Grady's Reviews > God Soul Mind Brain: A Neuroscientist's Reflections on the Spirit World

God Soul Mind Brain by Michael S.A. Graziano
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Sep 10, 2010

it was amazing

Above and Beyond: 'The Great Mediator'

Michael S.A. Graziano continues to amaze. Having been completely entranced by his novels of fiction, THE LOVE SONG OF MONKEY, and THE DIVINE FARCE, this reader was under the impression that his success in the literary realm was solid enough that he could well become one of the next decade's foremost novelists, so strange and compelling were these two brilliant books. But suddenly up pops this new book GOD SOUL MIND BRAIN and Graziano appears healthy on the other end of the spectrum of art to science. As a matter of interest this book erases that arc of what we all thought was a dichotomy, and in addition to encouraging us to think along the lines of growing our appreciation for the organ Brain he escorts us through the No Man's Land of religion versus science.

The pleasure (or one of the many pleasures) of the book subtitled 'A Neuroscientist's Reflection on the Spirit World' is the non-confrontational manner in which Graziano approaches the concept that soul and spirit and God may be better understood by exploring the working of the human brain. He simply does not go where readers who are embedded in religion/spirituality/soul versus the devil of science stand guard of their beliefs. This small, immensely readable book is not a scientific treatise but instead is a book for the masses, a gently kind introduction to the concepts of Neuroscientific explorations that explore the neural mechanisms of the 'social brain' - the concept of perception that allows us to react to the world in an understandable way - that allow us to construct a reasonable explanation for where spiritual thoughts, the concept of soul, and indeed where the major impact that religion began and continues. The slow unraveling of Graziano's information he so comfortably shares provides a means of understanding how reasonable consciousness that can explain both science and soul. This is his neural basis of belief in the unseen. God(s) and spirits are simply additional examples of the process of social perception, a theory he explains in the most useful and unarguable manner using examples of how we all interact with each other based on perceptions our brain forms from the information it incorporates from past or learned experiences. 'The purpose of perception is not to provide you with an accurate picture of the world. The purpose is to be useful to you. Whatever is advantageous - that is what the brain computes.'

Graziano's three points about perception are as follows: 1. It is a process of constructing a model in our brain of an object from the real world. 2. That model is not necessarily true to the actual object, but is simplified and altered, becoming a blend of the real and the invented. 3. The attributes don't feel like inventions, they are perceived as objective reality. He then leads the reader to the idea that 'God is the perception of a single, unified mind behind every otherwise inexplicable event: the spirit world by its dependence on the social perceptual construct is a creation of the brain. It is a perceptual illusion.'

The power of Graziano's writing comes not only from his research - it comes form his overwhelming honesty and acceptance of the world in which we live - all aspects of that world. His kindness and humanity is best quoted from his writing. 'I simply think that eradicating religion is not possible. It is a fallacy that ignores the specs of the human machine. We are not rational entities. Religion, like all culture, grows on social machinery in our brains. To function socially, we must understand each other's minds; therefore beliefs and customs spread by imitation from person to person; therefore a cultural competition among beliefs emerges; therefore belief systems evolve to be especially good at promoting themselves. Therefore religion. For that matter, therefore politics. Therefore entertainment. Therefore business. Therefore all of human culture. If religion is profoundly irrational, so is the rest of human culture. Culture is by nature a complicated, bizarre, irrational, fantastic, addictive pleasure, sometimes brutal, sometimes incredibly generous.....We can study the human mind from a scientific point of view and come to a logical understanding of its intrinsically bizarre illogic. To me, that contradiction is one of the most marvelous properties that we humans possess.'

Michael S.A. Graziano thus becomes the great mediator in the too often cruel battle between science and 'religion'. He proves himself in this superb book to be not only a brilliant writer but a contemporary philosopher. This book should be read by everyone, form the classrooms of high schools and colleges to the family rooms of every individual in the family of man.

Grady Harp
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