An article appeared in the New York Times, written by a couple of neuroscientists from Canada, lauding the findings of their research into the physiological effects of music on the brain. In it, the authors attempt to pinpoint why music is important to us. The conclusions they arrive at are quite telling of their particular worldview.
Their findings, which I do not doubt, are as follows:
…listening to what might be called “peak emotional moments” in music — that moment when you feel a “chill” of pleasure to a musical passage — causes the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine, an essential signaling molecule in the brain.
When pleasurable music is heard, dopamine is released in the striatum — an ancient part of the brain found in other vertebrates as well (emphasis mine)— which is known to respond to naturally rewarding stimuli like food and sex, and which is artificially targeted by drugs like cocaine and amphetamine.
In addition, they found that this reaction happened, not only during these moments in music, but also just prior to these moments, during what they call the anticipation phase. From this data they conclude that the reason music is so important to us is that it incites this chemical reaction in our brain that we interpret as pleasure. Their train of logic can be reduced to something like this:
- Humans value certain kinds of music, or certain passages of music.
- Upon hearing these passages of music, a chemical reaction occurs in the brain that we associate as pleasure. So…
- This chemical reaction causes us to highly value music.
The argument as presented is immediately shown to be invalid. What the researchers are leaving out is their predisposition to naturalism as a worldview. Naturalism is a belief system that clings doggedly to the notion that the totality of all that exists is encased within the confines of the “natural” world. Anything outside of what is empirically discernible becomes reduced to myth status.
While we should never look to the worldly and Godless for spiritual insight, it certainly doesn’t take a master logician to recognize the fallaciousness of their argument. Even if one believes that we are simply bio-mechanical organisms randomly bouncing around the planet, one must recognize that their argument is unsound. Even for a pagan, it makes more sense to conclude that the emotional reaction to music causes the chemical reaction, rather than the other way around. Although the world of science is very adept at acquiring useful data that serves to inform us of what happens, problems arise when, by interjecting their naturalist worldviews, they attempt to tell us why something happens. In so doing, Drs. Zatorre and Salimpoor have moved from writing a scientific article to penning a religious opinion piece. Their preferred worldview, or religion, is naturalist atheism disguised as science.
Music brings us pleasure. This is undeniable. But, the reason we love music is because God, our eternal and infinite creator and sustainer, loves music. Zephaniah 3:17 tells us that God, a victorious warrior, expresses His joy by singing. “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” Imagine what that must sound like. The creator of all that exists sings as a response to joyful emotion; and, He has infused music into His creation for the primary purpose of bringing Himself glory and giving us pleasure. When those two functions are combined, music fulfills its intended purpose.
All through Scripture we see this truth demonstrated. The children of Israel responded to the awesome demonstration of God’s power at the Red Sea by singing (Exodus 15:1-21). Then, Miriam and other women worshipped with timbrels and dancing (might need to be another article). When the thirsty nation was given water, they sang (Num. 21:17). In order to calm the furies of the king’s spiritual torment, David was brought in to play music (1 Sam. 16:23). When given to celebration over military victories, the people sang (1 Sam. 18:6-7). Then, as king himself, David established singing as an integral part of Hebrew worship to God (1 Chronicles 15:16-22).
I could go on and on. All this serves to show us why music is an essential element of God’s creation; and an essential element of humanity. We sing because God sings. We love music because God loves music and made us to love music. When we sing His praises, we are doing what we were made to do.
 Robert Zatorre and Valerie Salimpoor, “Why Music Makes Our Brain Sing,” The New York Time Sunday Edition, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/09/opinion/sunday/why-music-makes-our-brain-sing.html?_r=1&.