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Science establishes link between brain damage and fundamentalism

Black Aliss

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Not that it would come as a surprise to most of us but 


A study published in the journal Neuropsychologia has shown that religious fundamentalism is, in part, the result of a functional impairment in a brain region known as the prefrontal cortex. The findings suggest that damage to particular areas of the prefrontal cortex indirectly promotes religious fundamentalism by diminishing cognitive flexibility and openness—a psychology term that describes a personality trait which involves dimensions like curiosity, creativity, and open-mindedness.

Religious beliefs can be thought of as socially transmitted mental representations that consist of supernatural events and entities assumed to be real. Religious beliefs differ from empirical beliefs, which are based on how the world appears to be and are updated as new evidence accumulates or when new theories with better predictive power emerge. On the other hand, religious beliefs are not usually updated in response to new evidence or scientific explanations, and are therefore strongly associated with conservatism. They are fixed and rigid, which helps promote predictability and coherence to the rules of society among individuals within the group.


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I wonder if accusing fundies of having brain damage is the right way to go.  From the synopsis you provided, wouldn't personality traits and upbringing be a better way to put it?

The article states that although religious fundamentalism can be associated to lesions of parts of the brain, it doesn't say that that's the only thing going on.  While the authors of the study say that damage to parts of the brain that deal with cognitive flexibility and openness are present in a large number of the subjects studied, it also suggests that "impaired functioning in the prefrontal cortex—whether from brain trauma, a psychological disorder, a drug or alcohol addiction, or simply a particular genetic profile—can make an individual susceptible to religious fundamentalism. And perhaps in other cases, extreme religious indoctrination harms the development or proper functioning of the prefrontal regions in a way that hinders cognitive flexibility and openness.

The authors emphasize that cognitive flexibility and openness aren’t the only things that make brains vulnerable to religious fundamentalism. In fact, their analyses showed that these factors only accounted for a fifth of the variation in fundamentalism scores. Uncovering those additional causes, which could be anything from genetic predispositions to social influences, is a future research project that the researchers believe will occupy investigators for many decades to come, given how complex and widespread religious fundamentalism is and will likely continue to be for some time."

Edited by Flossie
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I have some (now X) friends who got caught up in fundamentalism after high school AND college. However, they were pretty much always black/white thinkers and I believe that the ever expanding grey areas they experienced caused them to go running back to the comfort of a proscribed black/white world. These were people who were raised liberal Catholic, attended state schools, had educations, careers, etc. But, when life got to be too much, they went running to the black/white world of fundamentalism. In some ways I almost envy their ability to retreat into that world. I wish I could have. Unfortunately, I think too damn much. 

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