Something Beyond Nature


Two recent scientific experiments look like a real pain in the neck for materialists. Both experiments were simple, yet both had some thought-provoking results.

The Ecstasy of Saint Therese (detail) 1647-52
Gian Lorenzo Bernini

In the first one, fifteen Carmelite nuns were asked to recall their most intense religious experiences while they were having their brains scanned. The recollection of a religious experience activated over a dozen different regions of the brain, contradicting the popular theory that humans have one so-called “God spot” in the brain that might have just evolved in order to enable us to have spiritual experiences. Second, according to the Guardian newspaper in London, “The scans showed different brain activity from those taken when the nuns were asked to remember intense emotional experiences that involved another person.” So, religion is not just emotion, as skeptics have said, because clearly different brain activity is involved.

The second experiment was done by Bruce Hood, a professor of psychology. What he did was ask the audiences at the British Association Festival of Science if they would be willing to be paid ten pounds to try on a blue sweater. Everybody volunteered. But then Hood told them that the sweater had belonged to a mass murderer, and suddenly, almost no one would put it on, even for money.

Hood concluded that human beings tend to act as if good and evil are something very real and powerful, no matter how often we are told that they are only abstract ideas constructed by our culture. The way that the audience reacted toward a sweater that, in and of itself, was perfectly harmless showed just how deep those beliefs run. Hood says, “Because we operate intuitively, it is pointless to get people to abandon their belief systems because they operate at such a fundamental level that no amount of rational evidence or counter-evidence is going to be taken on board to get people to abandon these ideas.” One might think that knowledge of good and evil was written on the heart. Sound familiar?

These studies don’t prove the existence of God or moral absolutes. No scientific study can do that, because materialists are correct: The purpose of science is to study nature, and God is outside of nature. But the studies do something pretty important: They suggest, from scientific evidence, that God may play a role — that is, there is a cause beyond nature. Materialists’ entire view of the universe, and the philosophy that comes out of that, depends upon the notion that nature is all there is. Let science point to even the smallest suggestion of something more, and their worldview falls apart. That’s why materialists fight intelligent design so hard, because that is a case where the scientific study of nature points to a cause beyond nature.

In short, as the Guardian summed up Hood’s viewpoint, “The battle by scientists against [so-called] ‘irrational’ beliefs such as creationism is ultimately futile.” This kind of thinking sends famous Darwinists like Oxford professor Richard Dawkins and the late Carl Sagan into fits. To them, the whole future of mankind depends on being able to coax people away from their so-called “irrational” beliefs and to establish that there are no explanations of human nature that go beyond nature. But there are, and for those of us who believe, it’s just one more sign that if anybody is being irrational here, it’s not us.

For further reading and information:

Ker Than, “No ‘God Spot’ in the Human Brain,” Live Science, 29 August 2006.

Ian Sample, “‘God Spot’ Researchers See the Light in MRI Study,” Guardian (London), 30 August 2006.

Born with a Superstitious Brain,” University of Bristol press release, 7 September 2006.

James Randerson, “Humans ‘Hardwired for Religion’,” Guardian (London), 4 September 2006.

Steve Connor, “‘God Spot’ Is Found in Brain,” Los Angeles Times, 29 October 1997. (This article, from 1997, announces the birth of the now discredited “God spot” theory.)

BreakPoint Commentary No. 021018, “Grow Up or Wake Up: The Question of God.”

J. Budziszewski, Written on the Heart (InterVarsity, 1997).


Charles Colson. "Something Beyond Nature." BreakPoint Commentary October 24, 2006.

From BreakPoint ® (10/24/2005), Copyright 2000, Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with the permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries, P.O. Box 17500, Washington, D.C. 20041-0500. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or distributed without the express written permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. "BreakPoint ®" and "Prison Fellowship Ministries ®" are registered trademarks of Prison Fellowship Ministries.


Charles Colson launched Prison Fellowship in 1976, following a seven-month prison sentence for Watergate-related crimes. Since then, Prison Fellowship has flourished into a U.S. ministry of 50,000 volunteers and has spread to more then 50 countries. Beyond his prison ministry, Colson is a Christian author, speaker, and commentator, who regularly confronts contemporary values from a biblically informed perspective. His "BreakPoint" radio commentaries now air daily across the U.S. and he has written 14 books, including Loving God, Answers to Your Kids' Questions, The Line Between Right & Wrong: Developing a Personal Code of Ethics, Against the Night: Living in the New Dark Ages, and How Now Shall We Live: A Study Guide.

Copyright © 2006 Breakpoint

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