God IS in Your Brain

Michelangelo was not only a gifted artist but a bit of a Renaissance neuroanatomist according to one Dr. Meshberger. Like many artists of the day such as Da Vinci, Michelangelo studied human anatomy so as to perfect his own artistic techniques representing the body. creation1

It would appear that the centre piece of his most famous commission, the “Creation of Adam” on the ceiling of the Sistene chapel in the Vatican, contains an artistic representation of the sagital plane of the human brain with God in the middle reaching out the divine touch to Adam. Dr. Meshberger insists that the artist was allegorically portraying the moment when God bestowed Adam with intelligence.creation2

As I point out in my talks and “SuperSense” the trouble with this theory is that the human brain is wired to detect patterns in otherwise random events. This is why it is so easy to see evidence of divine signatures in all manner of mundane patterns. Nevertheless, believers see what they want to see and treat these patterns as auspicious. For example, spontaneous shrines (often with respect to the Virgin Mary for some reason), pop up in the most unusual places such as the site of a salt stain on the wall of an underpass in Chicago……


or as a refraction pattern in the plate glass windows of an insurance building in Florida….jesus026

This tendency to seeing significant features is known as pareidolia and is particularly associated with religious imagery. One the factors that appears to shape the patterns we see is our relative expertise and previous experiences. Dr.Meshberger is a gynecologist which may make him inclined to see patterns where the rest of us dare not look. There again if he was a vet then this one should have been glaringly obvious..angusassjesus_350x450


Filed under General Thoughts, Weird Story of the Week

19 responses to “God IS in Your Brain

  1. You know, I was thinking that Our Lady of the Underpass looks decidely vulvar, then it turns out the scholar in question is a gynecologist. Another mysterious coincidence?
    Taking the preponderance of dogs’ butts into consideration there must be countless spontaneous shrines to Our Lady of The Dog’s Butt all working together to suggest that God is not in the brain or the “heart,” but in the Root Chakra which lies at the base of the spine. Universal Life Force enters the human body through the Root Chakra which is all about survival, safety and sexuality, bringing us back to Our Lady of the Underpass. To me, all these sexual references add together to suggest that God is trying to tell humanity that we should be getting laid more – which would explain all those Incubi and Sucubi. To The Uptight, all that sex would certainly be alarming. It makes sense that they’d attribute unbridled sexual pleasure to Demons instead The Lord thereby confusing the message for generations.
    Our Lady of the Insurance Building is not Mary at all. It’s Jesus looking at the giant crucifix and all that wasted energy, wondering if people are ever going to pull their heads out from their butts.

    How’s that for finding patterns in random events?

  2. brucehood

    Whoa…. Tricia. I sense some pent-up frustration in your blog… I just read your post on your site about road rage and shooting people. Yes, more sex…seems like a good plan.

    Yes, I love your pattern perception and causal attribution.

    Now I have to go into hiding from angry Catholics

  3. Arno

    You better. I might just send Bill Donahue on your (and that dog’s) ass.

  4. Cat butt in the banner, dog butt in a post! Have you got a Yoko obsession?

    I’m always in two minds when it comes to these ‘sightings’ in buildings etc. If someone commits to faith rather than imperial evidence, surely it’s more logical that they see sacred images everywhere. One of my favourite books happens to be ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ and in it, he describes how he passed by a shrine without kneeling to worship in front of it because it wasn’t a site that he felt any particular interest in. His guru chastised him for being selective with his worship, stating that faith by definition cannot be selective. I can respect this kind of attitude, as it discourages prejudice where religion might otherwise fuel bigotry.

    Worship is usually so innocent – as long it does not involve violence or coercion – I feel a bit of a creep to laugh at or scorn things like the cases above. As I’ve seen in a lot of the entries here, we really need belief to augment existence.

    Little personal note, my favourite Sistine angel is the one God has an arm around. It’s just particularly sweet, with funny eyes.

    “Yes, more sex…seems like a good plan.” Tagline for the Dutch cover!

  5. brucehood

    Dear Katie… I don’t scorn or laugh at belief… I envy.

  6. Ram Venkatararam

    A while back, at my store, I noticed some fuzzy black mould on the wall behind the “Wonder” Bread.

    Within the mould, I was clearly able to identify the face of Lata Mangeshkar, reknowned Bollywood playback singer.

    I trust my eyes Bruce but still don’t know exactly what it means.

    I was actually plan to post about it. Bottom line is that this kind of stuff is good for business.

  7. poietes

    Okay, underpass, cannot discern the virgin anywhere in that one.

    Long time ago some marketing person took the touching fingers only and used them in a campaign: “You are within reach of a masterpiece.” I cut that baby out of the magazine and slapped it in the middle of my then collage. It was beauty to behold.

    The Sistine Chapel would naturally evoke mystic images simply because of its primary image but also because of its creator.

    As to finding images of the virgin in a peanut and butter sandwich or on a window or whatever: these are people who are obviously in great need of something more in their lives in which to believe. If the image in the peanut butter sustains them, give it to them.

    Personally, I keep looking for angels in my cobwebs, but so far, naught. Perhaps I am meant to collect all of them and then once I have a bundle, I will see something. But more likely, I will only have an asthma attack.

  8. It’s not just believers. Atheist sees big bang in slice of toast: http://www.satireandcomment.com/0208toast.html

  9. brucehood

    Hilarious Tom!

  10. That photo brings to mind some wise words attributed to the renowned Liverpudlian theologian, Ken Dodd.

    “The bloke who invented the cats-eyes in the middle of the road, did so when he saw a cat walking towards him at night. If it had been walking the other way, he would have invented the pencil sharpener.”

  11. Ha! Love the brain. I see brains in everything. Occupational hazard I guess. Although this is pretty good, if you stretch it out a bit more, with a bit of artistic licence, that errant leg is a good pituitary and the green scarf could make a nice brain stem…!?

  12. Sorry, Bruce – I didn’t intend that you scorn or laugh, I was carrying on a fake dialogue inside my head.

    Not like hearing voices or anything…I just tend to have arguments in my own – I’m not crazy!!

  13. brucehood

    No Katie Dear of course, you’re not. Have a cup of tea…

    😉 good to see you back!

  14. Carolyn

    Hi Bruce, Diane’s friend from Boston here… She mentioned your blogsite to me because she knows I’m interested in matters of spirituality and faith, especially from an everyday living point of view. Your blog and your research site are really fascinating and I did have a few thoughts — not as a scientist or philosopher, but just as someone who likes to observe how people live their lives… Anyway, you may have already addressed this in your book (which I am looking forward to reading when it comes out), but it seems to me that this finding of religious meaning in everyday or random objects is related to our innate need to relate to something beyond our day to day lives for the purpose of doing good. I tend to believe that people are inherently altruistic and that this need naturally expresses itself in acts of service to others. When people can express this in actions that they feel are making the world better in some way, they are less likely to use this tendency to connect random events to engage in superstitious behavior. They don’t need to be superstitious to fulfill the need to relate to something beyond their daily lives. When, for some reason, they don’t find fulfillment of this impulse in their lives, they turn to other ways to feel that there is something beyond themselves, including superstitions of the kind you are talking about. (I have no scientific basis for this wildly broad assertion, just observation…)

    The other way I sometimes see the impulse to something beyond leading to erroneous connecting of events is in conspiracy theories. People love a good conspiracy theory, even if it makes no sense, and the way that they cling to them with such emotion leads me to believe that there is a deep need that these conspiracy theories fill.

    However, I also think that the impulse to go beyond oneself for good can lead to actions that look like giving objects more meaning than they have, but are really using objects as a tool help us with whatever our mission in life is. The way that the people of Poland find such inspiration in Our Lady of Czestochowa is one example that comes to mind (a great discussion of this is in China Galland’s Longing for Darkness). I don’t know that people see Our Lady appear in everyday objects, but they certainly have found inspiration in her image. Anyway, these are just thoughts that came to mind as I read your blog and research site.

    By the way, I really applaud the research you are doing with children, especially that which can help children with autism. Autism is such a devastating disorder and it is so important to find ways to assist those affected by it.

  15. brucehood

    Welcome Carolyn and thank you for the comment. In the book, I lay out the evidence for how we create supernatural beliefs. But as to purpose, I suggest that like you there is an important function that serves to bind us together socially.. similar to what you are saying. I will be in the Borders in Boston in April.. Check out the events page. Hope to see you if you have time.

  16. Carolyn

    Thank you for the invite! Unfortunately, I have to stick pretty close to home during the day because of family responsibilities, but otherwise I would definitely be there.

  17. Arno

    Pareidolia is not just something exclusively organic anymore! You know technology is properly advanced when even a computer program, in this case I-Photo’s face detection program starts suffering from pareidolia!

  18. Pingback: Cheesus, It’s Just a Type 1 Error « Bruce M. Hood

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