Sunday November 18, 2018
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God or supernatural power: Its all about your mind

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While scientists and faithfuls will ensure that the debate on the existence of a universal spirit — call it God or a supernatural force — goes on, a research study has revealed that the conflict between science and religion has its roots in your brain.

According to the researchers, human brain is divided in two parts — one given to analytical or critical think and the other comprising an empathetic network.

When it comes to chosing between faith or science, this is how the brain works.

In order to believe in a supernatural power or a universal spirit, people appear to suppress the brain network used for analytical or critical thinking and engage the empathetic network.

On the other hand, when thinking analytically about the physical and material world, people just appear to do the opposite, say researchers from Ohio-based Case Western Reserve University and Massachusetts-based Babson College in the US.

The brain has a role to play in everything that happens to and by the human body and mind.

“You cannot do anything without the brain. So the faithfuls suppress analytical/critical part of their brain while they are enjoying their faith or praying. It, however, does not mean that they cannot be nerds and analytical at other times,” Richard E Boyatzis, professor of organisational behaviour at Case Western and a co-author of the research study, told IANS in an e-mail interview.

In a series of eight experiments, the researchers found the more empathetic the person is, the more likely he or she is to be religious.

The research is based on the hypothesis that the human brain’s two opposing domains are in constant tension.

“Because of the tension between these two networks, pushing aside a naturalistic world view enables you to delve deeper into the social or emotional side,” says associate professor of philosophy Tony Jack from Case Western in a paper published in the journal PLOS ONE.

According to Santhosh Babu, celebrity coach and managing director of Organisation Development Alternatives, human brain is capable of understanding that we do not understand everything. Therefore, there is a “rational comfort” in trusting someone or something on issues which are beyond our understanding and capabilities.

“The moment we believe in something, there is a perceptual constraint that stops the analytical or curious part of our brain. Once the brain believes in something strongly, only the data that support that particular belief is allowed to enter our awareness,” Babu told IANS.

The US researchers also examined the relationship between belief in God with measures of analytic thinking and moral concerns, in eight different experiments — each involving 159 to 527 adults.

Consistently through all experiments, the team found that both spiritual belief and empathic concerns were positively associated with frequency of prayer, meditation and other spiritual or religious practices.

Experts feel that for the human mind, the uncertainty that surrounds a state of “not knowing” is a source of anxiety, fear and depression.

“Surrendering to a ‘higher power’ alleviates that state of ‘not knowing’ as it is easier to believe that things are happening as per will of God or destiny rather than not being able to put an explanation for those acts or phenomenon,” emphasises Dr Sunil Mittal, senior psychiatrist from Cosmos Institute of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences in New Delhi.

Religious beliefs, however, can help cope with difficult events like death of a loved one, loss, disability and calamities.

“The human mind does feel conflicted about believing in something that it has never seen or cannot define. However, the ‘power of belief’ itself is essential to help find answers and cope with difficulties in life, be it belief in God, in destiny or any other higher power,” Dr Mittal told IANS.

But some psychiatrists say the unknown also holds challenges for the mind.

“One can be spiritual without being religious and vice versa. Uncertainty may lead to depression, fear and anxiety, but may also be rewarding as it provides a stimulus for progression on a journey that may lead to the development of the self and personal beliefs in response to the challenges faced in life,” says Dr Shobhana Mittal, a Delhi-based senior psychiatrist.

To question, analyse and think critically is an innate quality of the human mind. But the religion-science conflict can, however, be avoided by remembering simple rules, say others.

“Religion has no place telling us about the physical structure of the world as this is the business of science. Science should inform our ethical reasoning but it cannot determine what is ethical or tell us how we should construct meaning and purpose in our lives,” explains Jack.

For Dr (Brig) S Sudarsanan, senior consultant psychiatrist from BLK Super Specialty Hospital in the capital, while the conflict between belief in God and atheism has gained significant momentum in the recent past, “spirituality is increasingly being thought of as a key function of the brain.”

That may be another debatable point.

Credits: IANS

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  • Shriya Katoch

    This really interesting . Finally found a reason for belief .

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Microplastics Found In 100 Percent Of Humans Studied: Research

Plastic is apparently showing up in all of us

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Microplastics, plastic
Plastic bottles and other plastics, including a mop, lie washed up on the bank of the River Thames in London, Britian. VOA

In the first study of its kind, Austrian researchers have tracked the movement of microplastics into human beings. The results show that the plastic that is a ubiquitous element of human life is now also a constant element in the human body.

The research was presented at this week at UEG Week in Vienna, Austria, the largest gastroenterology meeting in Europe.

Follow the plastics

Two Austrian researchers, Dr. Philipp Schwabl from the Medical University of Vienna, and Dr. Bettina Liebmann, from the Environment Agency Austria, studied participants from countries including Finland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, the UK and Austria.

Microplastics are particles of plastic less than 5 mm in size. They are often tiny plastic beads that are put in cosmetic products. A few nations, including the U.S., the UK and South Korea, have banned microbeads. But microplastics also are created when larger pieces of plastic break down over time, and plastic in general is everywhere. The U.N. estimates that about 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in the world’s oceans every year. And the World Economic Forum estimated that Americans threw away over 33 million metric tons of plastic in 2014.

Microplastics
Courtesy – Philipp Schwabl. VOA

But this study, which was small, suggests that plastic, whether it’s bad for us or not, is already in all of us.

Study participants were asked to keep a food diary for seven days prior to taking part in the test. Then they turned over stool samples to the researchers who then looked for microplastics.

And they found them. Every single stool sample tested positive for the presence of microplastic, and up to nine different plastic types were identified.

Where is the plastic coming from? In the cases of this study, the plastic that showed up in people is associated with eating plastic wrapped foods, and drinking from plastic bottles. But most of the participants also ate fish, so Schwabl says that right now, “no exact conclusion on plastic origin can be made” on exactly where the plastic is coming from. Future studies should narrow that down.

Microplastics
Courtesy – Philipp Schwabl. VOA

What is it doing to us?

So is all that plastic making us sick? Schwabl says, for now, there are no definitive studies that suggest a danger to humans. But he says that in “animal studies, it has been shown that microplastics may cause intestinal damage, remodeling of the intestinal villi, distortion of iron absorption and hepatic stress.”

And the concern is “what this means to us, and especially patients with gastrointestinal diseases,” Schwabl says. “While the highest plastic concentrations in animal studies have been found in the gut, the smallest microplastic particles are capable of entering the blood stream, lymphatic system and may even reach the liver.”

Also Read: A Data Project to Predict Human Trafficking Before It Occurs By Corporate Giants

He was surprised, he says, to find that plastic is apparently showing up in all of us, and he expects the amount collecting in our bodies to keep increasing, unless the world drastically changes its use of plastic. (VOA)