Persinger has tickled the temporal lobes of more than 900 people before me and has concluded, among other things, that different subjects label this ghostly perception with the names that their cultures have trained them to use – Elijah, Jesus, the Virgin Mary, Mohammed, the Sky Spirit. Some subjects have emerged with Freudian interpretations – describing the presence as one’s grandfather, for instance – while others, agnostics with more than a passing faith in UFOs, tell something that sounds more like a standard alien-abduction story.
Who knows? Perhaps mystical visions are in fact nothing more than a bit of squelchy feedback in the temporal lobes. But that’s such a preposterously small part of what most people think of when they think of God, it seems insanely grandiose to suggest that anyone has explained away “God.” It’s almost ironic. Every so often during one of America’s little creation-science tempests, some humorless rationalist like Stephen Jay Gould steps forward to say that theology is an inadequate foundation for the study of science. Noted. And vice versa.