Nobel Laureate Finds "Neuro-Theology" Unconvincing

Responds to Theory That Desire for God Is Only in the Genes

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ROME, AUG. 26, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Religions cannot be reduced to chemical variations of the brain's gray matter, a Nobel Prize recipient and theologian says in response to theses proposed by an advocate of "neurotheology."



In a book just published in France, entitled "La biologie de Dieu" (The Biology of God), science journalist Patrick JeanBaptiste states that the need for God experienced by every person is genetically programmed.

The book aims to affirm that biology on its own can explain religious phenomena. According to the author, illnesses such as epilepsy can explain the intensity of some people's religious life.

But Renato Dulbecco, a 1975 Nobel Prize winner in medicine, and one of the promoters of the human genome project, doesn't think the book's conclusions are scientific.

"Given that all or almost all human societies have imagined a God, we could then say that this idea is within us," Dulbecco told the Roman newspaper Il Messaggero. "We would have a brain directed toward a supreme being, and it could not be otherwise, as it is a creation of his. Although it is possible, it is also possible that it is not like that."

"It is an economical solution, as it involves less effort," he said. "But it must be demonstrated, if one is speaking of science."

Monsignor Mauro Cozzoli, professor of moral theology at the Lateran University, said: "Undoubtedly, a biological substratum is necessary for spiritual manifestations."

"However, we cannot reduce the spiritual to the neurological," he noted. "The spirit is not reduced to the neuronal; rather, it transcends it. Otherwise, it would be no more than a physiological prolongation.

"Just as one thinks and believes with the body, one also enters into relation with God with the body," he added. But he said this does not mean that the religious experience can be reduced simply to a biological experience.