Last week I came across a paper upon atheism, that I thought was not particularly well written; nevertheless it stimulated my interest. I speculate that it might be of interest to you, for reasons I briefly outline below.

The article was titled “Are the brains of atheists different to those of religious people?” It was published on January 18th 2021 in The Conversation and was written by Miguel Fantas.

The examination was based upon the supposition that atheists think in different ways to other people who have beliefs, and consequently there may be something different about how atheists brains work. This has been addressed in three ways.

The first was based on observations that religious feelings were enhanced when people’s frontal lobes were subjected to magnetic fields. When a renowned atheist, Richard Dawkins, was deliberately tested there was no effect. Unfortunately this experiment was not extended to involve other atheists, nor is it exactly clear that Dawkins’ lack of response can be interpreted as it was.

Later studies tested the view that nonbelievers are more likely to process sensory inspiration in a more deliberate manner that involves higher cortical areas. Religious believers, it is said, are more likely to interpret information in an emotive or intuitive manner that involves more ancient brain areas. Individuals were examined after contemplating Rodin’s statue of The Thinker or without doing this. I’ll leave those interested to investigate if the methodology employed was appropriate but I wasn’t impressed, nor were others. Cultural bias and insufficient numbers of people examined were heavily criticised and the propositions were re-examined. Only studies in Australia, USA and Singapore supported the proposition that atheists’ brains differed. It is also proposed that atheists can exhibit cognitive inhibition – an ability to refrain from certain thoughts and behaviours. This was assessed by measuring resistance to pain.

So why am I boring you with these studies? Well, from the outset it struck me that one could substitute “climate change sceptic” for “atheist “. I think we may indeed think differently from those that believe humans are significantly changing the global climate. Why is it that we precious few – we band of climate change sceptical brothers – have our beliefs despite almost overwhelming pressure for us to conform to the majority view? I would appreciate learning your views on this proposition. I find it difficult to believe that all those studying climate change have inferior reasoning skills, yet this could be a possibility. So, what do you think?


  1. Alan,

    An interesting comparison, but not all atheists are climate sceptics (though I am both) and not all religious believers are believers in climate alarmism. That said, of course, there are many similarities between some religious beliefs and the behaviour/attitude of some climate alarmists.

    I don’t believe climate sceptics have different types of brains to climate alarmists, but perhaps we do use them differently. Scepticism is a way of thinking, a way of seeing the world, which is very different from blind acceptance of everything that those in authority tell you/acceptance of the appeal to authority.


  2. I’m not sure that atheism is the opposite of scepticism, because by definition, atheism involves the DISbelief in the existence of God. In my opinion, that’s not really different from belief. You have to adopt an ideological stance which is not necessarily informed by evidence, it being technically impossible to either prove or disprove the existence of God. Better to look at the brains of agnostics who accept that the existence or otherwise of a superior divine Being is essentially unknowable. But even agnosticism is different from climate scepticism, because the sceptic’s position is not that we can never know what drives climate change, only that the consensus theory is full of holes big enough to drive a bus through and that, contrary to the assertions of climate alarmists, the ‘science’ is very far from settled.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I concur with Mark.
    I think about everthing repeatedly and will general only act one way or another only once I have exhausted this proccess, I would postulate that many of ‘us’ are engineers in some way shape or form rather than sales people or bankers.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. According to at least one professor of psychology, climate change denial can be put down to having brains that are predisposed to optimism:

    “Optimism bias and climate change: Geoffrey Beattie explains why climate change messages are not getting through.”

    Click to access BAR33-05-Beattie.pdf

    He says:

    “This bias was reflected in their FMRI data in that optimism was related to a reduced level of neural coding of more negative than anticipated information about the future in the critical region of the frontal cortex (right inferior prefrontal gyrus). They also found that those participants highest in dispositional optimism were significantly worse at tracking this new negative information in this region, compared to those who were lower in dispositional optimism. In other words, the optimism bias derives partly from a failure to learn systematically from new undesirable information and this bias was most pronounced with those highest in dispositional optimism.”

    The thing is, however, I don’t think anyone could accuse me of being the optimistic type, and so we must look elsewhere for the explanation. Perhaps it can be found here:

    The Neurobiology of Climate Change Denial

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Jaime you are perhaps taking my view that climate scepticism is perhaps comparable with atheism too strictly. What I was proposing is that those who become climate sceptics are in some ways comparable with those that become atheists in that they both turn away from a majority-held view and maintain their position of opposition despite massive pressure to conform from all sides. Why is it that a relative few take up these two positions and maintain them? One possible explanation is that life experiences have generated preferred ways of thinking making it more likely that atheism and/or climate scepticism be adopted. This might be summarised as believing their brains function differently. Anyway I thought that you, and others, might be interested in this possibility.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I am so grateful to whoever selects related articles, for drawing my attention to Richard Drake’s 2016 part obituary of a nonagenarian doctor who was an out and out climate sceptic. Delightful reading and an introduction to someone I would have liked to have known.


  7. I don’t think it’s true that atheism is a minority view. People may profess a religious belief, but it’s a strange world view that both contradicts their own beliefs (they also ‘believe’ in evolution, where there really is no place for an almighty) and also has absolutely no effect on their actions and attitudes.
    The Bible says “Faith is the assured expectation of what is hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities that are not seen”. In other words it is not based on feelings, gut or going along with the crowd, but on a reasoned examination of the evidence. That is also true of climate scepticism.
    The other interesting comparison is to do with, not the belief, but how you act based on what you believe. There are those who are passionate and committed to their view, and prepared to act and stand out because of it. That group includes people on both sides of the climate and religious divides, but really is the minority. The majority really don’t care and will just ‘go along’ with what is fed to them, until the conflict effects them personally!


  8. Everything I have read about social psychology and culture over about 40 years strongly suggests to me that there is no difference whatsoever between the brains of atheists and the religious, or indeed between the brains of climate sceptics and the climate orthodox, or any other two such juxta-positioned groups. I think our brains are all biologically identical. What’s different, is that we either inherit (from exposure in childhood), or ‘catch’ later on (somewhat like a virus) cultural beliefs, which we are subject to because over a very long evolutionary period these were used to glue large groups of humans together, which is (or was, at least) a huge advantage. But we also have a rejection system for these, to balance against them becoming over-powerful, plus to defend one set of cultural beliefs from an invading competitive belief system. Given both believing in this manner, and the rejection mechanism as well, will bypass the rational thinking parts of our brain, regarding bulk populations you end up with large groups either passionately committed to, or against, various belief systems, where there are now so many in circulation that there can also be many overlaps / alliances / oppositions. ‘Rationality at scale’ (democracy, the law, science) works to limit all this non-rational group behaviour, but at the same time those behaviours constantly undermine rationality at scale. It’s an endless war. The instinctive behaviours and rationality can also trigger each other at the individual level, for instance innate scepticism (my own word for the non-rational rejection mechanism) can inspire a rational scepticism which leads to research, and thus a back-up by actual evidence. OTOH, if the evidence starts to vector in the ‘wrong’ direction, bias may grab the reins again and encourage a temporary ‘blindness’. In principle, atheism should have mild rejection of all boarders enabled only, but in practice, many people now (unfortunately encouraged by Dawkins and others) are quite ‘militantly atheist’, which is a belief system (albeit a pretty mild one so far). And atheists are also much more subject to secular cultures such as climate catastrophism, communism, fascism, the new cultures based around critical race theory (BLM etc) and extreme trans rights activism. For the religious, they tend to only align to these if there’s a formal alliance (which world-wide surveys show is the case, albeit shallow, between climate catastrophism and religion [all faiths]). Unfortunately, our means of looking physically at brains in action are still very primitive compared to the complexity of their operation. I think a difficulty is that in the longer term, cultural belief or avid rejection can ‘re-configure’ operation, as it were, which may fool researchers into thinking that a particular area is biologically associated with the religious, say, whereas in fact it has merely been assigned, in firmware terms, so to speak. Over the years, I’ve come across a (very small) number of articles / studies regarding attempts to say brains of group X differ from brains of group Y, which all seemed risible, and I strongly suspect are motivated by (cultural) bias that wants to diss X due to commitment to Y. Having said that, belief in any and all the cultures mentioned above, and all instinctive rejection too, should all use older areas of the brain in order to circumvent rationality, but as this encompasses essentially everyone’s behaviour, it is hardly a distinguishing feature to try and measure.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. John, I too am a rank pessimist and I think that comes partly from the annoying tendency to interpret facts simply as facts. It’s not an emotionally charged form of pessimism. If you want emotionally charged pessimism (irrational pessimism if you like) then look no further than the massed ranks of the climate crisis cultists. They don’t rationally process facts; in fact they ignore huge swathes of them which don’t fit the narrative. Doom and gloom is their stock in trade.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. “Doom and gloom is their stock in trade.”

    Jaime, a while back I used to think this was the case. However, regarding public belief in catastrophism at least, there are far less climate-change endorsing responses to questions that align only to the catastrophe aspect alone, than when the questions align to both the catastrophe and associated salvation together.

    To cut a long story short, I think bulk belief simultaneously encompasses fear/doom and hope/salvation, whereas smaller wings or fringes of belief are hooked onto mainly the doom aspect only (such as Extinction Rebellion), or mainly the salvation aspect only. Given it’s all irrational anyhow, this is perfectly possible, and cultures do typically support a range of beliefs (a ‘broad church’). The salvation only types may be much less obvious than XR, but if they are beavering away at policy or embedded in the government, they are perhaps even more of a danger to society, because to them the whole thing is only a route to utopia.


  11. Jaime,

    >”Doom and gloom is their stock in trade.”

    And yet when it comes to the prospects for net zero, their optimism knows no bounds.

    I think the good professor’s Optimism Bias theory has no legs because he isn’t addressing the actual arguments offered by the sceptic, he is simply looking for an explanation for why anyone would be irrationally unreceptive in the face of a supposedly settled science. High stake decisions to be made under uncertainty, complete with wicked trade-offs, are being reduced to theories about cognitive impairment.

    Yes, I sense from your past comments that you and I occupy a similar position on the optimism/pessimism scale. But I don’t think that positioning is crucial at the end of the day. What matters more is how much one is inclined to suffer from the ‘theorizing disease’, or whether one remains an empirical sceptic. I have suggested before now that the average Cliscep contributor shares an aversion to theorizing even though they may differ in many other respects. This claim may seem odd to those who presuppose that we are all just conspiracy theorists.

    Deconstructing Scepticism: The True FLICC

    Liked by 3 people

  12. II have been an atheist for over 60 years

    I have been a climate realist since 1997, staring about one hour after I first got interested in climate science.

    I see strong similarities and common thinking patterns:
    We atheists live in a world of fact, data and logic
    Never beliefs based on faith.

    Conventional religions have many beliefs based on faith

    The coming climate crisis secular religion has beliefs about CO2 based on faith.

    It would be hypocritical of me to ridicule the faith-based beliefs of conventional religions while not doing the same about the faith-based beliefs of the climate religion.

    There are no climate deniers
    That is an offensive term

    We Climate Realists do not deny climate change or that humans can contribute to climate change.

    What we deny is the PREDICTION of a coming climate crisis that is NOT based on data.
    — There are no data for the future climate.

    — Every past long term climate prediction has been wrong.

    — And there are no historical data for a climate crisis, because one has never happened on our planet.

    That adds up to three strikes.

    I publish a free, no-ads climate science and energy blog where I recommend up to 20 good climate and energy articles each morning. I’ve been doing this since 2016, and have had over 400,000 page views. All the articles are by conservatives who refute the coming climate crisis g fairy tale.

    Richard Greene
    Bingham Farms, Michigan

    PS: The most important fact about Earth’s climate that you will never hear from the mass media:

    Today’s climate is the best climate for humans and animals, and especially plants, in the past 5,000 years.

    The climate 5,000 to 9.000 years ago is believed to have been at least +1 degree C. warmer than today.

    That was considered good news — the period was called te Holocene Climate Optimum.

    Even the IPCC recognizes that optimum.

    Logically, if the current climate warms by + 1 degree C., from today, that would return our planet to another climate optimum.

    But that is not how the Climate Howler Global Whiner’s think:

    The Climate Howlers and the IPCC claim if the global average temperature rises +1 degree C. from today, that will NOT be another climate optimum — it will be a “climate emergency” !

    And that lack of logic is what passes for climate science these days!


  13. John,

    “he is simply looking for an explanation for why anyone would be irrationally unreceptive in the face of a supposedly settled science”

    I think that’s the defining mission of so-called climate psychology.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Surely questions of different viewpoints (atheism, climate scepticism) are those of nurture and nature?Several here have perhaps assumed I believed these questions are nature ones – that people have differently structured brains from the outset that are predisposed to atheism or climate scepticism. The alternative (nurture) is that brains become modified by life experiences (especially education) and as a result become predisposed to harbouring atheism and/or climate scepticism (or not). I believe one’s views are almost entirely nurture determined. To determine this however would require much information about biological twins.


  15. Only comment I can add is the term “enquiring minds”, which I think all who post & comment here have.
    ADJECTIVE – If you have an inquiring mind, you have a great interest in learning new things.

    not sure at what age my “enquiring mind” kicked in, but I started to ask “why are we doing this” early on & have never stopped.

    most people found me a pain. they did’nt want to think to much.


  16. Faith in anything, is the hallmark of of belief, in anything. To challenge your beliefs, is to cast doubt upon your faith. Not a comfortable ‘ feeling ‘. Are the climate zeolots going to allow themselves to be uncomfortable in their faith? There religion, like most others, abhors apostates.


  17. “Beware the Globalist ‘One Health’ Propaganda Merging Pandemic and Climate ‘Emergencies’”

    Is there a readily available and simple diagnostic test to confirm ones credentials as a critical thinker? Something you can shove up your nose, send to a lab somewhere and wait for your phone to ping.

    Perhaps not, but in Westminster Hall on April 17th, approximately 1 hour 40 minutes into the WHO Pandemic Prevention and Preparedness Parliamentary debate, we were gifted with the perfect assessment tool.

    To take the test, read this short passage, courtesy of the member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Labour/Co-operative Party), Preet Kaur Gill:

    Climate change and globalisation mean that natural biological threats are becoming more common… The lesson of the pandemic was that no one is safe until everyone is safe, and that global health is local health, so global co-operation on pandemic preparedness and biological threats clearly needs to be strengthened. That is why the Opposition absolutely supports the principle of a legally binding WHO treaty.

    If, as you read these words, you feel your blood pressure rising and the vessels in your neck pulsating with rage, then congratulations, your reaction is appropriate. You are clearly immune to the dark art of modern sophistry and rest assured, your critical thought processes are finely tuned.

    If, on the other hand, her words reassure you, reconfirm your faith in humanity and fill you with a warm fuzzy feeling, then sadly you have succumbed to the propaganda; you may be a lost cause.

    Those who fail to elicit a strong response may be forgiven for questioning the test’s validity. They may perceive the passage as banal or idle rhetoric, innocently drafted figurative speech that washes over you harmlessly. But make no mistake, these words are pernicious and carefully crafted to achieve a specific outcome. What we are being exposed to here are the new variants of political sophistry, engineered to seem superficially plausible, but they are incorrect and aim to deceive you. Put on your double-thinking cap, because now you must accept that “global health is local health” and “climate change and globalisation mean that natural biological threats are becoming more common”. These statements are at odds with the facts….


  18. Nearly ALL politicians, across the world, are parroting exactly the same pre-baked UN sustainability agenda waffle, evidenced by such inane slogans as “Build Back Better” and “Nobody is safe until we are all safe”. The UN’s Agenda 21, now repackaged as the more imminent Agenda 2030, has been long in the planning and anyone who pointed this out was a ‘conspiracy theorist’. The Covid pandemic has been the ideal opportunity (an ‘opportunity’ created by the intentional release or escape of a biologically engineered virus and its ‘cure’ – the Covid vaccines) to bring it all forward and brainwash the masses into acceptance of top-down control of their lives. With the official declaration by the WHO of the end of the Covid pandemic, we move on to the next stage – ‘climate crisis’ and the ‘One Health’ agenda. Those who can’t or won’t start using their brains differently now will become part of the problem and not part of the solution. It’s as simple as that. Nobody will be safe, ever again, if we are all ‘safe’ in the arms of the WEF/UN/Big Pharma/Big Science/Big Money/Big Government corporate globalist alliance.


  19. Mark, I must confess to being a somewhat lost cause (using your diagnostic tool). This may be, in part, due to the overdose of flummery on my television from Westminster Abbey.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.