January 26, 2017
In a “Feed Your Brain” lecture on Jan. 15 to a full house of 80 skeptics and secular humanists, San Diego computational biologist John C. Wathey explained his hypothesis that one’s felt presence of God is an illusion in the brain caused by “retaining an innate model of mother.” Wathey said that this neonatal root of religion has been largely overlooked by science.
“In light of ethology and neuroscience,” Wathey explained in a summary of his lecture points, “God is a supernormal phantom, not a supernatural spirit.” He went on to say that his hypothesis of an innate model of the mother – with God’s presence as an illusion in the “high-order association cortex” in the brain – leads to testable predictions.
His new book is The Illusion of God’s Presence: The Biological Origins of Spiritual Longing. He has been a senior applications scientist for Biosym Technologies (now named Biovia), a company that develops molecular modeling software for the pharmaceutical industry. In 1996, he founded his own business, Wathey Research, and since then has conducted scientific research funded by NIH grants.
Wathey is currently writing a follow-up work that explores in detail the neurobiology of religious emotion and behavior.
Video of his talk now available for free viewing at: