J. Wesson Ashford, M.D.,Ph.D

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This is the central portion of Michelangelo's fresco on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.

For a beautiful view of the whole Chapel, click here. (Courtesy of Patrizia Bertoletti)

In 1990, Frank L. Meshberger, M.D., described (in JAMA, volume 264, October 10, pages 1837-1841 - CLICK HERE for an abridged version, contact JAMA for the full article) his recognition that the "purple clouds"surrounding the image of God could be interpreted as a brain.  He further argued that this was consistent with Michelangelo's philosophy that the brain gives Man his intellect.

In August, 2006 Dr. Ashford submitted an extended view to JAMA (rejected, see PDF here),
but a revised manuscript with Dr. Tatem was accepted by the peer-reviewed journal
Neurocase in 2020, click here to see paper...
click here to see PubMed abstract)

Drs. Ashford and Tatem made additional observations about the Sistine Chapel frescoes
published in THE NEUROSCIENTIST, 2022, click here to see paper...
click here to see PubMed abstract
click here to see Italian Translation

SYNOPSIS: The other 4 images of creation appear to describe brain evolution.
- At the front end of the chapel, behind the altar, Jesus is sitting in the middle of a coronal image of the brain.
See link to this WORD document for that description and pictures that the Vatican would not give permission to show in the publication.

On the first day of Creation, God said, "Let there be light", in the image of a dog-fish brain.
On the third day, God said, "Let the earth bring forth grass", in the image of a frog brain.
On the fourth day, God made two great lights, in the image of a cat brain.
On the fith day, God commanded the waters, land, and air to bring forth animals, in the shape of a monkey brain.
On the fifth day, God created man, in the shape of a human brain.

There is a long-standing difficulty with scientific facts and reasonable interpretations for those who interpret the Bible literally and contest the basic issues of changes in the World over time and theories about evolution. My daughter Suzanne Ashford addressed this issue very clearly in a submission to the Lexington (Kentucky, USA) Herald-Leader newspaper: SEE THIS LINK.
The biggest problem is mistranslation of the Bible and semantic confusion. All things change over time, including religions. The World will become a progressively better place as its people learn how the World works and try to use knowledge to improve life for all.

Comment from Daniel Soultanian about the Creation of Adam:

"I think that the true interpretation of the scene is, assuming that the piece of cloth or bag is really a representation of the human brain, as follows:
The "bag" seems to be containing God; in other words the brain contains God or God is the creation of the brain.  So the title of the scene could be creation of God by the human intellect. That does not necessarily mean Michelangelo was an atheist, for him God existed, but probably only as a necessary creation of the human brain, necessary because of the need of the brain to imagine and believe in the "spiritual".  There is a French anthropologist by the name of Teilhard de Chardin that suggested a more or less similar interpretation of the nature of God. But being a Jesuit priest he had to be very careful on how to present it.  He said it takes a large number of neurons assembled in a complex way similar to the human brain to be able to understand God.  There are those who say that he really meant create rather than understand."

(Note that the bag (or cloud) surrounding God is most likely the meninges, which were stained purple by the fixative that Michelangelo probably use to solidify the brains he examined by dissection - the fixative most likely being red wine.)

Comment by a colleage (December 30, 2009):
"This view of the brain evolution is quite compatible with some new ideas about spirit and God by an Italian teologist called Vito Mancuso. He state that God's spirit works within the natural evolution of the universe and within the laws of physics, chemistry, and biology. According to Vito Mancuso, theology should recognize all modern scientific theories about biology and evolution and should assume that these theories represent the working God's spirit laws."

For an alternate view, see:  Dave Barry, 10/6/02

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