David Eagleman on neuroscience and the religious imagination

Neuroscientist to present views on religion, conflict at ASU lecture

By

Matt Correa

How does an accomplished neuroscientist and best-selling writer of fiction view issues of religion and conflict?

David Eagleman, author of "Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain" and "SUM," will visit ASU to present a fresh take on these topics based on his award-winning research into the workings of the human mind.

The lecture, part of the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict’s Alternative Visions Lecture Series, is set to take place at 4 p.m., Feb. 12, in the Memorial Union Ventana Ballroom.

Eagleman is a neuroscientist with joint appointments in the Departments of Neuroscience and Psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. He also directs the Laboratory for Perception and Action, and he is the founder and director of Baylor College of Medicine’s Initiative on Neuroscience and Law.

In much of his writing, Eagleman translates cutting-edge neuroscience into everyday examples to deepen our knowledge of the brain and consciousness. Both his scientific studies and his thought-provoking fiction speak to the necessity of understanding the range and complexity of what we don't know.

Eagleman has captured this complexity with a term he calls "possibilianism."

"Our ignorance of the cosmos is too vast to commit to atheism, and yet we know too much to commit to a particular religion,” writes Eagleman.

“With possibilianism, I'm hoping to define a new position that emphasizes the exploration of new, unconsidered possibilities."

“Eagleman suggests a new vocabulary for moving beyond the idea that religion and science are in a winner-take-all battle," says Linell Cady, director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict and professor of religious studies.

“As people in the 21st century are questioning what it means to be religious or spiritual, it is helpful to look at these questions in ways that can open up space for creative responses and strategies."

In this lecture Eagleman weaves together science, philosophy and art to address existential questions that have galvanized thinkers for centuries.

Eagleman's non-fiction books include "Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain," "Wednesday is Indigo Blue: Discovering the Brain of Synesthesia" and "Why the Net Matters."

His book of fiction, "SUM," was an international best-seller translated into 27 languages and named a Best Book of the Year by Barnes and Noble, New Scientist and the Chicago Tribune.

Eagleman also has a passion for contributing to the public understanding of science, and to that end he has written for the New York Times, Discover Magazine, Atlantic, The Week, Slate, Wired, New Scientist and others.

He has been profiled on the Colbert Report, NOVA Science Now, the New Yorker and CNN's Next List. He appears regularly on radio and television to discuss literature and science, and he is the writer and host of the upcoming six-hour PBS series, The Brain.

The Religion and Conflict: Alternative Visions Lecture Series brings nationally and internationally recognized experts such as Peter Bergen, Elaine Pagels, Andrew Bacevich and Reza Aslan to campus to address the sources of conflict and strategies for resolution.

The series is supported by a grant from philanthropist John Whiteman.

For more information or to register for the lecture, see the event page.

The Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict is an interdisciplinary research unit of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences that examines the role of religion as a driving force in human affairs.