Dr. Andy Thomson – The Neuro-physiology of Religious Belief & Spiritual Practice


Main link to Schechter Institutes

July 14th, 2013
1:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

at the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, New Campus
4 Avraham Granot St. Jerusalem


12:45 – Conference Opening and Registration

13:00 – Welcoming Remarks
Rabbi Prof. David Golinkin, President, Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies
Rick Goldberg, Founder Binah Yiztrit Foundation

13:30 – What Can Modern Evolutionary Theory Contribute to the Understanding 
of Traditional Religions?
Prof. Craig Palmer,
 Cultural Anthropologist, Dept. of Anthropology, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO

14:30 – Coffee Break

14:45 – The Neuro-physiology of Religious Belief & Spiritual Practice 
Dr. Andy Thomsom, staff psychiatrist, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA

15:45 – Judaism's Conjugal Separation – Hilchot Niddah – Is There Evidence of Hormonal 
Entrainment Between Husband and Wife?
Rick Goldberg, independent scholar and founder of Binah Yitzrit Foundation, Austin, TX
Dr. Orit Barenholz, Attending Physician, Dept. of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Hadassah Hospital- Ein Kerem, Jerusalem

16:45 – Rabbis in Spiritual Crisis
Dr. Paul Shrell-Fox, Psychologist and lecturer, Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, Advisor, Family and Community Studies M.A. track

17:45 – Break, Light supper

18:15 – Portrayals of Holocaust Rescue and the Puzzle of Human Altruism
Prof. Craig Palmer, Cultural Anthropologist, Dept. of Anthropology, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO

Written By: Schechter Institutes Israel – 2nd Annual Conference on Judaism and Evolution
continue to source article at new.livestream.com


  1. In sending me the message which argues we all stem from a few hundred hardy African folk & that I am legitimately enthralled by “The Smiths” , Andy Thomson brilliantly lays out why my brain chemistry exerts disproportionate influence on my emotional response to being a Roman Catholic. But as he points out the western political “pew” enforcers may have scored an own goal… the subjugation (removing “music; dance & trance”) of western religious ritual may be it’s downfall….. notwithstanding other, more modern, considerations such as birth rates in differing religious factions.

  2. Having just watched the first lecture by Andy Thompson, I’m really puzzled about how it fits into Jewish Studies? The lecture was excellent by the way, and really provided a psychological insight into the very beginnings of religious practice. This is not to say religious thought, as I’m sure notions of agency and explanations for the unknown were the impetus there.

    The audience seemed to be comprised of the faithful, and they appeared to be untroubled by a rational explanation of their Practices. Questions asked by the audience were also insightful.

  3. I love Andy’s work. But early in the video he claims there is one religion. That was misleading. Perhaps it was just poor wording. But the implication was that all religions are variations of an original religion. Behaviorally and ritualistically he makes a good case. And if we define religion as a set of rituals his claim would be supported. But I don’t think anyone would characterize a set of rituals/behaviors as a religion without a belief component. So he failed to deliver on the thesis which was disappointing.

    Aside from that he has delivered another commendable talk. There was some overlap with previous talks he’s given (and why wouldn’t there be.) But there was a wealth of new (to me) ideas and supporting evidence. I would recommend this video to anyone interested in motivations for religious behavior, evolutionary psychology or general interest in why humans engage in rituals.

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