continent. maps a topology of unstable confluences and ranges across new thinking, traversing interstices and alternate directions in culture, theory, biopolitics and art.
Issue 8.1-2 / 2019: 61

Already Gone

John Modern

What is it that allows us to believe, to have faith, to project beyond that which seems to be before us? John Modern, who teaches in the Department of Religious Studies at Franklin & Marshall College, presents us with a problematising sermon from the pulpit of neuroscience. Specifically: Modern offers a bent response to the calls to turn the study of religion into a “proper science”. Reflecting on his own time as a control subject in a neuroscience laboratory, this audio contribution sounds out our neuro-saturated frame.


Cognitive models have become abundantly present—on digital devices and countless screens, in politics, business, research agendas, education, and criminology, in pharmaceutical research and electroconvulsive treatment centers, in medical imaging suites and the percolating chatter of children’s television. In light of Foucault’s insistence that the analytic nature of discourse is overwhelming, overarching, and overreaching, might these models of the neuromatic carry bodies and minds along their territory? How to contend with these models and the brain games we are invited to play with every keystroke and swipe of the screen? In “Already Gone”, Modern explores the limits and lacuna of this immanent frame, those moments and/or spaces not always already colonized by the brain thinking about the brain thinking about the brain. Can we differentiate between truth and mistruth of a rampant and projective science, going through peaks of inflated expectations and troughs of disillusionment before concretising and formulating more reasonable conjectures? To what degree is neuroscientific discourse all-encompassing? Might its overwhelming saturation be an opportunity to transcend it?