Why God Doesn’t Use Biostatistics: Science and the Study of the Mind, the Body, and Spirituality

Key Note September 11, 2008

With the rapidly expanding field of research exploring mystical and spiritual phenomena as well as altered states of consciousness, there have been many perspectives as to the validity, importance, relevance, and need for such research, in addition to the ultimate issue of how such research should be interpreted with regard to epistemological questions. Ultimately, this information may bear important practical implications for researching the mind/body connection, consciousness, and spirituality, while also providing important perspectives on larger societal issues pertaining to religion and belief systems. It is crucial therefore to explore the methodological issues that currently affect the field and how best to address them so that future investigations can be as robust as possible while rendering this research more conventional.

Focusing on the physiological and neurobiological studies that have been performed on the mind/body relationship, altered states of consciousness, and religious and spiritual phenomena, as well as the potential issues associated with such studies, much of the research builds on health-related aspects since it is helpful to understand the ultimate expression of these phenomena as they affect a person’s life and health. Nonetheless, physiological studies are also critical for understanding how clinical results are derived and for examining the specific nature of spirituality and its affect on the body.

Dr. Newberg will review five dimensions of this research as they relate to the neuroscientific study of religious and spiritual phenomena, with a critical perspective on methodology and statistical analysis: (1) appropriate measures and definitions (2) subject selection and comparison groups (3) study design and biostatistics (4) implications for consciousness studies and mind/body interactions, and (5) theological and epistemological implications. Ultimately, Dr. Newberg will show why it is difficult to use standard methods in this field and how this situation is challenging science to develop new methods for exploring the complex interaction between the mind, body, consciousness, and spirituality.


  • Andrew B. Newberg


  • Thursday, September 11, 2008