Apple and Gods

So there have been any number of stories recently about Steve Jobs, due to his recent retirement. Here, for instance, PZ talks about some of what Jobs did so incredibly well. Me, I’m just going to take advantage of the current situation to repost a recent comment on a neurological finding.

Mac-ily crack-ily
Apple Enthusiasts
Think about gadgets, and
Light up their brains,

Piquing the interest of
Glad to discuss what
The picture explains:

Sexily, vexily,
Newest technology
Shows an analysis
Just a touch odd;

Macheads don’t suffer from
Rather, their brains see the
Gadgets as God.

Apple-ish, Chapel-ish
Came to conclusions
A bit front-to-back;

God was their yardstick, but
Truth is, Jehovah is
Merely a Mac.

So, yeah, CNN is reporting about a Beeb documentary on the Secrets of the Superbrands. The big news that CNN takes from it is that Mac devotees’ brains (as measured by MRI) light up when they are viewing Apple gadgets the same way that religious devotees’ brains light up when they see images of their god.

But of course, the interpretation is all wrong. They say that iPads, for instance, benefit from MacHeads’ “god-like devotion”… No, actually. God (whichever god you choose) inspires Mac-like devotion. I doubt very much that an area of the brain evolved to deal with stuff that is not there. I suspect, rather, that it developed to deal with stuff that is actually there, and was hijacked by a fiction.

I have often wondered whether the areas of the brain that light up for religious devotion, might light up for pop stars, movie idols, favorite authors, or the like. It would surprise me greatly if the feeling of awe inspired by a god and the feeling of awe inspired by a Van Gogh are differentially located in the brain. Evolution is a notorious tinkerer, and re-uses stuff all the time: “Love, pain, money, cocaine light up same area of brain”, suggests one title. So, no surprise that iPads and gods are similarly wired.

What would have been extraordinary would be if god-perception was utterly unique. That would be remarkable, actually. But that, I suspect, would require intelligent design. No such luck.


  1. ajb47 says

    I have often wondered whether the areas of the brain that light up for religious devotion, might light up for pop stars, movie idols, favorite authors, or the like.

    I thought something like this was what Sam Harris was saying in the end of The End of Faith. I read it as him positing the idea that these “spiritual” experiences do happen and if we can find ways to reliably trigger them, it would be more of a reason to get away from the psychopathic, invisible, magic man in the sky and all his tribal dictates.


  2. Joan says


    They have plumbed the depths of brain scans.
    We are all illuminated.
    Seems the parts that light our fuses
    Are not all just God related.

    Love and money turn us on
    As well as uppers like cocaine
    And our lights come on quite brightly
    When experiencing pain.

    Yet a trigger of importance
    Has been shunned. What of this bliss?
    Chocolate Center’s going crazy
    I just ate a Hershey’s Kiss.

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