Faith, Supernatural Beliefs and Our Symbolic Brain by Herman Kagan

Faith, Supernatural Beliefs and Our Symbolic Brain

KIRKUS REVIEW

A cleareyed look at the psychological and biological foundation of supernatural beliefs.

In this accessible text, Kagan (The Psychological Immune System, 2006) undertakes to explain the seemingly inextinguishable human predilection toward faith in the supernatural. He discusses his subject in clear language with plenty of examples, drawing from the research and publications of psychologists, evolutionary biologists and neurologists, as well as other thinkers. Facts and hypotheses from these disciplines weave together into a well-structured argument. By supernatural beliefs, Kagan means to refer to everything from religion to belief in magic or aliens. Such a large definition at first seems untenable, but Kagan ties everything together well enough to convince readers that it’s all related and relevant. He covers plenty of ground, from making sense of global warming to how professionals determine when supernatural beliefs have crossed the line into pathology. Kagan also frequently refers to his theory of the psychological immune system, which he developed in his first work: “I envision our symbolic brain as an important tool used extensively by our psychological immune system (Psy-IS) in its quest to protect, preserve, and enhance the life, property, and identity of ourselves and those we love and are bonded to.” The symbolic brain provides the psychological immune system with material to accomplish these aims. Comfort, aspirations, and the cessation of anxiety and pain can result from supernatural beliefs, he says, which fits well with the functions of the psychological immune system. His knowledge of psychology enables him to consider the general mechanisms that underlie particular beliefs, and his keen interest flows through the book’s easy-to-follow structure. The extensive reference list for further reading will appeal to lay readers eager to follow the argument Kagan coherently assembles.

An excellent introduction to the science behind our beliefs.

Pub Date: June 20th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1482028058
Page count: 182pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
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