HumanistsDr. Julian Paul Keenan speaks at the Red Bank Humanists Darwin Day event, held Sunday at the Red Bank Charter School.

In honor of international Darwin Day, the Red Bank Humanists hosted a lecture yesterday by Julian Paul Keenan, Director of the Cognitive Neuroimaging Laboratory and Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Montclair State University on what he called “the evolutionary connection between religion and deception.”

Keenan , whose work involves the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technology, said research has shown that the same region of the brain responsible for both the sense of self and of self-deception is the locus of religious beliefs.

“Religion serves specific cognitive needs,” he told the audience of about 40. In terms of survival, “having the ability to be deceived is a good thing, and religion really takes advantage of that.”

Keenan’s address mixed cutting-edge science and humor. Touching on the the phenomenon in which the face of Jesus is believed to appear unexpectedly in common objects, Keenan asked, “Why are people seeing Jesus in their toast instead of Kurt Cobain? Is there a Lynyrd Skynyrd toast? A Bill Clinton toast?”

The Red Bank Humanists espouse a secular philosophy in which science and critical inquiry are used to understand existence.

Email this story