories and paranormal fantasies. And there is an evolutionary reason behind it. It is because we the humans have remained in the fear of the unknown throughout the most of our 200,000 years long existence. And that innate bond between the human mind and the unknown still exists in the limbic system of the brain.

Now let’s look at some modern life scenarios where this ingrained affinity towards mysticism and the unknown becomes a curse for the society. The innate primordial attraction towards the unknown often makes people fall prey to fraudsters like psychics. However, if we talk about psychic abilities, even you have such abilities. How many times has it happened that you think of a word and suddenly the person in front spits out the very word. These are random incidents that occur in everybody daily life. It cannot be controlled or simulated. It is something that happens when you least expect it.

All these bizarre phenomena fall into the category of Extra Sensory Perception or ESP. Parapsychologists have been studying these phenomena for a long time. And the evidence is too significant to call these phenomena as coincidence. ESP does indeed occur. So far we have developed several possible scientific hypothesis for ESP. The most plausible one is that human brains are capable of sharing information through Earth’s geomagnetic field.

But you must remember, despite the fact that we have highly plausible scientific explanations for ESP, it is still all hypothesis. We haven’t yet been able to prove it as a fact of Science. Because to prove a phenomenon as Science we must replicate it inside the lab.

And there’s the biggest problem with understanding the Science behind ESP. Until now we have no way to replicate an ESP phenomenon. Because they happen naturally in the human mind, and mostly in incidents of crisis. And we cannot take the unscientific risk of triggering an ESP phenomenon in the human mind by putting another human person into a crisis. Such phenomena are unpredictable. And in most cases they occur out of the blue. So it is close to impossible to trigger such phenomena in a controlled environment.

So don’t fall prey to all the fraudsters around you claiming to be psychics. In most cases they use what we call in psychology “Barnum statements”. Astrology, tarot card reading, and all those hocus focus stuff around you, use these statements. The special feature of these statements is that they happen to be true for almost any human being. And especially when a person goes to a psychic expecting answers to various confusing questions, his or brain automatically embraces the common statements from the psychic as exclusive remarks about the person. Your brain always keeps anticipating a pattern even in the chaos. So unless you have a truly rational mind filled with scientific curiosity it is very likely for you to become a prey to those predators who are always looking to feed on the sufferings of good and gullible people.

However, if a grieving person visits a psychic with the hope of getting in touch with the departed soul of his or her loved one, in order to have solace, then I really don’t have any idea how to convince the person that the so called psychics are frauds. Because to the grieving person, the psychic acts as a ray of hope – the last resort to say good bye to a person whom he or she cared about deeply. But for this very purpose we have the field of psychiatry. We have developed highly advanced anti depressants, mood stabilizers various other medications that can help in easing the grief. Now it is up to a person’s own conscience, which one to choose.

As far as the human mind is concerned, when it is in distress, all it cares about is finding hope. And it doesn’t matter to the mind where that hope comes from. It is all about self preservation. That’s why your brain is always trying to make sense out of nonsense in order to give you a sense of calmness. It is always looking for pattern in the unknown. In fact, it quite successfully makes you see things even in the nothingness. This psychological phenomenon is known as Pareidolia. It is why your mind often perceives a figure in the cloud, or a face on a random rock formation. It is your mind that always plays tricks on you. And in every situation of your daily life you see what you really want to see, rather than what really is.

Believe it or not, none of us is able to see the reality as it is. Your brain has a very limited field of vision, when it comes to conscious perception. Everything outside that field is cut out as background noise, so that you can focus on the task at hand. No matter how much we pride ourselves to be the smartest species on earth, the reality is we are partially blind, and shall remain that way forever. And this partial cognitive blindness often leads to superstitions, especially in times of weakness. When the mind is weak, it is easy to succumb to all kinds of fantasies and superstitions. But when such fantasies and superstitions become barriers in the path of humanity’s progress, then it is imperative that we the modern human beings do our best to shake them off.

Every human being is neurologically predisposed to be superstitious. However, to counteract such superstitions the brain has also developed the feature of reasoning in the neural network of the frontal lobes. But in times of distress, that feature gets highly suppressed by the overwhelming feeling of sadness and anxiety. Hence, lack of reasoning leads the mind to seek absolution in the supernatural domain of the society.

However, those who practice reasoning and rational thinking in daily circumstances, are much more likely to avoid the hocus focus stuff in times of distress, than those who don’t. It is all about realization of the self.

The point is, human mind cannot function properly without some kind of belief system. So, for the sake a truly cheerful future we must work together to align our beliefs in the line of Science and Philosophy, as much as possible if we truly want to advance as a species, keeping in mind, that it is not possible for a human to be completely free from beliefs, because beliefs are crucial cognitive mechanism of the brain. However, one’s personal beliefs should not stop him or her from embracing the practicality of Science and the fragrance of Philosophy. There should be a healthy balance between the personal domain of beliefs and the rational realm of scientific & philosophical thinking.

 

(This Article was originally published on Goodreads, under the title “Belief and Reality”)

Further Reading
Abhijit Naskar, 2015, Neurosutra: The Abhijit Naskar Collection
Abhijit Naskar, 2016, Autobiography of God: Biopsy of A Cognitive Reality