New Science magazine came out with an interesting article in 2002. It had to do with a person’s uncontrollable urge to look at child pornography*. The condensed version of the events are as follows. A married man, who worked as a schoolteacher had suddenly been gallivanting around the internet, visiting child pornography websites. His wife found out about his perusal of child pornography and the fact that he had made sexual advances towards children. He was evicted from the home and was later found guilty of child molestation. The night of his sentencing, he took himself to the ER, complained of a headache and stated that ‘he was afraid he would rape his landlady.’ Eventually an MRI scan revealed a brain tumor located at his frontal lobe. The tumor was removed and his urges subsided. Later, he turned to child pornography again; another MRI scan was done and doctors found that the tumor had grown again. The subsequent tumor was removed and his urges again subsided.
What’s really interesting about this scenario is that this person did not have control over his own body, due to a change in his brain. What is the difference between the tumor and a “misfiring brain”? Maybe nothing. Maybe some people are predisposed to child pornography or compelled to do things they do not want to do. I am not condoning any of this behavior. I am merely thinking out loud and wondering if some people do things that are out of their control, even though they regard these urges as unhealthy and even volatile.
Take Anthony Weiner for example. I do not need to regurgitate every detail about his lurid misdeeds. Everyone is aware of the acts this person committed during the last 5 to 8 years. In 2011, after a sexually explicit picture of himself surfaced on Twitter, he finally admitted that he carried inappropriate relationships (while married) with approximately six women over the course of 3 years, exchanging explicit photos and texts. His career in tatters; he took a 2-year sabbatical. In 2013, he returned to politics and entered the mayoral race in New York City. He was only a few months into the race when news outlets discovered that he was again sending explicit images, this time to a then 22-year-old woman named Sydney Leathers, under the pseudonym “Carlos Danger”. His run for mayor burst into flames. One would think that life’s lessons at this point were crystallized in Weiner’s mind but then again, we are not Anthony Weiner. On August 28, 2016 it was reported that he sexted a 15 year old girl, even submitting the now infamous crotch shot while his toddler son was asleep next to him. It was later discovered that he shared rape fantasies with this underage girl. His wife separated days later and he is under criminal investigation.
When a person of Weiner’s stature (no pun intended) continuously commits family and political suicide in front of the entire televised world, one wonders. Is he in control? Can a man, fully aware that he has so much to lose willingly decide to self-destruct in public, knowing the consequences? Can he help himself? Again, I am not condoning any of his exploits. I am just trying to understand the minds manacles over an individual. Is he wired differently?
What about religiosity? Let us ignore the parasite of religion for now (my upcoming book will discuss this in detail) and lets focus on the mind of the individual itself. Are religious people wired differently? It is quite possible! In an article on HowStuffWorks.com** Andrew Newberg, a doctor at the University of Pennsylvania is asking this very question. The results are striking and they showed no religious boundaries. A link to the full article is listed below. As per the article, “Though the nuns were praying to God, rather than meditating like the monks, they showed increased activity in the frontal lobe as they began focusing their minds. There was also a decrease of activity in the parietal lobe, seemingly indicating that the nuns lost their sense of self in relation to the real world and were able to achieve communion with God.” This experiment does not show that we are in fact wired to believe in the supernatural but the fact that supernatural nonsense is so prevalent in society today cannot be ignored. The bible is filled with many tales of people who hear the voice of God in their heads, see visions and think that epilepsy is due to demonic possession. If someone made these claims in our time, they would be committed to a mental institution. If these claims are written in dusty old texts, they are called prophets.
This brings up an interesting set of questions, which I will leave open for comments. Since we are all evolved pattern-seeking individuals, are some of us just genetically predisposed to religion? If we are in fact hardwired for religion, is God merely a figment of our imaginations, a construct borne from our minds? If religiosity is imprinted onto our minds, is there any hope for a world without religion? Are we just born this way?