I’ve been researching brain imaging technologies for a project I’m working on. It is incredible stuff. SQUIDs, superconductive quantum interference devices, can detect the tiniest of electrical currents in the brain. MEG (magnetoencephalography) uses an array of SQUIDs to observe how these electric currents change over time. PET scans and MRI scans reveal thoughts as they happen. We can actually see into a person’s brain and watch her think. It’s amazing, and it drove home an idea that of course had to be true all along.

Everything is real.

What I mean is this: if a person says she’s heard the voice of God, or thinks an angel has visited him, or just has a “feeling” about one or another fact about the nature of the world, then that voice, that vision, that feeling are all real things. We can map them in the brain. We can see what started the thought, where it came from, even. If you hear a voice, maybe there was no sound to vibrate your eardrum, but that doesn’t make the voice any less real in your brain. A real event happened in there. Thoughts are real things.

That doesn’t mean the origin of the thought is supernatural. Just the opposite, in fact. Everything is real. Did that thought come from some outside signal? If so, we have a chance of detecting it. Did it come from another part of the brain? We have a chance of detecting that, too. Suppose these voices are beamed to us from the second planet circling Epsilon Erandi (I’m not saying they are, but just suppose). Now that we can see the brain in action, we have a chance of figuring that out. If supernatural claims have any basis in reality, at some point the stimulus stops being supernatural and becomes a real thing happening inside someone’s brain. If every effect has a cause, even inside a brain, then the whole notion of supernatural starts to lose its mystery. Maybe, like the brain was for so long, it’s just something we don’t (yet) understand.