Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Neural Buddhism?

David Brooks reflects on the evolution (if I can be permitted to use that word) of neuroscience. A snippet:

If you survey the literature (and I’d recommend books by Newberg, Daniel J. Siegel, Michael S. Gazzaniga, Jonathan Haidt, Antonio Damasio and Marc D. Hauser if you want to get up to speed), you can see that certain beliefs will spread into the wider discussion.

First, the self is not a fixed entity but a dynamic process of relationships. Second, underneath the patina of different religions, people around the world have common moral intuitions. Third, people are equipped to experience the sacred, to have moments of elevated experience when they transcend boundaries and overflow with love. Fourth, God can best be conceived as the nature one experiences at those moments, the unknowable total of all there is.


In unexpected ways, science and mysticism are joining hands and reinforcing each other. That’s bound to lead to new movements that emphasize self-transcendence but put little stock in divine law or revelation. Orthodox believers are going to have to defend particular doctrines and particular biblical teachings. They’re going to have to defend the idea of a personal God, and explain why specific theologies are true guides for behavior day to day.

I’m in the middle of reading C.S. Lewis with my son--we’ve gone from Screwtape to The Abolition of Man and are now in That Hideous Strength. It strikes me that Lewis provides some resources not only for responding to the more aggressively materialist atheists but also to Brooks’s "neural Buddhists."

Discussions - 2 Comments

Doesn't the fact that "people around the world have common moral intuitions" point to the porbable existence of something like natural right or nattural law, rather than to the supposition that religions with their particular doctrines are merely "patinas?"

This reminds me of the materialism and pantheism that Tocqueville diagnoses as a serious problem for American democracy.

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