In 701 B.C. the Assyrian empire was in its ascendancy. It had already vanquished the kingdom of Israel to the north including the capital at Samaria. It then prepared an assault on Judah and its capital at Jerusalem.
But in one of those significant events that changes the course of world history, Assyria was repelled. Jerusalem was saved until 586 B.C. when the Babylonians sacked the city, forcing its leadership class into exile.
Henry Aubin, in a major feat of scholarship, determines that Jerusalem was aided by a Kushite army from Africa which had marched northeast from the Nile valley. While the Bible attributes the Assyrian retreat to an angel and secular commentators cite pestilence, Aubin, in a meticulously documented work, demonstrates that an alliance with the African nation of Kush bolstered Jerusalem’s defences.
Kush, also known as Nubia, was located in what is now southern Egypt and northern Sudan. A monarchy that existed for more than 1000 years, from 900 B.C. to A.D. 350, Kushites held sway over Egypt from 712 B.C. to about 660 B.C. Of Egypt’s 31 dynasties, this, the 25th Dynasty, is the only one that all scholars agree, was black.
The commander of the Kushite expeditionary force was Taharqa (or as the Bible calls him Tirhakah). This Kushite prince, who had his own interests in halting Assyrian expansion, likely caught the aggressors by surprise as they prepared their siege of Jerusalem.
Aubin offers a thrilling military history and a stirring political analysis of the ancient world. He also sees the event as influential over the centuries.
The Kushite rescue of the Hebrew kingdom of Judah enabled the fragile, war-ravaged state to endure, to nurse itself back to economic and demographic health, and allowed the Hebrew religion, Yahwism, to evolve within the next several centuries into Judaism. Thus emerged the monotheistic trunk supporting Christianity and Islam.
Michael McGuire is author or co-author of 5 books, notably Darwinian Psychiatry (Oxford University Press) and God’s Brain. His research findings on serotonin levels and its links to dominance in vervet monkeys has been featured in the New York Times and Newsweek. His distinguished academic career includes positions at Harvard Medical School, University of California Medical School , Director UCLA’s non-human primate research facility for 20 years and Director, Gruter Institute of Law and Behavior. He lives in northern California.
The Neuroscience of Fantasies, Fears, and Convictions
Michael McGuire is a psychiatrist by training, a neuroscientist by occupation and a preeminent figure in brain-behavior research.
His interest in the mechanisms and persistence of beliefs was ignited by a tearful psychiatric patient, who, for years was unable to accept that her parents, whom she loved, were her biological parents, even in the face of overwhelming evidence.
Her difficulty believing irrefutable evidence led McGuire to undertake decades of research involving vervets and chimpanzees.
In this short and lively book, McGuire recounts his investigation on the latest contributions of philosophers, historians, cognitive psychologists, theologians, evolutionary biologists, and brain scientists. Notably, McGuire also draws on his own research on the role of serotonin. Each discipline has something enlightening to offer, but none is sufficient.
However, nowhere is there a more complete or entertaining summary of current knowledge on belief. And surprises abound.
*Belief does not cause action; action often comes first.
*We believe we have made a decision or a plan, that we have free will and choices are not random, but biology says otherwise.
*The default state of beliefs is resistance to change.
*The brain is the product of millions of years of evolution and the mechanisms responsible for belief are unperceived in awareness.
*The brain, its mechanisms and its ways of processing information are unlikely to change soon.
McGuire addresses features suggested in Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman and The Believing Brain by Michael Shermer but in their work, the biological mechanisms responsible remain to be specified. It is these that McGuire addresses.
At last count the world boasted approximately 4,200 distinct faith groups. Religion is a ritual, a soothing source of comfort, and, according to some, a crutch. Yet we cannot dismiss the staggering, galvanizing force that it plays in everyday lives and around the world.
All great faiths contain supernatural elements and we are all aware of the fateful stories that have been extolled for centuries: the Hebrew god dictating his laws to Moses, the celestial appearance of Allah to Muhammad, and the stories of Jesus’s teachings and miracles. These external, cosmic forces illuminate humankind and promise eternal award for earth-bound excellence. Yet, behind the eyes of these prophets and their believers is something internal that all humans share in common.
Taking a perspective rooted in evolutionary biology with a focus on brain science, renowned anthropologist Lionel Tiger and pioneering neuroscientist Michael McGuire—a primary discoverer of serotonin’s crucial role in brain chemistry—team up to explore the routine biological miracles that happen every day in your brain and possibly the most enduring legacy of humankind—religion. What is its purpose? How did it arise? What is its source? Why does every known culture have some form of it?
With wit and grace, the authors pick God’s brain and yours, discussing the latest research on religion’s neurological effects and its origins within the brain. They consider religion’s role in providing mind-melding socialization, its seemingly relentless obsession with regulating sex, its conceptions of an afterlife, its influence on law, and its connections between nonhuman primates and humans. They also demonstrate religion’s ability to help the brain adjust to stress and anxiety in lieu of modern-day drugs and therapy.
God’s Brain is an accessible, groundbreaking unveiling of the relationship between our divine passions and our neurological heritage.
Michael McGuire began his career as a psychiatrist at Harvard and MIT. He now studies nonhuman primates and their neurophysiology. He directed a behavior and neurophysiology research lab for investigators from Harvard, Yale, McGill, and UCLA for 18 years. Later, at UCLA he directed the Nonhuman Primate Laboratory and its associated biochemical laboratory. He is a pioneer in isolating many of the behavioral impacts of serotonin, norepinephrine, and cortisol which have had immense medical consequences. He lives in Cottonwood, California
Lionel Tiger identified male bonding in his 1969 bestseller, Men in Groups. InOptimism: The Biology of Hope, he analyzed the chronic knack humans have for overestimating the odds in our favor and neurochemistry which favors it. In 1971, with Robin Fox, he wrote The Imperial Animal. Other titles include The Pursuit of Pleasure, and Decline of Males.His articles have appeared in Playboy, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal,Harvard Business Review,, and Brain andBehavioral Science. He is Charles Darwin Professor of Anthropology at Rutgers and he lives in New York City.
Click here for an interview with Lionel Tiger in Maclean’s Magazine:
Lionel Tiger is interviewed on CBC’s The Hour:
Click here for Lionel Tiger on The Agenda with Steve Paikin:
Listen to Lionel Tiger on CBC’s The Current by clicking here:
Here is a link to a recent article in the National Post that places God’s Brain firmly in conversation swirling about Dawkins and Hitchens.
Click here for an interview with Lionel Tiger on the Big Think: