Right-Brain/Left-Brain*

Science or Pseudoscience?

-  Many Christians believe in the right-brain/left-brain pseudoscience. This has followed in the wake of the first flush of false teaching generated by incomplete findings having to do with persons with brain damage, have then embraced the implications, labeled them science, and brought them into the church.

-  Christians as well as non-Christians also use the brain hemispheres to describe personality types. The so-called left-brain person is thought to be linear, logical, analytical, and unemotional; and the right-brained person is thought to be spatial, creative, mystical, intuitive, and emotional. While such adjectives may describe people to various degrees during various activities and in different work or social situations, this certainly is no basis for knowing or understanding an individual. However, personality typologies have always been popular, even though they are as spurious as astrological signs. (See the Bobgan's book Four Temperaments, Astrology & Personality Testing, pp. 131-172, for an excellent analysis of the worthlessness of personality typing and its connection with astrology and the occult.)

-  One "Christian" radio personality has even claimed that the reason we don't have miracles and healings is because we have become a "left-brained church." He argued that primitive people operate in the right side of the brain and, therefore, get healings more easily. He declared categorically: "Faith cannot operate in the left side of the brain." He contended that if he prays for a person's back and it still hurts, it means that the person is still operating in the left side of the brain. Besides putting faith into the right hemisphere of the brain, he also assigned this hemisphere to the spirit and claimed that God is doing all kinds of things in the right side of the brain when a person is "slain in the spirit." He also declared that the so-called memory banks are in the right side of the brain and that a good deal of praying in tongues is to heal those so-called buried-in-the-subconscious memories and hurts. As one might expect, the research does not support the "memory-bank" model of the brain nor the "buried-in-the-subconscious" model.

-  Professing Christians, both charismatic and non-charismatic, have gone on record as promoting visualization techniques (guided imagery) as a spiritual, right-brain activity. They attempt to justify using the occult activity of visualization by identifying it with brain research. However, visualization/guided imagery is an occult practice based upon the belief that a person can create reality in his mind. But there is no support from brain research. (Terence Hines, in his book Pseudoscience and the Paranormal (1988), says, "The actual evidence shows that, if anything, the left hemisphere is more involved with dreaming and mental imagery than the right.")

-  Brain research has shown some particular areas of strengths of one hemisphere over the other, but George Deutsh of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston says that "differences within a hemisphere account for more than differences between them" (quoted by Kevin McKean, "Of Two Minds: Selling the Right Brain," Discover, 1985, p. 38). Neurologist John Mazziotta at the UCLA school of medicine says:

"Even on the most trivial tasks our studies showed that everything in the brain was in flux -- both sides, the front and back, the top and bottom. It was tremendously complicated. To think that you could reduce this to a simple left-right dichotomy would be misleading and oversimplified" (Mazziotta, quoted by Kevin McKean, see above).

While each hemisphere may specialize in certain activities, the only clear-cut function which only one side has is related to speaking. The left hemisphere controls the muscles of the vocal tract (Terence Hines, Pseudoscience and the Paranormal, 1988, pp. 298-299).

-  Jerre Levy, a biopsychologist at the University of Chicago, contends:

"The two-brain myth was founded on an erroneous premise: that since each hemisphere was specialized, each must function as an independent brain. But in fact, just the opposite is true. To the extent that regions are differentiated in the brain, they must integrate their activities. Indeed, it is precisely that integration that gives rise to behavior and mental processes greater than and different from each region's contribution. Thus, since the central premise of the mythmakers is wrong, so are all the inferences derived from it" ("Right Brain, Left Brain: Fact and Fiction," Psychology Today, May 1985, p. 43).

-  Today's popular left-brain/right-brain myth was spawned by pop psychology -- a myth which some brain researchers have called "whole-brain/half-wittedness." In 1988, even Psychology Today ridiculed the concept with an article titled "Left-Brain/Right-Brain/Broccoli-Brain." One should not be surprised when the whole world is deceived, nor when New Age promoters use the pseudoscience of brain hemisphere dichotomy to give a semblance of substance to their desires to market intuition, creativity, visualization, and mystical experience. One should be concerned, though, when professing, evangelical Christians embrace and enthusiastically teach this myth as fact. We see those who purport to speak for God use such "science falsely so-called" (1 Timothy 6:20) and "philosophies and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ" (Colossians 2:8). Rather than checking the accuracy of statements about right and left brain research and conclusions, too many have moved into the never-never land of fantasy. Not only are their assumptions erroneous from a logical point of view; they have no support in Scripture.

-  Gary Smalley is one such professing Christian teaching this right-brain/left-brain nonsense. According to Smalley, because women are "right-brained," they are "more in touch" with their feelings. On the basis of this theory, Smalley approaches the marriage relationship from a selfish wife's point of view, and concentrates on how the wife can get her husband to meet all of her so-called needs, rather than how she can be a loving help-mate to him. Smalley, therefore, actually promotes a form of female dominance in the marriage relationship. Smalley's popularization of right-brain/left-brain has been largely due to his book The Language of Love (published and promoted by James Dobson's Focus on the Family Radio program), co-authored by Smalley and fellow psychologist, John Trent. The book touts "emotional word pictures" as the means of "activating" the "right brain," alleged to be essential for a wife to communicate with her husband.

-  Other well-known proponents of this teaching (besides Smalley, Trent, and Dobson mentioned above) are Donald Joy (who Smalley and Trent credit as being the source of their right/left brain information) and H. Norman Wright. They all dichotomize differences in a way the research does not permit, and promote right-brain/left-brain pseudoscience that the researchers oppose. They claim differences that do not exist and they ignore overlapping distributions that do exist. This misinformation and disinformation by such popularizers of right-brain/left-brain mythology are a gross disservice to the church.


* Adapted from Prophets of PsychoHeresy II (pp. 211-223) (now reissued as James Dobson's Gospel of Self-Esteem & Psychology) and PsychoHeresy Update (Spring 1989) (now renamed PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter).


Biblical Discernment Ministries - 8/92

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