Leading Neuroscientist: Religious Fundamentalism May Be a ‘Mental Illness’ That Can Be ‘Cured’

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Dymphna

via David Edwards The Raw Story

A leading neurologist at the University of Oxford said this week that recent developments meant that science may one day be able to identify religious fundamentalism as a “mental illness” and a cure it.

During a talk at the Hay Literary Festival in Wales on Wednesday, Kathleen Taylor was asked what positive developments she anticipated in neuroscience in the next 60 years.

“One of the surprises may be to see people with certain beliefs as people who can be treated,” she explained, according to The Times of London. “Somebody who has for example become radicalised to a cult ideology – we might stop seeing that as a personal choice that they have chosen as a result of pure free will and may start treating it as some kind of mental disturbance.”

“I am not just talking about the obvious candidates like radical Islam or some of the more extreme cults,” she explained. “I am talking about things like the belief that it is OK to beat your children. These beliefs are very harmful but are not normally categorized as mental illness.”

“In many ways that could be a very positive thing because there are no doubt beliefs in our society that do a heck of a lot of damage, that really do a lot of harm.”

In the introduction to her book, The Brain Supremacy, Taylor noted that scientists needed “to be careful when it comes to developing technologies which can slip through the skull to directly manipulate the brain.”

“They cannot be morally neutral, these world-shaping tools; when the aspect of the world in question is a human being, morality inevitably rears its hydra heads,” she wrote. “Technologies which profoundly change our relationship with the world around us cannot simply be tools, to be used for good or evil, if they alter our basic perception of what good and evil are.”

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  • Andrew

    “I am talking about things like the belief that it is OK to beat your children. These beliefs are very harmful but are not normally categorized as mental illness.”

    I’d support a pill to cure that. But parents who have the disease should be given a choice as to whether or not to take it. And if they don’t their children should be taken from them.

    • echar

      What if they can have more?

      • Andrew

        That’s easy. Therapy or sterilization.

        • echar

          The latter may be more effective. Intrusive though.

          • nozodurendozuuo

            what could go wrong?

          • echar

            Any punishment that does not correct, that can merely rouse rebellion in whoever has to endure it, is a piece of gratuitous infamy which makes those who impose it more guilty in the eyes of humanity, good sense and reason, nay a hundred times more guilty than the victim on whom the punishment is inflicted.

            Marquis de Sade

    • Liam_McGonagle

      I never got along with my parents, but to this day I have to say that, 100% and without reservation of any kind, they were completely correct to beat me when they did.

      I think it’s a real disservice to today’s kids that political correctness keeps them from the *sswhoopings they so richly merit. By god, you’d’ve never had to fly from NY to LA with some spoilt brat kicking the back of your seat nonstop all the way back in the 1970’s.

      Whereas today, if you calmly turn to said child’s mother and politely reference the inconvenience of said obnoxious child’s behaviour, and you’ll have the SWAT team waiting for you when you land.

      I’m no fundamentalist, but let’s not delude ourselves here into swinging too far in the opposite direction.

      • Andrew

        Nothing personal, but in my opinion your beliefs in this area are the cause of most of the world’s problems and people like you must be stopped by any means necessary.

        • Liam_McGonagle

          There’s a difference between beating a child to demonstrate that his behaviour is unacceptable and knocking out every tooth in his head for yuks. Simple welts heal, and in kids, quicker than you’d imagine.

          Young children can’t be reasoned with as if they had masters degrees in western philosophy. They need to learn boundaries before you can engage them in the type of elevated discourse that I believe you are imagining. That’s just a fact, and an affirmation of their human dignity rather than a denial of it.

          There’s a learning curve to everything. Some kids probably would respond to your ideas–but I guarantee you they’re less than 0.0000000000000001% of the population. I don’t think the moral development of the rest of humanity should be reversed in the misguided belief that the other 99.9999999999999999% will somehow catch up to them without any help.

          • Andrew

            I usually agree with your comments so it’s difficult for me to find a way to put this, but I believe you’re justifying true evil here. Again, no personal offense intended, but I believe you’re suffering from “internalized abuse.” I say that as someone who has suffered from the same thing, and probably still does to some extent.

            There’s a very wide berth between inflicting violence on a child and spoiling them, and a very wide berth between beating and engaging in elevated discourse. Beatings don’t teach children anything positive, and there is now neurological proof of this. Anything beyond an occasional swat on the bottom alters brain development and beatings cause what amounts to brain damage.

            http://disinfo.com/2013/05/child-abuse-change-gene-activity-patterns/
            http://disinfo.com/2010/09/the-biology-of-soul-murder/
            http://disinfo.com/2013/06/cost-of-resiliency-in-kids-uncovered/

          • Liam_McGonagle

            I do not suffer from “weeping inner child” syndrome. I merely recognize that humans require cultivation–both moral and intellectual–to justify their place in society.

            I was born an *sshole. Almost all of my ancestors were, and I have a pretty long pedigree to prove it.

            Yet that fact alone doesn’t make me special. Sadly, being born an *sshole is the commonest thing in the world.

            People need to learn boundaries before they’re capable of the elevated social intercourse you (and I) would wish. The first step in that education is an unambiguous signal that one’s behaviour is unacceptable. Simple ‘Time outs’ will not drive this message home for the determined deviant.

            Some amount of real corporeal pain needs to be involved before that becomes clear. Without it, we end up raising a generation of self-centered, entitled brats without any true sense of compassion.

            “Compassion” means to “suffer with” someone else. Let’s not forget that “suffering” is an indispensible part of this regime.

          • Andrew

            Being beaten is the only way to gain compassion? Sorry, but I think that’s bullshit, and twisted bullshit at that. Especially when those with such “compassion” advocate beating children.

          • Trutherator

            Andrew, your arguments fall shallow when you have to make up things that were never said, like the “only way” to gain (or teach or show) compassion.

            The real child psychologists are the kids themselves, who have these ivory tower clueless so bamboozled that we’re now all in trouble.

          • Trutherator

            Andrew, your arguments fall shallow when you have to make up things that were never said, like the “only way” to gain (or teach or show) compassion.

            The real child psychologists are the kids themselves, who have these ivory tower clueless so bamboozled that we’re now all in trouble.

          • Trutherator

            I seriously doubt that there is any “neurological proof” of this. We have thousands of years of history. The “wisest man who ever lived” differs.

            Neurologists know some things about mechanics, but even Dr. Benjamin Spock the #1 pediatric source for parents in the mid-20th century, apologized later for banning any physical punishment, resulting in one of the most violent generations of history.

            After his book faded out of fashion, crime went down, as a matter of fact.

          • Andrew

            I don’t know where you’re getting that garbage, but Dr. Spock never apologized for opposing corporal punishment. In fact, he didn’t condemn spanking until the last few years of his life.

            You’ll also have to provide some evidence that one particular generation was “one of the most violent… in history.” And evidence of a causal relationship would also be necessary to avoid a post hoc ergo propter hoc error.

          • Trutherator

            Research your material, Andrew. Ignorant comments don’t help. Dr. Spock is the one who noted the generation raised by his book had resulted in such a violent one.

          • Andrew

            Not from what I’ve read. Provide your source.

          • Trutherator

            Not from what I’ve been able to find so far either. Probably like other stuff I’ve seen. The SEO’s have pushed the exaggerated and ridiculous versions of the quote to the top. The original quote I heard was not so self-effacing as the fake one that is easily debunked. Straw men don’t help. “Fact-checker” so-called “sources” like Snopes don’t help either because they do the same thing we do, look for it on the Internet.

            Suffice it to say anyway, that the pop psychology fads that say don’t swat your kid should get more skepticism. A loving swat to a toddler to train him to keep from electrocuting himself or falling from the high chair or running into the street is better than deluding yourself into thinking he’s going to understand a lecture explaining electricity or gravity, or the laws of inertia.

            In any case, in a society surrounded by images of violence, if you don’t discipline your kid in a manner appropriate to the kid, it’s not that you love yours any more than mine. Kids that at toddler age don’t learn some loving limits will learn the hard way later on when the other guy is not the parent but a guy with a weapon.

          • Andrew

            Thanks for admitting you can’t find any evidence for your beliefs. I’ll stick with the neuroscientists and psychologists, and continue to promote their fact based conclusions.

          • Trutherator

            That was the Benjamin Spock quote, and for contradicting the atheists’ anti-creation battle cry about biogenesis, genetic information creation, and the anthropic principle: absence of evidence, is not evidence of absence. In this case ONLY the Spock quote ONLY.

            However, the bigger issues of spontaneous biogenesis, genetic information creation (examples of “beneficial mutations” were actually losses of information), lack of a non-laughable answer for anthropic principle, the lack of evidence that is admitted by the unknown entities known as dark matter and dark energy, polystrate fossils, one and one it goes… Those are blind-faith based beliefs.

          • Trutherator

            I seriously doubt that there is any “neurological proof” of this. We have thousands of years of history. The “wisest man who ever lived” differs.

            Neurologists know some things about mechanics, but even Dr. Benjamin Spock the #1 pediatric source for parents in the mid-20th century, apologized later for banning any physical punishment, resulting in one of the most violent generations of history.

            After his book faded out of fashion, crime went down, as a matter of fact.

          • Trutherator

            I seriously doubt there is such a study that contradicts thousands of years of actual proven practices.

          • Andrew

            Practices proven to create obedient worker/consumers, willing to go to war to kill poor people of other colors, eager to beat their spouses and children as they themselves were beaten, and who eventually die early of hypertension. Try actually reading the studies before you express your doubts.

          • Trutherator

            That’s an excerpt from an atheists’ web site, not studies. Liberalism is also a proven mental disorder, and atheism requires blind faith.

          • Andrew

            If atheist web sites are so bad, why did you quote one? Because I sure didn’t.

          • Trutherator

            My kids are much better adjusted than you are, I have consistently opposed all wars starting with Vietnam, marched against them. My kids are much better adjusted than 85% of their peers. Like Einstein said, Question everything.

          • Trutherator

            I seriously doubt there is such a study that contradicts thousands of years of actual proven practices.

  • Ted Heistman

    What are you going to Do go To Amish Country and round up all the people and put them in “re-education camps”? Go to NYC and round up all the Hasids?

    • echar

      Maybe a neuro-chip can be manufactured that can be implanted to keep them from straying away from the narrow path of science?

    • BuzzCoastin

      it’s not like it hasn’t been done in Der Homeland before
      ask the American Indians & the American Japanese

    • echar

      For the record, don’t take it personal. Love thy enemy. I agree with you, Christianity does commit “malificia”. Ok dude. Truce.

  • Anthony Salvatore

    Asshole’ been working on cancer for years and can find there way around the lab.

    Neither can they find a blood test to define mental illness.

    Rick Simpson cured Cancer with cannabis

  • Elenchus

    This is the gastric bypass of the brain. Is it possible that just feeding it differently could accomplish the same, without the revolting flipside to the above technology?

    As much as I wish child abuse (or religious fundamentalism) was something to simply “cure”, the counter point (as stated) to this technology is the individuals inability to even know ideas and beliefs outside of the enforced acceptable.

    Who gets to decide what you’re allowed to think?

  • mannyfurious

    Ok, so who decides which behaviors are “illnesses” and which are not? This is a very dangerous game and someone as smart as Kathleen Taylor should understand why.

    What if child beating comes back in vogue and then not beating your kids comes to be considered an illness?

    This is the problem with labeling “behaviors” as “illnesses.” They are not diseases, they are behaviors, and what is “acceptable” and what is “unacceptable” is determined by the culture/society in which they are fostered. And as such, because the norms and values of a given culture/society are always changing, so are the behaviors that are determined to acceptable or not.

    This kind of “science” is little more than a form of fascism. Kathleen Taylor wants to the world to mirror her idea of what it should be like. Whether she is right or wrong. I despise violent parents and religious fundamentalism as much as anyone else (although, really, who are people like the Quakers or Amish harming, really?), but something about this idea of forcing them to change in this manner makes me very uneasy.

    • Cyprus Mulch

      Well said.

      “Somebody who has for example become radicalised to a cult ideology – we
      might stop seeing that as a personal choice that they have chosen as a
      result of pure free will and may start treating it as some kind of
      mental disturbance.”

      Who decides what constitutes a cult ideology?

      “First, they came for the Thelemites, and I didn’t complain because I wasn’t a Thelemite…”

      • Ted Heistman

        Then they came for the Brony’s and I didn’t complain because I wasn’t a Brony…

        http://whatisabrony.com/

        • Hoarfraust

          We’re gonna tolerate the sh*t outta you and your comments! -United Brony Federation

      • Jezrael

        Cult ideology should definitely be defined by personal choice… not indoctrination. If you CHOOSE to be religious so be it, but Sunday School is just another way to control the next generation of minds. Even the Amish turn their kids loose at a certain age and let them make their decision on their own… those Mormons though. Ho Boy!

    • BuzzCoastin

      > Ok, so who decides which behaviors are “illnesses” and which are not?

      the culture you were born determines that now
      beating children, religious beliefs, sexual taboos etc
      are all determined by your culture
      so ultimately
      this technology will be applied to humans who think outside cultural norms
      as it is now

    • DeepCough

      I, too, am wary of this: because what’s to stop anyone from declaring atheism a mental illness?

      • Jezrael

        likely that atheists base their personal decision on empirical science…

        • DeepCough

          Well, most times I do, I don’t know about everyone else.

    • Jezrael

      Amish? Really? They have their own “mafia” and run coke and meth ops… and quakers are pacifists that wouldn’t beat their kids. Stand them in the barn all day, send them to bed w/out dinner but not beat them. It’s pretty easy to tell which fundies are mental, and it’s wrong to indoctrinate anyone without a choice (meaning children of course.)

      • Trutherator

        NatGeo is doing disservice to the Amish. They found the ones that were willing to be filmed (already deviating from traditional Amish beliefs) and threw gasoline on their egos. So, they found out that the Amish are human, they got their story, and in the bargain gave the gullible among us like Jezrael a leading meme to feed the anti-God hysteria.

        Note that she says this and immediately shows what she would do with technology that manipulates the brain by remote means.

        And she preaches caution about how it can be used? Well, who needs the restraints here?

        AND, better the parents than the state to indoctrinate your children…

  • Sergio Poalsky

    LSD may be the cure

    • echar

      Or exacerbate issues even more.

      • Sergio Poalsky

        Truth

        • echar

          Maybe mushrooms or MDMA to the rescue.

  • David Duke-Astin

    every fundamentalist I ever met had something mentally wrong with them.

  • Guest

    Neuroscientists should read a book by a psychologist named Altemeyer http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/ before they jam their feet in their mouths again about politics and religion. “Liberal v Conservative brain” variant of the same idea. These people are trying to use science to push their religious and ideological views. There is some truly bad analysis here.

    The “elephant in the room” these blind people are groping is the “authoritarian personality”. This is the common element that links fundamentalists and terrorists … and Obamabots. These are the people who go apeshit over “isms” and under the right conditions, will make us comply with theirs using violent coercion.

    Examples of Obamabot? Anyone who was anti-war and pro-civil liberties during the Bush Administration and who is now pro-war and anti-civil liberties now. Anyone who wants to study left-wing authoritarian followers should take a good look at them and compare them to the criteria for authoritarian follower listed in the book and ignore their self-chosen labels as “liberal” and “progressive”.

    Can the “authoritarian follower” be treated to turn him into a person whose belief system is accessible to facts and rational debate?

    Perhaps, but I doubt that we will ever know because the “authoritarian follower” mindset is too useful to government and people and corporations who want to build mass movements (nominal ideology/religion irrelevant) to promote their own interests at the expense of the public interest in general.

  • alizardx

    (second attempt to post)

    Neuroscientists should read a book by a psychologist named Bob Altemeyer http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/ before they jam their feet in their mouths again about politics and religion. “Liberal v Conservative brain” variant of the same idea. These people are trying to use science to push their religious and ideological views. There is some truly bad analysis here.

    The “elephant in the room” these blind people are groping is the “authoritarian personality”. This is the common element that links fundamentalists and terrorists … and Obamabots. These are the people who go apeshit over “isms” and under the right conditions, will make us comply with theirs using violent coercion.

    Examples of Obamabot? Anyone who was anti-war and pro-civil liberties during the Bush Administration and who is now pro-war and anti-civil liberties now. Anyone who wants to study left-wing authoritarian followers should take a good look at them and compare them to the criteria for authoritarian follower listed in the book and ignore their self-chosen labels as “liberal” and “progressive”.

    Could the “authoritarian follower” be treated to turn him into a person whose belief system is accessible to facts and rational debate and make that person safe for the rest of us to be around? (whether this is a good idea or not is a separate question)

    Perhaps, but I doubt that we will ever know because the “authoritarian follower” mindset is too useful to government and people and corporations who want to build mass movements (nominal ideology/religion irrelevant) to promote their own interests at the expense of the public interest in general.

  • Spasmodius

    Re: ” developing technologies which can slip through the skull to directly manipulate the brain” I think Ms Taylor is nearly 600 years too late, thanks to Gutenberg.

    • jnana

      you can choose whether or not to read something and choose whether or not to agree with. you don’t choose whether or not you want a HAARP directed beam shot at you.

  • charles000

    May be a mental disorder??? I would gently suggest that fanatical religious belief IS a mental disorder, a social pathology which still plagues much of humanity to this very day.

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