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The Holy Mole                                                             November Issue, 2012
Digging up the dirt, seeing for the blind
Reporter: Clayton Clough

In the cradle of civilization     In Islamic cultures there are
there lurked a demon. An-         the Jinn (Jeanie), demons
cient peoples from the very       comprised of smoke and fire
earliest cultures, despite        which sometimes take rep-
having been thousands of          tilian forms. In ancient
miles apart and never hav-        South American cultures the
ing communicated in most          primordial women
cases, developed surprising-      “Bachue” was referred to as
ly similar forms of worship.      the ‘Celestial Snake’ and
Of course their systems of        was often depicted with a
religion would be consid-         Reptilian tail, just as did
ered primitive by modern          some traditional depictions
standards; yet modern man         of the serpent in the Garden
is still very familiar with the   of Eden. Evolutionary psy-
myths and stories that            chologists have suggested
shaped the foundation for         that these beliefs stem from
our ancestor’s belief system.     genetic memories formed         (Above) Carving made by an-
In our Western, predomi-          over millions of years, con-    cient Mesopotamians of the
nantly Judeo-Christian cul-       cerning a time when Rep-        ‘Anunnaki’- reptilian-like
ture, most are familiar with      tiles were the dominant spe-    gods.
the story of Adam and Eve         cies. Evidence for this can
                                                                  (Below) Carving at the en-
and the serpent that de-          be seen in young infant’s
                                                                  trance to Notre Dame Cathe-
ceived man, bestowing on          ability to identify snakes
                                                                  dral of man’s deception by the
us the virtues of morality.       and other external threats      serpent, depicted as a woman
Just as Prometheus stole the      with incredible speed and       with a snake’s tail.
fire from the gods in ancient     accuracy (LoBue & De-
Greek beliefs this general        Loache, 2008). This certain-
concept permeates through         ly computed with our an-
thousands of years and cul-       cient brothers and sisters,
tures, with one significant       the very earliest forms of
similarity. Usually referred      religion were characterized
to as the ‘Serpents of Wis-       by fear of these reptilian
dom’ the myth of reptilian-       entities and their subsequent
like beings who are the as-       appeasement, usually
cendants of man was the           through the medium of hu-
basis of religious worship in     man sacrifice and libations.
its infancy. In the Far East-
ern cultures there were the
Dragon Kings from who the
Emperors were said to be
descended from.
The Holy Mole                                                           November Issue, 2012
Digging up the dirt, seeing for the blind


Carl Sagan, in his 1977         Triune simply means three-       At the University of Texas a
book ‘The Dragons of            in-one; the basal ganglia,       team of Psychologists have
Eden’, popularized the re-      limbic system and neo cor-       investigated the way in
search first put forward by     tex are the three main struc-    which the brain makes natu-
Neuroscientist Paul Maclean     tures constituting the whole     ral connections between
into what is described as the   of higher functioning mam-       unrelated stimuli (Wang,
‘Triune’ Brain. The ‘Reptil-    mal’s brains. Areas such as      Whitson & Menon, 2012).
ian Complex’ (R-Complex),       the Ventral Pallidum and the     For instance, when present-
just one aspect of this theo-   Ventral Tegmental Area           ed with tarot cards or horo-
ry, suggests that even the      (V.T.A.) in the Basal Gan-       scopes many ‘believers’ will
behaviour of higher func-       glia are responsible for the     tend to begin applying that
tioning mammals is in part      production of some of the        information to their own
dictated by the evolution of    dopamine in the brain, a         lives, even though the
the brain structures within     neurotransmitter related to      events in one’s life are not
all vertebrates; this evolu-    all manner of physical and       reflected in the stars or in
tion can be deduced by ex-      behavioural functions (Alca-     the cards. It is suggested
amining anatomical brain        ro, Huber & Panksepp,            that superstitious behaviour
structures of lower function-   2007). Years of experi-          is defined by a perceived
ing vertebrates such as         mental studies have firmly       lack of control or lack of
birds, fish and reptiles        established the role of these    understanding, very much in
(Maclean, 1990). The Neo-       components, especially the       the same way that ancient
Cortex present in high func-    V.T.A., in many aspects of       peoples attributed the work-
tioning mammals is the          animal and human behav-          ings of the natural world to
most recent edition to this     iour most notably the con-       god or gods like the god of
evolutionary process but the    cept of reinforcing behav-       the sun or the god of rain.
more ancient brain struc-       iour through a reward sys-
tures are still present. More   tem, which is where the do-      The mind’s craving for pat-
specifically one is referring   pamine comes in.                 terns, understanding and
to the Basal Ganglia, con-                                       control may well lead us to
sisting of a multitude of       Sex, aggression, territoriali-   religious experience and god
components at the base of       ty, ritualistic displays all     as positive reinforcement to
the forebrain (the bottom of    stem from this reptilian         negative stimuli in the envi-
the front) such as the Pal-     brain; do not many of the        ronment. Francois-Marie
lidum and the Stratium; it is   forms of religious worship       Arouet Voltaire wrote: “If
present in all vertebrates.     encompass ritualistic behav-     god did not exist it would be
This structure plays a part     iour associated with positive    necessary to invent him”
role in ‘Limbic’ functions,     emotions? Perhaps religion       (1770), although it may all
the limbic system being an-     is just a complex way of         just be in our heads.
other aspect of the Triune      satisfying these innate bio-
Brain concerning mood and       logical desires.
emotion.
The Holy Mole                                                             November Issue, 2012
Digging up the dirt, seeing for the blind
                                 Without going into too           a Swedish research team
                                 much detail very broad la-       (Granqvist et al, 2005)
One notable aspect of hu-        bels are often ascribed to the   failed to replicate these
man behaviour is the way in      hemispheres, the left side is    astounding results and sug-
which we structure society       popularly deemed ‘logical’       gested there was no rela-
based on hierarchies which       whereas the right brain is       tionship between the mag-
is again a behavioural prod-     described as ‘creative’. It      netic field and religious ex-
uct stemming from the brain      could be that strong feelings    perience calling the whole
structures that fall under the   of belief are dictated by        theoretical basis for the ex-
umbrella of the R-Complex.       right brain dominance.           periment into question. In
All social structures are                                         fact the results of Persing-
identifiable as hierarchal       A controversial experiment       er’s experiments are at-
pyramids, if one considers       conducted in 1990 made           tributed to the suggestibility
the universe and existence       plain this separation be-        of the participants. As al-
as a hierarchy the concept of    tween the hemispheres and        ways in science the contro-
an anthropomorphic entity        produced a device being          versy rages on, the fact that
at the tip of the pyramid        referred to as the ‘god hel-     there are plans for a com-
seems an almost obvious          met’. It is generally accept-    mercial version of the ‘god
conclusion, perhaps even a       ed that our sense of self, our   helmet’ will certainly be a
natural disposition.             individuality is a product of    cause for concern in the the-
                                 the left hemisphere, but         ological world.
An interesting experiment        what is the right hemisphere
conducted by Neurologist         equivalent?
Vilayanur S. Ramachan-
dran, and explained at the       The ‘god helmet’, conceived
2006 Beyond Belief Confer-       by Neuroscientists Stanley
                                                                   (Below) A participant wearing
ence, concerned the atti-        Koren and Michael Persing-       the ‘God Helmet’.
tudes of a split brain patient   er, applies a very subtle
towards god. A split brain       magnetic field to the tem-
patient has had the brain cut    poral lobe in the right hemi-
down the middle, separating      sphere of the brain, the ap-
the two hemispheres so that      parent effects are astonish-
they can no longer com-          ing. Around 80% of wearers
municate. Each hemisphere        are induced into a religious
of this patient was asked        experience. These report the
whether it believed in god,      ‘presence’ of other beings
the right side said yes, the     described as angels or de-
left side said no. Despite the   ceased relatives, sometimes
huge theological ramifica-       even god himself. Persinger
tions this experiment pro-       noted that some cases of
duces one must understand        deep religious experiences
that every person has a dom-     may be due to naturally oc-
inant hemisphere, be it left     curring focal points for
or right.                        magnetic energy within our
                                 environment which stimu-
                                 late the right temporal lobe.
                                 Unfortunately for Persinger
The Holy Mole                                                                   November Issue, 2012
Digging up the dirt, seeing for the blind
Whatever the case may be         which people judge their              Darwin., C. (1871). “The Descent
these observations can give      own actions based on the              of Man”, Chapter 5: “On the de-
                                                                       velopment of the intellectual &
us an insight into a biologi-    reaction of others. God is            moral faculties during primeval &
cal basis for god and reli-      big brother; the all-seeing           civilised times”. London: Murray.
gion with respects to our        eye that restrains the selfish
                                                                       Granqvist, P., Fredrikson, M.,
personal drives and desires      tendency and propagates the
                                                                       Unge, P., Hagenfeldt, A., Valind,
but what of belief systems       sense of disgust within one-          S., Larhammar, D. & Larsson, M.
with regards to the social       self when one commits an              (2005). "Sensed presence & mys-
creature inside us all? Are      immoral act. Groups and               tical experiences are predicted by
we not more concerned with       communities that adapted              suggestibility, not by the applica-
                                                                       tion of trans cranial weak complex
‘morality’ and higher ideals,    religious notions would               magnetic fields". Neuroscience
to push ourselves beyond         have had a greater chance of          Letters. 379: (1): 1–6.
our selfish biological desires   survival. Clearly much of
and instead purvey a sense       the science behind religion           LoBue, V., & DeLoache, J. S.
                                                                       (2008). Detecting the snake in the
of ‘community spirit’?           does not intend to belittle           grass: Attention to fear-relevant
Charles Darwin set the           the concept of ‘god’ but in-          stimuli by adults and young chil-
precedent for evolutionary       stead presents it as having           dren. Psychological Science. Vol:
theory at the end of the         possibly been a necessity for         19, (3): 284-289.
nineteenth century but his       the survival of our species.          MacLean., P.D. (1990). “The Tri-
interest was not limited to                                            une Brain in Evolution: Role of
anatomical evolution, he         Perhaps it is only now, in a          Paleocerebral Functions”. Spring-
was also intrigued by the        society that encourages the           er.

evolution of morality.           selfish, in a world where
                                                                       Rossano, M. (2007). “Supernatu-
                                 science grants us under-
                                                                       ralizing Social Life: Religion &
In his book the “Descent of      standing of the natural forc-         the Evolution of Human Coopera-
Man” (1871) Darwin specu-        es, that religion and god is          tion”. Department of Psychology,
lated that altruistic tenden-    becoming less and less rele-          South-eastern Louisiana Universi-
                                                                       ty. (Unpublished).
cies would have been bene-       vant in peoples lives. In the
ficial to creatures that de-     words of French novelist              Ruttan, L. A., Persinger, M. A. &
pend on social interaction       Victor Hugo: “Adversity               Koren, S. (1990). "Enhancement
for their survival, such as      makes men and prosperity              of temporal lobe-related experi-
                                                                       ences during brief exposures to
man. Others who have fol-        makes monsters”, perhaps
                                                                       MilliGauss intensity extremely
lowed in the footsteps of        adversity also makes god.             low frequency magnetic fields".
Darwin have taken the con-                                             Journal of Bioelectricity. Vol. 9:
cept one step further. Psy-                                            33–54.
chologist Matt Rossano           Bibliography:                         Voltaire, F.A. (1770). “Epitre a
stipulates in his paper “Su-                                           l'Auteur du Livre des Trois Impos-
pernaturalizing Social Life”     Alcaro, A., Huber, R. & Panksepp,     teurs”.
(2007) that, although the        J. (2007). Behavioural functions of
                                 the mesolimbic dopaminergic           Wang, C.S., Whitson, J.A. &
evolution of ‘morality’ pre-                                           Menon, T. (2012) “Culture, Con-
                                 system: An affective neuroetho-
dates religion, the introduc-    logical perspective. Brain Re-        trol & Illusory Pattern Perception”.
tion of anthropomorphic,         search Review. Vol: 56, (2):283-      Social Psychological & Personali-
supernatural beings into so-     321.                                  ty Science. Vol. 3: 630-638.
cial life is a parameter by

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Brain and Behaviour Newspaper Article: Clayton Clough

  • 1. The Holy Mole November Issue, 2012 Digging up the dirt, seeing for the blind Reporter: Clayton Clough In the cradle of civilization In Islamic cultures there are there lurked a demon. An- the Jinn (Jeanie), demons cient peoples from the very comprised of smoke and fire earliest cultures, despite which sometimes take rep- having been thousands of tilian forms. In ancient miles apart and never hav- South American cultures the ing communicated in most primordial women cases, developed surprising- “Bachue” was referred to as ly similar forms of worship. the ‘Celestial Snake’ and Of course their systems of was often depicted with a religion would be consid- Reptilian tail, just as did ered primitive by modern some traditional depictions standards; yet modern man of the serpent in the Garden is still very familiar with the of Eden. Evolutionary psy- myths and stories that chologists have suggested shaped the foundation for that these beliefs stem from our ancestor’s belief system. genetic memories formed (Above) Carving made by an- In our Western, predomi- over millions of years, con- cient Mesopotamians of the nantly Judeo-Christian cul- cerning a time when Rep- ‘Anunnaki’- reptilian-like ture, most are familiar with tiles were the dominant spe- gods. the story of Adam and Eve cies. Evidence for this can (Below) Carving at the en- and the serpent that de- be seen in young infant’s trance to Notre Dame Cathe- ceived man, bestowing on ability to identify snakes dral of man’s deception by the us the virtues of morality. and other external threats serpent, depicted as a woman Just as Prometheus stole the with incredible speed and with a snake’s tail. fire from the gods in ancient accuracy (LoBue & De- Greek beliefs this general Loache, 2008). This certain- concept permeates through ly computed with our an- thousands of years and cul- cient brothers and sisters, tures, with one significant the very earliest forms of similarity. Usually referred religion were characterized to as the ‘Serpents of Wis- by fear of these reptilian dom’ the myth of reptilian- entities and their subsequent like beings who are the as- appeasement, usually cendants of man was the through the medium of hu- basis of religious worship in man sacrifice and libations. its infancy. In the Far East- ern cultures there were the Dragon Kings from who the Emperors were said to be descended from.
  • 2. The Holy Mole November Issue, 2012 Digging up the dirt, seeing for the blind Carl Sagan, in his 1977 Triune simply means three- At the University of Texas a book ‘The Dragons of in-one; the basal ganglia, team of Psychologists have Eden’, popularized the re- limbic system and neo cor- investigated the way in search first put forward by tex are the three main struc- which the brain makes natu- Neuroscientist Paul Maclean tures constituting the whole ral connections between into what is described as the of higher functioning mam- unrelated stimuli (Wang, ‘Triune’ Brain. The ‘Reptil- mal’s brains. Areas such as Whitson & Menon, 2012). ian Complex’ (R-Complex), the Ventral Pallidum and the For instance, when present- just one aspect of this theo- Ventral Tegmental Area ed with tarot cards or horo- ry, suggests that even the (V.T.A.) in the Basal Gan- scopes many ‘believers’ will behaviour of higher func- glia are responsible for the tend to begin applying that tioning mammals is in part production of some of the information to their own dictated by the evolution of dopamine in the brain, a lives, even though the the brain structures within neurotransmitter related to events in one’s life are not all vertebrates; this evolu- all manner of physical and reflected in the stars or in tion can be deduced by ex- behavioural functions (Alca- the cards. It is suggested amining anatomical brain ro, Huber & Panksepp, that superstitious behaviour structures of lower function- 2007). Years of experi- is defined by a perceived ing vertebrates such as mental studies have firmly lack of control or lack of birds, fish and reptiles established the role of these understanding, very much in (Maclean, 1990). The Neo- components, especially the the same way that ancient Cortex present in high func- V.T.A., in many aspects of peoples attributed the work- tioning mammals is the animal and human behav- ings of the natural world to most recent edition to this iour most notably the con- god or gods like the god of evolutionary process but the cept of reinforcing behav- the sun or the god of rain. more ancient brain struc- iour through a reward sys- tures are still present. More tem, which is where the do- The mind’s craving for pat- specifically one is referring pamine comes in. terns, understanding and to the Basal Ganglia, con- control may well lead us to sisting of a multitude of Sex, aggression, territoriali- religious experience and god components at the base of ty, ritualistic displays all as positive reinforcement to the forebrain (the bottom of stem from this reptilian negative stimuli in the envi- the front) such as the Pal- brain; do not many of the ronment. Francois-Marie lidum and the Stratium; it is forms of religious worship Arouet Voltaire wrote: “If present in all vertebrates. encompass ritualistic behav- god did not exist it would be This structure plays a part iour associated with positive necessary to invent him” role in ‘Limbic’ functions, emotions? Perhaps religion (1770), although it may all the limbic system being an- is just a complex way of just be in our heads. other aspect of the Triune satisfying these innate bio- Brain concerning mood and logical desires. emotion.
  • 3. The Holy Mole November Issue, 2012 Digging up the dirt, seeing for the blind Without going into too a Swedish research team much detail very broad la- (Granqvist et al, 2005) One notable aspect of hu- bels are often ascribed to the failed to replicate these man behaviour is the way in hemispheres, the left side is astounding results and sug- which we structure society popularly deemed ‘logical’ gested there was no rela- based on hierarchies which whereas the right brain is tionship between the mag- is again a behavioural prod- described as ‘creative’. It netic field and religious ex- uct stemming from the brain could be that strong feelings perience calling the whole structures that fall under the of belief are dictated by theoretical basis for the ex- umbrella of the R-Complex. right brain dominance. periment into question. In All social structures are fact the results of Persing- identifiable as hierarchal A controversial experiment er’s experiments are at- pyramids, if one considers conducted in 1990 made tributed to the suggestibility the universe and existence plain this separation be- of the participants. As al- as a hierarchy the concept of tween the hemispheres and ways in science the contro- an anthropomorphic entity produced a device being versy rages on, the fact that at the tip of the pyramid referred to as the ‘god hel- there are plans for a com- seems an almost obvious met’. It is generally accept- mercial version of the ‘god conclusion, perhaps even a ed that our sense of self, our helmet’ will certainly be a natural disposition. individuality is a product of cause for concern in the the- the left hemisphere, but ological world. An interesting experiment what is the right hemisphere conducted by Neurologist equivalent? Vilayanur S. Ramachan- dran, and explained at the The ‘god helmet’, conceived 2006 Beyond Belief Confer- by Neuroscientists Stanley (Below) A participant wearing ence, concerned the atti- Koren and Michael Persing- the ‘God Helmet’. tudes of a split brain patient er, applies a very subtle towards god. A split brain magnetic field to the tem- patient has had the brain cut poral lobe in the right hemi- down the middle, separating sphere of the brain, the ap- the two hemispheres so that parent effects are astonish- they can no longer com- ing. Around 80% of wearers municate. Each hemisphere are induced into a religious of this patient was asked experience. These report the whether it believed in god, ‘presence’ of other beings the right side said yes, the described as angels or de- left side said no. Despite the ceased relatives, sometimes huge theological ramifica- even god himself. Persinger tions this experiment pro- noted that some cases of duces one must understand deep religious experiences that every person has a dom- may be due to naturally oc- inant hemisphere, be it left curring focal points for or right. magnetic energy within our environment which stimu- late the right temporal lobe. Unfortunately for Persinger
  • 4. The Holy Mole November Issue, 2012 Digging up the dirt, seeing for the blind Whatever the case may be which people judge their Darwin., C. (1871). “The Descent these observations can give own actions based on the of Man”, Chapter 5: “On the de- velopment of the intellectual & us an insight into a biologi- reaction of others. God is moral faculties during primeval & cal basis for god and reli- big brother; the all-seeing civilised times”. London: Murray. gion with respects to our eye that restrains the selfish Granqvist, P., Fredrikson, M., personal drives and desires tendency and propagates the Unge, P., Hagenfeldt, A., Valind, but what of belief systems sense of disgust within one- S., Larhammar, D. & Larsson, M. with regards to the social self when one commits an (2005). "Sensed presence & mys- creature inside us all? Are immoral act. Groups and tical experiences are predicted by we not more concerned with communities that adapted suggestibility, not by the applica- tion of trans cranial weak complex ‘morality’ and higher ideals, religious notions would magnetic fields". Neuroscience to push ourselves beyond have had a greater chance of Letters. 379: (1): 1–6. our selfish biological desires survival. Clearly much of and instead purvey a sense the science behind religion LoBue, V., & DeLoache, J. S. (2008). Detecting the snake in the of ‘community spirit’? does not intend to belittle grass: Attention to fear-relevant Charles Darwin set the the concept of ‘god’ but in- stimuli by adults and young chil- precedent for evolutionary stead presents it as having dren. Psychological Science. Vol: theory at the end of the possibly been a necessity for 19, (3): 284-289. nineteenth century but his the survival of our species. MacLean., P.D. (1990). “The Tri- interest was not limited to une Brain in Evolution: Role of anatomical evolution, he Perhaps it is only now, in a Paleocerebral Functions”. Spring- was also intrigued by the society that encourages the er. evolution of morality. selfish, in a world where Rossano, M. (2007). “Supernatu- science grants us under- ralizing Social Life: Religion & In his book the “Descent of standing of the natural forc- the Evolution of Human Coopera- Man” (1871) Darwin specu- es, that religion and god is tion”. Department of Psychology, lated that altruistic tenden- becoming less and less rele- South-eastern Louisiana Universi- ty. (Unpublished). cies would have been bene- vant in peoples lives. In the ficial to creatures that de- words of French novelist Ruttan, L. A., Persinger, M. A. & pend on social interaction Victor Hugo: “Adversity Koren, S. (1990). "Enhancement for their survival, such as makes men and prosperity of temporal lobe-related experi- ences during brief exposures to man. Others who have fol- makes monsters”, perhaps MilliGauss intensity extremely lowed in the footsteps of adversity also makes god. low frequency magnetic fields". Darwin have taken the con- Journal of Bioelectricity. Vol. 9: cept one step further. Psy- 33–54. chologist Matt Rossano Bibliography: Voltaire, F.A. (1770). “Epitre a stipulates in his paper “Su- l'Auteur du Livre des Trois Impos- pernaturalizing Social Life” Alcaro, A., Huber, R. & Panksepp, teurs”. (2007) that, although the J. (2007). Behavioural functions of the mesolimbic dopaminergic Wang, C.S., Whitson, J.A. & evolution of ‘morality’ pre- Menon, T. (2012) “Culture, Con- system: An affective neuroetho- dates religion, the introduc- logical perspective. Brain Re- trol & Illusory Pattern Perception”. tion of anthropomorphic, search Review. Vol: 56, (2):283- Social Psychological & Personali- supernatural beings into so- 321. ty Science. Vol. 3: 630-638. cial life is a parameter by