Text full multimedia monochrome

First time here?

Find out more about how The Lecture List works.

Coronavirus situation update

Our lecture organisers may or may not have had time to update their events with cancellation notices. Clearly social gatherings are to be avoided and that includes lectures. STAY AT HOME FOLKS, PLEASE.


Find out what you can do to keep The Lecture List online

The neuroscience of belief

We ask what happens in our brains when we’ve a belief, whether we're hard-wired to believe in a greater power, and if our beliefs can be used in medicine.

It’s an old question that seems all the more relevant lately: can we believe in God while we know that terrible tragedies happen every day? Many religions believe believers’ souls are rewarded after death for suffering, but neurosurgeon Henry Marsh (Atkinson Morley Hospital) finds that a small comfort. He has seen that brain diseases can leave patients profoundly altered as people. Can there really be a constant soul when people seem to change according to their brains? Henry Marsh will be joined by philosopher John Cornwell (Director of the Science and Human Dimension Project at Jesus College, University of Cambridge) and Baroness Susan Greenfield (Director of the Royal Institution and Professor of Pharmacology, University of Oxford). They will explore what happens in our brain when we have a belief, religious or not. Is belief hard-wired in our genes or an evolutionary strategy? Baroness Greenfield will look at the issue of studying belief scientifically and some possible applications. For example, there is the possibility of treating pain with belief – either secular (placebo) or religious – instead of with drugs. John Cornwell takes a different view. He’ll argue that even if science can produce an objective brain scan of belief, there are crucial subjective aspects of our belief experience that science can’t get at.


Baroness Susan Greenfield | talks | www
Dr John Cornwell | talks
Surgeon Henry Marsh | talks


Date and Time:

9 May 2005 at 7:00 pm


1 hour 30 minutes



The Royal Institution of Great Britain
21 Albemarle Street
020 7409 2992

More at The Royal Institution of Great Britain...



£8 standard, £5 concession

Available from:

www,rigb.org or by phoning 020 7409 2992.

Additional Information:

Nearest tube station

Register to tell a friend about this lecture.


If you would like to comment about this lecture, please register here.


Any ad revenue is entirely reinvested into the Lecture List's operating fund