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Scientific naturalism and the neurology of religious experience.

Ratcliffe, M. J. (2003) 'Scientific naturalism and the neurology of religious experience.', Religious studies., 39 (3). pp. 323-345.


In this paper, I consider V. S. Ramachandran's in principle agnosticism concerning whether neurological studies of religious experience can be taken as support for the claim that God really does communicate with people during religious experiences. Contra Ramachandran, I argue that it is by no means obvious that agnosticism is the proper scientific attitude to adopt in relation to this claim. I go on to show how the questions of whether it is (a) a scientifically testable claim and (b) a plausible hypothesis serve to open up some important philosophical issues concerning interpretive backgrounds that are presupposed in the assessment of scientific hypotheses. More specifically, I argue that 'naturalism' or 'scientific objectivism' in its various forms is not simply a neutral or default methodological backdrop for empirical inquiry but involves acceptance of a specific ontology, which functions as an implicit and unargued constitutive commitment. Hence these neurological studies can be employed as a lever with which to disclose something of the ways in which different frameworks of interpretation, both theistic and atheistic, serve to differently structure and give meaning to empirical findings.

Item Type:Article
Keywords:Ramachandran, Evolution, Epilepsy.
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Publisher statement:© 2003 Cambridge University Press
Record Created:23 May 2008
Last Modified:05 Aug 2011 16:28

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